First published in the June 2008 Edition of “Alternative Dispute Resolution,” the Newsletter of the Ontario Bar Association ADR Section. The Ontario Bar Association (OBA) is the voice of the legal profession in Ontario, representing the interests of more than 17,000 lawyers, judges and law students. www.oba.org
Making MEDIATION Your Day Job: How to Market Your ADR Business Using Mediation Principles You Already Know
By Tammy Lenski, Ed.D.
New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2008, 112 pages
This short book is a gem. It is quite different from the other relatively recent books on marketing mediation and clearly demonstrates that you do not need hundreds of pages to provide your reader with a comprehensive overview of a topic which bedevils many in our profession. Mention marketing to most mediators and they turn a “whiter shade of pale.” We know we have to market our practices, but most of us don’t like sales and marketing. How can we make mediation our day jobs without “selling” ourselves in the marketplace? Tammy Lenski an experienced mediator, trainer, consultant and blogger (www.mediatortech.com/blog) in the United States has an answer for us. It may or may not be quite the “definitive work” on the topic as claimed by its cover, but it is certainly the most practical and easy to apply.
When asked how to market a mediation practice, most of us fall back on the tried and tired ideas of joining rosters, volunteering, professional groups and directory advertising. Do these ideas work? Well, not really. Clients are not beating a path to most mediators’ doors nor are the phones ringing off the hook! Ironically, while we are really all about communication, we do not communicate very well with potential clients. While we might quibble over how you define “success” in mediation, most mediators would agree that by any objective criteria, mediation marketing is a dismal failure. We do not use online technology to maximize our message. In fact, many of us do not even have a message to maximize!
But what if you could market your practice using the same skills you use to mediate? !at would certainly be easier to accept than “selling”, wouldn’t it? We might even be comfortable with marketing this way. Well, the author says you can. In eight clear and concise chapters, she shows us how to do something we are trained to do well! Asking good questions, and generating options. Starting with “Marketing like a Mediator” and progressing through “Uncovering Interests” to “Setting Your Practice-Marketing Agenda”, a blueprint for success is developed.
Basic ideas such as choosing a market that speaks to your passion sound simple, but how many of us actually do this? I have been struck by the fact that most mediators are passionate about what they do, but when it comes to marketing themselves, they hide their passion in a cloak of neutrality.
It makes good sense to meet your market’s needs and talk to potential clients. But too often we preach to the converted, which is, other practitioners and groups that have adopted mediation and fail to look beyond to the untapped mainstream. We really sell dispute management services and solutions, but often fail to ask our clients what they want from us. Why? We have built it, whatever it is, and they have not come!
We need to develop “niche” markets in our practice areas and one of the many strengths of this book is that it shows how we can use the Internet to reach out to our niche. !e advent of blogs provides opportunities for us to brand ourselves as experts. Yet there are few mediation blogs or for that matter websites compared to the number of mediators out there.
While you can easily read the book in one sitting, it lends itself to a bite- sized approach where we return more than once to those parts that resonate with the reader. It is a resource worth having.
None of this is new, the author says “there’s not a single new idea” in the book. But there is. Her synthesis of existing marketing ideas into a “mediator friendly” process is more than just that. It opens up a new way of problem solving, and after all, isn’t that what mediators are supposed to do?