Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Setting Yourself Apart

A lot of general marketing advice, including specific attorney marketing advice, advises that you should try as best you can to "differentiate" yourself, your law firm, and your practice.

This is a TERRIBLE way to think about any form of marketing.  Here's why:

At its root, marketing is about getting inside the head of your client.  As an attorney, you need to be thinking about the needs of your potential legal clients.  What are they anxious about?  What are their most common legal issues and questions?  What are they looking for in legal counsel?

All of these questions help you to better market yourself as an attorney, because you can preemptively answer their questions and concerns, and they'll feel like you already know how they're thinking and feeling.  (And to a degree, you will already know how they're thinking and feeling).  This makes your potential clients more comfortable in hiring you and actually makes you a better attorney, because you've put yourself in their shoes.

Trying to differentiate yourself may not seem much different from the type of marketing I've just described, except for one thing.  When you try to differentiate yourself as an attorney, you automatically start thinking about what you're good at, what you know, and why you're better than other attorneys.  Do you notice anything common to all of those thoughts?  They're all about YOU rather than about your potential clients.

Anything that causes you to think about attorney marketing in a way that focuses on yourself means that you're spending less time thinking about and from the perspective of your potential clients.

It's a small distinction, but it's something that every attorney and law firm should keep an eye on.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Law Firm Marketing For New Attorneys

Back in law school, they don't really teach you a lot about how to go about obtaining clients, do they? Apart from knowing the law and knowing how to practice law, there is really no more important skill for a lawyer than understanding what it takes to market themselves and their firm to potential clients.
There are a lot of lawyers who are naturally gifted with marketing skills; it is the "lesser-blessed" ones who have to put in a lot of work and require a lot of guidance in order to be a skilled marketer. Here are a few principles being followed by most law firms in their marketing programs. There are a lot more than what will be listed, though. But you could use these guidelines as a starting point.
Perform Targeting
Law firms who are making very good business nowadays are known to employ very strong targeting measures to attract more clients. The largest law firms in the world, whose workforce reaches the thousands, still make use of targeting in their marketing strategy despite the breadth and width of their services. A classic example is how a law firm with a solid reputation of being good at handling both capital markets and leveraged finance wouldn't automatically focus all their targeting efforts on both. The reason that successful law firms engage in very targeted marketing is because they are able to establish themselves as experts.
Establishing your law firm as an expert in a particular area of practice is extremely important because potential clients want to see that you've got both knowledge and experience in their particular matter. You probably know that their matter is not as unique as they'd like to believe it is, but even so, any attempt to convince potential clients of that fact just means that they'll probably never become actual clients. If you have established yourself and your practice to have the expertise that they especially require, then their assent and that signed contract is pretty much in the bag.
Getting in the Client's Head
Apart from setting their firm up as an expert, successful marketing campaigns also answer or address any concerns that potential clients may have. Firms always take the opportunity to show the extent of their know-how and proficiency. Although performance records and success rates are important to potential clients, they also have specific concerns that you wouldn't know about unless you address them directly.
One of these concerns is how many lawyers give the impression of not really taking their cases seriously. Regardless of whether this is true or not, if a lot of your potential clients feel this way, then your marketing needs to address this issue head-on. Your "expertise" would be rendered worthless if potential clients will shy away from hiring your services because they think you won't take their cases seriously anyway. It is important to personally address the potential clients' concerns and be responsive.
As an action tip, if your law firm needs more clients and you want to improve your law firm marketing, then the first thing I suggest is to sit down, write down all the characteristics of potential clients that you can think of, and then make a list of all of their potential concerns and/or questions. Identify those in the list that are considered the more serious concerns and work your way down, using them as your basis to modifying your marketing system.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Making The Most Of Your SEO Efforts

As a professional, you spend a lot of time working. You personally attend to your clients, you acquire information on this and that pertinent issue, and you probably even take work home with you. That's why it is a no-brainer to make the most out of the results of all that hard work. Given the option of a job you can accomplish in 20 hours and another that can be finished in 40 years, subject to the same rate of pay, you'd choose the one with the shorter period.
Search engines have proven to be quite a goldmine of new clients for law firms in recent years, making law firm SEO a top favorite marketing strategy among legal practitioners. In the use of law firm SEO as a marketing strategy, the key is to derive as much benefit as you can from as little amount of money and time you can afford to dispense. Here are some tips to help accomplish that:
Work closely with your SEO Consultant. If you hired a third party to do the SEO marketing on your behalf, close coordination is necessary. The knowledge that you are a hands-on client who want to be apprised every step of the way will push them to do their best work. This close involvement would also enable you to spot irregularities or weaknesses that need to be addressed straight away. They might be getting you a lot of traffic and even calls, but perhaps these turn out to be the wrong kind of potential clients (either you don't want to take them on or they end up not being interested).
Your primary interests should be the focus of your blog. If your SEO marketing includes the setup of a blog, then the articles or the posts made on the blog should be current and related to your legal practice. If you do that, potential clients will see how updated you are regarding the legal practice; it is also a way for you to learn and keep yourself updated on the recent developments affecting the industry. You will be risking putting your potential clients in a state of confusion regarding your practice and your expertise if you only concentrate on posting mildly interesting material which, unfortunately, is what you'd end up with if you concentrate on the keywords instead of the subjects.
Single out your law firm SEO. Seo consultants and writers give this tip quite often, and for good reason. Being specific is great advice in any form of marketing, since it's better to intensely appeal to 100 people than it is to mildly appeal to 100,000. Searches made on search engines have this same trait of being specific, which is why the same principle applies to SEO. It's much better to appeal to people searching for a child custody lawyer than it is to rank highly for family lawyer, since anyone with a child custody issue really wants to know that you're going to be able to solve that specific problem.
The best advice a lawyer could ever get regarding the use of SEO is to treat it like any other marketing tool. Treat it as something that will make you more visible to the kind of potential clients that you're looking to attract and will give you the opportunity to present them with some sort of relevant sales pitch. Use the search engines properly and productively and post worthwhile and useful content. It will always come back to bite you.
Marketing is a game and task that many lawyers and law firms view as a necessary evil, but SEO can make it both easier and somewhat more interesting if you follow the above tips and find ways to integrate your interests and experiences with everything that you publish and post online. Be wise and use your resources well; if you do, you can simply watch your business - and your profits - rise.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mapping Out Your Attorney Marketing Strategy

