Everyone knows that the purpose of marketing your law practice is bringing in new clients… right?

Well, yes. But that’s only part of the story. In fact, it’s just as important that your marketing keeps the wrong clients out of your law practice. Here’s what I mean by the “wrong” clients. Have you dealt with any of this recently?

  • Clients who can’t or won’t pay you on time.
  • Clients who need work outside of your area of focus.
  • Clients who abuse your time and your staff’s’ time.
  • Clients who don’t respect you and don’t value your expertise.
  • Potential New Clients (PNC) who ask a bunch of questions, take up a bunch of your time, and then don’t hire you.

Symptoms of working with too many of the wrong clients include:

  • Never-ending cash-flow stress because you’re not getting paid on time – or at all.
  • Constantly being forced to re-invent the wheel because no two client engagements look the same.
  • Stress and unhappiness – nobody enjoys dealing with jerks all day!
  • Too much time and effort spent in the intake process, and not enough business won.
  • Operating your law practice probably won’t be much fun, because every day is a struggle and it’s hard to get ahead.

If some or all of that sounds familiar… your marketing is at least part of the problem. So here’s what you can do about it. In a nutshell, you need to build a brand that positions you as irresistibly attractive to the “right” clients while keeping everyone else away. Here are practical ways to make this happen:

Puzzle Piece #1 – Build your ACE brand – Authority, Credibility, Expertise. Many of the problems discussed above stem directly from the perception that your clients and PNCs have of you and your practice. The more that clients view you as a commodity – more or less interchangeable with other lawyers or legal services – the more problems you’re going to have. Conversely, if you can develop a brand for yourself that positions you as a leading expert, as highly respected and skilled, as uniquely valuable… many of these problems will go away. Invest into building your brand and positioning yourself as “the best” at what you do in your market. Consider writing a book. Look for speaking engagements. Write blogs and articles. Get active on social media. Use video to tell your story and enhance your credibility. Look for opportunities to appear on TV or on the radio.

Puzzle Piece #2 – Focus on a niche. Jack-of-all-trades, master of none. It’s hard to position yourself as an expert if you’re a generalist. I highly recommend narrowing your focus to a single practice area, or a group of related practice areas. Here’s a thought experiment for you: Imagine that a loved one is having a health crisis and you’re looking for a doctor. What would your preference be – a generic practitioner or a specialist with a focus in the specific health issue your loved one is dealing with?

Of course you’d choose the specialist. You’d be willing to pay more for his/her services. You’d probably be sure to pay on time. And you’d treat the professional with the respect he/she deserves. Right? The same is true for you in your law practice.

This may sound scary, but you can start by simply narrowing the focus of your marketing. You don’t have to turn down clients in other practice areas. We all have bills to pay and you may not be ready to turn down paying clients yet. So you can continue to take work in other areas, even as you focus your marketing on a specific niche.

Puzzle Piece #3 – Sharpen your marketing message. Once you’ve identified your niche, you can tailor your marketing message directly to them. If you’re targeting women who are considering divorce, use language that resonates with them. If you’re targeting retired couples who are planning for the future of their estate, build your brand and your message for maximum appeal to them.

The more you can tailor your message specifically to your target clients, the more you’ll attract them. And you’ll turn away PNCs that don’t fit the profile.

Put the puzzle together and you can attract clients instead of chasing them. You create power and leverage when you position yourself as an ACE within a specific niche. You naturally begin to attract clients who value your expertise and the unique value that you create. You condition your clients to do things your way instead of being forced to reinvent the wheel every time you get a new engagement. This is how you create power in the marketplace. It’s how you attract the right clients and keep the wrong ones away. Ultimately, it’s how you build a sustainably profitable practice and attract work that you enjoy doing.

So ask yourself… is your marketing keeping the wrong people OUT of your law firm? If not, what are you going to do about it?

If you’d like more information and more practical steps to build a powerful brand that attracts the right clients while keeping the wrong ones away, click here to download our FREE Special Report entitled How to Create MarketPower™ And Grow Your Law Firm.

Life is too short to spend it doing something you hate. That’s why it’s so important to define success for yourself and work towards a career and a life that energizes you and fulfills your passion.

