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Passion, People and Principles

Blunt Marketing Critique

post # 7 — January 26, 2006 — a Client Relations post

There’s an interesting (and very blunt) critique of some marketing materials from big-name law firms like Shearman & Sterling, Bingham McCutchen and Frost Brown Todd at the following site: link

The points he makes are very interesting, but I can tell the author from personal experience that pointing out to important people what their flaws are, even when you’re correct, is not always the way to win their hearts and minds (or their business!)


Mister Thorne said:

Yes, I hear you loud and clear.

The way I see it, people who are responsible for any marketing materials that I criticize have two options: get mad at me for the criticism, or thank me for pointing out the error.

And I know which of these two types is most likely to have the best success.

posted on January 26, 2006

Dean said:

How do you tell important people what their flaws are, assuming they are getting in the way somehow, and win their hearts and minds? I know they a 2×2 to the forehead isn’t likely to work, but what is effective?

posted on January 28, 2006

David Maister said:

You should start by reading my co-authored book THE TRUSTED ADVISOR, which is entirely about your question.

However, in my new attempts to be a kinder, gentler person, I won’t just leave you to do your homework.

Think of it this way. If you were doing something wrong, what would be the most effective way to present things to you? I’d guess some of the peinciples I would want would be these:

a) Just as the Paul Simon song says, I’d hope for a little TENDERNESS beneath the honesty. Find a way to soften your language.

b) If I believe you are actually trying to help me, I’ll listen to you more than if I think you are trying to show off, prove your smarter, wwin an argument, gat an advantage for yourself. In other words, you’ll get through to me if I can have a positive ressponse to the question: WHY are you criticizing me?

c) Don’t just tell me what I’m doing wrong, help me with some possible solutions (and by the way, more than one. If you say there’s only one other way to do this, I’ll suspect you are trying to dominate me or push me around. Give me alternative solutions to pick from, and I’ll believe your critique was well intentioned. Without them, your just an annoying bumble bee buzzing around.

d) Help me save face. The worst way in the world to change anyone is to embarras them, prove them wrong, or criticize them. Find a way to phrase it so they don’t have to admit error: “You know , there’s a real opportunity for you to get more of what you want. Would you like to hear my ideas and suggestions?

You get the idea, I hope.

Anyone else have an idea?

posted on January 29, 2006