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Legal Marketing Blog

A blog dedicated to lawyer marketing in any size law firm

How To Prove Your Firm Is Different

Posted in Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

It amazes me that so many law firm websites say the same thing. Like we “are client focused”, “care about our clients”, “efficient”, “responsive”, “client’s interest comes first”, etc., etc.  Your firm may actually do and emphasize all these attributes. Problem is, how will prospects know that before hiring you.

One way is to truly differentiate your firm from others when pitching a prospect or client for work. Sally Schmidt in a post this week on Attorney at Work has suggestions on how to do that; including:

Offer more than promises:

  • If you claim a team approach, include a group picture and bios;
  • Demonstrate your experience on a matter by laying out the strategy and process (consider a Gantt chart or spreadsheet);
  • Provide an organizational chart with each person’s role and contact information; and
  • If you offer an alternative fee arrangement, indicate how you arrived at the figure to show it didn’t come out of thin air.

Give a service guarantee:

  • Lawyers cannot ethically guarantee the outcome of a matter, so provide a service guarantee.  It might include returning calls and emails within a specified period of time (as I have preached in the past, empowered other lawyers or staff to respond to inquiries, if for no other purpose than to let the client know when you will get back to them); when and how you will provide status reports (ask the client for their preferences); and communications in general; and
  • Offer to visit the client (off the clock) to better understand their business issues (a big client complaint about outside law firms), plans and how the issue relates to the business.

Back up your claims:

  • If you claim a particular expertise, back up the claims with the types and number of matters handled.
  • List representative matters handled, without naming clients without their permission even if it is a matter of public record; and
  • Provide a list of references happy with your services.

Your behavior matters, not your words:

  • If you say your accessible, mean it by giving out your direct dial and cell numbers;
  • Send a welcome letter that sets forth how the process will proceed, who will handle their matter, and how to reach members of the team; and
  • Show how responsive you are likely to be by getting the proposal to them ahead of the deadline.

If you want to show that your firm is really different from the competition, prove it from your very first contact.

Sharpen Your Bio and Tell a Compelling Story

Posted in Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

Lawyers should update their bios regularly to keep it fresh, and because it is an important marketing tool.  It should be well written, brief and to the point on the benefits a prospect should gain by retaining your services.

Since there will likely be opportunities over the holidays to meet people you will want to send a bio to, it is a good time to update it. Heather Suttie referred on LinkedIn to a post that sets forth some excellent bio do’s and don’ts:

Do:

  1. Target your desired client base.  Include benefits that such an audience would be interested in by hiring you;
  2. Give your story some personality.  The best lawyer bio I ever saw is the one for Martin Ginsburg, the late husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which portrayed both his excellent credentials and sense of humor;
  3. Make it brief.  But not written like one.  Suttie suggests it be 150 words maximum. Sometimes that maybe too long depending on the occasion and audience;
  4. Include examples of cases or transactions you have handled.  However, do not name the client (even if it’s a matter of public record) without the client’s approval.  They may not want their matters publicized on the Internet, and very unhappy if you do; and
  5. Include a recent photo – emphasis on the word recent. You can send the wrong message when you meet a new client in-person, and you don’t look like your 20 year old picture.

Don’ts:

  1. A resume is not a bio. Suttie points out “clients don’t care about your career path, they care about what you can do for them”;
  2. Self-aggrandizement is a no-no. And of course using words like expert or specialist (unless so certified by an acceptable bar organization) creates ethical problems;
  3. Although it may be okay to mention your Pulitzer Prize, lesser kudos unless related to your legal practice are not.  Your law school Moot Court award 30 years ago won’t cut it;
  4. Education should be downplayed the further into your career you go.  I hate to say it, but you didn’t become a great lawyer in law school.  The only thing that really matters is what you have done since; and
  5. Avoid stating your bar admission year.  If you’re a recent grad, it highlights your youth and inexperience.  If it is well back in the last century, it may show you are not only long-in-the-tooth, but expensive.

Bios are important and since they are a form of self-marketing, put your best effort into making it sharp, short and a compelling story.

Drats! Time to Think About Holiday Cards – Or Not

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Tips

One of the most dreaded tasks that lawyers and law firms encounter each year is the annual holiday card marathon. The only exception I can think of that might be more painful is the yearly collection fiasco that goes on in the last month of a firm’s fiscal year.  At least there is obvious value to the partners/firm in the collection spectacle.  With the effort and time put into getting those damn cards out the door, not so much.

Most firms put way too much staff and lawyer time into an effort that in my IMHO is one of the most worthless marketing tactics undertaken.  Of course, it must be done, if only for the negative connotation, if the client realizes that YOUR firm sent no card.  I wonder if clients even pay attention to the cards they receive or remember who did or didn’t send one.

