Restaurants, Law Firms, & Bloody Marys

I just returned from an amazing weekend in Charleston, South Carolina.  It cost my girlfriend and I about $100 for roundtrip airfare on JetBlue to get there and it was well worth it.  I highly recommend you go for a weekend if you haven’t been.


As has been the case for a variety of my previous trips, the minute I turn on relaxation mode (LOL) is the minute I begin to think about business and marketing from a very different perspective.


Prior to leaving for South Carolina, I took some time out to view and scroll down the twitter hashtag for the Legal Marketing Association conference.  The conference revolved around, you guessed it, legal marketing.  I didn’t attend the conference (there’s no way that’s happening) but I can tell you that between such tidbits as  “Fail.  Fail faster.  Fail better.”  and “You cannot climb a mountain unless you reach the stars with your heart” or something like that, I didn’t necessarily see anything too enlightening in terms of client procurement.  That’s also an odd way of referring to it -client procurement.  It’s like you’re buying a Kia.  It doesn’t make sense.  Also, what happens once that client is retained?  How do you keep that client happy?  And, most importantly, why does everyone look to finding clients under couches when the best way to find them still seems to be based on past client referrals?


In any case, I just landed in South Carolina.  I’m starving.  Look up Yelp and find an amazing restaurant not too far from the hotel.  The restaurant looks amazing.  We’re seated.  The waiter, an affable, polite gentleman in his mid 40’s comes over and asks us if we want to start off with anything to drink and maybe some food.  No small talk.  No discussion about what’s good here.  We look at the menu and order away.  That’s it.  Typical, straightforward way I’ve ordered hundreds of times before.  Nothing wrong with it at all.  While my girlfriend is discussing the weddings we have to attend (and I’m simultaneously tuning out and calculating the amount this is going to cost me) I hear another waiter in the background:


“Is this your first time here?”  “Ma, am, I cannot really let you order without informing you about our sweet tea and why it’s considered some of the best in Charleston.”


May I point a few things on the menu?  May I first point out that if you try our fried chicken salad, that’s been basted in Bourbon and hot sauce, that you may never look at fried chicken the same way again?


And may I also suggest the fried green tomatoes.  The Chef, makes a fresh batch of this every single morning before…”


I’m salivating.  My girlfriend sees this and can absolutely read that I want to change my order, specifically because of the way this man is describing the preparation and taste of the food, and pointing out the things I should order.  But, alas, we ordered some time back.


Our food was good.  No complaints.  BUT, had the second waiter taken our order, our experience would have been tremendously different than it was.  Rather than being an OK to good experience, it’s likely our experience would have been good to great. Someone that sings the praises of the house Bloody Mary or goes on about the tender flavor and spices of shrimp and grits can’t help but change the way you experience the place.  The friendliness of the waiter; the handholding, is crucial to making you feel welcome in a place you’re not familiar with.  The food, of course, must live up to the hype.  But if it does (and it did), you can’t help but feel differently about what just happened when you throw in the experience factor.


During our trip, we didn’t tell anyone about the first restaurant we went to.  But, I have a feeling that had the second waiter taken our order, we likely would have.


So, what the hell does all of this mean?  It means that for all of the hype surrounding social media, networking, and everything else under the sun, your most successful marketing moves can be found right under your roof.  If you have employees, and the employees are like the first waiter, you’re likely going to have different feedback from the clients than if you had the second waiter working for you.  And if you don’t have employees, well then you’re the waiter (even if you do, you’re still the waiter).  If your legal work is horrid, or even if it’s just average, it doesn’t matter how good the “waiter” is;  the clients are going to be pissed and never come back again.  But, if your work is great and you can add on to this, in the form of great customer service (immediately returned calls and emails, status updates on client’s cases without them asking, electronically compiled documents as a copy to the clients, clear billing that is sent without them asking), you have the potential of human bullhorn in that client.  That client is going to walk around town screaming about the wonderful food (legal work) he/she ate (retained you for) and the great waiters (you and your staff) that made her meal (representation) beyond compare.  This, of course, leads to recommendations (referrals) to the restaurant (your firm.)


Before you sign up to networking events and various committees and hire someone to help with your LinkedIN page (just say No), it’s important you look under your own roof.  Are you doing excellent legal work for your clients?  Are you giving them MORE than what they paid for?  Are you treating them in a way in which they didn’t expect?  If the answers are yes, you have a very good shot of growing.