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Seemingly forever, the "pick two out of three" mantra was the accepted norm. Buyers understood that "good" and "cheap" wouldn't be "fast," that "good" and "fast" wouldn't be "cheap," and that "fast" and "cheap," well, it probably wouldn't be much of anything you'd want.

Solutions that are all three? Well, that was out of bounds. 

For decades, lawyers focused solely on delivering "great," plus "fast" from time to time when necessary, but never anywhere in the vicinity of "cheap." During the 20-year boom in legal service demand, clients were OK with that because they were moving fast, making lots of money, growing, hiring, acquiring, and battling with competitors and regulators over all of that. Their legal service priorities were "great" and "fast".

Since the 2008 recession, though, there have been two important changes to this longstanding framework. 

  1. Cheap, or at least cheap-er, has become much more important
  2. Clients are demanding all three values--formerly considered impossible

Legal service buyers no longer want to hear "pick two out of three." Their management, or customers, suppliers, or markets are demanding good, fast, and cheap from them. Everybody has to do more with less, and do it better and faster.

So, what does all this have to do with how individual lawyers get business, and deliver better, faster, cheaper? Aren't those values about delivering legal work? Yes, and those operational considerations are addressed quite well in Georgetown Law's 2016 Report on the State of the Legal Market, so I'll defer to them.

Equally important to marketing and sales

The barriers to "good," "fast," and "cheap" derive from the randomness of lawyers' practices, i.e., having clients scattered throughout many different industries and types of businesses, requiring lawyers to learn about, and remain current on, many different business contexts and problems. At best, that's burdensome and hugely inefficient; at worst, it's practically impossible.

In the seller's market that ended in 2008, lawyers had the luxury of a guild mentality, i.e., operating as craftsmen, creating a bespoke work product for each client and matter. The marketing and sales equivalent from that bygone era was approaching each prospect from scratch, starting at zero.

In the buyer's market that will be with you for the rest of your career, just as delivering good legal work faster and cheaper requires greater efficiency with time and money by re-using and adapting previous work product, efficient marketing means re-using and adapting your messaging assets, rather than creating new ones each time. Instead of the inefficient habit of forming individual one-on-one relationships, it's much more efficient to enable large groups of people to form virtual relationships with your ideas. 

The path to this necessary efficiency is to focus on and become an expert and thought leader about a Door-Opener, i.e., a specific business problem in a single industry. While there will be outliers, the great majority of companies in an industry will be similarly situated relative to the problems and challenges common to that sector.

Participate in the ongoing conversation about that problem in the industry's trusted media, which will cause you to be seen as relevant to those with a stake in that problem. They'll choose to remain in virtual contact with you. When it comes time for them to solve that problem, they'll already have a relationship with your ideas about how to solve it. If you've established a solid association with that problem, you'll come to mind, and the odds are good that they'll discuss it with you.

Today, it's generally accepted that 60-70% of the buyer's journey occurs digitally before they're receptive to contact with a salesperson. This is where your relevance and thought leadership creates an "idea relationship" with you, and increases their willingness to engage you, both virtually and actually, throughout their journey to a buying decision.

Industry focus

Industries are dynamic, so problems are always emerging, evolving, and disappearing. Those with a stake in them turn over, too, so everything is constantly in a state of flux. It's impossible even for full-time salespeople to keep up with that dynamism in more than one industry. As marginal part-timers, lawyers have no chance whatsoever. You have to focus on one industry.

You don't want to over-invest in any single company, either. Companies change leadership, get acquired, merge, fall on hard times, or go out of business. Target the industry, and hedge your investment by spreading it across the hundreds or thousands of companies and executives in that industry. 

The marketing and sales game has changed, and continues to change. Change with it or be left behind.

Mike O'Horo

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