One reason is that too many firms send out cards with NO personal touch.  If the cards have signatures at all, many times they are computer driven and added to the cards at the printer. Heaven forbid that the cards be signed by human beings and contain a handwritten note. Without those two latter actions, the cards are a total waste of time. I’ve heard clients comment that such impersonal cards are meaningless and lack feeling.

Although cute, email holiday cards are as bad in my opinion.  Talk about a lack of attorney involvement or interest. They are emailed to the firm’s database of clients and other contacts by the marketing staff.

My apologies to all of you who painstakingly take time and effort to send meaningful cards with a personal signature and note.  You are the exception!  However, I still question whether the clients or referral sources – forget about prospects – will remember come January who sent them a card.

Okay, they are one tool in the marketing toolbox, albeit of little or no value in gaining new work (helping to stay top of mind, maybe).  I have two suggestions to make them slightly more meaningful:

  1. Make your card REALLY stand out.  Look at the suggestion of Ruth Carter on Attorney at Work earlier this month. As she puts it “If you must send a holiday card, send a personalized note…”, or send a unique, memorable postcard such as she did celebrating Captain Kirk’s birthday (or Elvis Presley’s or some other memorable occasion).  Her main thrust is to make your card unforgettable. (One firm that consistently sends unique holiday greetings” is Boston’s Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, due in no small part to their great client services director, Sara Crocker); or
  2. Send a Thanksgiving Day card instead.  At least that will be more memorable than a December card.  Also, you will beat the December crowd, and might have a chance of being remembered for it.  What is more appropriate than sending a card that THANKS your clients, friends, referral sources and any other contacts for their friendship, business, and thoughtfulness.

Whatever you decide, put forth a meaningful effort on holiday cards, or forget it.

Collect a Bunch of Business cards….or Not!

Posted in Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

As the holidays approach, there will be many opportunities to meet and greet, and collect business cards. One might think the more the merrier.  But not so fast, there are reasons to not start a variation on a baseball card collection (some of you may remember when such a collection was a big thing).

What got me thinking about business cards was the marketing meditation of last Friday in 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by my friend Larry Smith and Richard Levick of Levick strategic communications. It states:

“Always have an excuse to collect a bunch of business cards. During a speech, mentioned some great article you can send them. ‘Please leave me your business cards and I’ll see to it that you get the article.’”

Over the years I’ve given similar advice at my marketing seminars.  I go one step further and invite participants to come up and, in case they are out of business cards, put their name on a pad of paper placed up front.

The reason I agree with the tactic mentioned for speeches, is that it is more difficult to come away with contact information in order to follow up with a large audience. So, I see no reason for not gathering as many business cards as possible in that setting.  At a minimum it will help you build up your database.

However, I have a different view about gathering as many business cards as you can in a networking situation. At a networking event, presumably you have more face time, and can determine more readily the persons you would like to follow up with. Further, you don’t want to be seen as a gadfly who walks around the room asking for business cards with no purpose in mind.

After either event, following up is often the biggest problem for lawyers.  Grabbing a bunch of cards really means little, because often lawyers merely throw them in a drawer when they get back to the office.  I suggest that you focus on coming away with a half dozen or so cards from people you want to follow up with.

Then make sure you follow up with those people you obtain cards from.  Suggestions might include sending a handwritten (preferably) “nice to meet you” note, or at least an email, to continue the dialogue and possible set up a lunch, if the person is local.  The goal is to build on the relationship and your network.

Collecting business cards from strangers is a good business development tactic, but not if you don’t follow up, or have no strategy on how to capitalize on them.

Make Sure Your New Clients are Happy Campers

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Team, Marketing Tips

Getting off on the right foot with new clients is important.  Because happy clients will refer others to your firm from day one.  There are several things you can do from the get-go to ensure your clients will be pleased with having hired you.

John Remsen shares “Ten Golden Rules to Make Your New Client Happy” that will help (with my typical paraphrasing and additional thoughts):

