A wonderful example of how Web 2.0 interaction generates ideas came from my blog post on adopting, and adapting to, online social networking sites like LinkedIn.   In that post I speculated that such sites will increasingly become part of lawyers’ marketing efforts, but added that personal contact at meetings, on the phone and through hand-written notes will remain effective outreach tools.

Professor Alan Childress of Tulane Law School promptly picked up my theme and extended it on his own Legal Profession Blog.  Professor Childress noted a truth that “seems to be lost” on law school students and younger lawyers:  “Handwritten thank-you notes and other traditional communications are becoming even rarer in light of technology — and will surely catch the recipient’s eye a lot more than they used to, given the effort that seems to be required compared to emails and mass digital means.”

His observation goes directly to the heart of what marketing means.  The real definition of marketing is simple.  Identify the people most likely to hire you for the work you want to do, communicate with them to let them know who you are, and then develop close relationships with these people to help them achieve their goals.  It’s a three step process in which the lawyer’s primary goal is differentiation.

As social trends move us away from ways of connecting with folks that were used in the past, using them currently becomes a differentiating factor. And differentiation is often the way to get attention. Getting attention is a cornerstone of marketing. And marketing is the basis of educating your public that you exist … when they have the need for your service or product, they will call you.

Social networking sites have their uses, but you’re one of many thousands of users.  As a potential client, I ultimately don’t care how many online “friends” you have – I want to know you’ll be there for ME.  A handwritten note is unique, can be kept in a briefcase or desk drawer as a reminder, and symbolizes that you care.