Lucky 13! This is my favorite number, and this is my chance to break with my trend of only commenting on the positives in this marketing minute. I want to discuss what I think is the NUMBER 1 mistake that mediators make in their marketing. This is such a bad mistake that it can actually set you back on your quest to develop a sustainable book of business. It is an unbreakable rule in my view, yet it is broken frequently. It is broken by some very prominent mediators in this town, and believe me, when it is broken word travels amongst your potential clientele.
Let's leave aside the existential. Because one can argue that the worst thing you can do for your marketing plan is to do no marketing at all...and of course that is true. The very finest mediator can have no business with no marketing.
So, what is the NUMBER 1 mistake in my view...
It is TRYING TO HOOK ANOTHER CASE DURING YOUR ONGOING MEDIATION.
In other words: You are soliciting future business during your current mediation session.
I see a lot of lawyers in mediation. I do between 6-8 cases per week. With a minimum of 2 sides, that is at least 12-16 lawyers per week. And at least once per week I hear a story about another mediator, which is told sua sponte (I don't prod). The good stories I like, as a favorable impression of any mediator helps all mediators. And, as I believe there is plenty of business out there, I do not envy another mediator getting a case that I didn't get, and making the client happy (a viewpoint I strongly encourage btw).
But what is the first and worst thing your potential clients complain about? It is the mediator having the nerve to ham-handedly solicit another case during the mediation. (The close second btw is being ineffective, lethargic, and slow, and third is being too pushy, grouchy or evaluative...but that's for another day). A client with any impression like these is not a client you will ever see again!
Think about why trying to hook future business in this setting is wrong on so many levels...
One, the LASC actually has a rule preventing it. I know Charles or someone with a law book can cite it for you.
That rule doesn't apply to a non-court case, but still, it's a good rule.
Two, you look greedy and hungry. Two impressions you DON'T want your prospective future client to have about you.
Three, during a negotiation, if you are trying to get another case, the participants may think you will either work harder or not work harder depending upon whether they have a future case to give you. The participants will also think you're doing the same thing with the other side, which may be influencing you if the other side has another case for you. Your reputation and your integrity is being compromised....or at least the participants think it might be. One is as bad as the other for marketing purposes.
Bottom line: HUSTILING FUTURE BUSINESS DURING MEDIATION STINKS. DON'T DO IT.
Let's contrast that with a participant beginning to discuss another case with you during the usual chit-chat of mediation. I think that's a fine idea for many reasons. But if your client turns that into a "I should get that case to you" kind of discussion (which happens a lot), your appropriate response should be: "Let's get this one wrapped up first, and then we can think about that" or words to that effect. Think about what a positive message you are giving: You're not hungry or greedy, you are focused on the case at hand, and you have an open door to contact the client after the mediation.
That is the place you want to be to have a successful practice...
You now have a golden opportunity to begin an effective marketing plan AFTER you get the case settled. More about that in the coming weeks.
And speaking of golden: Go Bears!