Bridges, Not Walls
By Monica Bay
Chief marketing officers must remember an essential reality: No one -- especially a lawyer -- will admit they don't understand a sales presentation.
Last year, I wrote an article for Law Technology News that examined why so few lawyers are using trial technology. After interviewing practitioners, consultants and vendors, it quickly became obvious that one of the main reasons lawyers resist technology is that they simply don't understand how it can help them service clients better, faster, and cheaper.
Why? Because the vendors don't speak plain English. Instead, they overwhelm lawyers with robotic lectures riddled with meaningless clichés — and the attorneys are simply too embarrassed to admit that they don't have a clue what the vendors are talking about. Here's the first sentence of a typical press release: "The Widget Company, the world's leading provider of strategic, scalable, mission-critical enterprise-wide applications, has released WiDget 5.3.2XS, our robust, client-centric solution, now available in blue, pink and purple form factors."
That's truly how vendors talk. But guess what: This nasty trend is not just the domain of the techies. The marketing/biz dev folks are getting just as bad.
Want your lawyers to understand you when you talk? Here are examples of jargon that you simply must jettison:
Strategic planning: Who in their right mind would do non-strategic planning?
Client-centric (a.k.a. client-focused): Oh please. Who is going to offer services that aren't geared toward clients? Are you going to offer opposing-counsel-centric services?
Leverage: Only on rare occasions is this word used appropriately.
Value-added: Is there an industry that doesn't use this ridiculous term? It sounds like something you would negotiate when buying a car.
High-impact: See value-added.
Deploy: You're law firms, not military operations.
Seamless: Reminds me of a sewing class.
Solution: Hands down, the most overused, worthless word on the planet. Good only in math class, chemistry, or when you give up and call Nanny 911 because you can't stop your two-year-old's temper tantrum. It is not a marketing, legal, or technology word.
Think I'm exaggerating? Here are real-life examples of how jargon was abused at the Legal Sales & Service Organization's RainDance 2005 conference (IDs excised to prevent humiliation):
* "Our solution: to sell our ability to leverage efficiency."
* "[We are] the leading provider of high impact strategic market research..."
* "[We] provide high-impact information and workflow solutions ..."
* "...we have helped clients develop and implement creative marketing and advertising solutions..."
* "... specialists in developing business solutions..."
* "Establishing metrics to align sales and service strategies with key client initiatives."
* "The strategic objective is competitive distinctiveness."
* "She created the only widely disseminated research initiative on strategic marketing perceptions..." Res Ipsa Loquitor!
I challenge each and every one of you to start using plain English. I guarantee you that if you do, you will generate more "aha!" moments when you try to convert lawyers to the joys of business development. Speak in English, eschew jargon, and you will get them to drink the Kool-Aid.
Monica Bay can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2005 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. A version of this first appeared in Law Firm Inc. Full story here.
Thank you Monica for a great "Guest Blogger Friday".
Have A Great Day.