Now let’s think. If I wanted to do some really stupid things to hurt my chances of getting more legal business, and/or damage my reputation, as a lawyer what would they be. Here is my take on an article in Trey Ryder’s recent newsletter where he identifies a dozen blunders (with his suggestions on countering each in parentheses):

  1. Add additional fees and expenses to your invoices, and don’t worry about telling the client in advance. (Rather: it’s never a good idea to surprise clients any time, especially when it comes to money. Have candid upfront discussions about legal fees and costs, and if changes occur, discuss them with client before sending the bill);
  2. Hold off paying your vendors for at least 3 months. Surely they will speak well of you in the marketplace anyway. (Rather: pay within 48 hours. Don’t treat your vendors like some clients may treat you);
  3. Terrorize your employees so they will be in fear of losing their job and work harder. Don’t worry about turnover, anyone can be replaced and training new employees isn’t that expensive. (Rather: treat your staff with respect and do simple things to keep them happy. Lower turnover actually helps your bottom line);
  4. Don’t worry about those promises you made to clients or referral sources, such as deadlines or what you offered to do for them, they’ll probably forget anyway. (Rather: keep all your commitments, whether large or small in nature);
  5. Always show up late, it will impress people as to how important you are. (Rather: never be late, in fact, make a point of being early for appointments and meetings. If you will be late, call ahead to apologize);
  6. Return calls when you feel like it, certainly not sooner than 2 or 3 days. (Rather: promptly return all calls – or have someone do so for you ASAP, to inform caller when you will be able to speak with them personally);
  7. Take your time in sending materials requested by a prospect. Heck, your busy, and their practically in the door anyway. (Rather: do it as soon as you hang up the phone to ensure a positive impression);
  8. Haggle to the last penny before buying anything, as you certainly want people to know what a tough negotiator you are. (Rather: ask for the best price from several vendors to save everyone’s time);
  9. Make sure your engagement letter is air tight and lengthy, even for simple, inexpensive matters. You are a lawyer after all. (Rather: use a short, one or two paragraph letter to explain what you will do for the client when asked to handle a relatively simple matter);
  10. Let clients know about your personal and business problems. It’s always good to vent. (Rather: keep your problems to yourself. Clients DON’T care. They are only interested in their problem and how you will solve it);
  11. Criticize, demand perfection and don’t accept less. Don’t worry about people who dislike you. (Rather: show appreciation and compliment people for what they do for you, especially with a letter or handwritten note); and
  12. When a mistake happens, blame someone else, especially the client if you can. (Rather: admit your mistake, correct it, and make it up to the client).

Hopefully, you don’t see yourself in any of these situations. But, if you do, it might be a good idea to consider some of Ryder’s suggested behavioral changes. It not only will help your reputation, but your business as well.

A lot of mistakes made by lawyers when it comes to marketing and business development are pretty simple, and simple to overcome. They just must be recognized and dealt with. A reader sent along an email, which led me to an article by Kenneth Hardison of the Personal Injury Lawyers Marketing and Managing Association (PILMMA) that was short, to the point and worth sharing.

His 7 mistakes include:

  1. Failure to differentiate (your ads from all the rest),
  2. Failure to differentiate (your firm from others);
  3. Lack of consistency (in the look, feel and message in your marketing materials);
  4. No marketing plan (tied to specific, identified strategies and a budget);
  5. Not tracking marketing results (i.e., determining where your clients are coming from and why, and doing more of that);
  6. Procrastination (due to a fear of failure or whatever. I agree with Hardison’s suggestion that getting a partner, business colleague, or a coach will help overcome this); and
  7. Lack of buy-in by everyone (lawyers and staff) to the marketing strategy.

These mistakes are pretty basic, but can be killers that can undermine any firm’s marketing and business development efforts.

Everyone knows today that it is a buyers’ market when it comes to legal services. One only has to pay attention to the surveys reporting  that clients are dropping law firms that no longer meet their needs in terms of responsiveness, costs, communications, and otherwise fail to meet their expectations.

I ran across an article by Kimberly Alfred Rice over on the Law Practice Matters blog that identifies six ways that a law firm can chase clients away.

They include failure to:

  1. Provide "insights and wisdom" about he problem, not just technical legal answers;
  2. maintain trust, as in neglecting to provide the "complete and utter truth about a matter;"
  3. communicate often and effectively;
  4. produce timely advice to meet client needs;
  5. use common sense when it comes to billing, and invoicing for every "instant" spent on a clients matter (I agree with Rice that it’s a good idea to include time spent, but not billed for, on the invoice); and
  6. always look for opportunities to add value to a client relationship, by way of "various marketing and communications tools" such as CLE seminars, newsletters, law alerts, etc.

Obviously, these are just some of the ways to lose clients. So, let the word to the wise be sufficient.

I just hated it when my mother used that phrase. But I guarantee you, mother was usually right.

