Here's the deal with success: it follows patterns. Malcolm Gladwell discussed the 10,000 hours principle in his popular book Outliers - the idea being that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. You've certainly heard the adage "practice makes perfect." You are likely familiar with the wide variety of quotes out there that discuss failure being part of achieving success (ex. "Failure is just a stepping stone in the journey to success.")
Now I want you to set aside any thought of successful marketing or management of your practice. This is an uncommon request when we spend so much time focusing on building those skills, but I assure you that we will come back to it shortly.
Think of a hobby or skill that you have in which you consider yourself quite proficient, maybe even a master of it. Now, using the grand power of hindsight, look back on the time and effort you put into excelling at that skill. Think about the dedication you put into it. Think about the learning that you did, the resources in which you invested, and the number of times you were frustrated by a setback.
By the way, since you're an attorney, you've already developed a proficiency in practicing law! That's a great example itself.
Today, however, you enjoy the benefits of the work you put into developing the skill. It may be a hobby you enjoy in your off time. It may be a sport that you play.
This begs the question: Why do you think success in marketing your practice would be different?
There are key elements that go into building a successful practice that are true of mastering anything else in life:
- Practice, practice, practice - "We talkin' about practice!" Successful marketers are constantly honing their skills. Just like a basketball player shooting endless free throws for when it is their time to step up to the line, you need to be constantly working on the mental skills required for marketing. The easiest way to practice is just to open up your mind to the marketing going on around you. Take a look at what attracts your attention, what causes you react. Keep an eye out for ads that also failed to get a reaction. What did they do wrong? Keep a journal of your thoughts and ideas.
- Invest in resources - What books are you reading? What training courses can you access? What events are you attending? My bookshelfs are overflowing with business books of all kinds. I have stacks of magazines, newsletters, and trade journals. I've invested anywhere from $100-$2,000 in home study courses from masters of marketing and management. Every time I invest in a new resource and actually use it, I make back my investment at least twice over (though usually it's closer to a multiple of 10).
- Fail often and fast - I'm currently learning how to play guitar. Often, I am quite bad at it. For example, when trying to switch from a G chord to a Dadd9, I first strummed out a sound not unlike hearing a car being crunched into a block by large machinery - it was unpleasant. However, over time my fingers learned how to bend in the right way and now I can (more or less) move between those chords with ease. These failures are part of practicing. In marketing, we have run print advertisements that fell on their face, but that just means that it's time to try the next print ad, not to quit. If you're failing, at least you're trying, and only by trying will you ever succeed.
- Get a coach/mentor - Peyton Manning and Tom Brady both continue to use throwing coaches in the offseason and during the season, they are surrounded by coaches whose input they respect and use. You paid a law school to "coach" you in the practice of law. Is it so strange to do the same thing for marketing? No! I have a wide range of coaches from whom I can seek advice, either just by reading a newsletter from their organization or by being on group calls with them. One-on-one coaching is great, but I've gotten a lot out of being part of a larger group and learning from the combined experiences and ideas (I've also found it more cost-efficient than spending on big consulting packages).
- Challenge yourself and accept outside challenges - My brother was a soccer player up through college but his skills really started to improve as he entered high school. When I asked him why he thought he was suddenly getting so much better, he said, "I don't care anymore about being the best on the field. I now just play with people who are better than me, so that I can watch what they are doing and rise to their level." He would continually seek out more and more talented groups of players. He was challenging himself and was willing to rise to the challenges put on him by his teammates.
These behaviors are useful no matter what you want to master. They are simply part of achieving success. We put into play for ourselves when we learn how to play golf or study a subject in school, but they are forgotten when it comes to marketing and managing your practice.
If you apply the 5 Success Behaviors above, you can turn around your fortunes! It's not going to be instant, but the transformation will begin as soon as you start taking success seriously.