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.

 

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!

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.”

Recently, I mentioned the latest book by The BTI Consulting Group entitled The Mad Clientist’s ABCs of Client Service in a post about how it is okay to be “inactive” on summer vacation. After taking a look at BTI’s blog post about the book and the other letters of the alphabet (with their pithy suggestions on how to improve client service), I selected six I particularly like:

  • A is for Action… Your Actions to find your clients experience… (Read on)

a for action

  • L is for Listen Listen Listen… Listen until it hurts… (Read on)

L is for listen

  • N is for No… No drives clients crazy… (Read on)

n is for no

  • S is for Surprises… Clients hate them…

s is for surprise

  • V is for Value… The point where your client believes they have received substantially more than they pay… (Read on)

v is for value

  • Z is for Zeal… Your fervor and commitment to client service shines through everything you do and every action you take… (Read on)

z for zeal

The other letters of the alphabet covered in The Mad Clientist’s ABCs of Client Service are worth every nugget of insight and merit your time. Take a look at the ways you can enhance your client service.

 

Now that you are back from vacation, refreshed, focused and feisty; it is time to consider firing that bad client. There are any number of reasons to fire a client. Annoying, always complaining about fees and opinions, slow paying, disrespectful, argumentative, etc. Ran across a post today on CPATrendlines entitled “How to Fire a Client,” which made it clear that accountants too encounter difficult clients; and it pointed out similar reasons they encounter. For instance, a client that makes you nervous because of their type of business, ethical issues, and belligerence.

The post recommended that one should be pleasant and send a disengagement letter by certified mail advising them of your decision and any upcoming deadlines that may apply to them. Obviously this is a CYA situation to ensure the decision doesn’t come back to bite you in a sensitive location.

This is a topic I have covered several times over the years. Here are a few:

New Year’s Resolution: Fire a Client or Two!!

Yes, I’m serious.  Get rid of those annoying, non-paying, difficult clients of 2012!  Some of whom likely keep you up at night. You will feel better and be happier in the new year. Such is the advice from Canadian lawyer Simon Chester on Attorney at Work this week also. For those who think we’re both…Continue Reading

Stop Procrastinating – Fire Those Bad Clients

This is a topic I have addressed before, but is worth repeating. Your firm would be better off firing bad clients. Your time would be better spent focusing your law firm marketing efforts on landing the clients you want, and the type of work you want to do. Sure, you may take a hit financially…Continue Reading

Do You Need to Fire A Client?

Sometimes it is a wise legal marketing decision to fire a client. There could be any number of reasons you should, including: Client consistently challenges your invoices Always is slow in paying Challenges your legal analysis and recommended strategies Is overly demanding of your time You no longer want to handle that client’s type of…Continue Reading

When to Fire a Client

This is the first time this year that I have touched on one of my favorite subjects – lawyers should do the legal work they want to do for the clients they want to do it for. That should be the ultimate goal of every lawyer who wants to have a satisfying, successful, and long-term…Continue Reading

ON THE OTHER HAND, there may be another option to consider:

Fire that Annoying Client – NOT So Fast!

We’ve all had clients we would like to fire, but may not have had the nerve or want to lose the revenue. I remember a story told at a conference I attended about the small law firm that spent hours at its weekend retreat discussing firing a client that provided 25% of their revenues. Many…Continue Reading

I hope you will return from your summer vacation with a focus to deal with troublesome clients!

 

Why is it difficult? First, because many corporate clients do not want to put all their eggs on one basket.  For political, financial and/or relationship reasons they want to spread the work around.  Sure, a number of major corporations are reducing the number of outside law firms.  Often doing so to better manage administrative headaches. Rarely will they reduce the number of law firms to one.

