The Deadly Marketing Assumption

Have you ever initiated a marketing contact, waited for a return call or email, and upon hearing nothing, concluded the person just wasn’t interested? That conclusion might actually be a costly assumption – one that lets otherwise great prospective clients, referral sources or influencers slip away. And it’s one of the most common legal marketing mistakes made by attorneys.

Here’s the thing: you literally don’t know what’s happening on the other end. If you’ve done your homework and reached out to someone with whom there’s natural mutual interest, it’s likely that work pressures, timing, family issues, health matters, or general overwhelm are at play. So don’t make assumptions, EVER!

Here are two actual client experiences:

A 20-year veteran litigator from a 30-lawyer shop, Lisa set a goal of significantly growing her municipal law practice.  Among other activities, she began networking into CIRMA (Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency) with the goal of getting on — and then moving up — their approved attorney list. After meeting CIRMA’s Executive Director at a public hearing, she followed up to meet with him at his initial request. But then she ran into a brick wall. No emails or calls were returned for over five whole months. Every time she was ready to call it quits, she came back to the NO ASSUMPTIONS mantra. When she finally ran into the Exec Director again, she learned that his mother had passed away and that he had been in a relatively serious accident. However, he remarked on her persistence and invited her to meet the following week. That meeting was the start of very fruitful relationship and she eventually became one of CIRMA’s go-to attorneys.

In his 3rd year of practice, this attorney landed significant land use work for a large corporation through a mutual contact. The Deputy General Counsel spoke highly of his work for three years but then began to communicate less frequently. Bills started taking longer to get paid. When the attorney inquired, he received no responses. Though at first he assumed that the relationship had soured somehow, he strove to maintain an open mind and persisted in his attempts to connect with the DGC. He finally wrote him a letter expressing his curiosity and his desire to have a straight-up conversation about what was going on. The DCG responded with an apology and explanation regarding changes at the company, and the two enjoyed a round of golf together for the first time the following week.

Finally, this excerpt from a client’s email. (It’s what prompted this post. The backstory is that this attorney has been trying to land a speaking gig for six weeks and had almost given up). He labeled his email “Fear of Trying”: “I realized, in a conversation with [my wife] that I don’t really have thick skin and, like many people, have some anxiety about “rejection.” Well, as Lady Macbeth said, one has to “screw one’s courage to the sticking point.” I finally called Roger on Monday morning. He was happy to hear from me. He said he’d seen his program chairman last night. It got even better. Just as I was about to leave for lunch, Dave, the program chair called. We had an interesting chat about his members’ interest in what I want to present, etc. Bottom line was that he said he had holes in his program calendar as of December and would welcome me to speak. Lesson learned. Don’t take anything as a given. Be persistent.”

The lesson?  Don’t make assumptions about someone’s response to you such that you give up the pursuit. You just do not know what’s going on for them. Identify someone whom you stopped pursuing because you assumed they were uninterested and reach out to them again. Remember that it almost always takes multiple touches to really get on someone’s radar. Be persistent. 

How? A differently worded voice mail; a letter with an article of interest; a 3rd email acknowledging that they may be extremely busy. Until and unless you’ve been given an absolute no, the door is always open to relationship. We’ve seen it repeatedly: some of our clients’ most successful relationships began because they stopped assuming and didn’t give up.

About the Author

Bill Jawitz, Law Firm Coach and Consultant

Bill Jawitz has been coaching lawyers to become more profitable and enjoy a higher quality of life since 2002.

He can be reached at or at 203.806.1300.

I maintain a deep library of hundreds of best-of-breed checklists, templates, guides, and white papers on every aspect of managing a legal practice and law firm, from lawyer marketing plans, to hiring process checklists, to alternative fee engagement letters.

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