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The Highest Return

I’ve said many times that marketing isn’t brain surgery, that no one dies if we make a mistake. Perhaps I’ve sold marketing short in my effort to lower the barriers to entry for lawyers and accountants. What I have been observing lately is quite different from this lighthearted take on things.

After sixteen years of working with lawyers and CPAs, I now see that the professional spirit can and does wither, and maybe even die, if we don’t nurture it with interesting work, fulfilling client and partner relationships, and satisfying outcomes. Marketing, at least as I try to teach people to do it, is one way out of such professional ennui.

Here’s the point: when you don’t develop business (read “relationships”), you have to take what you can get. You do work that comes from other partners, regardless of your interest in it. You serve clients you didn’t choose, who you may not like, and who are in businesses that do not stimulate you. You also must serve the interests of the partner who’s giving you work, whether you want to or not. You do all of this because it means billable time on your book, not because it means anything to your happiness as a professional. Somewhere along the line, the whole question of professional happiness is forgotten.

Maybe you have asked yourself if you’re a partner in an actual profession, or just a production worker in an intellectual factory. If you have, chances are you’re knee deep in a career you don’t want.

Things absolutely do not have to be this way. You can market your way out of the problem. Developing relationships, which is the foundation of effective marketing, allows you to choose. You get to choose your clients. You get to choose your industries. You get to choose the services you will provide. When you’re in the marketplace developing relationships, your pipeline is full and you can afford to send work you don’t want to one of your competitors.

Marketing isn’t easy for most, and it absolutely involves time and risk (mostly a risk to your comfort zone). There’s no way around that. But the results of effective business development activity – independence, great professional relationships and intellectual fulfillment (not to mention money) – far outweigh the slow professional death of simply grinding out the hours.

The objective here is some measure of professional happiness, which is the highest return on your marketing investment.

© Melinda Guillemette 2009