Marketing and The Art of Deception
Recently I had breakfast with a guy who held himself out as a “trial lawyer.”
Let’s call him Mr. Wells.
At breakfast, Mr. Wells went to great lengths to talk about the type of litigation matters he wanted to work on. He spent fifteen minutes telling me how great he was and how successful he had been in his law practice.
Later that day I logged into a discussion forum for attorneys. One of the posts in this forum had Mr. Wells’ name next to it. Having just met with him, I was interested in what he had to say, so I clicked on the post. I was shocked when I saw him asking this discussion group, with over 1,000 members, for help with basic trial procedure.
This made me wonder how he expected to get referrals from the group of lawyers if he was asking for help with the basics of something in his area of supposed expertise.
It turns out Mr. Wells just became a trial lawyer. Previously he had been practicing in another area of the law.
Last week I took my car to a mechanic because some fluid was leaking from the undercarriage. The mechanic and another man put my car up on the lift and proceeded to examine every inch of the chassis. At the completion of the examination, the mechanic and his associate met me in the garage. Just as the diagnosis was about to be delivered, someone pulled the mechanic away.
“So” I said to the other man who was clad in overalls and had a flashlight in hand, “what’s wrong with my car?”
“I’m an apprentice, sir. I only have six months of training on this type of vehicle. I am not qualified to answer. Let’s wait for the mechanic to return. It will only be a moment.”
Which story inspires more confidence?
It is amazing how many professionals believe they have to fake it until they make it.
They believe marketing is the art of deception.
They know they can be anything on the Internet and they trick themselves into believing they can be anything in real life just through the process of self-appointment.
There is nothing wrong with trying something new.
There is nothing wrong with changing careers (or practice areas).
But there is something wrong with being deceptive.
I do not want my lawyer, my heart surgeon or my parachute manufacturer to try and “figure things out as they go along.”
I want you to study under an expert. I want you to practice while being observed by someone who has talent and experience.
If there are risks, I want to know about them ahead of time and I want to know how you have handled those risks in the past.
If you lie or exaggerate about your experience, you rob me of my ability to assess that risk.
If I trust your advice, thinking you are an expert, when really you are a novice – who should be apprenticing before going out on your own – you are perpetrating a fraud.
It only takes one mistake to ruin your reputation. It takes one mistake to devastate your client and potentially end your career.
That mistake can be prevented by following one simple rule in your marketing:
Tell the truth.
Give it a try. You’ll sleep better and attract more clients.