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Wooing the Gator: Aligning Behavioral Economics With Legal Marketing

Posted by Mike Carrozzo on Apr 7, 2017 2:53:01 PM

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How to Tap Into Your Clients' Decision-Making Process

Behavioral economics is a method of analysis that explores why people make irrational decisions at times, and why and how their behavior does not follow the predictions of economic models. For legal marketers, understanding the principles of behavioral economics and how people ultimately make decisions can help elevate their role in helping to drive more strategic relationships for their firms.

This was one of the underlying messages delivered during the keynote session at the 2017 LMA Annual Conference by Zoë Chance, assistant professor of marketing at Yale School of Management. Chance, who studies persuasion and decision making, framed her presentation by characterizing two systems in the brain that drive behavior: “The Gator” and “The Judge.”

  • The Gator: Often referred to as the “gut” reaction, The Gator characterizes the quick and unconscious decisions that people make in the moment.
  • The Judge: This is the conscious system in the brain that allows for the slower, more deliberate decision-making ability.

According to Chance, it is “The Judge” that drives the deliberation process but, it’s “The Gator” that first must be wooed. In other words, you cannot reach the more deliberate decision-making process without first appealing to the gut reaction of clients. 

For legal marketers, that means playing a role in helping their firms appeal to “The Gator” in hopes of breaking through to “The Judge.” That requires giving the Gator something to EAT — appealing to the Ease, Attention and Trust of clients.

Making it as easy as possible to make a decision can be the ultimate appeal of any marketing activity. During her presentation, Chance pointed to companies like Amazon and Uber that have built their market-disrupting models on the ability to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with them. Rather than simply being cheaper than their competitors, these companies appeal to customers by focusing on ease; they work to eliminate every perceived pain point.

For legal marketers, it becomes a matter of eliminating every perceived pain point when establishing and maintaining client relationships. Chance pointed to the Customer Effort Score, which asks customers the question: How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request? From there, it’s a matter of figuring out how to bring down the number of steps to ultimately influence key stakeholders.

These days, clients have a myriad of things vying for their attention. Therefore, marketers must figure out how to reach them during those “moments of truth” — the exact moment when they need a solution. 

Chance shared examples of the use of creative marketing to effectively capture those moments: engaging the attention of clients with a surprise and allowing them to take action in the moment.

Another way to engage attention at the right moment is with implementation intentions, or "where, when, if-then" plans. The President Obama election campaign, for example, increased voter turnout by asking potential voters when they were going to the polls and how they were going to get there.

For legal marketers, Chance believes implementation intentions can help improve follow-through for clients, colleagues or even themselves.

She believes that giving internal marketing all the tools they need to persuade can lead to better goal attainment, as well as help in habit and behavior modification.

Every good relationship is built on trust. Oftentimes, what becomes more important than building trust is the ability to maintain it. As Chance suggested, customers don’t suddenly lose trust in a company that makes mistakes; rather, they tend to be more loyal to a company that solves mistakes in a favorable way. Legal marketers can use such opportunities to gain good word of mouth — promoting the fact that they resolved an issue in a favorable way for the client.

Chance used the exercise of the Magic Question. Rather than suggesting solutions to a problem, the Magic Question asks clients “What would it take to…”

It empowers the client with their expertise, switching them from a mode of judgement to resolution. This can help reinforce trust for the client, ultimately making it easier for the firm to achieve outcomes.

Time to EAT
Legal marketers can play a critical role helping their firms break through to the client by making strategic shifts in how the firm approaches client development. This involves knowing the factors that influence and drive behavior. As Chance suggested, understanding that in order to “woo ‘The Gator’” you must first give it something to EAT can go a long way toward achieving this objective.


Mike Carrozzo is the managing editor of Strategies magazine and staff member of the Legal Marketing Association.








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