Make Yourself Distinct by Acting Out Your 'Core Story'

Posted on September 14, 2016

Traditional marketing techniques used in an attempt to set lawyers and firms apart often fail to resonate with prospective clients because such “marketing speak” lacks authenticity, says Toronto legal business development expert Jane Southren.
Legal marketing often focuses on broadcasting messages to the effect that the lawyer or firm provides fantastic service, responsive and sensitive pricing and niche area expertise, among other things. Unfortunately, those messages communicated en masse, as they often are, aren’t actually effective in distinguishing one in the marketplace because everyone else is broadcasting more or less the same messaging, in more or less the same way, she tells
“The things that really make you distinct, or distinguish you in the market, are the things that impact your network or your clients one at a time, on an individual basis,” says Southren, of Jane Southren Consulting.
“They aren’t the things that you can easily broadcast into the stratosphere. If you are really interested in distinguishing yourself, that is achieved when each individual person that could or does work with you sees something different in you, or in the experience of working with you, than they see in the rest of the market.”
Instead of spending your time trying to capture your value proposition into a tag line or 10 second “elevator pitch,” lawyers might instead spend that time honing in on what actually does make them distinct or unique by defining their “core story,” and articulating and animating the values that underlie that core story in their words and deeds every day, in every aspect of their life, she says.
Effectively communicating the why and how of what you do make you far more compelling than just communicating what you do, Southren says.
“It is the how and why that make you irresistible to the people who are aligned with you – when they understand and believe in the why and how you communicate, they can’t help but want to be around you and want to work with you,” she says.
Southren tries to help her clients determine their stories: who they are and what is different about why and how they do what they do.“It’s not just about your areas of practice. What is it that drives you?” she says.
For example, Southren says her own core story is about creating deep and powerful bonds with people and doing things with them that have a profound and empowering impact on both of them.
“You can see that narrative in everything I do,” she says, whether it is the course of her profession, in her volunteer work, or in her interactions in her personal relationships.
“Sensitivity to pricing, niche areas of specialty, and great service — which are often the focus of legal marketing messaging — all of those things are important, but they are not the core of the message. Rather, they are going to be symptoms or outcroppings of the focus and discipline that I apply to creating the kind of relationships I want that will have a strong bond and make a significant impact,” she says, using her own example.
“You define that core story and you articulate that in words and deeds. You conduct yourself in accordance with it all the time, sharing stories or taking actions that drive through that core story, which are examples or manifestations of it.”

Southren says after you have defined your core story, it’s important to present yourself to the world in accordance with it consistently.

“When you show up in your world consistently manifesting your core story, both in how you behave – particularly in the context of your relationships – and in how you articulate yourself — the things you say and the stories you tell — that causes connections to spark and grow with the people who are naturally aligned with you,” she says.

“Moreover, everybody in your circle becomes very clear on the value your relationship brings to their lives and they become perhaps even better able to articulate it than you are. When your relationships reach that level of intimacy and loyalty, those people will not only want to send you opportunities, the opportunities they do send you will almost always be a perfect fit, because they know as well as you do what is unique, distinct and valuable about you.”

Janet Southren –