But I can hear the objections now… 

that sounds great, but I’m stuck in this job and I hate it but I can’t leave because there’s nothing better…”

I get it… most of us can look back at our career and identify time periods that we didn’t love. First of all, if you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to have a long-term plan to get you moving towards something you truly enjoy. But in the meantime, there are likely steps that you can take to make your current position more fulfilling. Here are four suggestions.

Take control of your time by learning to say no. One of the most common complaints I hear from lawyers relate to demanding people – often clients and colleagues. These lawyers constantly feel pressured and behind the eight-ball. They end up stressed out, working long hours, and hating every minute of it. The solution is to learn when and how to say no. With clients, it can be as simple as “I can’t get that for you right this minute- but I can have it to you within 48 hours, is that okay?” With colleagues you can take the same approach, or you can tactfully let them know that you don’t have the time right now to spend on their request. When you learn to say no, you take back control of your time, and that’s a BIG deal.

Figure out what you do enjoy about your work and how you can spend more time doing that. Chances are there are some aspects of your work that you enjoy. What are they? How can you put yourself in position to do MORE of this type of work? For example, if there’s a specific type of matter that you enjoy, consider telling your managing partner how much you enjoy it… and why you think you do a great job at it. If much of your work comes from referrals, let your referral sources know what kind of work you’re looking for!

Make time for rest, relaxation, and sleep. When you’re overworked, often the first thing you sacrifice is sleep. And you likely find yourself sacrificing time with your family and friends. You may also find it difficult to find the time to exercise, to read, and to pursue your other interests. It’s important that you do everything you can to manage your time efficiently in order to MAKE time for these non-work priorities. Otherwise you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you’re miserable.

Create a longer-term plan which will move you in a direction you’re excited about… and start taking baby steps! You may be in a difficult position at the moment and you may have limited options. But the GOOD NEWS is that this situation won’t last unless you let it! Make the commitment to figure out what you want your career and your life to look like and create a plan to get there. Figure out what success looks like for YOU and begin acting on it. I would love to help you with this process if you’d like to chat – feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email.

Referrals are the number one source of business for most solo and small law practices. But according to a Texas Tech survey, the average law firm is only receiving about 1/3 of the referrals they could be receiving from past clients.

This might sounds like bad news. But what it really means is that there’s a huge opportunity to grow your law practice simply by doing a better job of cultivating your referral network.

The really good news is that you can leverage the internet to make this happen, without a significant increase in the time and effort on your end. There are two key goals that you need to focus on in order to drive referrals: Top-of-mind awareness and education.

Top-of-mind awareness. For a referral to happen, your contact needs to recognize the opportunity when it presents itself. If a friend is looking for bankruptcy help, there’s a limited time window for your referral source to make the referral happen. That’s why top-of-mind awareness matters. You need your referral network to immediately think of you when the opportunity arises. Not hours later, certainly not days later. Right away. It takes an ongoing strategy to make this happen – to claim and defend valuable “real estate” in the minds of your referral sources.

Education. Second, your network needs to know what you do and who you can help. This sounds obvious, but many lawyers struggle to communicate this information to their network. If you have a single area of practice, it’s easier and more memorable. Your goal should be to educate network on what a good referral looks like. What types of clients do you serve, and what challenges do you help them overcome. Think of your referral network as an army out there working for you – it’s your job to give them clear and memorable marching orders.

Now, here are two great ways to use the internet to accomplish these goals:

Your Email Newsletter. This is your secret weapon. Every single lawyer should have an email newsletter that goes out to their entire network, once per month at minimum. It’s shocking to me how many lawyers don’t do this. This strategy guarantees that everyone in your network will hear from you once per month, at least. Previously, I wrote an in-depth blog entry covering the ingredients of an effective email newsletter, so if you’d like some practical tips to help you get started, I recommend that you check it out. For our purposes today, it’s important that you understand the strategic guiding principle: Your newsletter isn’t about you – it’s about your readers. Build a resource that your subscribers will look forward to receiving each month. Provide value. Educate them. This is how you keep them engaged.

