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Seven Golden Rules of Marketing for Mediators

Like it or not, effective marketing is crucial to the success of most
mediation practices. Whether you are starting a mediation practice or
seeking to expand an existing practice, serious thought should be given to
how you will establish yourself in the market. So, what are the best
marketing strategies? What makes marketing effective? How can mediators use
what they already know to be effective in marketing? While there’s no one
magic answer for everyone, there are proven guideposts that can help you
avoid common pitfalls, and maximize the return of your marketing efforts and
dollars. Here are seven of our “golden rules” of marketing:

1. There is no substitute for clarity of purpose. One of the most common mistakes mediators make is to focus on action alone. You can easily spend a lot of time, energy and money on marketing. Many new mediators have started out by publishing an expensive brochure, attending every ADR luncheon and program, committing substantial dollars to advertising, and/or designing an elaborate website, only to discover later that these efforts alone did not bear fruit. Marketing must be rooted in solid business planning. But even more fundamentally, in ones core values and priorities. One’s values and sense of purpose are the foundation. Until these are clarified, no amount of advertising or strategizing are likely to be effective. Conversely, clarity of purpose will directly inform your business planning and your marketing plan will flow from it in an organic and connected way.

2. Developing a positive approach to marketing is essential. What is your attitude toward marketing? Is it something you look forward to, or something you dread? What are your associations with marketing? How can you cultivate a positive attitude toward marketing? Realize there is no one “right” way to market your practice. There is no magic formula. Effective marketing is largely a matter of synchronicity. Being in the right place at the right time, for you. You will be most effective when you market in ways that feel right for you. Your marketing plan should match your personal style, preferences and strengths. In other words, “reframe” your orientation to marketing so that the activities you select are enjoyable and effective for you.

3. See marketing as an extension of mediating. The essence of marketing is communication and determining whether there is a fit of needs. Marketing is not getting someone to use services they do not need. Your goal is to understand the potential client’s needs and if there is a match between their needs and your skill set then all things being equal, the business relationship will emerge naturally. You also have needs. If you don’t take care of yourself and honor your own needs you may harbor resentments that will undermine the relationship. Be clear about your needs as you enter a client relationship. It makes sense to say NO when your needs are not being addressed. An interest-based approach will ensure that the clients’ needs are met, as well as your own.

4. Develop a clear and concise statement of what you do. How often are you asked: “What do you do?” Your answer should provide more than just a label; it should describe your mission or purpose. Some refer to it as ‘your elevator speech.’ You need to be able to communicate clearly and concisely in language that your potential clients understands, what it is that you do, in a way that shows the benefit of your services. Some professions are easier than others. For example, when someone answers, “I am a dentist” everyone knows what a dentist does. But for mediators, that degree of household recognition is a long way off. A simple approach that helps move away from giving your label is to first identify the problem. The more specific the better. Then reveal the solution. For example, ” I help Human Resource Managers stay out of court, by resolving employment discrimination disputes at source. Others find this formula helpful:

Name who you work with: I help (or work with or assist). . .

Name the benefit or solution you provide: . . .

5. Offer solutions rather than services. Marketing should center on the needs of your clients, not you. Clients are not interested in a lengthy description of your services; they want solutions to their problems. If you focus on yourself and your services, you miss the opportunity to talk about the benefits you are offering to them, namely resolution of costly and time consuming disputes.

6. Don’t allow limited thinking to hold you back. An area that is often overlooked when building a professional practice is examining one’s core beliefs. It is true that the results we achieve flow directly from our actions. However, at an even more fundamental level, our actions flow from our beliefs. What are your beliefs about the conflict resolution field? What are your beliefs about yourself in this field? Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years? What is possible for you? Will it be hard or easy for you to establish yourself in this field? What is the likelihood of your success?

7. Be willing to take risks. Put yourself out there. Stretch beyond your comfort zone. Have the courage to excel, and to shine. Have the courage to let others know you are good at what you do.


Eileen Barker

Eileen Barker is a mediator based in San Rafael, CA who specializes in helping parties achieve amicable resolutions in business, employment and family conflicts.  She teaches classes on mediation, conflict resolution and forgiveness and is an Adjunct Professor of Law at UC Berkeley. MORE >


John Ford

 John Ford is the author of Peace at Work and founder of the HR Mediation Academy. He mediates; trains; and consults to organizations that have accepted the inevitability of conflict and are seeking to approach it with greater clarity and confidence. He was the managing editor of from 2000… MORE >

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