The undervalued characteristic of “friendliness” is one which I feel that many lawyers could spend some time on.
I’ve previously looked at the principle that marketing for lawyers is not about the lawyer.
Here I wanted to consider briefly the aspect of simply being nice. I read recently the book Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen (an excellent book for social media newbies, and one which I encourage you to get if you’re interested in that). In it, he develops at length the proposition of using social media in positive and “likeable” way that engages customers.
And it got me thinking – surely that concept can go well beyond the realm of social media? As true as it might be in relation to online interactions, it’s also true for personal interactions which are the mainstay of traditional marketing for lawyers.
The concept of “being nice” is a little trite, to be sure. And yet so many intelligent, hard working lawyers get caught up with their own abilities that they gradually slip away from the fundamental characteristic that, in my view, will attract more clients than any other – being friendly.
There are some circumstances where the concept here will not hold true. If you are extremely senior, extremely specialised, or simply the best in your field without any doubt – then people will tolerate a lot more from you than they otherwise might. However, the reality is that most of us do not fall within that description, and so need to rely on whatever tools we have at our disposal to market our services to others.
The stark truth is that prospective clients will not call you if they don’t like you. And they cannot like you if you are not likeable.
So take a close look in the mirror. Are you friendly, approachable, kind? Are you genuinely interested in your clients, or is your mind constantly only thinking about the next case that you hope that client will give you, without really paying attention to what they are saying?
Here are some characteristics that you might keep an eye out for in your introspection:
I hear you. In fact (shh – it’s a secret) I am an introvert myself. However, I am a social introvert, so I do enjoy talking to people, and I actually care about what they have to say. Don’t let your general desire for peace translate into isolation. That said – if you can figure out how to have a law practice without other people around, then please let me know – I’ll write an article on it.
I might also point out that introverts have a number of positive qualities that are great in legal practice, and in leadership generally. Don’t believe me? Have a read of THIS ARTICLE as some additional food for thought.
Ignorance is Bliss
Some people simply are not aware that they are not nice. They perceive themselves as being sociable, friendly, helpful and approachable. Everybody else, however, disagrees with them. If you are repeatedly getting feedback that you need some work in this area, but have yet to accept it – I’d remind you of my article linked above – marketing for lawyers is NOT ABOUT YOU. If other people find you unlikable, then you probably are. If you can accept that, you’ll be back on the path to self-improvement.
Fake nice, in my view, is actually worse than just being mean. If people think that you are just pretending to be nice to them (and don’t kid yourself – people can always tell) then they will take the view not only that you are unlikable, but also that you are not genuine. If you are not genuine, then you can’t be trusted. If you can’t be trusted, then you can never be a trusted adviser – which is, after all, what a lawyer wants to be for their client. You can spot if you’re being fake nice by looking at some of your recent discussions – what were you thinking about while talking with others – were you focused on what they were saying, engaged with their needs? Or were you planning what YOU were going to say next in order to advance YOUR agenda?
Nice but Inaccessible
You can be the friendliest person ever – but if nobody can ever get to talk to you because you’re so busy, then it serves no point. Let your nice self go for a walk around the office, or to your client’s office, or anywhere other than your office. If you’ve got the benefit of a charming personality, then make sure people get to see it. Yes – it’s not immediately financially rewarding, but it’s an investment into your future relationships. You can spot this by simply reviewing your last few days – how many people did you get around to? Was it zero? Is that a habit, or just the product of a brief period of insane business? If the former, then perhaps you need to try and create some new habits involving places other than your own chair.
Nice at heart, but not in speech
Some people are, deep down (sometimes deeper than others) nice people. However, their tone of voice, their aggressive presentation of their opinions, or their outward conduct towards others doesn’t make their ultimately positive heart well known. As a result, although they make an effort, they are not perceived as being likable. Look at how people respond to you. Are they enthusiastic with you, responding positively and getting “on board” with your propositions? Or are they slanted away from you as they gradually try and get away from the discussion. Are they engaged, or silent? The hints here might come not from introspection (lack of self-awareness here is, after all, the problem) but from looking at how people respond.
The last bit
There you have it – some thoughts on why being nice is important from a marketing perspective, and how you might go about assessing whether you are “nice” or not. Nothing here should suggest that being nice is a substitute for being competent – clearly it isn’t. But if we assume (wrongly) that all lawyers are equally competent – what is it that starts to set you apart from your colleagues?
Nice may be an unexciting concept – but it’s a critical one to any marketing campaign.