Roget’s Thesaurus categorizes the terms “marketing” and “selling” as synonyms. For those of us providing legal, tax and financial services, however, understanding important distinctions between these two words leads to better focus in your marketing efforts and increased revenue to your practice.

Marketing, quite simply, is defined as the action of promoting your services. Marketing includes advertising, whether through print, social media or other electronic means. Broadly defined, marketing may also include entertaining centers of influence, conducting seminars or distributing educational materials. You must market your services to attract clients.

Selling, on the other hand, is defined as the act of exchanging your services for payment. You market your services in order to get a potential client into your conference room or onto your website. When that party transforms from a potential client into an engaged client, a sale has occurred.

Successful marketing focuses on the ‘why’

Effective marketing focuses on the client’s goals, concerns and opportunities. Contrast this to ineffective marketing that instead focuses on the attributes of a specific product or service.

In his book Start with Why author Simon Sinek compares Apple’s successful marketing strategy to that of Dell. He notes that while Dell lists the features of its computer hardware, such as how many terabytes a hard drive has or how many megabytes of memory, Apple instead shows why a consumer would want its products—to edit home video or create hip photo albums from your iPhone’s photo library, for example.

Apple finds great marketing success by addressing consumers’ emotional wants and focusing on why consumers should consider its products. Applying this knowledge to a trust and estate attorney may seem like a stretch, but it really isn’t that difficult.

Don’t focus on attributes

Most estate and trust attorney marketing efforts mirror those of Dell more than those of Apple. When your website indicates that you prepare wills, trusts and durable powers of attorney then it is simply describing the various services that you offer. Moreover, you’re offering what is in the client’s mind a commodity. It may be true that your documents are better crafted than those of your competitors, but your layman clients can’t be expected to understand the difference.

Some law firm websites go so far as to describe the differences between wills and trusts, or to explain more complex estate planning strategies such as GRATs, ILITs, and family limited partnerships. Despite the complexity of the information provided, it still resembles Dell (even more so) than Apple. I admit to not understanding half of the features of a typical laptop, just as our clients would be hard-pressed to describe when a GRAT might be applicable to their situation.

Address common goals and concerns

If instead your marketing materials focus on your clients’ common goals and concerns, then you’re answering the ‘why’ someone should schedule that initial client meeting. It may be true that each client’s situation is different; you can likely identify common issues you can readily address in your marketing materials.

In fact, don’t shy away from asking questions in your marketing materials. When reading a question it’s almost impossible for the reader not to consider answering the question, even if it’s internal without verbalizing a response.

Accomplishing your marketing goals

Everyone wants to know how effective their marketing plan is. It’s relatively easy to not only create the right copy for your marketing efforts, but to also track what advertisements generate inquiries and appointments. There are plenty of good marketing books on the subject, such as the No B.S. Guide series by Dan Kennedy.

Creating and tracking social media posts, print advertisements and Google ads is important to determine the effectiveness of your different strategies. Once you’ve established your marketing plan and have incorporated strategies to bring clients into your conference rooms, then you must determine how to “close the sale”.

Selling strategies will be different than marketing

Your approach should change once your prospective client is seated in your conference room. When I was younger I would try to “sell” the client on my abilities by talking about my educational background and professional credentials.

Don’t do that.

Your client wouldn’t be talking to you if she thought you weren’t qualified. It’s a waste of time and contrary to what you really ought to be doing—which is to focus on why she’s there in the first place.

Similarly, you don’t need to delve into the attributes of your programs and systems. Instead, this initial meeting should be all about the client.

Start initial client conference with ‘why’

Just as your marketing materials start with ‘why’ so should your initial client conference. But now it’s a different ‘why’ question. Now it’s specific to the individual. Why is this client here? What does she hope to accomplish? What obstacles does she see as inhibiting her goals?

Everyone likes to talk about themselves, and one major reason your client appears before you is because he has a problem he believes you can solve. He knows that you can’t solve that problem until he tells you about himself and the background leading up to the appointment.

So let him. Actively listen.

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