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» Bikers' Rights, Clients, lawyers, Marketing » Marketing to Bikers

Marketing to Bikers

I follow Susan Carter Liebel on Twitter. She’s the creator of Solo Practice University, a website that’s supposed to be “the #1 web-based educational and professional networking community for solo lawyers and law students.”

Yesterday, I noticed she put up the following with a link: “Adam Gee teaches you How To Market To Bikers in his newest class.” Intrigued, I clicked the link. I couldn’t find anything about the content of the course though, so I went to Adam Gee’s page at SPU. There, I saw the following under his syllabus:

Marketing to Bikers: Developing a Motorcycle Practice
* Indirect Marketing Techniques
* Direct Marketing Techniques
* Blogs, social media and books

I think SPU is a great idea, and Adam Gee may be a hell of a lawyer. For all I know, he may even have some serious biker cred. However, what Susan Carter Liebel wrote, along with that little portion of the syllabus on Adam Gee’s page, worried me a little bit.

I’m a biker. I ride ten to twenty thousand miles each year, and I’m very active in a variety of bikers’ groups. I volunteered for MROs and went to swap meets before I started law school. Brown & Little, P.L.C., wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. My friends are bikers, so I often get to see lawyer advertising not from the perspective of another lawyer, but from the perspective of the target demographic. It isn’t pretty.

Lawyers saturate the biker market. Most lawyer advertising aimed at bikers is not well done. I cringe every time I see a pamphlet showing a couple of guys with neatly-trimmed goatees wearing neatly-pressed leathers as they lean on their spotless, stock Softails. Do they really think they can just add some flames and an angry eagle to their ad and they’ll be ready to take the motorcycle community by storm? Never mind, I know the answer.

Lawyers also start special wings of their firms claiming to offer bikers free breakdown assistance or legal advice regarding discrimination. They give out special cards for bikers to carry in their wallets in case something happens. When there’s discrimination or a stranded biker, you can usually hear the crickets chirping on the phone line. When a biker gets seriously injured by another motorist, however, the lawyers pounce. Good thing the biker joined their card-club; those pesky ethics rules about solicitation are normally a drag. Do lawyers actually think bikers can’t tell the difference between a gimmick and someone who genuinely wants to help? Never mind, I know the answer.

Attorneys finagle their way into every event bikers attend and every product bikers buy. They’re like vultures. They see the promise of riches and throw money at bikers, but most bikers see through their crappy advertising. Bikers know who the outsiders are, and they generally aren’t swayed by a back page ad. Weekend warriors and people who aren’t in a club or an MRO may not notice the lack of authenticity, so the poser biker’s lawyer will probably find himself sitting across a desk from a poser biker in an initial consultation, each pretending they’re the genuine article. I guess that’s okay, but it’s too bad lawyers have to insult the intelligence of a group of good people with ridiculous advertising in order to find a playmate for a session of biker make-believe.

Whether you believe me or not, I’m not complaining about this because bikers are my market. Sure, my firm does market to bikers, but it’s mostly just to the extent necessary to help good causes that need sponsors. We also do get clients from our involvement, but there’s one big difference between that and the way most lawyers market to groups like bikers.

I get biker clients the way I get clients from my family and friends. It isn’t based on some slick ad or some sham club I’ve convinced people to join. When a friend who happens to be a biker knows someone in need of a criminal defense lawyer, they refer that person to me because they know and trust me. Lawyer advertising in the biker market doesn’t take away my slice of the biker pie any more than another lawyer advertising in my mom’s Christmas letter would convince my brother to send a DUI referral elsewhere.

Lawyers study their markets as if the people who compose them are animals. They infiltrate organizations to take their targets’ hard-earned money. Their goal, because of the very nature what they’re doing, is to take more than they give. They aren’t in it to make friends or help a cause at all. And we wonder why we’re hated?

I understand that’s how marketing in general may work for a lot of lawyers, but I wish we had a little more self-respect. This is supposed to be a profession, isn’t it? Lawyers can get some of the low-hanging fruit by exploiting a group of people, but that doesn’t mean they should. It’s embarrassing. Are attorneys so greedy, stupid, and helpless that they need to pay someone else to study insular groups of people and teach them how to make friends with and influence those people? Never mind, I know the answer.

