Pro Se Your Marketing


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marketing-pro-seIn every industry, there is an amateur who thinks they can do the job on their own. Whether it is a home project, real estate transaction or legal representation “doing it yourself” is not always the best option. The “DIY” movement has become enormous. With the advent of the cable network shows that illustrate how to “Do It Yourself”, we have become a culture obsessed with finding pride and ownership as well as saving money by completing our own projects.

DIY Legal

When it comes to complex matters such as legal representation it would seem obvious that a person should hire a professional, yet we have all heard nightmare stories of people who decided to appeal Pro Se and self represent. In rare instances it can prove to be successful, but the majority of cases create challenges and are less successful.

In my previous work in the real estate industry, the equivalent was a property “For Sale By Owner” (FSBO).  For Realtors, mentioning a “FSBO” was generally met with a shake of the head and a litany of reasons why they should consider hiring a professional. However, when talking to these same Realtors about their marketing it never occurred to them that they were attempting to “FSBO” their marketing plan. When illustrated in language they could relate to, it suddenly became clear. Using an equivalent example in the appropriate industry is the best way to relate the necessary concept of working with an expert.

DIY Marketing

DIY is great for experimenting in the kitchen and making a quilt, but what happens when people try to DIY their own marketing? Since marketing is usually part of the public domain, it appears to be a more generally understood profession than something like brain surgery. However, consider the critical role it plays in the success of your business: is it critical to hire a professional and do it right.

Put in real estate terms: sure you can try to sell your house on your own, but should you? When putting together your law firm you only have one chance to make a first impression. You are a professional and want to convey your expertise, so don’t promote yourself as an amateur. After all, what kind of client do you expect to recruit if your marketing looks cheap and/or trendy?

Reasons to work with an expert

Developing your marketing strategy, branding and market presence is time consuming and complicated. Trying to figure all of this out is a waste of your time and money. Most people “don’t know what they don’t know” until it’s too late and they’ve created a mess. Calculate your hourly rate multiplied by five or six hours of time spent just trying to figure out the basics. Suddenly hiring a marketing professional seems financially reasonable.

The reasons you want your clients to choose to work with you are the same reasons you should choose to work with a professional for your marketing. Ensure that your own business lines up with the message you are attempting to convey to potential clients. Hiring an expert give you access to the hours, months and years of their research and experience. The expert lives and breathes in this environment and knows the tips, trends, unique ideas and horrible flops currently happening in the marketplace. The most likely place that an amateur starts is with the most obvious and trendy. Your marketing should be unique; trendy is not how you want to present yourself.

The bottom line is basic economics: let’s all spend our scarce amount of available time doing the activity that we are the best suited for. This logic should be used when talking to potential clients as well as when developing a marketing strategy for your firm.

(photo sroemerm)


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  • Great post Karin! Getting attorneys to think about “opportunity cost” is essential to their success. Everyone has been told that if you put your mind to it you can do anything; stopping to think “is this the best thing I could be doing with my limited time” is truly an important skill.

  • Hah, when you want to target street law litigators and personal injury folks in a similar to that FSBO parallel, I guess you could elaborate on the three-letter similarity between DYI and DUI. It kinda leads to similar outcomes. At the same time, thanks for the DYI anchor. I’m gonna make some use of it for myself, I guess. Translation industry is plagued by DYI proofreading, which actually sometimes involves professionals, just not really prepared to do it. Think what happens when an aspiring young member of the chattering classes fresh out of reading Russian literature in the cosiness of a dim lit cafeteria stumbles into some heavy duty legalese. (Or heavy duty DYI legalese for that matter.)