Want clients? Be helpful and do good

By Kristopher A. Nelson
in January 2010

500 words / 3 min.
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“Be helpful and do good” is a deceptively simple strategy: just go out and help people, and clients will find you. (Just don’t forget to make it easy to be found!)

Please note that this post is from 2010. Evaluate with care and in light of later events.

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Reflecting on Avvo‘s Internet marketing conference for lawyers, Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog writes:

I started on the Internet at AOL. I answered people’s injury, medical malpractice, and worker’s comp questions. The more questions I answered, the more work our firm got and the more successful we became. The more I listened to others and the more engaged I became, the more I enjoyed myself and the more people who contacted me to help them.

I discovered that Internet marketing was not all about me. It was about what I, as a lawyer, could do to help other people. Rather than buying cheesy yellow page ads and running expensive TV ads, I could get good legal work by helping people.

via For lawyers is the world really all about Google rankings? : Real Lawyers Have Blogs.

The lesson that good connections with people — arising from providing good quality content on a blog, helpful commentary in forums, useful information and replies on Twitter, to name just three examples — is the core of effective marketing is often lost.

You might call this “un-marketing” or “non-marketing” to distinguish it from frantic SEO, blaring billboards, or extravagant banner ad purchases. It’s deceptively simple: go out and help people, and clients will find you.

Taking this kind of approach does not mean foregoing an online presence. How can you put yourself out there and be helpful if you don’t join Twitter, don’t blog, and don’t contribute to forums? And once you start seeking out people to help, how can they and others find you later if you aren’t on LinkedIn or don’t have your own Web site?

Whatever you call it, the core message is to be helpful and do good, and the clients and customers will seek you out in return.

As a do-gooder, SEO, ad buys, and similar strategies should be done to be helpful. That is, such strategies should make it easier for people to find you, and for you to be helpful in return. They are secondary strategies, not primary ones.

For a do-gooder, primary strategies involve getting out there and providing utility to others: answering questions, being a resource, advocating positions you believe in, sharing your experiences and knowledge.

Doing good and being helpful isn’t a new marketing strategy. It’s just an old way of showing the world your worth, updated for new mediums. It takes Google’s “don’t be evil” and goes one better: go do good, and the clients will come (just don’t forget to make it easy for them!). It takes “add value” and takes it further: go be helpful!

Has this kind approach worked for you? Have better ideas? Think it’s crazy? Let me know in the comments.