In addition to the three mentioned last time there are seven other mistakes that Daniel Barnett covers in his free eBook “Top Ten Marketing Mistakes Lawyers Make…and What You Should Be Doing Instead.” I agree with all of them, but want to particularly call my readers attention to the next three, and leave the remainder for your reading.

Mistake #4 – Forgetting to talk to your clients…
This should probably be listed as Mistake #1 since talking with your clients and seeking feedback is so important. As Barnett says “feedback is not an optional extra.” Some lawyers false assumptions include:

  • “Clients know all about my services”
  • ‘If they have a question, they’ll call me”
  • “They understand I’m busy” (and don’t mind my not responding quickly)

Bullfeathers! Staying in touch with clients is critical and should be done constantly. How? By encouraging lawyers to seek feedback, proactively checking in every four weeks about their matter, keeping them abreast of the budget, and by using an “external team for general surveys of the firm’s performance…for transparency.”

Mistake #5 – Reaching for the lowest common denominator…
Barnett is talking about the dangers associated with competing on price, or as he puts it, getting “carried away in a scrabble for the bottom.” It’s a loser. Rather compete by offering more value, upgrading your service or “upselling” so you can actually charge more, and by improving your services.

Mistake #6 – Staying glued to your desk…
Truly a terrible business development mistake. As I’ve often said myself, we’re in the personal service business. “People buy people” so get off your duff, and get out and about. If you don’t have your elevator speech perfected, and are afraid of tripping over your tongue, try having lunch with clients and referral sources with whom you feel comfortable. You have to eat anyway, so utilize the time effectively (even if it takes time away from the almighty billable hour). So, “Never Eat Alone,” and remember to listen 80% of the time, and talk only 20%.

As I suggested, check out Barnett’s other mistakes:

#7 – Ignoring social media…
#8 – Advertising just because everyone else does…
#9 – Using legalese and jargon…
#10 – Selling, not sharing…(nor educating to show expertise).

This is a free eBook worth reading to avoid all too common mistakes lawyers can make.
 

Being aware of those mistakes to avoid can improve any law firm’s legal marketing, obviously. I ran across an article by consultant Robert Moment that appeared on RainToday.com that was written for service businesses generally; but can be helpful to lawyers as well.

Robert’s “7 Costly Marketing Mistakes Every Service Business Must Avoid” include:

  1. An inappropriate message – concentrating on what your firm does, rather than how a client will benefit from your firm’s services;
  2. “Spray and Pray” marketing – failure to focus or require ROI from marketing efforts, and just hoping that they will produce satisfactory results;
  3. Not emphasizing “Value” that your firm offers – get to know your clients business and what is important to them;
  4. Selling vs. Educating – as we all know, no one likes to be sold, but rather they want to sell themselves. Thus, your time is better spent on educating clients and potential clients on issues, problems, solutions, et cetera that will lead them to hire you;
  5. Not testing your marketing efforts to see what is working and what isn’t;
  6. Lack of follow up (or, what I like to call not “enhancing the relationship”) – which can be accomplished by picking up the phone, visiting the client, developing a personal relationship, or sending information of any kind to stay in touch (newsletters, articles, press clippings, etc. etc.); and
  7. Targeting the wrong or too broad an audience – firms should focus on those markets they most would like to represent, are best known within, and likely to already have a brand.

Not rocket science here, but certainly worth being reminded about.

It’s a good time, as we begin a new year, to consider some basics when addressing legal marketing.  I was asked this week by a freelance writer for CPAmerica International’s newsletter to respond to five questions for an article about “marketing for law firms.” Rather than present my answers in a lengthy post (which I really try to avoid – but don’t always succeed), I will present the 5 questions and answers in three posts in order to keep each short. First, I’ll take up some basic suggestions and the most common mistakes:

1.       “What concrete suggestions do you have for law firms concerning their marketing?”

  • Plan (set goals and measurable objectives for firm/practice, identify targets, and specify action items to reach those targets);
  • Budget;
  • Implement the plan, by:
  • Visiting key clients (firms will find that it is the most effectively concrete thing they can do to obtain more work),
  • Getting to know the client’s business,
  • Writing (articles, book, blog, column) and speaking to target audiences,
  • Making friends in the media,
  • Getting involved in organizations relating to target audiences, and network,
  • Seeking feedback on the firm,
  • Treating the client like a human being and partner,
  • Don’t surprise the client – about anything,
  • Returning clients calls ASAP, if not sooner,
  • Developing a personal relationship (not just a business one) with clients – or finding clients that the firm wants to develop personal relationships with,
  • Entertaining clients and referral sources,
  • Referring potential customers/clients to others,
  • Offering advice at no charge, and
  • Suggesting fixed fees, whenever possible.

2.      “What are some of the common mistakes to avoid in legal marketing?”

  • Failure to plan,
  • Failure to implement plan, and
  • Failure to get a professional to help the firm do both (since lawyers are not trained in the areas of marketing and business development – certainly not in law school).

Next: Budgeting