  1. Send a Welcome Kit.  It should include all the initial information the client will need – names of the team members, direct telephone numbers, and emails, as well as a letter from the managing partner and firm brochure;
  2. Understand client’s business and/or personal situation.  That can be accomplished by asking questions and, most importantly, listening to your client over 50% of the time; and putting the legal matter into the proper context;
  3. Meet or exceed expectations.  As Remsen suggests, work with the client to ensure reasonable expectations on their side, and then beat them (not the client, the expectations).  If problems come up, communicate asap;
  4. Keep your commitments.  Set reasonable deadlines, and then beat them.  Knowing lawyers are always up against deadlines, set an earlier one for yourself.  That way if you promised the draft contract on a Friday, deliver it on Wednesday or Thursday instead;
  5. Return phone calls and emails asap.  In today’s world, returning calls or emails can’t wait a day or two.  If you can’t return them, empower someone on your team to do so on your behalf, within an hour or two,  to let them know when you will get back to them;
  6. Learn client’s preferred means of communication.  Some people prefer emails over phone calls.  Ask;
  7. Introduce your team.  Let the client know who is on your team, and introduce them in person, if possible.  Also, the client should be advised that they may contact any of them.  It also helps your team feel important;
  8. Don’t overlawyer a matter.  Clients will not tolerate it anymore anyway.  Clients will accept less than perfect, particularly when it has an adverse impact on their wallets.  Communicate often with the client to ensure you’re on the same page on the work to be done;
  9. Never surprise your client.  This is especially true for an invoice.  But, it also applies to anything within your control.  No one likes (unpleasant) surprises; and
  10. Show appreciation.  Thank clients, entertain them, and seek feedback so they know you are thankful for their business.

I totally agree with Remsen, if you want to have happy campers as clients, you need to do more than good legal work.  You also have to provide outstanding service.  These tips will help in doing that.

Simple Networking Tips to Overcome Shyness

Posted in Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

As we get closer to the holiday season (yeah, they’ll be here sooner than you think), it means there will be more and more networking opportunities.  A lot of lawyers, including yours truly, are not always comfortable in every setting.  However, these events can be very important to developing business for one’s practice, and should not be avoided due to some discomfort.

I had initially overlooked a post by Mary Ellen Sullivan on Attorney at Work last month I think is pretty good and worth sharing.  It provides 10 suggested icebreakers by Debra Fine., the author of The Fine Art of Small Talk.  They are:

  1. “What is your connection to this event?
  2. What keeps you busy outside of work?
  3. Tell me about the organizations you are involved with.
  4. How did you come up with this idea?
  5. What got you interested in … ?
  6. What do you attribute your success to?
  7. Describe some of the challenges of your profession.
  8. Describe your most important work experience.
  9. Bring me up to date.
  10. Tell me about your family.”

Fine and Sullivan also suggest a number questions which might be considered too personal or problematic, which should be avoided.  No. 10 above might fall into that category depending on the situation, but obviously it is a judgment call.

Notice that the questions are open-ended. This should keep the other person talking, and that can help overcome any shyness.

New Lawyers and Marketing

Posted in Marketing Tips

Now that all the recent grads and other bar exam takers are about to get their results, particularly those lawyers that will be in small firms or even solo, it is time to give thought to developing business. (Those going to BigLaw, don’t read any further, since those firms don’t want you to learn about marketing, only crank billable hours – thousands of them.)

For the rest, it is time to be thinking about marketing, something not taught you in law school.  The smaller the firm, the sooner you need to gain business development skills.  Everyone (after a honeymoon) will need to contribute to the success of the firm in that department. Solo’s from day one.

Don’t panic.  It is a learnable skill set. Start by going over to Attorney at Work and download the free “25 Tips For The New Lawyer.”  It’s an easy read with excellent tips about your new life in general, and marketing too.  Another post on that site provides “17 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Associate.”

You might want to read a few of my posts bearing on the subject as well:

Finally, for those going solo, I strongly recommend that you buy a copy of Flying Solo: A Survival Guide for Solos and Small Firm Lawyers published by the ABA.  The fourth edition is relatively inexpensive on Amazon.

So, new lawyer start thinking and learning about marketing and business development. Your professional success WILL depend on it.

How To Get New Business NOW!

Posted in Marketing Plans, Marketing Tips

I was intrigued by post I ran across on Attorney at Work in which several marketing consultants offered their views on what was advertised as the “the best way to get paying client work right NOW.” Although there were many good business development tips provided, I was disappointed somewhat because only one consultant, Gerry Riskin, really offered what I consider practical advice on the “NOW” issue.  Not that the other ideas wouldn’t lead to more legal work, it’s just that most will take longer, a lot longer sometimes.

Riskin’s advice? Go see your clients.  It is something I have preached in my 28-plus years in the legal marketing business.  Visit your clients, past and current, off the clock. It worked for me when I practiced law, and I have had hundreds of lawyers tell me over the years it has worked for them.  Clients can be procrastinators just like the rest of us.

A visit often, if not 80% of the time, leads to immediate work. Matters that have been sitting in the clients outbox for a while.  Riskin suggests taking along a checklist or article that would be meaningful and helpful to them. He states there is a “zero” chance of visiting 10 clients and not coming back with work. I would agree, and go further by saying that the ROI will be a lot better than that.  Maybe not 80% return, but IMHO you will experience a better than 10% return.

Of my Top 10 Marketing Tips, “Visit Your Clients” has always been my No. 1 for obtaining work.  It is the best, quickest way to get work “NOW”.

