Last year, a St. Louis estate attorney ran a Groupon for a will and durable power of attorney for the low, low price of $99. (Debra Bruce as a good article on it here.) Despite the inflammatory title of this post, I understand why this attorney did it. Essentially, he did it for fun. As he said in Debra’s article:
I didn’t even think in terms of ‘loss leader’ when I decided to do a Groupon deal. I love Groupons and wanted to be part of it. I use them personally.
There’s nothing wrong with that. What I do find remarkable is that he didn’t like the outcome because of all the “brouhaha” it generated. We have another word for “brouhaha”–it’s called “marketing”. Buzz would precisely be the one likely and desirable outcome of doing the Groupon in the first place. The idea of generating new customers is pretty minimal, particularly for an estate practice. After all, people don’t often need more than one will. Yes, you can upsell to other services or get some future work based on modifications or referrals, but that seems tenuous at best. What you really get out of the experience is the title of being “that attorney who did the Groupon”. For good or ill, he’ll always be that guy.
But my biggest issue with the Groupon for lawyers generally is this: time. The structure of Groupon is such that the vendor gets a huge wave of customers all at once. In a typical setting, a lawyer must take into consideration his availability to take on a new client. Can he properly service the client’s needs in the time required? An attorney is required to turn down a new client or a new case if he cannot perform the duties required of him. In the Groupon model, he cannot do so. We know it takes him on average 4 hours to do the estate package, and we know he sold more than 50 of the Groupons (perhaps many more). Hypothetical: What if customer #50 dies before you can get around to doing his will?
So I don’t think Groupon is inherently dumb for lawyers … but it could be. I’d be extra careful before dipping my toe in those waters. I did think it would be fun to come up with some social media efforts dumber than that:
5) Foursquare for people in Witness Protection
4) Yelp for cannibals
3) Slashdot for the Amish
2) Ebay for hoarders
1) Fark for people with lives (I kid, I kid!)
What can you come up with?