Organizations of all kinds struggle with the right level of marketing to support their growth without “breaking the bank.” This challenge is especially true for small professional services firms focused on serving current clients. Some smaller firms engage high-priced consultants or try new search marketing schemes, while many others do without any formal marketing at all. The online world is now bursting with advice for lawyers and law firms on marketing, but much is geared toward large, well-resourced firms. The following are five fundamental steps geared toward those with truly scarce resources:
1. Have a clear, compelling statement about your service niche. As competition for legal services grows, many lawyers report that the flow of referrals has slowed down vs. 10-20 years ago. In today’s challenging environment, you should help your clients and professional contacts help you, specifically by clearly communicating who you serve and what makes you different. Many solo practitioners or small firms have a diverse practice, and want to stay “open” to a broad range of business. While this seems practical, your friends can help you more if you give them something focused and memorable, rather than general, to work with. Commonly called an “elevator speech,” this is used in person or on the phone, but can be easily adapted for emails. I advise you to keep it short, with punchy words and sentences. You should refer to an emerging challenge or issue in your practice area rather than something generic like “I am a civil litigator.” Focus on the quantifiable results e.g. examples of a recent favorable decision. Two resources: (a) Search “lawyers” on 15secondpitch.com for some good examples; and (b) Consultant Peter Helmer has an excellent example at the end of a recent blog post .
2. Use your TIME and resources wisely. Time is the most valuable, scarce resource in marketing. Unless you are a born “rainmaker”, you’ll need a system to fit business development into your already busy schedule. You may have the best plan, but unless you have a disciplined way to execute, your efforts will break down. Here are two tips:
- Divide relationship-building into tasks to be completed in a shorter time frame, such as week, month or even quarter
- Set aside a time during the week when you know that clients do not call, and make an appointment with yourself for business development
3. Develop and Maintain an Accurate Contact List. Relationships are everything in legal marketing. You can manage some of your closest relationships individually, with great care and customization. You and the other attorneys can’t possibly manage your broader contacts as carefully. For these, you’ll need a firm contact list, an essential aspect of marketing that many professional firms overlook or underemphasize. The list can be housed in many ways - stand-alone or integrated into your other systems. Regardless, the list is only as good as the effort you take to build and maintain it accurately. While many attorneys are good at maintaining their Outlook contacts, keeping a high-quality firm list requires significantly more effort.
4. Have a Regular Process for Cultivating Your Relationships. Clients, past clients and other professional contacts account for most of your new business. To maximize the chance for referrals, you need to stay top-of-mind with these individuals and cultivate relationships. A face-to-face meeting is the best way to stay top-of-mind, and a phone call is also an alternative in today’s busy world. So I suggest a simple tracking sheet whereby you target and record reaching out to 10 people every week, so that 5 respond to you and you have at least 1-2 in person meetings. I further suggest targeting people who worked with you as a client previously, but have moved on to another company. These “client alumni” are more likely than other professional contacts to hire you or at least provide meaningful referrals. LinkedIn is a great way to reconnect with client alumni.
5. Stay Visible. Existing contacts who provide referrals will probably not fill your new business pipeline entirely.
Professionals need to stay visible through speaking engagements, articles, blog posts,
guest lectures at law schools, and professional associations. Not only do these activities
keep you in front of current clients; they enlarge your circle of relationships. You can find
ways to stay visible without investing an inordinate amount of time. For example, write a
guest blog instead of committing to your own blog. Or you can simply “post an update” to
your LinkedIn network once a month. These take me five minutes, and I often hear
people say that they “see me” on LinkedIn.
One final note: I believe that Marketing has to be highly customized to the firm/individual
attorney’s situation. For example, this post is especially directed to those whose primary
audience is businesses. Those going after individuals should consider tactics used in
consumer marketing - paying close attention to rules around ethical solicitations and
advertising, of course.
Bruce Segall is a professional services marketer and President of Marketing Sense for Business LLC.