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Startup marketing techniques for lawyers — Part 2

09 November 2018 - By Damian Funnell

This is the second part of a two-part series. In this issue we look at some of the other startup marketing techniques that can be used effectively by lawyers.

Engineering as marketing

Build something useful, put your name on it and it will advertise your firm forever. The concept behind using engineering as marketing is simple and extremely effective.

For example, check out Buddle Findlay’s excellent ‘Back of a Napkin’ website for helping aspiring entrepreneurs to build an initial agreement on how they will work together. The site is simple, easy to use and wouldn’t cost much to build. It not only carries the Buddle Findlay brand, but it’s also cleverly designed to catch potential customers (entrepreneurs) at the very start of their commercial endeavour.

Another example is the AI-driven Brexit advisory tool developed by Pinsent Masons in the UK that I mentioned in an earlier article. This tool, which represents a fairly hefty investment in R&D, has resulted in a huge amount of international exposure for the firm, as well as a large number of potential clients who have used it to find out how Brexit will affect their business.

Using engineering as marketing can be extremely effective and it doesn’t have to cost a lot, if anything. Simply come up with a clever idea for something that your customers will love to use and figure out how to put your name on it (or otherwise associate it with your firm). Drop me a line if you’ve got an idea but you’re not sure about how to execute it – I love this stuff.

Viral marketing

Viral marketing simply means creating something that your clients will share with each other.

The single best example of viral marketing I’ve seen is the hilarious ‘Story of NZ’ from 42 Below back in the 00s. Cheaply made and pitch perfect, I must have been sent this clip over a hundred times when it came out (this was before Facebook and YouTube had taken off, so we were still emailing videos to each other).

If you want content to go viral then it has to be both share-worthy and easy to share. What can you write about that clients will be compelled to share with each other? How can you make it easy for them to share (eg, ‘Share this article’ functionality on blog posts, etc)? How can you give your content personality (and maybe even humour) without eroding status and credibility?

Going viral doesn’t have to mean thousands of views online. We’re looking for quality, not quantity. One good prospective customer is likely to make any campaign worthwhile.

Public relations and unconventional PR

Every firm should retain the services of a good PR firm. Meet with your PR expert regularly and strategise about how to get press coverage for your firm. Issuing press releases is a waste of time unless what you’re doing is newsworthy and easily understood/converted into new articles by overworked journalists. Your PR expert should be able to help you to create such content and, most importantly, get it into the hands of the journalists most likely to write about it.

Unconventional PR basically involves creating the news by doing or saying something newsworthy. Richard Branson has a black belt in unconventional PR. He’s been known to remove it, along with the rest of his clothing, and to stand naked on airplanes to generate huge amounts of press coverage.

Although stripping your partners naked and parading them on front of the press might seem appealing, you don’t have to go to quite such extreme lengths to generate unconventional PR for your firm.

Your unconventional PR can be more subtle, but still effective. You just have to think carefully about what you could do or say to generate a bit of buzz.

For example, a couple of law firms in Australia made news around the world when they announced that they would start accepting payments in Bitcoin from their clients. I doubt they have had many (if any) clients wanting to pay in Bitcoin, but this is irrelevant. They received huge amounts of coverage and they positioned themselves as the hippest, most technically savvy law firm around. Unconventional PR gold.

Targeting blogs and other online publications

As a lawyer, does it annoy you how everyone online has an opinion on what ‘the law’ is on any given topic and they’re happy to share it, irrespective of how misguided they are?

Then why not join in on the discussion? There are a huge number of online blogs and other publications that are frequented by potential customers. Many of these are crying out for contributors with legal expertise – either as formal contributors (post writers, etc) or even just commenters.

Smart, funny and authoritative contributors are soon recognised by the community around any given blog or publication and this can be a great source of contacts and business leads. And, if we’re to be honest, it can be fun contradicting gasbags who don’t know what they’re talking about.

Only scratching the surface

These are only a few of the truly effective marketing techniques that startups use to get maximum traction with minimum investment. Grab a copy of Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares for more detail on these and others.


Damian Funnell damian.funnell@choicetechnology.co.nz is founder of Choice Technology, an IT services company, and panaceahq.com, a cloud software company. He has a long-standing involvement with the legal services industry. This is the second in a series of articles on marketing. Read Part 1.

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Last updated on the 9th November 2018