Marketing as a Seduction
Follow the Rules of Romance to Market Effectively

Ask yourself: What would you do to have a one-night stand with someone?
Now ask yourself: What would you do to have a long term relationship?

This is an excerpt from a presentation made to a group of lawyers in the US by the well known specialist adviser David Maister. It is a challenging piece for many business leaders and directors not only in Irish law firms, how to turn the business from being focused on their internal needs to becoming engaged and responsive to customers. It is a common theme of when working with our clients in Celtar, building relationships with customers brings longterm value. Read on.

“The answers would be completely different – you’d hang out in different
places, you’d dress differently,” said author David Maister of Boston. “Most law firms have built their marketing plans based on ‘how to get laid.’ A lot of you are acting as if you’re trying to do a one-off seduction.” Instead, law firms should market themselves to gain long-term relationships with clients. “These are very different ways of thinking what marketing is about.”

“Those law firms that take a relationship approach to all of their marketing
make a hell of a lot more money,” he said. “When your clients really trust
you, they subject you to fewer beauty contests. You’re much more likely to
get new work automatically. When your clients trust you and you take a
relationship-building approach to marketing, you also get higher fees.”

“Marketing is not about ‘how do I fool idiotic clients.’ Marketing
relationship is ‘how do I develop a long term trusted relationship with
somebody who’s doing exciting sexy things?’ Life is more than billing hours
to people that your barely tolerate. Life is too short to work for idiots.
Get your ass in gear and do everything you can to replace bad clients with
people you like, so you can give the finger to clients you don’t like,”
Maister said.

Getting Dream Business

“Marketing is not about volume, how much additional revenue you bring in.
The measure is whether you are getting the dream business from the dream clients. If you’re doing this, you’ll get paid more than if you’re doing
junk work for idiots,” Maister said.

He recalled the time when founder Ray Kroc was asked what was the secret to the success of the McDonalds hamburger chain. Kroc replied, “you must be able to see the beauty in a hamburger bun.” Maister asserted, “You must care passionately about what you do. If your view is that you do junk for idiots, you ain’t going to be as rich as Ray Kroc. The way you make money is do stuff you feel passionate about for people you care about.”

“Clients are just like us. When you look for a doctor, you want one who
listens, explains things, and doesn’t just say “Bend over. Next.” Would you
pay more for this doctor? Yes,” Maister said. Similarly, he said that
clients want lawyers who take a personal interest in them. The reason that
more clients are hiring law firms based on price is because they can’t find
lawyers who will take an interest, or at least act as if they care about the
client. “Any lawyer who comes into the market who shows an interest in the clients, will clean up.

Maister said that law firms should follow the rules of romance in their
marketing. “Marketing is about individuals, how to earn relationships,” he
said. “What works is what affects you in your life. Ask yourself – do you
have a great romantic relationship? If you do, you already know how it
works. He polled the audience to get the following rules:

The Rules of Romance – and Marketing

Honest communications. “Honesty is essential. The slightest transgression
takes you backwards a long way. You would never want to get caught in a real relationship with exaggerations, or inflated statements – yet you do that all the time in marketing. Maybe it gets you laid, but if you’re looking for a relationship, you just lost it.”

Shut up and really listen. “Spend your time asking clients about them. Seek first to understand and then to be understood. How much of your marketing plans is seeking to understand?”

Frequent communication, especially when not needed. Maister encouraged
partners to read the trade publication of their main clients. By doing so
your partner can call a client to say, “I was reading your trade magazine
and I see that your competitor’s factory burned down, is there anything
you’d like to do?” He added, “You can’t build somebody’s trust if you don’t
keep up with their interests,” he said.

Be supportive and understanding. Treat clients gently instead of critically.
“How do you tell the client he was wrong and have him thank you for it? Ask yourself, ‘how do I phrase this so that it comes across as supportive?’
There are few of us who find the right words instantaneously, but most of us have to think about it overnight. You might get caught off guard, and you’ll feel you need to prove you’re worth €250 per hour; but you must be more focused on the relationship than the present moment.”

You actually have to care about the relationship. “If your partners say, ‘do
I have to care?’ your reply should be, ‘if you do care, your life will get
better. If you don’t care, it’s going to be harder.’ What works in marketing
is actually caring. For example, see if you can you actually ask sensible
follow-up questions and keep a conversation going for 30 minutes?

Express appreciation. “A marriage will fall apart because you’re taking it
for granted. Bringing flowers and chocolates on a birthday will get you some brownie points. But the real brownie points come when you show up on a day with no significance and say, ‘I just wanted to tell you I love you.’ You should call your main clients and say, ‘I was just sitting here and
appreciate the opportunity to work with you. I have nothing to report but am looking forward to seeing you soon.'”

Becoming a Trusted Advisor
According to Maister, a lawyer’s goal is to become the trusted advisor of
his or her clients. He identified four characteristics that influence trust:

Credibility, which is not the same thing as competence. “You may be skilled
in your field but can you apply it to your client’s world? To see you as
credible, a client needs to feel not only that you’re a great lawyer – but
that you can bring your expertise into their world.”

Reliability. A large part of being trusted is that a person can be relied on
to act in a certain way. “Brilliant people who are unreliable lose my
trust,” Maister said. Part of getting trusted is about dependability,
consistency and reliability. A lawyer’s reputation is not how well he does
on a good day, it’s what he does on his worst day.

Intimacy. “You don’t need to know the names of your clients kids and send
them birthday cards. But you do have to know about your client’s
transactions. You also must understand that in all of your client
interactions, you’re dealing with a human being and that his emotions are
part of it. It’s about individuals.”

Self-orientation. “If the client believes you are only in it for yourself,
you won’t be trusted. To be trusted you must convince the other person that you will earn whatever you are paid. Somehow you have to make people believe you care about them,” Maister said.

According to Maister, most of us rate well on credibility and reliability.
“It’s the last two that are less well done; not many people would get high
points from their clients on being a person as opposed to a techno-nerd,” he said. “Clients fundamentally don’t trust lawyers because they think the
lawyer just wants billable hours. Whether that’s an unfair belief or not, it
causes them not to trust you and to watch you like a hawk.”

“Marketing works much better if you treat it as a moral point. You must know what your core principles are. Every time your core principles are tested, you have to answer the same way. At a big organisation, you must decide if your firm is going to have any principles, any laws; “this is who we are but we don’t do certain junk,” he said.

Partners must ask themselves if they want non-negotiable principles or
should we run it on expediency. Firms that have very clear principles, that
are in fact actually lived up to, make more money. Firms that don’t or who
have ones that are treated expediently make less money,” Maister said

Advice for Marketing Managers

Maister urged marketers to stop focusing on the firm, and instead start
focusing on individual partners. “The best revenue generator is to work with an individual lawyer. Every marketing manager must be a trusted advisor, and deal with the partners’ sensitive egos. That’s how you build your power base – one by one, you get a group of partners who say you were really helpful.

“Most of your lawyers resent their clients – they don’t like them, and they
don’t like the fee negotiations. They like the legal work. If you like your
clients, you don’t go cruising.

“Your job as a marketing manager is to work one-on-one with as partner and find out what he’d rather be doing than this. What part of his practice
would he get rid of? Most valuable thing a marketing partner can do is to
help people find their passion.

“Without the energy, passion desire, the command of marketing tactics is

By Larry Bodine
This article originally appeared on the LawMarketing Portal,, where law firms find out how to get more business.