Everybody is selling something, the old saying goes.
It is a bit of a cynical sentiment, implying as it does that we all have an angle. We are all out to get something.
But the phrase is actually a shortened version of a hundred-year-old quotation that has a kinder and gentler connotation: “Everyone lives by selling something,” said 19th century writer Robert Louis Stevenson. He meant that every human interaction involves bargain, negotiation and transfer.
The “living” comes first. Then comes the “selling,” in Stevenson’s view.
So what are we lawyers selling?
Abraham Lincoln famously said time and advice is what we peddle. But today the concept of the billable hour is under attack, while advice of all kinds (some, admittedly, of questionable quality) is available online at little or no cost.
We might say we are selling our experience, our expertise, our sage counsel. But let’s get real. When is the last time you heard a client say they were interested in buying a bag of experience or a carton of wisdom?
Clients are looking for results, right?
Wrong. Consumer Reports did a survey that showed clients value qualities such as effort, availability, integrity, even a sense of humor – more highly than raw results. In other words, given two lawyers who can get them to the same destination at roughly the same cost, clients will always ride with the one who returns their calls, works hard, and cracks the occasional joke in the process.
Which brings us to the matter of branding.
Business blogger Chad Levitt would suggest what we are selling is a brand. Think of Starbucks, Ikea or Chevrolet. The names alone evoke clear mental associations. They stir an emotional response.
That’s what a strong brand does.
The key to professional branding is reputation. Click here to read about what Levitt terms the “reputation economy.”
And here’s a fun branding game to play at your next staff meeting.
Have everyone write down several adjectives that they think best describe your firm. Write the answers on a board.
Once you have identified the top attributes of your brand, put them to work in your daily activities. If friendliness is a desired characteristic, make sure clients receive that message loud and clear from the minute they walk into the office until the final handshake at the conclusion of their case.
Before long, your clients will be singing the praises of your brand to the world.