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.

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!

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.

With the crush of year-end and the busyness of the holidays, I decided to post an encore of a
holiday post I did on December 18, 2007 on reaching out to clients and referral sources by telephone (at least) during the holidays. Personal attention is better than (but not to the exclusion of) holiday cards. Here it is:

Work Your Network During the Holidays

It’s a good idea to touch base with contacts within your network during the holidays. It’s even
better than sending holiday cards. Pick up the phone and reach out to everyone you know (okay,
if you are THAT popular, not everyone) and wish them a happy holiday season. It especially
makes sense to at least speak to every referral source and client, including those you haven’t
done work for lately or received a recent referral.

And talking about networking, I thought I would call your attention to a post I did in December
2005 entitled “Ignore Your Friends At the ‘Business’ Holiday Party.” The premise of that post
was that you can get together with your friends anytime, so use business-related holiday parties
as productive networking and business development opportunities that you can cultivate further
during the next year. Give that post a look if you are interested in reading more of my thoughts
on that subject.

Again, Happy Holiday(ing) everyone!

Ran across The BTI Consulting Group’s concept of “Targeting Clients with a Market of One Approach.” Their “market-of-one” approach does not mean you only market to one client.  Obviously, starvation would quickly follow.

What they mean is that instead of focusing your marketing on your firm/practice area or concentrating on a geographical area, you should approach business development and marketing from the client’s side. You should direct your efforts, especially toward key clients, as if each was your only client. More specifically (extracting from the brief BTI video snippet), you need to be:

  • seeking client feedback, and yes, act on what you hear;
  • making sure that the responsible attorneys’ objectives are in line with the clients, i.e. the client’s objectives and strategic plans are the partners’ key concern and focus;
  • increasing value, for instance, by providing specific client-focused CLE; and
  • treating each client so they perceive themselves as your most important client.

This is also commonly referred to as client-centric marketing and business development. BTI’s terminology is just another way of stating that if you put the client at the center of the universe, rather than yourself or the firm, your marketing efforts will pay much greater dividends. Not only in improving your bottom line, but making more sense than a shotgun or scattered (brain) approach to marketing.

Happy Holidays!

This is the second of two posts on associate marketing early in their career.  As I mentioned last time, I’ve addressed the topic in 2014; and friend and colleague Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing has recently completed his treatise entitled The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist.

In this post, I’ll speak to some of Fishman’s marketing ideas for years two through five and beyond. [Again, a caveat:  in many BigLaw firms not only are young lawyers not encouraged to learn about marketing; but discouraged from doing so, because it would interfere with meeting billable hour requirements.]  So, my posts are for the rest of you attorneys.  Many of the activities covered you should continue throughout your career.  They are not just year-specific.

Second Year

  • Continue working on becoming a “great lawyer” (never stop this);
  • Add names to your mailing lists and increase connections on LinkedIn and Facebook (classmates, new contacts, clients and bar association lawyers you meet);
  • Focus on LinkedIn professional groups in your practice area; and
  • Read bar and trade publications/blogs to increase technical skills.

Third Year

  • Increase activity in bar and trade associations that could be the source of new work;
  • Become more proactive within your network;
  • Master one or more “elevator speeches” for different audiences;
  • Find a marketing mentor within or outside the firm;
  • Attend training opportunities by firm’s marketing and business development staff; and
  • Consistently update your bio and LinkedIn profile.

Fourth/Fifth Year and Beyond

  • Be more active and seek leadership positions in bar, civic and trade organizations (where permissible);
  • Latch on early to a young rainmaker within the firm;
  • Learn more about the business and industry of clients you do work for;
  • Keep an up-to-date list of your cases/transactions;
  • Look to write and speak on topics relating to your growing expertise (and look for other opportunities to re-use an article as a speech, and vice a versa);
  • Build up your network with other professionals who can refer clients;
  • Reduce bar activities (as a marketing tool), if other lawyers are not a source of referrals;
  • Seek assistance regularly for the firm’s marketing professionals; and
  • Visit your client contacts often (off-the-clock).

“Remember that providing highest-quality technical skills and extremely responsive client service (emphasis mine) are essential elements of your firm’s marketing to its existing clients,” according to Fishman.  I couldn’t agree more, and with many other things he says in his book.  You should get a copy, if your marketing department hasn’t purchased copies it yet.

 

P.S. No I do not receive a penny from the sale of the book, but maybe I ………… never mind.