The Distinction Between Marketing, Branding, & Sales

As lawyers we are great at the science of practicing law. We know all the details of our respective substantive practice areas and we are confident on advising clients on the best means to an optimal and successful end.

The question then becomes the following: where will all those clients, to whom you will give this great advice, come from? I know this question isn’t always top of mind to us when we are in law school.

At least it certainly wasn’t top of mind to my fellow law students or me when I was in law school in the mid 1990s. We just wanted to conquer Torts, Evidence, and Civil Procedure. We ultimately wanted to get done with law school, get that perfect job and save the world with all that legal substance and brilliance we had accumulated over the years.


In fact, I recall that not many of us in my law school class had marketing undergraduate degrees. We were mostly English, History, Psychology, Finance or Accounting undergrads. In other words, the concept of running a business, or being a business person, eluded us, much less the business of running a legal business. We were there to get educated on the science of the substantive law and not the business of it.

Fast forward to the year 2008. As those same brilliant lawyers, we went into a panic trying to figure out where all our business had gone. Were we to do something differently and if so, what? After all, we had the same legal knowledge, but it seemed all of a sudden that prospects and clients just didn’t care so much about our knowledge as much as they cared about cutting costs and shopping for lawyers, much like they shopped for produce at the supermarket. Were we all of a sudden supposed to go back to school and get a marketing degree?

In so many ways, the events of the recession were wonderful for the legal profession. The recession required us to stop and take inventory of our practice and careers. We were forced to look inward and see how we could become better business people and improve as humans.

As lawyers we have always understood the concept of “advertising.” After all, the ethics rules require us to advertise in a certain manner. However, the lines get blurred beyond advertising. Are we supposed to be doing something beyond advertising? Is that marketing? What is marketing? Is marketing the same as sales?  Will I have to become a salesperson? And what the heck is this new concept called “personal branding”? What’s a brand, anyway?

Sales is a two-way communication between the seller and the buyer.  Marketing is a one-way communication meant to promote sales. Thus, advertising is a form of marketing.  So while marketing techniques may change, sales and selling doesn’t change. However, with technology has come the ability to turn marketing into a two-way communication to promote sales, such as Facebook. This is where we find the blurred lines between marketing and sales.

Branding is how the marketing sticks in our minds and hearts. A brand is the intangible perceptions I have of you and your legal practice. A brand is also your promise to me that sets up my expectation of you and your legal practice. Thus, a brand is about increasing awareness.

Personal branding is taking all that is unique about you and marketing yourself precisely and effectively to your target market and managing that brand communication. Your personal brand is effectively the foundation for your marketing, advertising and sales efforts. Without an intentional personal brand, you will likely encounter much difficulty expressing your ability to deliver valuable legal services to your audience.

So what has to be different than before the recession? What it all boils down to is YOU.  You must take all the unique qualities that you own as a person and correlate them to your practice of law. In other words, how does your uniqueness make you a good lawyer?

As a result, you then have the confidence and ability to market your personal brand. Once people sense your confidence in owning who you are and how unique you are, then they will invariably believe you are an effective and credible lawyer. This is where your natural sales instincts will take over. Think about it, how could you NOT sell yourself as an effective lawyer if you are confident about who you are and what makes you a unique person and lawyer? It’s a true formula for marketing and sales success.

At that point you can take your newfound personal brand and marketing platform and build it into your advertising campaign within the confines of your state’s ethics rules.

About the Author

Katy Goshtasbi is an attorney and founder of Puris Image, a personal branding and business development consultancy for attorneys.

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