The BBC series ‘Turn Back Time’ ended recently and with it a fascinating experiment proved that marketing is vital to growth. The idea was to recreate the high street through the ages from the Victorian era to present day over the course of 6 episodes. Each week a different period was brought to life by the sponsored families who gamely dressed up, took over authentic period shops and grafted for their livelihoods often in very difficult circumstances. The unsuspecting residents of Shepton Mallet watched on and then… joined in.

It soon became clear that those shopkeepers who marketed their products and services with passion were more successful than those who sat back and waited for customers to cross the threshold.

Despite all the odds, an Edwardian butcher flogged pre-historic looking cuts of meat and a milkshake bar drew in crowds of listless teenagers. The blacksmith did a brisk trade in candle stick holders and the hairdresser bagged tips she had only dreamt of.

The successful shopkeepers overcame many barriers including limited product lines, third rate machinery, rationing during WWII and price fixing by the large manufacturers. They beat all the odds and their competition with good old fashioned marketing techniques and a healthy dose of excellent customer service.

This is something the Edwardians developed and the’self-service 70’s’ killed off. Most lawyers can cast their minds back to law school and remember the Boots self service test case as a useful lesson in ‘offer and acceptance’. Beyond that this case heralded a new era in which we liked to help ourselves. The irony is as this series discovered, that we now miss all that pampering and have welcomed it back with open arms in the millenium. We are very sorry we took it forgranted and we want to feel ‘special’ again. Stuff the conveyor belt and self service check out’ and spoil me says today’s typical consumer.

But is this enough for us? The programme seemed to confirm that we want more than just elements of great customer service. We want it all. Personal service, competitive pricing, endless choice and of course, excellent quality.

Well like it or not, as lawyers this is the challenge facing us today. I for one take it up with gusto. It makes my job much more exciting and when I get it right (which evidently I must now do 24/7) it is hugely rewarding.

Nobody, particulary hugely successful businesses have time on their hands and yet they find time for marketing. I know this is a fact, because they cannot reach their potential otherwise.  If you want new business you have to work for it. Allocate significant resources to smart marketing. Stop making excuses and instead make it happen and just like these High Street time lords you will find that it works a treat.

Carolyn

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