Social Media. While your email newsletter is ideal for a few significant “touch-points” each month, social media can create multiple quick touch-points every single day. An active presence on the major social media networks – particularly Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – gives you the ability to quickly and easily connect with your network, remind them that you’re still out there doing great work, and remind them exactly what it is that you do. Encourage your network to “Like” your Facebook Business Page, follow you on Twitter, and connect on LinkedIn. For more details on how to create a successful social media marketing strategy, check out this blog entry.

I hope this is getting your wheels turning. There’s a huge opportunity here! There are more referrals out there to be had for your law practice, and you can use the internet to cash them in.

If you’d like some more information about how to use the internet to grow your law practice, click here to request our complimentary Special Report. You’ll find practical tips that you can apply immediately!

Are you having marketing meetings? Talk is cheap. Buy-in and action is key. Thinking and planning is the easy part for lawyers. Implementation is not. Too often it is where the plan falls apart. Remember that discussions, meetings, and planning are only the start. The key is taking ACTION. The big question… What actions should be taken? Here are our Top Six Marketing Tips:

No. 6 – Be Active in Organization(s)

Over the years we have heard lawyers say that they belong to several organizations, but that it’s a waste of time and doesn’t lead to additional business. However, when examined further, one finds that although they are “joiners,” they are not “doers.” Being active in organizations requires just that – activity.

If you want this form of marketing to help you develop business you must:

• Be more than a joiner –make a meaningful contribution

• Seek leadership position – volunteer often

• Join business or trade groups that your clients and prospects belong to

• Believe in the organization’s mission so you will remain interested and active

There are other marketing activities that may produce quicker results, but being active and involved in organizations that your clients and prospective clients belong to can produce meaningful results in getting new clients.

No. 5 – Write Articles of Interest

While authoring articles isn’t a new technique, writing to demonstrate your expertise is still an effective marketing tool, if it is:

• Topical and interesting (to your target audience)

• Easy to read (not legalese, unless you’re marketing to other lawyers)

• Not too lengthy (short, succinct articles are better)

• Published in a publication that your audience reads (whether general public or business/trade specific)

Obviously, the purpose is to show that you know your topic and, accordingly, are perceived as having the expertise to assist the reader with those legal issues.

No.4 –Talk it Up

Speaking engagements are some of the best marketing activities. Like writing articles, speaking adds the additional advantage of putting you in the same room with potential clients where you can demonstrate your knowledge and expertise AND develop an emotional bond with your audience. These opportunities have led to immediate work when a potential client in the audience has an immediate problem relating to the same issues raised in the speech. Moreover, if the seminar or speech is sponsored by a respected organization, you receive instant credibility.

No. 3 – Communicate Often

James C. Turner, executive director of HALT, a national legal reform advocacy group in Washington, DC points out: One of the most frequent complaints his organization gets is that…

the basic communication between lawyers and clients is terrible.”

He cites one case where a client tried 13 times in a two-week period to contact the attorney. That’s the type of situation that leads to mistrust and, ultimately, to a consumer fraud complaint.

Poor communication between attorney and client is also the most common reason clients file complaints with state bars. A failure of communication is not only unwise, it’s just dumb marketing. Even if the client may not need your services again, the client is likely to tell a number of people, who could be potential clients, about their unhappiness.

There are scores of opportunities (in addition to keeping the client informed about their matter) to contact clients, referral sources, and even prospects; and the more contacts made the better. The best way to communicate would be with phone calls, handwritten notes, next letters, emails, and lastly texts. Obviously, they are in reverse order of ease of accomplishing, but think about what impresses you the most. The important thing, however, is constant communication.

No. 2 – Entertain Your Client

Okay, we can hear all the “duhs” from here. If it is so obvious, why don’t more lawyers do it? Clients are people too. In fact, entertainment is still one of the most effective one-on-one marketing techniques. It not only allows quality time with a client, prospect, or referral source, but also allows one to enhance a relationship on a highly personal level.

Clients want to be loved and appreciated. So, building on the emotional bond between lawyer and client is very important for long-term relationships, and for what is even more effective from a business development viewpoint – a lasting friendship.

No. 1 – Visit Your Client

The single most effective marketing technique, which leads to immediate business in the vast majority of cases, is to visit your client at their place of business.

This visit is not for the purpose of discussing a current matter you may be working on (unless client wants to, of course). The client should know that they are not being billed for the visit.