I hope SPU isn’t wasting its time sending freshly-minted solos into meetings to peddle their new biker helpline or hand out pamphlets with lots of flames and skulls, but I honestly have no idea what SPU intends to teach about bikers. If it’s something to make lawyers more effective at handling motorcycle-related cases, more power to SPU. If it’s a superficial study of what most bikers like (hint: a good time, and boobs) and don’t like (hint: authority) intended to show money-grubbing lawyers how to make friends and persuade bikers to hire them, I’ll be disappointed. Please, SPU. Do it right. The biker world doesn’t need any more law firms with mascots.

The only consolation for me in all of this is the fact that attorneys, probably far more so than bikers, are studied as a group and targeted by marketers. What I view as exploitation by us may be more likely to end up being exploitation of us. Most biker marketing isn’t going to send a single biker to a shady lawyer hoping to score a quick buck from a new group of suckers, but the same doesn’t seem to be true of marketing to lawyers. Lawyers looking to exploit bikers are probably going to find themselves getting a dose of their own medicine, medicine that actually seems to work on them. Attorneys will buy anything. That must be why many lawyers think they can get clients with half-baked ideas.

Filed under: Bikers' Rights, Clients, lawyers, Marketing · Tags: , , , ,

16 Responses to "Marketing to Bikers"

  1. mary says:

    Soooooooooo many people are deceived by advertising like ” have you been injured in an accident” and we don’t get paid until you get paid After a long process, the above referenced firm notes that your “accident” is not worth a lot of money so , out you go. Try to find a firm who will handle a case under 10K, HA!

  2. Adam Gee says:

    Matt – I am glad you approved my comment. I see you edited your post to include a portion of the syllabus for my class at SPU. If you are going to refer to a portion of it, it would only seem fair to include the entire syllabus, as I have done below.

    Initial Screening of a Potential Motorcycle Case
    The initial phone call
    The first office consultation
    Records and documents to obtain before the first consultation
    Investigating the Motorcycle Collision
    Obtaining the accident report
    Obtaining records of the first responder
    Photographing the vehicles
    Hiring an accident reconstructionist
    Pre-Suit Negotiation of the Motorcycle Case
    Obtaining the pertinent records
    Analyzing the records
    Presentation of the records and your demands to the adjuster
    Overcoming the adjuster’s bias towards bikers
    Discovery Tips and Techniques
    How to respond to the Defendant’s demands
    Demands you must make
    Trial of the Motorcycle Case
    Picking your jury
    Overcoming jury bias
    Presenting your case
    Attacking the Defendant’s case
    Marketing to Bikers: Developing a Motorcycle Practice
    Indirect Marketing Techniques
    Direct Marketing Techniques
    Blogs, social media and books

    Looking forward to riding with you soon!

  3. Matt Brown says:

    I’m happy to hear the class is more substantive than marketing; it was Susan’s tweet that made me wonder. As for being a poser or not being a poser, anyone who doesn’t pretend to be something other than what they are isn’t going to get that label from me. Sounds like you’re doing it right. Oh yeah, and I’ll take you up on that ride offer next time I find myself on a motorcycle in NY (I can damn near guarantee it’ll be within the year).

  4. Adam Gee says:

    Matt – just came across your post in the wee hours of the morning, and wanted to take a moment to respond.

    First, you leave the impression that the entire class I teach on motorcycle law at SPU is about marketing – that couldn’t be further from the truth. Almost 90% of the class is about the nuts and bolts of handling a motorcycle case from beginning to end. What I teach is based on years of representing bikers, and years of supervising accident investigations as a former prosecutor, and years and years and days and nights and weekends (just ask my wife and kids) trying cases.

    A portion of the class is about marketing, but its not about putting flames and skulls on fliers.

    I like representing bikers because, as a whole, they are great people. They have jobs and wives and kids, and when they get hurt they need someone that knows what they are doing to wring every last penny out of every available source so they don’t lose everything they have worked for their entire life. Bikers aren’t a commodity, they are people.

    I ride a little, and freely admit it. Does that make me a poser? I don’t think so. I don’t ride to get cases, and I don’t get cases because I ride (a little). I get cases because happy clients recommend me to their friends and neighbors, and its a rare day when a potential client walks out of my office without retaining me.

    I’m not going to engage the fight that was going on before I got here, but I will say that I had never met or spoken to Susan before the idea of this class was broached.

