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September 2014 - Sharon Berman
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Did You Forget Your Saddle?

by Sharon J. Berman

You can imagine it is rougher riding a horse bareback than with a saddle. It’s much the same when professionals do their marketing bareback, which makes it difficult, and severely limits the benefits.

Bareback marketing is when you focus on business development and sales to the exclusion of marketing, or vice versa. It’s when you focus on one area of marketing as opposed to embracing the other elements of the marketing mix, or when you make an investment in one area of marketing and stop there; instead of repurposing or leveraging the results so that you can extend your reach and visibility.

Because developing business happens on a continuum of marketing and business development/sales, it is important you create and maintain visibility for your firm while building and reinforcing credibility. Once you’ve generated the lead, and have had the opportunity to be in front of someone who is interested in your services, you transition to selling or what some describe as business development. To effectively develop business, a firm needs both marketing and business development. To go either one alone is bareback marketing.

Here is one example: Over decades, the managing partner of a firm has been the primary business developer. The firm has been built through his sales efforts, one prospect and referral source at a time, but the other partners’ efforts to get out and sell have had minimal results, with a large number of breakfasts, lunches, and other meetings resulting in very few leads. The firm does nothing to support these relationship building efforts. You can feel the tremendous effort the partners have made pushing this boulder uphill alone, because they are focusing on sales alone, without the lever of marketing, which would maintain top-of-mind awareness. Without a marketing program to support the business development process, this firm is losing significant value from its exertion. They are doing the heavy lifting of developing relationships with no way to consistently remind their contacts of their existence and expertise. Not consistently communicating with clients, prospects, or referral bases, other than an email or phone call makes this strategy bareback marketing.

Marketing done without business development is also a form of bareback marketing.

Marketing and business development are an extremely powerful combination. With marketing, which includes public relations, you are maintaining visibility and awareness, as well as reinforcing credibility. The purpose of marketing is to create leads. If no one can adequately follow up on these leads, let alone convert them to clients, you’ve lost a great deal of your capital.  Marketing and business development go hand-in-hand. 

Another form of bareback marketing occurs when a firm invests in a public relations program and does not leverage or repurpose the results.
Being quoted in an article, having an article published, or obtaining a speaking engagement are all results of public relations and contribute to you being recognized as an expert, but you won’t get a strong return unless you make the investment of time to leverage this result.

For example, if a firm wants to position their attorneys as experts through the media, but doesn’t leverage the results, such as drafting a write-up for their website or communicating the fact that journalists have turned to them as experts through social media, they have lost a lot of PR power.  Unless potential clients just happen to read that particular article in that particular publication, website or blog, these prospects will not be aware of any attorney in your firm being quoted as an expert. 

All of the credibility those attorneys could be building media quote by media quote will be wasted by allowing the quote’s power to dissipate. The message needs to be that they are set apart from the ocean of lawyers out there, which makes letting the return on your investment slip through your hands bareback marketing.

Another illustration of bareback marketing is when firms or professionals will not take the time to create or hone their contact database, and use it to consistently communicate with their markets.
For example, say a firm that has a track record of success needs to generate more leads because business is slowing down. If they do not review their database, they are marketing without a saddle. If you don’t oil the machine, then you can’t extend your firms reach and share your story. While LinkedIn and Facebook are a means to get the word out, social media sites can leave many gaps. If you want your firm to remain at the top of people’s minds, a current email database is indispensable.

Just as a saddle helps distribute the rider’s weight on a horse, the added ease means the horse can go farther with less stress. You want the energy you put into marketing and public relations for your firm to carry you as far, and as easily, as possible.


Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Corp. Marketing and Public Relations specializing in working with law firms. She can be reached at