I've taken a hiatus from my blog for a variety of reasons - other than my normal workload, I'm co-authoring a book with Greg Siskind (The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet, 4th Edition, published by the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association), and I fell, broke four ribs and punctured and collapsed a lung in a hotel in San Diego while at the 2015 LMA Conference (in the hospital for a week and then grounded for another before I could fly home - more on this experience in a future post). I've missed writing here and am thankful to faithful readers who stopped by to read previous posts.
Have you ever been seduced by your own brilliance? Have you ever heard or read something and later disputed or supported it with fervor, based on your singular experience and personal opinion?
We do it ALL the time. We are our own "focus group of one." Your passionate opinion is fine when it comes to movie or book reviews, the most delicious Pinot Noirs or the best steak in New York. But when it comes to gauging how your clients feel about you without asking them, it's your ego trumping your good judgment - and it can be dangerous.
The Marketoon below, published today by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne, shows the oldest guy in the room confidently saying he knows what teenage girls would want. It's absurd, right? No, it happens all the time.
Fishburne starts his post with this:
"It’s tempting for marketers to assume we intuitively know what consumers want. After all, we’re consumers too. But listening to the focus group of one inside our heads can lead us astray. Trying to extrapolate our personal experience to how an audience will respond is risky. Many leaders don’t recognize this blind spot.
This is particularly common in hierarchical organizations that defer to the decision of the most senior person in the room. Google has a maxim to beware of the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinions). There’s a classic quote from Jim Barksdale from his time as Netscape CEO: 'If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.'”
It's foolhardy for law firm leaders to assume they know what their clients want and like without asking them - and asking them over a game of golf or at a ballgame doesn't count - "Gee, how'dya think we're doing? Pass the peanuts."
Law firm client interviews and other feedback programs have been around for years - I conducted my first ones in the late 1980s. There are several excellent companies that specialize in it. There are countless reasons to invest in client loyalty interviews - deepening trust, identifying problems, relationship and business growth are key reasons - but the core of this post is about fighting the temptation to be your own focus group of one.
Don't design strategy without the voice of your key clients in your head. And, if you are the Highest Paid Person in the room? - don't be seduced by your standing and your cleverness - don't be a narcissist when discussing strategy that will impact the future of your firm. Collect data first, and ensure that your opinions are equally measured along with those of your respected colleagues.
Here are a couple more Marketoon-inspired posts from Law Firm 4.0.