    Getting back to your post, I agree that the amount of marketing for bikers is disgusting. Most of it is done by lawyers who wouldn’t know a sport bike from a chopper. That’s why bikers in need of a lawyer need to investigate before they hire. They need to be confident the lawyer they hire is equipped to properly represent them. Notice that I didn’t say they need to make sure their lawyer is a biker, as owning a bike doesn’t suddenly make a lawyer a great motorcycle accident lawyer.

    The thing is, bikers get it. They are good judges of character. They know who will go to the mat for them and their family, and who is just out for a quick buck. Maybe that’s why bikers keep walking out of those poser-lawyers’ offices you were talking about, but not mine.

    I see that you have had your bike all the way up in New York. Let me know if you will be up here again. I would be honored to take you on some of my favorite rides.

  5. Matt Brown says:

    I guess I was assuming that posers would drop the charade when their freedom is at stake. Talking with the heaviest-marketing lawyers at events I attend, I get the impression they do a lot of free initials and get hired on a very small percentage of them. It just seems like, in the end, someone who isn’t really a rider wouldn’t hire a lawyer because the lawyer is a rider.

    As for people who think of themselves as “bikers” and actually ride or participate in groups, I’d say 10% is generous. I still think that 10% is the group lawyers primarily target. Again, I don’t think everyone else is going to hire a lawyer just because the lawyer rides.

    Of course, I have no data to back up any of this, just anecdotal evidence. You may be right.

  6. Mark Bennett says:

    By the way, Matt, what proportion of people who think of themselves as “bikers” ride 10,000+ miles a year and are active in bikers’ groups? 10%, maybe?

    The much bigger market—and that most likely to have either a) crashes resulting in horrific injuries (because they’re inexperienced, and don’t ride very smart); or b) lots of money to hire criminal defense lawyers (because they’re RUBs)—is the posers. So the poser-biker marketing lawyers might actually know what they’re doing, marketing to the poser bikers.

  7. Mark Bennett says:

    It makes sense though; if a biker does go down, there are going to be damages. Probably hefty ones.

    Especially to those riders who think it’s cool to ride without full gear. I like to think it’s natural selection at work.

  8. shg says:

    You might want to be more circumspect at your leap of faith that the person who told me about SPU isn’t near and dear to your heart. You are correct that you don’t share “confidence or camaraderie,” but that’s only because she has lost faith in you.

    And I agree with you that skills and marketing aren’t mutually exclusive. The problem, as I’ve already said, is that you’re running low on the skills side. Since my purpose isn’t to hurt you, I plan to leave it at that rather than provide details. I know you can’t bear the fact that everyone isn’t your cheerleader, as you expect the blogosphere to be all promotion all the time, but I also have no agenda to hurt your business.

    But I ask you to consider, if you don’t want the warts noted, why do you persist in begging for a confrontation. Keep pushing and you’ll get the details that you want no one to know about. Try me.

  9. So once, again, you are relying upon woefully inaccurate second and third hand information from an individual I share neither confidence or camaraderie to make authoritative (and erroneous) assessments about both the inner workings of SPU and my truthfulness. This speaks volumes.

    I now have a much better understanding of who you are and will take it into consideration when I see you discussing any other individual or enterprise positively or negatively.

    As for your opinions on responsible marketing, I also accept you choose to remain comfortably contrarian because you’re deliberately opting not to see that honing your professional skills and learning the philosophy and fundamentals of marketing are not mutually exclusive. It’s not an either/or proposition. They are both foundational to building a business.

  10. shg says:

    Funny you should say that about Grant. I was told that you knew from the start that Grant, claiming he was “retired” from the practice of law, was actually disbarred. I heard that when Tannebaum told you about it, you responded that you would have to think about it, and did nothing. Did you finally ask Grant to leave? Maybe I was misinformed.

    As for your belief that marketing is a necessity, I beg to differ. Lawyers gain reputation, clients and business by honing their skills, not by feigning skills in some marketer’s dream. How many new solos can use the tagline, “experienced, tough but caring,” especially when they’ve only been in practice 6 months? Don’t you think deception is a bit of a problem? I would expect a client to think so when they find out the lawyer has no clue what they’re doing.

    That’s why I’m concerned about it, and why your great idea should be much, much stronger at promoting professional development than slick marketing.

    Hey, but that’s just me. You obviously feel differently.