If you're running your own legal practice, then you probably already have strategies for most of the work that you perform for your clients. In order to win a case, you probably have strategies in place on how to argue your case at trial, including the tactical maneuvers you will need to employ. Similarly, if you are closing deals for your clients, you also have a strategy for how to get the deal done and protect your client's interest.
In other words, all your actions for your client will be directed by an encompassing strategy to reach a goal or objective that you have set in your sights.
So why should you have a different approach to your attorney marketing strategy?
I was being rhetorical; of course it shouldn't be any different. Anyone who is serious about marketing should have a strategy and stick to it. Sure, they may change or be modified, but they will be what your actions will revolve around in order to reach your goal. Let us take a closer look:
Target - Your marketing strategy needs to have focus. Your target should be clearly distinguished, not just anybody who is in need of legal services. It should be an exact subset of individuals undergoing a particular issue needing legal attention. Now this subset or group should be the focus of all your marketing efforts. If you have a more defined target of the potential clients you will be aiming for, the greater your chances will be of turning them into actual clients.
Diligence - I am not saying you should fastidiously stick to a certain marketing strategy even if it is clearly a losing idea. Make it a point to set aside time to evaluate the state of your marketing so you can revise it accordingly. However, you should also be diligent about following through on your strategy. The reason why marketing strategies fail is not because the ideas sucked to begin with, but because the implementation and follow-through fell short.
Learn - Most attorneys, partially because of their education, believe that they can read and think and learn all that they need to know about marketing. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Unless you have an expert marketer on your particular focus market working with your or under you, you would have to stay on your toes and revise your strategy accordingly. And often, you only find out what works by finding 5-10 things that don't work. It could be quite a lengthy process, but what you need the most is determination and effort.
Marketing is not for the faint of heart, and getting clients as an attorney is never as simple or straight-forward as you might like. However, the bar is actually set pretty low, so if you know what you're doing, and if you're persistent, your attorney marketing can easily and quickly become very successful and very effective.
A starting point and a well-laid plan that you can stick to are what you need. If you don't have a plan, then either develop one on your own (even if you don't have experience), or ask for help. You can either acquire the services of a marketing firm or ask for the help of other attorneys who have already been doing it. Whatever route you choose to take, you must have a plan and you should stick to that plan until you have learned enough to figure out if something is working or not.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What kind of marketing do you need???

There are a million book and sites out there, either dedicated to attorneys or not, that will offer you 5, 7, or 10 tips on how to improve your marketing.  Some of these books and sites offer decent tips and suggestions, while some of them are complete rubbish.  You've probably read some of both, correct?

If you're like most attorneys, then you've even tried following much of the advice that you've read or been told, with varying levels of success.  I know because I've been in your position as an attorney (or with a law firm) trying desperately to get more clients.  It's not easy.

The problem, though, is not that you are listening to the wrong advice.  The problem is that you likely don't have a well-thought-out and coordinated system of marketing in place.  It's the system that is the key.

Attorneys and law firms can get clients in many, many different ways.  Traditionally, referrals from past clients or colleagues have been a huge source of clients, and that continues to be true even today.  However, no attorney needs to get clients in any one particular way.  What you do need is a plan.

When I talk about systems for my clients, it's really nothing more than a cohesive plan that has been broken down into small, concrete steps that my client can follow on a day-by-day or even hour-by-hour basis.  The last thing you want to be doing in your marketing is floating around from one idea to another.  "Perhaps today I'll try advertising in magazines, even though my focus yesterday was on search engine optimization." 

It's not that you can't attack multiple marketing routes, even at the same time; on the contrary, I have many successful clients who do just that.  But what they don't do is wake up each morning trying to decide what to do that day.  They already know, because they have a system in place.

Before you run off and build your own system for attorney marketing, let me give you one important tip.  Your system can change, but it should change at most once per week.  You should sit down every Sunday night and try to figure out what you might need to tweak about your marketing plan, and if you think a lot of change is necessary, then by all means, change it.  However, when Friday morning rolls around, you should be sticking to whatever plan you landed on Sunday night, and you should have been doing so all week.

I hope this helps, and future posts will talk a bit more about specific systems, but in the mean time, GET GOING!!