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In 2013, be a failure

It would be easy to sell legal services if you could just follow a formula. Write two articles, post updates weekly on your LinkedIn account, speak at three seminars, take 4 clients or referral sources to lunch and become a board member of your favorite charity. Do all these things and in six to nine months you will have three new clients.

Lawyers are good at following procedures and if it were all this simple, every lawyer in private practice would be above average in the business he or she generates. The reality, though, is much more complex. In the real world, it is hard to know which marketing activities will yield the results you want.

Having a written plan is very helpful in ensuring that you follow through consistently on high value marketing activities. Selling legal services can take months or years. During that time, you want to employ a mix of reputation building and relationship building tactics. While each of these tactics may be consistent with your overall strategy (e.g. growing your trusts and estates practice and serving more entrepreneurs in their 30s and 40s) there is no guarantee that any single thing you do will produce any results. In the real world, 10 marketing activities that seem likely to produce results may only produce one result.

For lawyers and other professionals who are risk-averse, this is a hard lesson to learn. If failure is likely, why should I pursue any of these activities? I see this over and over again with my own clients. They set up a series of lunches with professionals who serve the same clientele and nothing happens. But two months later, they get a call from a prospect who got their name from one of these individuals.

Savvy venture capitalists understand the importance of investing in a broad mix of companies. In general, a VC only expects to succeed in two out of ten investments. This is exact the mentality that will ensure your own success.

So get out and fail. If you don't take a lot of chances, you are much less likely to succeed. If you are not failing, then you are not trying hard enough.

That is not to say that you should continue to fail in the same way if you know for certain that something is not working. But don't stop speaking if no one contacts you after the seminar. Don't stop writing if you receive zero feedback on an article that you have published. Instead, keep failing, keep learning from your failures, and the business will come.

Tip courtesy of Stephen Seckler, president, Seckler Legal Consulting and Coaching.

Published December 13, 2012

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