Forget About Marketing Plans

Posted in Marketing Plans, Marketing Tips

It may not seem fair that lawyers must be both salespeople and producers of the legal product, but that is the nature of professional services.  More lawyers today buy into the need to contribute to their own survival.  Of course, they are the ones motivated to develop business.  Those who aren’t need only to have a conversation with partners who have been let go.

Over the years I have helped prepare hundreds of marketing plans.  Too many have ended up on the proverbial shelf not to see the light of day.  There are several reasons for this, mainly a lack of commitment by the lawyers.  Some of the main reasons for that include:

  • Individual lawyers didn’t buy in to the overall firm or practice group plans;
  • Plans may been dictated from on high, with little input from the lawyers affected;
  • Lawyers just aren’t interested in developing business (that was the case in the earlier days of law firm marketing, and unfortunately too many still feel that way);
  • Since the firm will do the marketing, they don’t believe they have to, so why plan;
  • May even give lipservice to the plan, and then ignore it; and
  • Attitude – “I didn’t go to law school to be a salesperson;”and so on.

I’m referring to marketing plans that are more institutional in nature.   They include goals and objectives, vision and mission statements, and focus such things as websites, publicity, advertising, newsletters, etc. Things that individual lawyers hope to avoid or hide from, or leave to other lawyers. Yes, some include lawyer assignments, but we lawyers area clever bunch at finding ways to avoid duties we do not want to do.

If you are still with me, let me emphatically say I am very big on individual lawyer business development (sales) plans.  These are specific, actionable, agreed upon plans focused on what each individual lawyer will undertake personally.  There is no hiding here.

Okay, okay, you can’t really forget about marketing plans.  But, you best give a high priority to individual business development plans that will get the lawyers to commit to bringing in business; rather than assume that the firm or other lawyers will keep their plate full.

The goals and objectives of the firm and practice groups should already be in place.  And yes, the individual plans must fit into the overall plan of where the firm and practice group wants to go.  But, if you don’t focus on requiring individual, actionable business development plans, I wish you luck in getting the lawyers to contribute to the success of the firm.

 

P.S.  Ran across an interesting twist relating to marketing plans in a post by John Hayes on B2C blog.  He starts out by saying he too is opposed to marketing plans, but he doesn’t mean it either.  He encourages more of a real world approach to planning.

10 Ways to Get Your Business Development Efforts Working

Posted in Marketing Plans, Marketing Team, Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

Read a post on the Cordell Parvin Blog about the reasons your client development efforts may not be working. I’ve heard lawyers complain over the years how they are doing “stuff,”, but nothing seems to happen.

I’ll put a different twist on Parvin’s post by suggesting ten tips (using his thoughts) you can use to improve your business development efforts:

  1. Do more than good work. Clients may not fully appreciate what the value of your work product is (most didn’t go to law school afterall).  So, you need to let clients and potential clients know about you and your firm, and what you could do for them;
  2. Prepare a plan. You need to prepare your very own personal, focused business development plan;
  3. Implement the plan.  Maybe it isn’t fair you have to both sell and produce the work product. Well, that’s life in the personal services business. Keep the pipeline fed, using the tools at your disposal or the work eventually will not be there (ask many partners let go by law firms).  Look at Kane’s Top Ten Markting Tips for some ideas in getting started;
  4. Educate clients vs. selling them. Nobody likes to be sold anyway.  Personally, I sell myself, after being educated about the product or service, and why I should be interested in it. So, educate clients and prospects about the reasons and benefits of hiring you;
  5. You need to be very focused.  That is the reason for having a thoughtout plan you will implement.  That doesn’t mean you can’t take work that comes over the transom, or change it.  But, don’t lose sight of the plan.  You can change it as long as part of a thoughtful refocusing process;
  6. Be client-centric vs. self centered. That begins with understanding the client’s business, industry, and goals of the organization/client contacts. Clients have told me how frustrating it is to have to educate lawyers all the time about their business, and the context within which the legal issues come into play;
  7. You need to raise your profile.  Work on being more visible to your target audience through writing, speaking, and networking with trade groups, associations, or community organizations where your desired clients hang out;
  8. Leave your comfort zone.  It’s easier to eat lunch at your desk rather than to implement your plan, particularly when you have billing pressures.  But avoid taking the comfortable out.  You need to stretch yourself and not forget the importance of the other half of your job;
  9. Be a team player. Within your firm and with client contacts with whom you deal, look at your job as a joint team effort; and
  10. Provide extraordinary service.  Go above and beyond just good work.  That is the minimum in today’s competitive marketplace. which is vital today in the highly competitive market. Clients want more value so consider ways to give it to them.

Be positive, and look for ways that your business development efforts will work for you.  Remember, rainmakers don’t get fired.