What Marketing Works & Partnership

When I was a child, my mother collected Wedgwood pottery. Blue and white plates with various designs, followed by brown and cream with its designs, etc. It was not the thing that teenagers paid attention to. We should have. It's marketing story, and its demise, tell us now a great deal about marketing any business, including a law firm's business. And something about making partner too.

Waterford Wedgewood, a pottery maker 250 years old, has filed bankruptcy. As at least one observer puts it, the demise came because they forgot the lessons their founder had invented. Not about pottery. About marketing.

Josiah Wedgewood, founder of the pottery company, invented most of the marketing tactics that would be used up to and beyond the internet. As Judith Flanders reported in the London Times, "Most, if not all, of the common techniques in 20th-century sales — direct mail, money-back guarantees, traveling salesmen, self-service, free delivery, buy one get one free, illustrated catalogues — came from Josiah Wedgwood."

Apparently the company forgot its marketing roots and thought that hiring the right people, but still doing the old things the old way, was all it needed to reinvent its success. Wrong. So very wrong.

We live in a time when nothing old will survive if it doesn't reinvent itself as new. I never thought I'd say it, but every facet of life and business now is part and parcel of marketing. With fewer and fewer actual manufacturing going on in the US nowadays, the service of marketing has become more and more important. Point is, it always has been that way for lawyers and law firms --- whether they knew it or not.

Any law firm or lawyer who doesn't have a web site had better have a good, secure job and lots of loyal clients (a rarity nowadays). The senior partners may have grown up with phone books, but this generation didn't and they aren't looking for lawyers in the phone books anymore. Their mantra is simple. If it isn't online, it has no "cred" and it doesn't matter.

Marketing online is king. Curiously to many partners in law firms, more than the internet is considered "online" by this generation. They view cell phones as nothing more than extension of the online experience. And television? Why, it's nothing more than a forerunner of the internet and is often viewed by both the pre-internet "tweens" and the in-internet generation as a necessary entertainment device that has uses and purposes that the internet doesn't meet. Add up the informational input from all three devices and you get the sum total of all informational and marketing input for the vast majority of this (and the next) generation of consumer purchasers.

And if they don't know about your law firm, you won't be on their shopping list.

If your law firm doesn't have a web site that is strong on marketing, and not just a billboard, it's missing out. And if you are an associate, what can you do? Well, inside the firm you can work to push the marketing in a productive and cost-efficient direction. And outside the firm you can learn to market yourself. Blog. Set up your own professional and/or personal interests web site. After all, people who make partner are usually people who have proven their rainmaking skills. Start proving it.

There's nothing that says you have to sit back and wait for it to happens; notably, there's also nothing that says if you sit back it will ever happen either. Indeed, sitting back is the same as laying down in a pine box in this profession.

The truth is that partners are not people who just "did the work." They are people who went out and found the work that needed doing.

While solo and one-on-one entertainment with video equipment, including the internet, is the obvious king of media, television and mobile devices still have their places with marketing to the current and the next generation of consumer-purchasers. You can't forget it.

In your firm's marketing budget, the right mix of internet, mobile appliances, and TV are the probably best solution right now to the effective marketing problem. If Wedgewood had done that? They probably wouldn't be in bankruptcy right now. If you don't do it? You may well end up there yourself.