Do Law Firm Marketing Like it's 1979

With the death of the phone call (i.e., you call and leave a voicemail and get an email in response) and the rise of social media (you have 1,000 twitter followers whom you've never met) it's time for a new approach to law firm marketing.

I recommend he head straight to the past. In fact, market like it's 1979.

Okay, I know that a lot of you were little kids or maybe weren't born then, so here's a refresher.  There was no social media -- there weren't even websites -- in fact, there wasn't even an Internet.  There were no cell phones -- if you were away from your office you had to use a "pay phone" that you put coins into for a dial tone.  In fact, there wasn't any voicemail, so if you called someone and they were on the line, you got a repeating tone called a "busy signal."

Legal marketing had been "legal" for only two years. The US Supreme Court allowed lawyer advertising in 1977 but hardly any law firm dared to us it. Marketing was still seen as unethical.

Now for the shocker -- there was no text messaging. In fact there wasn't any email. There was no way to use a computer to send a message. You could buy a computer from Apple -- they had first appeared right around 1979 but were considered a crazy novelty.

So how did people market legal services? It was primarily done in person, face-to-face, which is still the most effective way to generate new business. People had "connections" and "friends" but they were in real life, not online.

The Bell telephone system had been broken up only 5 years earlier. People were adjusting to the fact that they owned their phones, not the phone company.  You didn't need caller ID because there were hardly any telemarketers.  People used the telephone to have a conversation. Typically, you would call someone you knew or were introduced to.  This is still the most effective way to start relationships and get a face-to-face meeting today.

It appears that the bewildering choices of social media, online marketing, and technology tools have confused us. It doesn't really matter how many LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends and Twitter followers you have. What counts is how many people you've met face-to-face or with whom you've had meaningful, conversational phone calls.

Just like in 1979.

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Bruce Heintz - April 5, 2011 10:55 AM

Larry -- It goes back even further than 1979. Humans first split off from chimpanzees about 6 million years ago (I have some friends who in this regard seem to have taken the wrong turn.) In the interim, we've depended on and highly developed our animal senses to figure out, in 20 seconds or so, whether we can trust someone, like them and, in modern terminology, "do a deal together." So, while "selling" can occur electronically, "buying" only happens face to face. And (warning: the following is a gratuitous advertisement for my profession), client satisfaction assessment interviews are best performed in-person.-- Bruce

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