As associate executive director of the American Bar Association's Communications Group, Sarina Butler oversees the ABA's publishing division, which publishes more than 80 periodicals per quarter and 120 books per year for lawyers. In promoting those publications, Butler and her staff have learned a number of best practices for marketing to lawyers and law firms. She recently shared some of these tips with BtoB.
BtoB: What must marketers keep in mind when marketing to lawyers?
Butler: You've got to know what you're selling, who is likely to buy it and what gap you're filling, so research is obviously critically important. Also, lawyers are not a homogeneous group. The thing they have in common is that they all went to law school, so they're all highly educated, and they make judgments from a learned position. You have to appeal at a certain intellectual level that you might not if you're selling, say, ice cream. What works especially well with lawyers because they're so accustomed to looking at evidence as proof of the point that you're making—case studies, testimonials, the real-life experience of others. So “Here's how this product was used by Lawyer X, and here's what it did for him.”
Law is such a competitive field, so showing the competitive advantages of a product or service is always helpful. For example, “Here's how this product or service gives you a competitive advantage over everyone else you're competing with.” That's a creative strategy that we have found works really well. Because they're in very competitive fields, lawyers are also extremely price-sensitive. They don't want to spend more than they need to for a product; however, this is an extremely well-educated market, so the appeal of price alone is not going to do it. There needs to be a balance of price and value. Lawyers are extremely brand-conscious and probably a little more brand-loyal than some markets. There are exceptions, of course, but brand consciousness and brand loyalty are strong attributes to lawyers. If they find a product they like and a provider of that product that they're satisfied with, they tend to stick with that product until you show them a product that gives them higher quality, better value at the same quality or some other decided advantage that you can directly point to.
BtoB: What challenges do marketers face in targeting this audience?
Butler: Lawyers are really inundated with marketing materials. The problem is that because they get so many marketing messages, they are more cautious. Also, a lot of the marketing materials never hit their target because lawyers just don't have time to sort through [the materials], whether they came by e-mail or postal mail. The message has to be extremely brief because they're not going to land on the material for very long. It has to be memorable. You're got to market your message right away. I would never adopt a creative strategy that tells a story and relies on a punch line because the lawyer's never going to get to the punch line. —M.E.M.