The Byrne Blog

John Byrne Communicating About Communications

If you’ve been around a lot of lawyers for long enough, you know they can be pretty tough on themselves. Same goes for those folks who market lawyers and law firms. As legal marketers, I have found that we often are comparing ourselves and our marketing efforts with those of other professional service firms and big businesses, and coming up short.

As legal marketers, we struggle with how to get lawyers to connect better with their current clients to get more business, as well as how to help lawyers get new clients. As I’ve talked to marketers outside the legal profession over the years, I often get a whiff (and usually more) of condescension and sometiems even pity, aside from the usual confusion of “How in the world do you market lawyers?” The fact that other businesses, like consulting and accounting firms or technology companies, are so far ahead of law firms, so much more sophisticated when it comes to marketing and business development, is accepted as gospel truth.

It can be hard for legal marketers not to internalize this perceived second-class status and feel that we have a loooong way to go to catch up with our non-legal peers (not to mention that secret, nagging fear that we might never get there). This feeling is often confirmed when big firms hire Chief Marketing Officers and other executives who have never previously worked at a law firm. The message, intended or not, is that the “answer” to how to market lawyers better is somehow to be found outside of legal marketing.

Well, perhaps us legal marketers just need to get out more. It would seem that we’re not as far behind other industries or companies as we think.

Beth Comstock, the CMO at GE, was in Chicago this week to talk to the Business Marketing Association (yeah, I’ve never heard of the group, either). I didn’t attend her speech, but I still wanted to share a bit of her comments with you now, as reported byAdAge. (She said some other very interesting stuff, but that’s for another blog post.)

Comstock said that business marketers must work hard to establish relationships within their own firms to be successful. “Marketers have a tough job inside an organization,”she said. “People don’t know what to make of us. We need to better connect ourselves with product development and sales. We’re not there yet but we are holding ourselves accountable.”

Huh. The CMO at one of the world’s biggest and most successful companies admitting that marketers in business still need to work very hard to be listened to and valued and “have a seat at the table.” Who knew?

So, this isn’t exactly a rise-up-and-throw-off-your-chains realization for legal marketers, but we should take a minute to realize that any sense of inferiority – or despair – in comparison to other firms’ or industries’ marketing is misplaced and unproductive. Comstock’s comments are a great insight into the reality that we’re no worse off than marketers elsewhere.

Legal marketing “arrived” a long time ago. In fact, there are some lawyers and firms out there who are way ahead of other professional services firms and businesses when it comes to finding innovative ways to market and sell. (Again, another blog post.)

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from other marketers outside legal. On the contrary, we should engage wholeheartedly and frequently with marketers who don’t work for lawyers. We can exchange and share our accumulated wisdom and show off our battle scars. We shouldn’t let our cozy little world of legal marketing be an echo chamber. Or a pity party.

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