She said, “Bruce why do you like marketing?”
This brought me up short. Why indeed do I like marketing? I mean for most of my marketing career, probably 95 percent of my time was wasted. Maybe nowadays it is more like 75 percent of my time is wasted. There is constant — and I mean constant — failure. There is an ever-swirling mixture of bad luck and good luck. There is no way to control outcomes, which, as I have written before, are a goodly portion random. It is hard to get people to do it with me and doing it alone doesn’t work. And the risk I take is huge compared to the safety of billing hours — meaning that if I bill hours, I will get paid for those hours, whereas if I go marketing and fail to bring in work, then I don’t get paid at all.
Oh yes, and there is the pressure of the pitch, which, at least in the past, was quite stressful.
I could go on and on about how, well, bad marketing and sales is.
So why in heck do I do this and not only do this, love it so much that it is a passion for me?
Well, one of the (useful) characteristics in my personality is that I am very introspective. So to the person who asked me this question, I thank you as it has caused me to look within my mind, and here is the best I can think of.
It is sort of like fishing….
To be clear, I hate fishing. I don’t like worms or hooks or sitting in the sun or shade attacked by bugs and all to catch a slimy fish that I would really not know what to do with. Fishing isn’t for me.
But I suspect it is the same feeling that a fisherwoman gets. She goes out knowing that she “might” catch nothing and she “might” catch something. And it is the fact that she doesn’t know what will happen that makes it exciting. And the thrill of getting the fish is worth the unpleasantness of sitting around with the hook in the water, and the other fishing accoutrements.
I think it is the same emotion in me. I am sort of going fishing — every day — and I don’t know whether I will catch anything. And the thrill of something happening is so exciting that it far outweighs all the negatives I outlined above. There is really nothing like the feeling I get when a client says they want to retain our law firm for legal work. It is dramatically fulfilling.
So that’s me. What about you?
Well, what about you? What if marketing doesn’t inspire you at all and you just kind of find it a drudge and selling makes you cringe? What should you do?
You probably expect me to say that you should just toughen up and do it anyway and, yes, I have said that before, but as I get older I do wonder if that is the right answer for everyone. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with being honest that marketing and sales isn’t for you and be good with that conclusion.
As I reflect, I guess that is okay as long as you are honest with yourself that such a conclusion will likely cap your career upside and make it — mathematically — more likely that you will earn a lot less money as a lawyer.
If you are good with that conclusion, then maybe it makes sense to indeed skip marketing and sales and live with the consequences.
That decision might feel like a relief, and maybe it is the right decision for some people, but my (strong) advice here is that you not reach a conclusion about sales and marketing until you have practiced at least five years and probably more like 10 years, during which time you have really tried hard to do the marketing and sales. I know I hated it at first — I loathed it to my core — and then one day it was not that bad, and then it was good, and then it was great.
If you are just starting out your career, you simply don’t know enough about it to make this decision. Not yet.
So to conclude now, I suggest that you first try (hard) to like it and see what happens. If you find you just are never going to enjoy it, then you should think through the decision I outlined above, i.e., determine whether you will continue to tough it out in sales and marketing or conclude that you just won’t do it and then live with the likely economic career downside but be happy with the decision.