Zombie Marketing: How Dead Marketing Ideas Still Walk Among Us

By: Linda Julian

When it comes to business development, zombie marketing still walks among us. A host of dead ideas and mindless marketing rituals circulate freely among legal and other professional service firms.

Here is just a small selection.

1. "We really need to rebrand."

If your firm identity and branding is presentable, is professional, and doesn't make you look like Luddites, what do you expect a rebrand to achieve? Rebranding involves lots of cost, more hidden cost, and bundles of effort. And chances are your clients and external market will pay scant attention to it.

The biggest rebranding win is usually with your internal audience. While that group is important, rebranding to satisfy it involves lots of action, interest, and massaging of egos but results in almost no discernible business difference. That's zombie marketing.

2. "We really need to increase our advertising budget to get ourselves widely known."

Known for what? Known as advertisers? Known by whom?

There are lots of ways to become better known, and advertising is but one avenue to that destination.

Good advertising sends exactly the right messages to the right audience at times you choose in order to change attitudes and/or buying behavior.

If you craft precisely the right messages, if there are publications or electronic media that truly zero in on your target clients, and if you can predict and choose the right timing, then advertising delivers a message you control to the people you want to hear it.

But it can take a lot of advertising to change attitudes and buying behavior. Plus, in some quarters there's still a vague suspicion about any professional who needs or is as brash as to advertise. As David Ogilvy (doyen of the modern advertising industry) once said, "Ninety-nine percent of advertising doesn't sell much of anything."

Often professional firms buy advertising because an advertising sales representative persuades them to do so, not because they've identified a clear reason or benefit. And that is zombie marketing.

3. "We really need to get our name in lights as sponsor of the opera/theatre/symphony/local football team."

Supporting worthy causes is laudable. Long-term association with a carefully selected not-for-profit venture can produce many benefits. It helps you improve your image, allows you to show your giving spirit, and helps you meet potential partners.

Simply buying a sponsorship, making a grand announcement, and handing out a few free tickets to events, however, does little to develop business. As one senior marketer told me, "We really wish we hadn't got mixed up in sponsoring a sports team. Most didn't notice it at all until the scandal broke, and then all hell broke loose."

Far too frequently, sponsorships are zombie marketing.

4. "We really need to do a golf day."

A golf day is a great idea if:

  • Your clients and prospective clients are mostly golfers
  • Their organizations are happy for them to take time away from business operations to attend golf days with suppliers and prospective suppliers
  • The non-golfers won't feel ostracized
  • The golfers among your clients have decision-making power
  • Those decision-making golfers have time to come to your golf day
  • You have the budget and organizational capacity to put on an excellent golf day

If the answer to any of those is no, then let's categorize golf days as more zombie marketing.

5. "We really need to take that client [or prospective client] to lunch."

Lunch and other informal, semi-social settings can be great opportunities to build relationships and chew the business fat. However, many qualify as zombie marketing because they're "random acts of lunch" that amount to time squandered by the ill-prepared with the wrong people.

Not only that, but busy and influential people who have the spending power either don't have time for lunch or don't want to be courted by prospective professional service suppliers for the price of a nice plate of food. They'd rather do their business, maybe including a quick coffee, and then spend their time with professionals they've come to respect and like to talk over the deals and matters they've worked on.

6. "We really need more brochures and much grander stationery."

Some brochures and marketing collateral are helpful, especially in terms of supporting in-person business development encounters and increasing professional confidence in pursuing new clients and work. Rarely, however, are flashy brochures and fine stationery more than incidental to establishing and growing professional service relationships.

For brochures to be useful, lawyers and other professionals need to know what to do with them and then get on and do it. When they don't, that's when piles of slightly outdated brochures begin to clutter their offices.

7. "We really need to wait for our website to be perfect."

Good websites underpin professional services marketing. But fact is the best websites are never "finished" let alone "perfect." Rather, they constantly evolve, grow, and are refined.

Waiting to launch the site until it's perfect and pristine is a dead marketing idea because it takes too much time and tiny perfectionist changes won't make much difference. Not only that, but you're delaying any marketing and business development work your firm could be doing. Your best bet is to get your site up and make changes along the way.

Take a hard look and check that dead marketing ideas aren't still walking, zombie-like, around your firm. If there are, try to get rid of them. There are lots of ways to better spend your marketing and promotional dollars that have a more powerful and direct impact on revenue production.


>> Did you find this article helpful? Vote for it in RainToday's Readers' Choice Award for May 16.




Linda Julian leads Julian Midwinter & Associates, a practice development consultancy that advises, coaches, and counsels law firms and professional services businesses in strategic business development, professional development, and organizational development.