Marketing a solo practice or small law firm is rarely easy, especially if you rely heavily on referrals for new business. However, I have discovered several inexpensive tactics that can represent 'shortcuts' in the process. By trying one or more of these five easy approaches soon, you can enter 2014 with positive energy and momentum for business development.
- Cultivate people who have previously referred business to you. When a referral turns into actual new business, be sure to thank the referrer, not just initially but periodically as you work with the new client. These referral sources surely like you and are the most likely of your colleagues to make a new referral. Review a list of these key contacts periodically. Make an effort to do something special for them at the holidays, or offer to take them to lunch or an event early in the New Year.
- Obtain speaking engagements through people you already know. Public speaking is a great way to gain visibility and new contacts. However, large bar associations and other speaking venues often require a lengthy, formal application process. In contrast, some other groups fill their speaking slots informally and are actually eager to fill their meeting schedule with people they already know and trust. Think about events you have attended recently, and whether (a) the sponsor might be interested in having you speak; and (b) you would benefit by more exposure to the audience, particularly if they are not lawyers. If the event sponsor knows your work (or even your firm’s work), you may be able to get on the speaking schedule quickly and easily.
- Use Microsoft Mail Merge to stay in touch with professional contacts. Microsoft Office offers a simple capability to reach clients and professional contacts with a mass email. Microsoft Mail Merge creates the impression of a personalized communication and is fairly easy to use - something that those with little technological or administrative skills can handle. I recently obtained three pieces of new business this way, simply by sending a link to a new blog post with a short message. Note: Those of you already communicating to your contacts via Constant Contact or similar service should continue to rely on that method, rather than substituting or mixing in Mail Merge.
- Question LinkedIn invitations from people you do not know. Many busy lawyers pay little attention to unsolicited “Invitations to Connect” on LinkedIn. They “accept” invitations to connect with people they don’t know or hit the “ignore” button. Instead, I recommend researching the person who is inviting you and deciding if they might be a potential client or referral source. If so, you can send them a message through LinkedIn before accepting their invite. In a world with way too many distractions, some people send an invite now, planning to contact the resource later about a potential business opportunity. I have a client who obtained a three month engagement, referral source and repeat client simply by following my advice on an unsolicited LinkedIn invite.
- Visit NEW networking groups and events regularly. Since getting out to meet people can be challenging during busy times, some people find it comfortable and rewarding to go to groups where they are already known and can deepen relationships. However, your network can become stale if you meet the same people over and over. At least once a month, force yourself to go to an entirely new group or somewhere you haven’t been in a while. Some people will pay special attention to you and your services as a “newbie”. This may be slightly uncomfortable, but it’s good to stretch your comfort zone every so often.
Ideally, these approaches do not exist in a vacuum, but should be part of a broader strategy and positioning for your practice. Still, easy tactics are sometimes powerful ways to bring in new business. As the expression goes, “Keep It Simple Stupid.”
Bruce Segall is a professional services marketer and President of Marketing Sense for Business LLC.