Rural Marketing – Its The Message

Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say that there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe. Frank Zappa

This post is off-schedule in part to that particular brand of “what were you thinking when…” stupidity that keeps lawyers employed and in part to the sheer genius of the purveyors of commercial advertising space that leaves in its wake a feeling of  absolute wonderment that any organization could survive the disconnect between the people selling the service and the people serving existing accounts.

Now, I am not a marketing wunderkind – frankly my entire theory of marketing is that one should address potential clients as if they have a functioning brain and tell them “what’s in it for them” in as few words as possible. Hopefully this can be accomplished before their eyes glaze over or they run screaming from the room – my marketing theory has yet to incorporate bondage, but I do hear that it is popular in some circles. However, the idea that one’s customers might possibly be thinking creatures seems to be out of favor this week in some sales circles.

Much to the chagrin of the two major publishers of phone directories, there is an upstart local company that has gotten the idea that they could produce a better phone directory (better paper, a binding that lays flat, cheaper rates) and that they should target smaller communities – those still served by small independent, locally owned phone companies as well as producing custom corporate directories for the larger companies and schools in the area (the company gets a phone directory printed at no cost with their name & logo on the front, corporate numbers in place of the white pages and the publisher gets to include a yellow pages in the back). It is an interesting plan and the pricing is very attractive – enough so that it may convince me to break my “don’t advertise in phone books” rule.

Now here’s the “what not to do” part – the 2 big directories sent e-mail alerts to me informing me that their product was the only true phone directory and to be aware of impostors (perhaps there was some hint of eternal damnation for those who stray from the true path, but I may have been reading something into the text). Now both these firms were unable to spell the name of my firm correctly in the original spec ads their sales force showed me, one firm was unable to spell it correctly even after my correcting it on their proofs and they are warning me that this “impostor” directory won’t live up to the level of service I’ve come to expect from their fine products? Its cognitive dissonance time. BTW, the “impostor’s” sales rep is petite, completely lacking horns, tail, and cloven hooves, and does not smell of sulfur and brimstone. Though she did know how to spell my firm’s name, was  knowledgeable about her product, and had the audacity to done some research on the areas of law that I practice.

So, two messages – one is all about “us”, the other is all about “me”. Now, take a look at lawyer marketing – the typical lawyer’s message screams “us”, it’s about the firm, the years of experience, who the attorneys are, what the attorneys’ do. This just seems like an “us” message and perhaps it works if one is courting the metropolitan marquee client who’s corporate board will be more impressed with the appearance of substance. But rural practice is a people practice, its about individuals with those “what were you thinking when…” one off issues and these folks need a “me” message – a message that answers “why should I” or “what’s in it for me”. Out here, its not about advertising your firm, its about letting your neighbors know that you have a tool they might need.

A "Me" Message

My thanks to the very talented people (especially Rue) at Rochester Woman’s Magazine who turn my rough sketches into real marketing tools.