Your purpose is multifaceted: relationship building, listening, learning, meeting others, and uncovering issues of concern. The main point is to get into the client’s workspace where their day-to-day problems are found, and for which you may be able to assist them.

Such visits will not only enhance your relationship, but it will almost certainly lead to IMMEDIATE work. This has been validated many times over the years. Many of the lawyers we have worked with confirm that such visits result in immediate new business. So, starting today schedule a client visit or two. You will fast become a believer.

In 2018 get into action! These six tips are not complicated or overly time consuming. Start with two, then add one or two a month. We promise you that you will be pleased with the results. We have seen it over and over again… they work!

 

We’re sure you have noticed the new look, new logo and new faces. Why? Because we: Paula Black, Daniel Decker and Marc Cerniglia have joined forces with Tom Kane.

The legal environment is changing rapidly. Success in the legal industry – just like any other industry – requires evolution and adaptation.

With this blog, Tom Kane has built a foundation of timeless marketing wisdom for lawyers of all shapes and sizes.

Now, we’re excited to build on this foundation and adapt these proven marketing principles into our world in 2018 and beyond. There’s massive change swirling all around us – the internet has changed the way that lawyers market themselves, and even the way that practices must operate. But the fundamental legal marketing principles that have worked for centuries are still vitally important today. And it’s our mission to show you how to apply these tried-and-true strategies to your daily life.

Daniel Decker and Marc Cerniglia, founders of Spotlight Branding, will serve as your guides to a better way of marketing your law firm on the internet. They argue passionately that the proven, foundational approach to legal marketing – ie, a focus on relationships, reputation, referrals, and repeat business – is more relevant than ever in 2018. And they’ll show you how to create marketing strategies and systems focused on these objectives.

Paula Black, a coach, author, and speaker with over 30 years of experience in the legal industry will show you how to create a marketing plan that aligns with your professional goals – but more importantly, with your goals for your life. Paula believes that lawyers can and should find harmony between work, family, and play – and she’ll show you how to make this happen in your own life.

And Tom Kane will continue to participate; contributing his sage wisdom on marketing a legal practice that builds a thriving firm, and his insights on the legal profession.

We hope that you will subscribe now so that you don’t miss anything. We look forward to building on Tom’s foundation and helping you market your practice effectively in 2018 and beyond.

Stay Tuned!

Marketing meetings are important. But sometimes they’re just an excuse for inaction. Talk is cheap. Buy-in and action are key. I have attended many a marketing meeting over the years, and unfortunately, many have resulted in inaction.

My friend Larry Smith and Richard Levick of Levick Communications wrote 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals. Their daily meditations have provided inspiration for many of my blog posts over the years including this week.

March 29: “Discussions are not actions.”

March 30: “Each great idea requires equivalent energy and action. Meetings and discussions aren’t work. They’re preludes to work.”

What I have found is that marketing meetings like many meetings lead to ideas that are never enacted. Don’t have your practice group marketing sessions lead to the same result. You’re just wasting valuable time.

Marketing planning I’ve found in my 31 years in the business is the easy part for lawyers. Implementation is not. Too often it is where the plan falls apart. In coaching, I refer to myself as the CNO (although I retired from the Navy reserve) it has nothing to do with that title. Rather it stands for “chief nagging officer.” It is that role that I am most thanked for.

So, remember that discussions, meetings and planning are only the start. The key is taking ACTION.

Okay, okay.  I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t marketing by definition proactive? Well, I’m thinking about a slightly different twist. It involves anticipating future problems that a client may encounter and discussing them with them in advance before they ask somebody else.

A couple of days ago The BTI Consulting Group published the results of a survey pointing out how the time is right for cross-selling. The survey involved interviews with 330 “independent, individual interviews with CLO’s and general counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations,” and 200 law firm leaders.  According to BTI, the top 3 reasons the interviewee’s have insomnia are actually cross-selling opportunities for law firms.

