Anatomy Of An Associate Marketing Competition

Here is something interesting we have done to help associates learn to market at my law firm, Duval & Stachenfeld LLP.

Among other things, we have an associate-led Associate Marketers Group that meets monthly to teach, learn, and share various marketing skills and strategies. This year, by way of example, the group read an impressive marketing book called How To Master The Art of Selling (affiliate link), and then they practiced the techniques outlined in the book.

I believe our associate marketing program is unique as far as law firms go. Most law firms don’t really teach associates that much about marketing, at least not until they have achieved a certain level of seniority. We start the first day the associate joins the firm.

In any case, this past year the associates took it upon themselves to arrange a mock pitch presentation — sort of like moot court, but for pitching.

The associates divided themselves into groups and decided to have each group pretend to be representatives of a craft beer company that was pitching a local supermarket chain in order to get their craft beer product on the store shelves. Each group was then judged by a panel that was comprised of four partners and our Chief Marketing Officer, Caitlin Velez.

The associate pitching groups did their best to prepare for — and actually be — the senior management team for the craft beer company. And the partners and Chief Marketing Officer did their best to actually be the senior executives of the local supermarket chain. We all made it as real as possible. I styled myself as the annoying, penny-pinching CFO who didn’t care about the beer at all — just whether we could make money on it in our supermarket. I even annoyed myself in my role!

It was suggested to the groups that they use the techniques outlined in the How To Master The Art of Selling book; however, they were absolutely free to create their own, unique presentations.

I will say that after many years of pitching to clients and prospects, I was convinced I wouldn’t see anything in these mock pitches that I hadn’t seen before, but I was happy to be wrong, as I saw a bunch of creative ideas that I will be thinking about how to weave into my own future pitches.

For example, one group provided sample beer with a new brand and logo. Another provided cheese and crackers to be sampled with the beer. Another one made clear that they had no need for our shelf space due to the power of their brand, and wouldn’t pay a nickel for shelf space, despite me pushing them on that point. And there was much more.

At the end of the day, this project was a great success. Everyone got the real feel of a pitch, including:

Preparing for the pitch;

  • Coming up with a powerful and memorable message;
  • Having butterflies in the stomach of being in a room “across the table” from those who were being pitched; and
  • Pitching a tough group of people — we didn’t make it easy for them at all, but they all rose to the occasion.

It may sound like “I am just saying this” because I am writing a public article and could hardly say something negative about my associates; however, I assure you that that is not the case at all. My associates nailed it across the board. I also like the fact that they came up with the entire idea and it wasn’t from me at all. Hats off to the Duval & Stachenfeld associate marketers.

Our associates leading the project said, “Pitching legal services is tough — especially when you’re not yet comfortable impressing potential clients with war stories and your breadth of experience (because, guess what, you don’t really have any). You have to sell yourself just as much as the services you’ll be asked to provide. By having associates test out their marketing skills in a totally different context, focusing on a fun, more congenial topic than legal services, we were able to see their creativity and confidence soar.”

Finally, I end with the thought that — alas — I wish someone had pushed me to learn about marketing at the beginning of my career. It really wasn’t done in those old days. I just came in and did legal work. I didn’t think about building client relationships until I was in my late thirties. Oh well. I can’t change my past, but hopefully my associates will be great marketers as well as great lawyers.

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