An interesting article in the latest Journal of Marketing is entitled The Curse of Competitiveness: How Advice from Experienced Colleagues and Training Can Hurt Marketing Profitability. You can read a copy of it here. To oversimplify, it cautions us against letting the spirit of competitiveness fuel our marketing messages, as too much may negatively affect ROI. To me, this is a key failing of many law firm marketing programs.

Lawyers, and their marketing staff, come by their competitiveness naturally enough. We all know lawyers are taught to “win” arguments and cases, and their “lone wolf” personalities fuel the drive to surpass their fellow pack members. Many successful attorneys exhibit a kind of functional neurosis by which their last victory only exacerbates their need for another.

Those firms that have developed or are developing a marketing culture may notice a rise in the “us against them” mentality among both attorneys and others, where opposing counsel and market competitors all become “the enemy.” The need to acquire more influential lawyers, secure more prominent clients and receive superior assignments becomes the “raison d’etre” of marketing communications and business development. Frankly, this begs the real question of what the law firm should be aiming towards by virtue of its current or desired service array and legacy of successful experience.

Recently, I again had the notable experience of hearing Norm Rubenstein of the Zeughauser Group, talk about marketing. His topic was ten tactical marketing areas that will be crucial for the law firms that intend to remain robust and successful in the years ahead. I won’t summarize his points here (that might be another post someday), but I could find nothing in what I heard that suggested that success would be based on sheer competitiveness, or what you could call “the cultural will to win.” However, fundamental to his points was the self-analysis necessary for a law firm to understand what its value proposition is and needs to be in order to support a distinct and discrete market identity.

This may be the defining element of successful marketing leadership. The willingness and ability to gain this knowledge characterizes all good marketing. The Shakespearean invective is “To thine own self be true.” I would maintain that no marketing program, and no CMO, can be effective without complete dedication to this principal.

What are you doing to assure that your marketing programs are a true reflection of your law firm’s identity?