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Mediation Marketing

When the true believers come to realize that the impetus for societal peacemaking has changed, I believe they will adapt and accept this new responsibility.  Everything about marketing seems to run contrary to the natural state of the mediator.  The time is: Now.  In the spirit of being solutions-oriented, from a service firm marketing veteran of the trenches, humbly offered, here are some thoughts on mediation marketing.

Born out of the 1964 Civil Rights movement, American Mediation exceeded expectations as an effective way to provide justice in whole categories of disputes that were ill-suited to being resolved by the justice system of the day.  Mediators then, as now, came to know that the work was so important that it was worth doing for free, if that’s what it took to get the job done.  It is from this perspective and in this context that I refer to mediators as “the true believers”.

By necessity and design, mediation is about privacy.  Resultantly, it feels awkward to discuss the subject publicly.  This is a juxtaposition of needs that we simply must accommodate.

In a recent article, James Melamed referred to the before and after aspects of mediation.  I would like to expand – to play off of – his concept of the befores and afters of mediation.  But first, marketing is not sales, and yes, you can do both aggressively and still maintain every ounce of your integrity.  Marketing is getting the word out.  Sales is being chosen.

As for marketing, we are all in this, together.  Sales is something we must typically focus on as individuals, or in small groups.

Put Your Mouth Where Your Money Is

In a previous article, I made an impassioned plea for mediators to market better and smarter.  Ancient Chinese tradition: Bad news first.  Mediators, and particularly facilitative mediators have just suffered a substantial setback, with the L.A. Superior Court’s ending of the mediation experiment.  Like it or not, the time for mediation marketing is upon us; rise-up to the occasion. 

Mediation marketing is a natural extension of whom we are asking our clients to be, when we ask them to move from avoidance to active problem solving.  I love service firms, because the marketing doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective.  And what is more scalable than marketing?

With $32.50, I opened my first service firm, many moons ago, when I was 19 years old, paid for most of my undergraduate education, and carried myself eight years into my future.  That particular piece of marketing was elegantly effective; and it was far from elegant in any other sense of the word.  I’ve spent much more on much less effective marketing that left me scratching my head for answers.

My first (best, by some measures) marketing offering was honest, clear and not confusing, friendly and non-threatening, and it was timely.  It addressed a modest list of specific needs, and I placed it directly into the hands of a very narrowly targeted audience.  I backed it up with a service describable by the same adjectives, and Bingo!  And that recipe will work for you.

Target your marketing narrowly.  As mediators, we tend to have a bent towards saving the world.  You are not in this, alone.  By focusing on today’s issues today, and keeping mediation in forefront of our lives, ridiculously obviously, I expect that we will turn out to be greater than the sum of our parts.  Tammy Lenski asks the excellent question, “What would happen if you realigned your thinking from ‘broad = safe’ to ‘narrow = opportunity’?”, in Making Mediation Your Day Job – How to Market Your ADR Business Using Mediation Principles You Already Know. 

A second can be a long time.  Instant decision-making is a survival skill, in places like Los Angeles.  If you live in a place that moves at a more casual pace, you can adjust accordingly, but don’t get greedy with other peoples time.  Deliver a consistent message, with your marketing materials, and lead with answers.

Here’s a point, be a Mediator, at all times, everywhere you go.  As such, always be ready with your “Grocery Line Speech”.  Have you ever been to a grocery store that didn’t have magazines at the checkout?  Glancing at any particular tabloid, and pondering aloud,  “I wonder if it’s true, they just had a successful mediation?” is one simple way to start a conversation.  You’re more than likely to get the opportunity to educate someone about mediation, or learn something about someone’s dispute, or both.

Life is more like a video than a snapshot.  One goal of a grocery line speech is to get others discussing mediation, thereby creating future opportunities for serendipity and synchronicity (or synchrodipity, as I like to call it).

Get on Base

There’s no such thing as a 5-run home run.  As they say, “Let’s play a little small ball.”  Singles and doubles win baseball games.  Similarly, marketing should address today’s true issue.  Often today’s true issue can be as simple as our next mediation or our next 3 to 5 paid mediation assignments.  Other times, marketing is as simple as an educational opportunity.     

Keep the pipeline full.  Our pipelines look something like this.

1. People with the need, interest, and ability to become paying customers.

2. Customers in the initial interview stage of mediation.

3. Mediations.

4. Past clients who need follow-up attention, and who will refer our services.

Love BOB

Your Book of Business (BOB) is your best friend, when it comes to service firm marketing.  A Book of Business is a client, potential client, past client, and referrer database that includes everyone you know. 

Within your BOB you will have your Core Advocates or Inner Circle.  These are your best sources of new business, including gatekeepers such as beauticians, barbers, H. R. Directors, and the best of anyone who refers business to you.  Limiting your Core Advocates to a dozen is a best practice. 

It doesn’t take a fancy (read: expensive) contact management software.  I’ve tried several, and there are advantages to each, but somewhere along the line I reverted back to an Excel spreadsheet that I still use today. 

Be Proud of Us

Someone said, perfection is the enemy of good and great; what I don’t like about perfection is that it can hold-up progress when it comes to mediation marketing.  How many times have you asked a client to look inside and find the best person they can be?   Let the peoples’ need be the staff and shield that allow you to conquer your fear, and call a past client, and then another. 

When we remember what is at stake, getting the word out about what mediators are capable of is easy. Mediation marketing is about giving people the opportunity to know – not through our eyes – for their very selves: A great mediator knows something more than how to divide by two, and a great mediation consists of substantially more than “You sit down and talk about it.” Everywhere you go, leave “S/He’s a mediator, and a good one, from what I hear.” in your wake. 


Randy Drew

Specializing in the impossible (well, if I get to write it), L. Randy Drew is Co-Executive Program Director of Southern California Family Mediation, humbly serving the California, Los Angeles Superior Dependency Court, and in partnership with the University of Southern California Gould School of Law’s Judith O. Hollinger Dispute Resolution… MORE >

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