  11. Scott,

    If you are looking for accuracy, then you know I didn’t know about Grant and once I learned of this he was removed from the faculty. Or maybe you didn’t know that. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Second, substance is what SPU is all about. Until you come inside you cannot speak with any first hand knowledge or authoritatively about how SPU operates and what we deliver no matter how hard you may try. You are always welcome to enroll :-) I’ll take the impartial reviews from Jordan Furlong who was the editor of the Canadian Bar Association’s Magazine and Bob Ambrogi whom we all know. They were inside and impartially reported upon their experiences at length.

    However, to ignore marketing as a business necessity because some lawyers don’t like the word and don’t truly understand it is harmful to new lawyers creating a practice as well as those leaving Big Law to open a practice. Law schools are finally introducing it and it is now getting CLE approval. You may remember this piece ‘Marketing is NOT a Dirty Word’ http://tinyurl.com/6pwwbt

    I thank you for recognizing SPU is a ‘great idea.’ But others have acknowledged it SPU also proven great in the execution and delivered on its promise as evidenced by its growth and the high quality faculty and students who continue to come on board.

  12. shg says:

    You can name me as the evil person, Susan. It won’t hurt my feelings. But what you can’t do is try to conceal the accuracy of my point. I realize that this is how you make a living now, and as I’ve told you before, your concept is wonderful, but your selling out to the marketers, and your effort to conceal it through hyperbole, undermines your original purpose.

    We both know the same people. I’m told by your professors what’s going on. I remember well when you gave in to the marketers in determining whether substance or marketing would prevail. I also remember when you sold your pal Grant Griffiths as a lawyer even though you knew he was disbarred for raiding an infant’s trust. If you want me to name names, I can and will.

    My purpose isn’t to hurt your income (just so it’s clear, the “professors” don’t get paid), but that money comes from the pockets of young lawyers who can’t afford to squander it. If they want to learn marketing schemes, then SPU is the place to go. If you want SPU to teach substance, then you need to redirect your focus away from the marketing and toward substance, and find professors who have been in practice a few hours longer than their students.

    Honesty matters, Susan. It’s not my job to help you sell SPU, and if my commentary stings, then change the situation for the better.

  13. Matt,

    Your questions are good ones. In fairness to Adam, I’ve watched all of Adam’s classes and 90 percent of them are instructive in the process of actually working the case from the time of engagement to settlement, working with adjusters who don’t understand biker injuries and so much more which is why an injured biker needs to go to a lawyer who deals specifically with the nuances and challenges of representing a biker, how are they are viewed by adjusters and more. That he addresses the marketing side of it and the tweet leaves you the impression it’s about gimmicks is a shame. He actually talks about the very thing you are concerned about, respect and understanding and authenticity.

    That a commenter who has never been inside SPU would decide it is instructive to discuss authoritatively that which he knows nothing about because he’s never been inside does no one any good. The site has more than 600 users since we’ve opened from the freshly minted to those out more than 20 years looking to learn a new practice area. They have decided otherwise.

    As for marketing in general, it is irresponsible to not teach marketing a practice when you are providing a 360 degree experience about opening a solo practice. The greatest disservice in legal education is absence of business education and a proper business education includes marketing – knowing how to target an audience to deliver your services. And each of our courses offer information on this because every practice area is unique.

    Thanks for giving me an opportunity to address your post. You highlight very important points :-)

  14. shg says:

    You’ve stumbled upon two separate issues, both in law and in the rearing of young lawyers. The joke about SPU was that it wasn’t solo practice university, but solo marketing university. And this “course” bears it out.

    Even so, the question remains whether the “professor” has anything to offer. While I personally know that some do, most don’t. They are Susan’s friends, some of whom will have less knowledge and experience than their students. And yet people pay in the hope of making a go of it.

    As for Bikers being treated like fools by lawyers, it’s true of all people and all attorneys who market. You know the answer to your questions, yet other lawyers will deliberately believe the dopiest nonsense in the hope that they will learn the magic secret to wealth and success. The magic secret is that there is no magic secret. And you already know that, Matt.

  15. Matt Brown says:

    I hear it’s a personal injury goldmine, though I wouldn’t know personally. It makes sense though; if a biker does go down, there are going to be damages. Probably hefty ones.

  16. Andrew Becke says:

    Pardon my naivete, but why is it that bikers are such a coveted target market?

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