Why Marketing Is For Muppets; Interview with Lawyer, Flor McCarthy
Professional service firms such as lawyers or accountancy practices often find it challenging to market their services. Some even find it distasteful. This interview with lawyer, Flor McCarty, managing partner ofmarketing strategies employed by their legal firm, which could also be successfully adapted to many other business sectors.
Why Is Marketing “Dirty” for the Professions?
Before we get to the interview, here is a little background information on why marketing is viewed as “dirty” by some professionals. Accountants and lawyers, (or solicitors as we in Ireland call them), need new sources of work to remain in business. Professionals are often not comfortable with traditional marketing strategies because:
- Marketing conflicts with professional culture. Our training is to provide proof; we would not naturally say “we are one of the best firms in …”, because that is a subjective statement. In order to warrant laying claim to being the best, at the very least, we would have to define “best” very exactly within a scoring system and then have all firms ranked independently. Accountant and lawyers deal in verifiable facts, that is the nature of our job. Yet cold facts are not ideal marketing material, as marketing messages are more emotionally driven.
- We have codes of ethical practice which govern, amongst other things, confidentiality and marketing professional services. This code brings restrictions that other business sectors do not have to deal with. For example, we do not generally provide client lists nor even disclose clients’’ names. Here is an extract from” The Principle of Confidentiality” in the Code of Ethics for Chartered Accountants Ireland:
“Some clients or employers may regard the mere fact of their relationship with a professional accountant– as being confidential”
Accountants wouldn’t tweet, “Our client, Muppet International, won the coveted ‘Best Small Town Business Award’, thereby revealing our client’s name and trying to cover ourselves in our clients’ glory. No siree. Small wonder therefore, that when professionals are running their own business in the form of a professional practice, that they struggle with marketing.
What Kind of Muppet are you?
This brings us to the whole question of Muppets, and what is a professional to do to tout their wares? I’ve been an avid reader of McCarthy and Co’s legal blog for a couple of years.
One day on twitter, I followed a link to their post; “What kind of Muppet are You?” and found myself reading an amusing blog post by Flor McCarthy, which was loosely about marketing. It concluded by inviting the reader to join their email list, so I did. I soon discovered, to my horror, that these emails were sent daily.
(This ‘horror’ was entirely my own fault, as email frequency was pointed out before I subscribed, but I missed that point). I say ‘horror’, because like many people I am trying to cut down on the amount of email I receive. But I’m now delighted that I didn’t unsubscribe straight away, because pretty soon I was looking forward to Flor’s daily email.
I find his daily observations to be thought provoking, informative and entertaining. There is usually, though not always, a subtle reminder about why you sometimes need the services of a professional lawyer, to deal with what life, death and business throws at you in equal measure.
Daily email titles are diverse and eye catching, such as:
- Argos and the Baby Wipe
- What the Mother Superior doesn’t want to you see…
- Norah Ephron and the Senior Counsel
Interview with Flor McCarthy, McCarthy and Co Solicitors, (Lawyers)
In this interview with Flor McCarthy, Managing Partner of McCarthy and Co, Solicitors, we focus on the marketing methods employed by his firm.
Tell me a little bit about your practice, Flor.
We’re a four solicitor, (lawyer), firm based in West Cork, Ireland. We come from a general practice background but have been developing specialisms in personal injury and medical negligence litigation over the last number of years which now has us acting for clients all over Ireland.
What made you decide to send out daily emails?
I have been receiving daily e-mails from a marketing expert with whom I work for a number of years and I found them addictive. It made me think that we spend far too long without any contact with our clients in our business. After someone finishes dealing with a solicitor / lawyer, in many cases, they may not have any reason to make contact with the solicitor again for years and can often drift away. The daily e-mail keeps us in regular contact. It is far easier to generate new business from an existing client than find a new one. Existing client referral is an extremely important part of how we find new clients.
When and how do you find the time to write the email?
I write the e-mails early in the morning, the whole process takes between 20 minutes and half an hour by the time you have everything set. If you can’t spend half an hour a day on business development, how can you expect business to develop?
How do you pick topics?
It’s an eclectic mix. When I first started a great client said “don’t send them every day, you’ll run out of things to say!” But I find the opposite, the more I write the more one idea leads to another. It can be topical news items, things that happen in the practice, things that get on my nerves!
What is your overall strategy with the emails?
To keep in contact with existing clients and to allow people who may be considering doing business with us to get a feel for what we’re about and to convince them to take the next step.
Apart from my original “eek, it’s daily!” response, do you receive any negative feedback to the frequency of your emails?
Not really. You can’t please everyone, so I took the view that the start that I would please one person, myself. I encourage people to unsubscribe if they don’t like it. Not everyone is going to like you and if they don’t they are unlikely to do business with you. You are far better dealing with people who do like you and who want to hear what you have to say. After that you’ve got to make it interesting for them. Most people’s inboxes are full of boring e-mails many of which involve work for them. If you give them something interesting that makes them smile or think each day, you’re pushing an open door.
Do you use proprietary software to manage your daily emails?
Yes, I use Campaign Monitor but that is mainly an accident of history rather than as a result of any comparative research. I find it fine for what I do. I have also heard good things about Mail Chimp and Send Pepper.
Do you recycle the emails on your blog?
I did at the start and the only reason I stopped was it took me too long each morning to write the e-mail, post it on the e-mail software and then post it on the blog and the social media sites as well. This is something I plan to return to but I need to look at streamlining the process.
How important is blogging to your practice development?
It has been very important, particular in targeted specialist areas. Objectives need to be clear.
What other marketing methods do you use?
Personal networking, public speaking and seminars as well as occasional print articles.
What is your best marketing tip?
Sell. Nothing in the business happens unless you sell. Get used to it. Timid salesmen have skinny kids. Professionals look down their noses at selling, but without it there’s no business.
Thanks very much Flor for sharing your marketing tips with us. We’re all Muppets in the end, we just need to decide what kind! Have you experience of marketing professional services or any questions for Flor? If, so we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Helen Cousins, a chartered accountant by profession, is a business mentor, trainer and consultant for a wide range of Irish SMEs, often working under the auspices of state agencies via her company Xcel Business Solutions. In a successful career spanning more than 25 years, Helen worked in accountancy practice for PricewaterhouseCoopers, and worked in Financial Controller and senior management positions in manufacturing industry, before starting her own consultancy for small businesses. Helen is also a self catering entrepreneur, operating her own self catering holiday home business in Wexford. She is a director and former Chair of the Irish Self Catering Federation, and she works closely with the tourist industry in Ireland.Read Full Bio