While they may have been too polite to say so, I am not. The reasons given – IMHO – relate to the absolutely, chaotic, political world we find ourselves in currently. Although the survey was completed two months prior to our national election last fall, the results are no less valid today. They are:

  1. The Potential Breakdown of the Regulatory World. Whatever changes are likely (additions or deletions) will have a profound impact on clients.  And heavens know the threat of change is greater than ever.  Starting discussions with clients in whatever could impact their business or industry in the regulatory arena will be marketing time well spent;
  2. Cybersecurity. This “was not even on the list of concerns prior to 2014.” By staying current on federal and state legislative and regulatory changes which impact security requirements will put you ahead of the pact;
  3. Managing Risk. Assessing the unknown is the most difficult task, whether for a firm or a client. Pulling together a risk management database to use “for each specific client by practice, industry, and type of company” will come in handy when discussing potential risks with specific clients.

It is suggested that partners start a dialogue with clients about possible changes, even if you don’t have all the answers.  I am not sure I agree that there a limited window for cross-selling, but there is no reason to delay. By raising the possibilities early on, the more likely clients will turn to you in time of need.

For firms that are only interested in associates cranking hours until they get burned out, this post is not for you. More likely it is for medium to smaller firms who really want to build their firm; and want it to survive with new rainmakers as partners age.

Two notable exceptions are Quinn Emanuel and Jones Day, according to Kevin McMurdo, with Wicker Park Group. He mentions in “’Switch’ on Business Development Skills With Associates,” that those firms tie associate compensation/bonuses to their involvement in business development. There may be other firms I’m not aware of.

According to McMurdo, some of those business development actions by associates might include:

  • attend brown bag training sessions;
  • meet with partners to learn how they attract/retain clients;
  • work with practice group leader to develop a niche in the coming year;
  • attend networking events/conferences;
  • complete a marketing plan; and
  • read Ross Fishman’s “The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist,”(which I recently discussed here and here).

McMurdo sums up my point by quoting a partner, “Involving associates in business development is a great way to protect and retain good associates.”

More than 10 years ago I started talking about:

I now know that those posts were a “touch” premature. I’m not so sure they still are. I can confidently state that the “traditional” hourly billing is dead. According to the “2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market” by Georgetown Law’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession and Thompson’s Reuters Legal Executive Institute, in many firms, AFAs (only 15-20% of revenues) and  budget-based pricing “combined may well account for 80-90 percent of all revenues.”

The “widespread client insistence on budgets (with caps) for both transactional and litigation matters” over the past decade is the reason, according to the report. While firms may still keep track of their time on a billable hour basis, be assured that it is a different animal when it comes to invoices sent out. Debra Cassens Weiss’s take on the topic can be seen online at ABA Journal and  is entitled “Billable hour pricing is effectively dead because of budget caps, report says”.

After discussing other significant changes to the legal profession over the past decade, the report concludes that “those firms that are most likely to survive and prosper in the new market environment are not necessarily the oldest or the strongest or the smartest, but rather those most able to adapt to the changes around them.” A good start would be to read the entire 17-page report.

From the very beginning of this blog, I have urged lawyers to visit their clients (off the clock) at their place of business (also referred to as their “problem space”).  It often results in immediate new business.  It worked for me, and many attorneys I’ve coached over the years said it worked for them.

That is why when I first posted my Top Ten Marketing Tips in 2005, I made it my No. 1 most effective tactic for getting new business.  It still is!  And there is no matter tip I can give as we begin 2017.

Below is a post from April 22, 2015 that could serve as a good place to start reading about doing so, and contains a link to many other posts on the topic over the years:

Visit Clients, Period!

Whenever I get writers block, I like to look at my old standby source of inspiration365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons For Marketing & Communications Professionals authored by my friend Larry Smith and Richard Levick at Levick Strategic Communications.

As I have preached, preached, and yes preached some more over the past 10 years, the quickest, fastest, swiftest (okay, okay I know ENOUGH already) way to get new business is to visit your clients off the clock. And fortuitously this week, the marketing meditations for Monday through today deal with that very point. They are:

  • April 20: “Visit all clients. Visit clients across the street. Visit clients around the world.
  • April 21: “Visit clients without an agenda.
  • April 22: “She who visits clients comes back with work.”

That really says it all! If you would like to read more of my posts over the years on this topic, look here for several of them.

So, start planning your visits to KEY clients, at least.

For some lawyers, this is like preaching to the choir and may simply serve as a reminder for them. For others, hopefully, you start visiting your clients ASAP.