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Zen Unicorn: 4 Mediator Marketing Lessons From Seth Godin

From John DeGroote’s Settlement Perspectives

Marketing guru Seth Godin isn’t a mediator and, as far as I know, doesn’t even know what one is, but that doesn’t seem to matter.  From my perspective — the perspective of one who often selects the mediator — the marketing lessons in Zen Unicorn are tailor-made for mediators and settlement professionals.

Godin has written more than a few books already, but his recent Zen Unicorn is a great idea.  It simply rolls up some of the best posts from his blog over the past 3 years and presents them in a click-free, Kindle-only ebook.  Four of those posts, and why they’re relevant to mediators, include:

Make something happen

“The best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is now.” I don’t know who said it, but it certainly applies to marketing.  In Make something happen Godin tells us to “make something happen today, before you go home,” and it’s great advice.  Today is the day.  Write a guest post, propose an article, begin to manage your digital footprint, hire a web designer, get listed on, or whatever.  But make something happen today.

This must be hard

As a mediator, do you follow up with your mediation clients after they leave your conference room?  Godin asks a great question more mediators should think about in This must be hard:

The fancy restaurant knows my phone number. Why not have the owner call me the next day just to ask [how my dinner was]?

The day after your next mediation, try an experiment.  Call the counsel who were involved.  If they settled, ask about something they care about.  Are the final documents are getting signed?  Is the press release ready?  Or whatever it takes.  And if the case didn’t settle, maybe your call will reveal the nonsettlers’ remorse I mentioned here.  Stay with the case and push until it’s done.  I assure you this will set you apart from other mediators.

The most important rule

How do we judge mediator success?  In The most important rule Godin tells us:

By a factor of three, what you do is not nearly as important as how it makes people feel.

Settling cases is hard, and you can’t succeed in the mediation business if you’re not good at it.  But assuming you’re good at what you do, what keeps people coming back?  It’s a feeling — the feeling of intense loyalty we get when the mediator does the things they don’t teach you in mediator school.  A few suggestions:

  • Mediation briefs. The parties have been living with this dispute for a long time.  Carefully read — and understand — the mediation briefs in advance so everyone understands from moment one that you care about their case.  You’d be surprised how often this step is skipped.
  • The participants. Do an Internet search so you understand who will be in your conference room before they get there.
  • The parties. Understand a little about each party before the mediation starts.  15 minutes with Metacrawler or a Google Advanced Search is all you need.
  • The process. Look at your own website from the perspective of a party who got the link to your bio from her lawyer last week.  Does your site help her prepare for mediation day?
  • You. I once heard that, if given the choice between two mediators who have the potential to settle their case, the parties and their lawyers will pick the mediator they like better.  I can’t disagree.


In Discovery, Godin touches on a lesson more veteran mediators could use: “Every person who encounters your organization for the first time comes with a beginner’s mind.”  Your newest client might have seen your bio, but she doesn’t know about the big case you settled last week or the hundreds or thousands that came before her — and she might not know much about mediation, either.

Today is the day many of the people in your conference room will discover you.  Think about the other Godin insights in this post and on his blog — your new client might not have met a mediator that follows up after mediation day, your new client might not have met a mediator who cares how they actually feel, or your new client might not have met a mediator that walks them through the mediation process on their website.  What will you do to help her discover something different?

Make something happen today.  You’ll be glad you did.


John DeGroote

John serves as a mediator and arbitrator in complex business, technology, and intellectual property matters involving parties and interests around the country and beyond — often before litigation is filed. Prior to his service as a mediator and arbitrator, John served as the lead settlement negotiator in hundreds of cases,… MORE >

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