Your marketing strategy is the key to growing your law firm. If your marketing strategy is stale (or non-existent) you’re not going to fuel the growth you’re hoping for. On the other hand, an effective marketing strategy will help you bring in new clients, generate more referrals, and even help you justify higher rates. In this report, I suggest some possible “new additions” to help you take your law firm marketing to the next level.

How can you attract the clients and the work that you legitimately enjoy – and free yourself from the economic pressure to take any matter that shows up at your door?

Here are ten ideas to get your wheels turning. Don’t try to implement all of these at once – I recommend focusing on just one or two initiatives at a time. Which ideas resonate with you and make sense for your firm?

1) Launch a podcast. Podcasting has exploded as a media source – iTunes reports over one billion subscriptions, and hundreds of millions of plays per month. Launching a podcast geared towards your target market is an effective strategy that you can use to educate potential clients, keep them engaged, and build your credibility at the same time. The key is to come up with a theme and a direction that provides genuinely valuable information to your market. As a business attorney, you could focus your podcast on legal pitfalls that entrepreneurs should be aware of. A family attorney could focus on preparing for and navigating the divorce process, including how to protect and care for the children involved. The possibilities are endless. What are the most common questions and misunderstandings that your clients have? Chances are, addressing those issues would make a great podcast.

2) Host events. Creating and hosting in-person events for potential clients and referral sources can generate momentum and enthusiasm for your practice. We’ve seen clients take this strategy in many different directions – from hosting monthly informational sessions for individuals contemplating divorce, to holding quarterly VIP parties for top referral sources, to organizing seminars featuring expert speakers on topics of interest to business owners. Get creative and find an angle to host in-person events and build a community around your law firm.

3) Sharpen your referral strategy. Referrals are a primary source of new business for most law firms, and clients who are referred to you are typically among the most pleasant and profitable to work with. Are you doing everything can to maximize these referrals? Start by identifying your top referral sources and invest time and energy into deepening those relationships. Identify other individuals who are strategically positioned to send a high volume of work your way and create relationships with them as well. The potential payoff makes it worth your personal investment in this relatively short list of individuals. But, don’t neglect your current clients, your past clients, and your larger network. Ensure that you’re creating top-of-mind awareness and continually educating them on what a good referral looks like. Consider creating referral incentives or even holding regular referral competitions to keep your entire network engaged.

4) Targeted sponsorships. Sponsorships can be a big waste of money if you take the wrong approach. Do NOT jump on every opportunity that comes your way. I’ve seen firms spend large sums of money sponsoring organizations, events, or publications that have little-to-no relevance to their target market. On the other hand, if you can identify groups, events, websites, or magazines that your clients are engaged with, sponsorship can make a great deal of sense. The best approach is generally to identify a small number of organizations or publications to sponsor, and to engage with them as deeply as possible. Sponsor their events and ask for speaking opportunities or other visibility. Sponsor newsletters and ask if you can also contribute content. Do your best to create repeated touch-points for members or subscribers – repetition and consistency is key.

5) Offer an audit or check-in to past and current clients. Oftentimes there is more work to be done for your past and even current clients. They just don’t know they need it yet, or they don’t know that you can provide the solution. Solve both problems by creating an “audit” or evaluation for your clients. This could be a worksheet they complete on their own, or it may be a sit-down with you or (even better) someone on your team. The goal is simple: ask them questions about their business, their estate plan, their family life, whatever it may be, and help them to see that they need your help in these areas. Be prepared to explain how you can help them address these challenges or take advantage of the opportunities that you have uncovered together. This simple strategy could result in a massive influx of new work.

6)  Publish a book. There’s arguably no greater tool to establish your credibility and your expertise in your area of practice than publishing a book. While it might sound overwhelming, chances are that you have a good amount of content that you have created over the years which could be re-purposed into a book. If you have a marketing person on your team, assign them to organize this content into an outline. Then, create new content as needed to fill holes and create cohesion. There are a variety of companies out there that can help you lay out and publish your book, and some of them can even help you with the content as well.

Once you’ve had your book printed, the marketing opportunities are endless. Give it away at consultations. Offer it as a gift to past clients. Use it as a door prize at events. It’s a powerful tool that will enhance your credibility and build your brand as an authority in your practice area in a very big way.

7) Network smarter. Networking is a valuable strategy for drumming up referrals and new business, particularly when you’re in the “more-time-than-money” phase of your firm. But it’s important to manage your investment well. Don’t simply attend every event in your area. Instead, identify a small handful of targeted organizations that have great potential and get heavily involved. Don’t just attend, get involved in leadership. Speak at events. You’ll get a much better return from deep involvement in a few carefully selected organizations than you will from surface-level involvement in a large number of groups.

