Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Legal Marketing- Just No Product Differentiation

Did you ever fly fish? If you haven’t, you should try it because it will give you sense of the problem faced by those in the legal marketing community. You will see that in the bio’s that lawyers use to sell their services—they all look remarkably the same. Perhaps you can make some distinction based on the school they attended, but beyond that they all present themselves as extremely effective in what they do.

Since you are no doubt overwhelmed by legal marketing, you probably are not very sympathetic to my concern about the plight of these marketers since a lot seem to be gainfully employed. But they have got a real problem, since there are two major things they won’t and don’t do. First, they do not compete on price, at least openly, so that puts a real dent in what you can do on the internet. Second, they do not engage in comparative advertising. Even when I was a youngster you could compare yourself with Brand X, until somebody discovered it was not illegal to mention a competitor.

So what you get are three things. First, you get a line of serious faces with a blurb describing an unending series of victories. I mentioned to a close friend at a firm that I had seen his description on the firm’s internet site, and it appeared from his description that he had never lost a case. His brief reply was that he settled the ones he would lose. Funny, I lost cases I should have won. Second, if the marketers went to their convention and listened to ACC’s presentation, you get an unending series of firms claiming that would be better partners than Tonto was for the Lone Ranger—one could almost imagine an audio rendition of Sidekick Heaven by Riders in the Sky playing in the background. (See earlier ACC blogs on Partnering with Your Firm)

Then, of course, you get the thoughtful brochure courteously describing how you and your client are about to run afoul of one or more legal rules that are likely to subject your client to financial ruin—generally they don’t tell you how to avoid this result, but suggest they would be delighted to describe more if you just call, so they can bill you. I can not be too hard on lawyers. My cousin works for a medical group and every time I get put on hold, I don’t get elevator music, but rather a serious sounding fellow describing a series of maladies I did not know I had. I suppose if one is left on hold long enough you might decide to call 911 and summon an ambulance.

When you fly fish you learn there are a number of hatches of insects during the day. Rule one; match your insect to the one the fish are eating at the time. That is the simple part. The second is read the water to see where a fish is eating and place your fly upstream so the current takes it over the fish, and he eats your fly, rather than the other ten billion choices he has. That unfortunately is the predicament that legal marketers have when you don’t have product differentiation and price as two key components of your marketing plan.

-Larry Salibra
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