Reasons within the law firm itself are just as likely to make cross-selling difficult to pull off. Since I have written on the topic numerous times in the past, I thought I would refer to just four of my posts.  Hopefully, they will shed light on why it is so difficult to cross-sell, and offer ideas on how to overcome the difficulties:

After 25-plus years in marketing lawyers, it continues to amaze me that some lawyers do not understand why cross-selling so often doesn’t work.  The thinking seems to go, “I’m good at… (fill in the blank), we’re partners, and they should just refer ‘their’ clients to me so I’ll have more work.” The question is “why…Continue Reading

Are you to blame for the failure of your partners to cross-sell you to their client contacts? Not necessarily, but you could be part of the problem. Clients select lawyers they know, like and trust. Referral sources, including your partners, send you clients for the same reason. Since they know, like and trust you, they…Continue Reading

Semantics sometimes get in the way of some good advice. When you try to convince clients (subtly or otherwise) to engage your law firm for additional services not previously rendered, I think it is silly to argue about whether you are cross-selling or cross-marketing clients. I’ve known and admired Bob Denney for many years. He’s…Continue Reading

There are obstacles to cross-selling that explains why law firms are so bad at it. But with the right kind of leadership and incentives, the obstacles can be overcome. It isn’t easy though. When I was an in-house legal marketer, I actually saw cross-selling work – maybe 1% of the time. An article on Law360.com…Continue Reading

Cross-selling can work in law firms, but it isn’t easy.  It takes knowing, liking and trusting one another among  partners, and… a client’s concurrence, of course.

As mentioned last time, one in-house counsel on the InHouseBlog posted his ten commandments applicable to outside firms when providing legal services to his company. And I suggested that his rules could come just as well from individual clients or entities without an attorney on staff. In the interest of brevity, I only covered five in my last post.

Here are the other five plus:

  1. No surprises… about anything.  This is one of, if not the most critical, edict. No one likes (unpleasant) surprises.  You don’t, I don’t, and I can assure you clients don’t. I have commented on this topic before;
  2. Remain calm and focused. Even if the client does not. You must remain professional, whether the client contacts are “freaking out.”  Critical that you keep a “cool, clinical level-head” so the situation stays under control;
  3. Focus long term.Keep in mind that if you do a good job at a reasonable cost to the client, and otherwise add value to the relationship, it is in your long term interests in obtaining more work.  So, avoid charging for every little phone call, offer free advice, CLE, etc.;
  4. Observe all my rules.Do not contact client executives except through counsel, and bill as requested, as well as respect all other guidelines spelled out; and
  5. Be ethical (DUH).This goes without saying, but he also points out that outside counsel should avoid upstaging the other side, or take unreasonable negotiating positions to score points.  Rather, use good, sound and practical approaches.

His eleventh “commandment” is an admonition to “be pleasant and be yourself.”  Remember, clients hire lawyers they know, like and trust… and follow in-house counsel’s commandments.  Otherwise, your marketing efforts may be for naught.

When it comes to marketing and business development, plan to lose. HUH, you may say.

Stay with me.

Hope to win, but don’t assume that you will get the next engagement – either from an existing client or from a prospect. With the competitive nature of our industry (yes, law services is an industry, despite those who say NO, it’s a PROFESSION – Yeah right), things are changing rapidly. Clients are dissatisfied, angry with the cost of legal services and the value of those services. So, just because your client appears to be happy with your firm today, doesn’t mean they will be satisfied tomorrow.

Today’s meditation from 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by Larry Smith and Richard Levick points out the dangers of not anticipating the possibility of change:

“The captain of the Titanic had such a great safety record that when the great ship struck an iceberg, precious hours were lost because the possibility of sinking was so far beyond his experience. Yesterday’s success is always a trap when conditions change. And they always change.”

Don’t let precious time pass before you and your firm wake up to today’s realities. Awake every day with the thought of making your clients’ experience even better. It is not a foregone conclusion you will succeed, but you sure as heck better give it your all. Because things change and clients are becoming more demanding. Overconfidence and the lack of client-centric thinking could eventually sink your firm.