8) Speak. Speaking positions you as an expert and an authority. It’s a great way to attract new clients. Look for opportunities to speak in front of your target market – whether that’s a networking group, a trade association, a seminar or conference, or whatever the case may be. Look for opportunities to educate your audience while building your expertise at the same time. This can include presentations on changing laws and regulations that impact your industry, tips and strategies for your market, best practices for avoiding legal disputes, and more. Just be sure that you’re targeting speaking opportunities that make strategic sense for you – opportunities to reach potential clients in a way that enhances your expertise and your position in the marketplace.

9) Launch a joint venture. Who can you partner with and what can you create to reach a new audience? I know a business lawyer that partnered with a banker and a graphic designer to create a “one stop start-up shop” for entrepreneurs – helping them to address the legal, financial, and marketing needs of their new business all in one place. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box here – who can you join forces with to provide a uniquely valuable product or service for your clients? The advantages to this approach are significant – it represents an opportunity to earn additional income from your existing clients, but more importantly it also gives you access to the clients and customers of your partners in this venture. If you’re creative, you may also tap into a whole “new market” by creating a product or service that didn’t exist previously. Many of these people will expand the relationship over time, engaging you beyond the scope of the initial joint venture.

10) Train your staff to recognize and capitalize on opportunities for new business. Finally, get the team involved. Your staff likely knows people that could use your services or will encounter them in their daily life – and they’ve seen firsthand how your firm creates value for your clients. Teach them how to recognize potential clients, how to engage them, and how to connect them with you (or whoever handles the intake process for your firm.) This doesn’t have to be a complicated process and it frankly shouldn’t be hard for your team to execute. They just need to understand who’s a good fit and be able to briefly articulate the value that your firm provides to those clients. You never know who your team knows, so tap into their network as well as your own. You can consider offering some sort of incentive for your team members, if appropriate. Make it a team effort!

We’ve covered a lot of ground here, and hopefully you’ve gleaned a few ideas that could work for your firm. But it’s important to be realistic about this – don’t bite off more than you can chew. I suggest that you identify one (or two at most) new initiatives to start with. Invest the time to get them up and running and carefully track your results. When you find something that works well, make it a part of your ongoing marketing system and then move on to the next new idea.

 

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.

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.

This topic relating to marketing for new lawyers has been addressed previously on this blog. Recently, friend and colleague Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing has completed a book entitled The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist. Not surprisingly, Fishman has done a great job, and since he sent me an e-book version, I decided to feature his missive in several blog posts.

Let’s address what a new, first year associate should do. [Caveat:  in many BigLaw firms not only are you not encouraged to learn about marketing; but discouraged from doing so, because it would interfere with meeting billable hour requirements.]  So, this post is for the rest of you young attorneys.

Accordingly, the following are some of Fishman’s suggestions (with my usual comments):

  • First and foremost, “learn to be a great lawyer” and develop “a reputation for providing the highest-quality client service”;
  • Learn as much as possible about your firm and its practices (from its website, newsletters, partners, senior associates, paralegals… and yes, staff);
  • Join social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), but for heaven’s sake don’t waste precious time on it to your detriment, and lack of face time, which is far more valuable;
  • Focus on internal marketing to build your brand within the firm – meeting/lunch with other firm lawyers who can refer work, and help educate you on the practice of law;
  • Build your network, starting with people you already know – classmates (law school, college, and even high school), friends, relatives, etc.; and
  • Set up Google Alerts for your contacts, as well as your name and the firm’s.

There is a lot more in Fishman’s book, and I commend it to you. And stand by for further posts about it.

If any lawyer does not understand how important client relationships are they need to find another line of work. In this month’s issue of Edge International’s Communiqué there is an article by Shirley Anne Fortina that points out how important strategic CRM is to business development.

She states “Client relationship management should be your number one business development activity.” I could not agree more. I have preached over and over that clients are the number one source of new business (whether in the form of new work or referrals to new clients).

Fortina lists 24 questions you should ask yourself to determine the type of relationship you have/want with clients. Here are 5 of my favorites:

  • Do you care – I mean really care – about your clients?
  • Do you clearly communicate what you’re doing and why?
  • Do you keep the client sufficiently informed?
  • Do you keep your promises on deadlines and targets?
  • What are you doing to maintain, build and/or enhance relationships?

If you are truly interested in better client relationships, I recommend that you read the other 19 questions as well.

In conclusion, Fortina provides a great quote from Dale Carnegie; to wit: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”