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Innovation, Old-School Style

Posted by Susan Beck on Feb 19, 2019 12:56:00 PM


Consider how innovation might mean a change in mindset.

When people think of innovation in legal marketing, they usually think of strategies to dazzle their target audiences with shiny, new technologies. Of course, technology has transformed legal marketing, as social media, data-driven metrics and other evolved ideas have taken permanent places in the marketing toolbox. But I view innovation more broadly — as a mindset of thinking differently.

Sometimes it’s good to step back, examine your habits and ask if you could be more effective. In recent months, I’ve been reminded that some of the best marketing techniques have nothing to do with new technology. In fact, they’re shockingly old school.

  • In one example, I helped a client draft personal letters to select clients, reminding them of the benefit of having a “wellness checkup” for their wills and trusts. She sent these letters through the mail and also offered to make house calls. She got a 50 percent response rate.
  • I recently asked the former general counsel of a big company about the most effective law firm marketing techniques. He immediately mentioned a partner at a prestigious firm who would visit him in person every year with a legal pad of handwritten notes and update him on relevant legal developments. That’s what impressed him.
  • Finally, the head of a local arts organization sent me a gracious handwritten note thanking me for a modest contribution and offering to meet me in person. I was so impressed, I made a bigger donation and am now volunteering.

Despite the traditional techniques, these approaches appear innovative because they’re now so rare. At a time when many people feel pressed for time, these efforts stand out for their thoughtfulness. These individuals took more than a few minutes to connect in a personal and meaningful way. They showed that they truly value client service, and they understand that building a relationship often requires the restraint to slow down and get to know your clients.

By bucking trends favoring slick, fast-paced social media marketing, these individuals demonstrated their willingness to think differently. But here’s a crucial part of the lesson: Being different doesn’t matter unless you’re being useful to your client.

For example, I recently scanned the social media presence of a lawyer who, every day, sends out a tweet that says, “Good Morning!” I admire this lawyer’s desire be top of mind for clients and other followers, but I think a strategy of offering occasional useful news and advice could be just as, or more, effective. Put differently, you shouldn’t feel compelled to use a technological advancement just because you can.

I’m not suggesting that everyone return to marketing campaigns based on U.S. Postal Service mail, house calls and handwritten notes. But if you want to be innovative, consider complementing your technologically savvy methods with some old-school techniques that your clients will value. Write a letter. Sit down for a personal visit. Show that you think differently — and care. That’s an innovation that will impress.

Susan Beck headshot 3Susan Beck is a lawyer-turned-journalist who covered the legal profession at the American Lawyer for nearly 30 years. She now helps law firms and other businesses create clear, compelling content. You can reach her at or visit her website at


Topics: Social Media, Innovation

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