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Business Development

Denney’s 20 Marketing Maxims

By Bob Denney

Every lawyer wrestles with getting and keeping clients. It is, after all, hard stuff! And it’s actually quite normal to constantly wonder: “Where do I start?” “Are we spending enough or too much … on the wrong things?” “What are the right things?” and “Where am I supposed to find the time to do it all, anyway?” But don’t get all twisted up in your undershorts. Take a break and get back to the basics. That’s what we decided when legal marketing guru Bob Denney sent this list of his favorite marketing maxims. They’re pretty great. Because they’re true!

Maxim: A General Truth or Rule of Conduct Expressed in a Sentence

  1. Be the best lawyer you can be.
  2. Be afraid. Fear of failure guarantees success.
  3. Don’t sell. Educate. No one wants to be sold legal services. Ask clients and prospects what their problems are, listen to the responses and then educate them on how you can help them.
  4. Focus. Specialize. You can’t be all things to all people.
  5. Have a marketing plan and follow it. Hell is paved with good intentions—and marketing plans that were never implemented.
  6. Market like you are a sole practitioner. If you don’t, you may become one—and then you’ll have to.
  7. Everyone in the firm can be a marketer, from the managing partner all the way down to the messenger.
  8. Current clients are your best sales agents.
  9. With all due respect to social media, relationships and word-of-mouth are still the best forms of marketing and business development.
  10. Your friends may not become clients, but your clients can become friends.
  11. Your next client may be across the table.
  12. To get and keep your client’s business, know his or her business.
  13. Treat every client as if he or she were your only client.
  14. The three keys to delighted clients: Listen and communicate, listen and communicate, listen and communicate.
  15. Under-promise. Over-deliver.
  16. Don’t be afraid to say “yes,” but have the courage to say “no.”  To a client, the magic words are:  “Yes, if  …” or “No, but  … .”
  17. Be a problem-solver, not a problem-maker.
  18. Give clients alternatives but don’t stop there. Say, “It’s your decision but I think this is what you should do and these are the reasons.”
  19. Know your competition. It’s just as important as knowing your client.
  20. Ask for the business.
Categories: Client Service, Law Firm Marketing
Originally published March 5, 2012
Last updated February 23, 2019
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Bob Denney Bob Denney

For 45 years, Bob Denney provided services to over 400 U.S. law firms and legal organizations as well as serving as an outside director and interim CEO for public and privately held companies. At Robert Denney and Associates, Bob provided management, leadership, strategic planning and business development services and was a respected speaker and author.  His articles appeared in many legal publications, but he is best known for producing highly regarded reports on What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession. Bob passed away in 2021 at the age of 89.

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