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A speaker at the recent law firm leadership summit (Legal Week, 30 September) delivered a short treatise on marketing, explaining his Brochure Information Network system (BIN), into which he files all unsolicited brochures and nefarious promotional materials received. I applaud.The infamous Lord Leverhulme quotation was duly trotted out and misquoted. His Lordship’s famous sentiment regarding not knowing which half of his spend was wasted referred to his advertising and not his marketing budget. A subtle difference.Next, law firm guru David Maister parachuted into town to deliver two seminars, one on strategy and the second on marketing. Those attending the former were treated to his view that the fault for poor law firm marketing lay squarely with the partners and not the marketing heads at all.Marketers who have never been summoned to a partner’s office to hear their latest wheeze, before being despatched to produce the requisite brochure, are about as common as rocking horse manure. This corroborates the Maister position as well as reinforcing the sentiment expressed by a client-side speaker at the leadership conference that “anyone who is marketing anything should focus on what I want to buy, not what you want to sell”. Absolutely.These firms are making themselves attractive and moving towards the holy grail of ‘indispensability’.This is the nub of the matter. Real marketers, be they owners or marketers, will have been promoting this client-led view to their partners for years. The remainder, those with less experience and qualification, will simply be asking what colour they want their brochure in.These brochure bunnies are the same ones who fix up endless rounds of corporate hospitality, golf days and dreary seminars – and think the firm should spend more on advertising and PR, on the grounds of ‘he who shouts loudest…’.Real or strategic marketers will be working with partners to put the plans together. Chances are they will want to focus their advertising, manage their PR more closely and concentrate on the sort of key service requirements identified by another speaker at the same event: “Availability and responsiveness, proactivity, homework, objectivity, plain language and clear, logical thinking” and a raft of other sensibilities that are all too rare. What client could not sign up to this wish list?Firms that follow this model of marketing are working on the pull-you end of the push-me pull-you principle. Pull-you marketing is responding to what clients want to purchase and not some service or other the partners want to promote.By various means of client management, communication, feedback and getting to grips with their clients’ needs, these firms are making themselves attractive and moving towards the holy grail of ‘indispensability’. They are involved in long-term brand building.Are your marketing team tacticians or strategists? Are your partners collectively product-led or client-led? Those who favour the old recipe of “take one new idea, put it in a brochure, print it in this season’s colour and mail everyone we know and a lot more we don’t”, are firmly on the ‘push-me’ side of things.So before you rush to kick your marketers, consider whether you are brand building or looking for a quick fix. Are your marketing team tacticians or strategists? Are your partners collectively product-led or client-led? Can you look back at your marketing and claim to pass the push-me pull-you marketing test? Answer these questions and you will know if you are walking with brand builders or dinosaurs.Tim Nightingale is a founding partner in Nisus Consulting, which specialises in the professional services sector. Tel: 0181 891 4466.

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