Gen X and Gen Y lawyers (Millennials) are coming out of law school with a degree (good), no business education (bad), more competition than ever before for articling positions resulting in a glut of lawyers (worse), and no marketing skills to help them land clients (worst of all).
Like it or not, many lawyers will setting up and running their own smaller firms rather than joint existing larger firms. Like any business, they won’t survive without clients. In business, it is always about who is willing to give YOU the business as opposed to someone else.
So, how do you develop a law marketing mindset, to get and keep clients? Here is the Reader’s Digest version of marketing:
“Sell” is not a 4-letter word. Selling is helping people get what they want, or what they need. Lawyers provide a useful service in helping people get what they want, or prevent them from getting what they don’t want.
Think hard about what makes you and your firm different. This area of marketing is called branding, and it is what makes you different. It’s also why clients should hire you—as opposed to your competitors. “We deliver quality work,” “We excel at client service,” and “We have cheaper hourly rates” are NOT differentiating factors. All law firms claim these. HINT: figure out what most of your clients complain about, then build a brand position on that.
Never compete on price. There are always lawyers willing to do it cheaper. Compete on price alone and you will eventually be undercut. Resist the “Walmartization” of legal fees. Do this by figuring out your brand; what do you want to be known for, that you can deliver with 100% certainty?
An up-to-date website is the price of entry. If your existing website looks out of date, potential clients and referral sources assume that you are out of touch. You don’t have to have all the latest bells and whistles, but you do have to look contemporary.
You should be spending at least 20 percent of your time and budget marketing. (One of our most successful clients spends 30 percent of his time and budget on marketing.) Sales and marketing are a numbers game. The more people you know and network with, the more successful you will be. Marketing is not something you have TO DO after you have completed client work, it is HOW you get clients to feed yourself and your associates.
Marketing is most successful when it is incorporated into your weekly activities. It’s not a good idea to devote 1 day per week, say Friday, to marketing. It is better to chunk it out, so that you do 1 coffee, 1 breakfast, and 1 lunch with either a new client or a potential referral source. Incorporating marketing into your weekly routine makes it harder to procrastinate. That’s 15 new connections each week; that’s 780 new connections a year if you get disciplined about it.
Not all referral sources are created equal. Spend more time nurturing the referral sources that matter most to you. Figure out who your best referral sources are—and look to find more just like them. This may take some doing, but it will be worth it. If you could double or triple your referral sources, what would that mean to your annual revenues?
Always thank a referral source. When you do get a client referral, always thank your referral. Good manners are always appreciated in an increasingly automated universe. And, the best way of thanking your referral source is by sending business THEIR way. One-way referral chains seldom last long; you have to cultivate referral relationships. No one ever protests that they were thanked too much!
Start a marketing list for yourself and your practice. You can do this in Excel or better still, Constant Contact or Sales Force. Each week, enter the names of everyone you have met on your spreadsheet or database. Categories that are useful on your spreadsheet are: a) potential client, b) potential legal referral source, and c) potential referral from another industry, and d) other. Do this systematically each week. Obviously, potential clients get priority. Review your list quarterly, to see what patterns you can discern. Are your second-best referral sources now your best sources? If yes, act accordingly.
Start a newsletter, to keep in touch with your prospects and referral sources. Once you have 100 or so names on your referral list, start a newsletter. A newsletter should be regular, to do you any good: the purpose of a newsletter is to remain top-of-mind with your potential clients and existing referral sources. Newsletters can be 250 or 300 words with lots of links back to your website. In Canada, you need to be mindful of CASL anti-spam legislation; people have to opt in on their own accord.
Find a competent and responsive SEO and SEM firm and learn some basics. If you practice B2C law such as Wills and Estates, Family Law, and Personal Injury, things have changed. If your website doesn’t appear on page 1 or page 2 of a Google search, 90 percent of people don’t get to page 3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are the two areas that lawyers are woefully ignorant about. Learn how to leverage SEO and SEM. It’s the Donald Rumsfeld “Unknown Unknowns” that will kill you.
Figure out what works for you, then do it consistently
Here is a smorgasbord of items that you can do, to market yourself. Not everyone is a brilliant writer or a brilliant orator. Figure out what you LIKE to do and HOW to leverage it to get potential clients to pick up the phone and call you. Whatever two or more activities work for you, the trick is to do them consistently. Sporadic efforts usually yield sporadic results.
Write a blog. Writing a blog for your firm’s website is one of the best things you can do. You don’t need anyone’s permission or look for a place to publish your writing. Best of all, Uncle Google likes original content, so your blog will boost your organic search ratings. You do have to get disciplined and have something useful to say. And you do have to do it regularly.
Attend networking events. There are a ton of networking opportunities everywhere; figure out where your potential clients and referral sources hang out and attend those. Aim to collect at 10 to 15 business cards at every event and enter them in your spreadsheet/database.
Start a mastermind group. A “mastermind” group is a loose association or club that is comprised of your referral sources—and sometimes clients as well.
Speak at seminars and conferences. If you like to speak in public, figure out where your prospective clients hang out: which associations and conferences should you speak at? The drawback to public speaking is that many conferences are scheduled months and years in advance. In many cases, it is faster to organize seminars at your own firm. Canvas your clients to see what topics they want more information on; have clients bring their friends, too.
Get quoted in the media. Introduce yourself to your local TV and radio stations, legal publications, as well as the daily newspapers. Offer to comment on legal news in your field of law. Media relations is like a train: it takes a while to get going, but then it chugs along when momentum kicks in. Once reporters know that a) you have interesting things to say and b) will return their phone calls, they will call you for comment about breaking news.
Become a Board member. Again, to make it useful for you, figure out which Boards need your help/skills and which Board position would most benefit your practice. Boards are comprised of very senior, wise, and connected business people, so great referral sources for you.