I know that many lawyers reading this went to law school never giving thought to the idea of having to do any legal marketing. In fact, I suspect that you would rather undergo root canal surgery than spend your precious time marketing and selling.
Just the thought of legal marketing causes an allergic rash to mysteriously appear all over our bodies. Can’t we just be left alone to “practice”? After all, isn’t practicing difficult enough? The long hours, demanding clients, time constraints, firm politics, and of course, dealing with opposing counsel on every nit.
Yes, practicing law is hard, especially in today’s economic environment. It doesn’t help that today the practice of law looks more like a business than ever before. With over 1 million lawyers in the United States alone, competition is fierce. Outsourcing, increased utilization of RFPs and contract attorneys, budgetary caps and alternative fees, hiring freezes, deferred start dates, reduced salaries, mass demotions, de-equitization of partners, and technology that commands 24/7 attention, are all altering the legal landscape. Practicing law may be a profession, but today’s law firms are run more like a business than ever before. And like their counterparts in the business community, revenues and earnings drive major decisions.
The result of all this change is that just being a good lawyer or tactician is simply not enough anymore. If you really want to succeed in today’s environment, you have to become knowledgeable about legal marketing and client acquisition. It’s the only way you’ll be in complete control of your professional destiny. Sure, you could bill an outrageous amount of hours, be a national expert in your area of the law, even a partner in a large firm, but these factors no longer guarantee your financial and personal success. Deep down inside you know this to be true…unfortunate…but true.
And getting started is the most difficult part. An attitude and belief shift may be in order. For many of us, legal marketing is seen as demeaning, time consuming and a waste of our precious time. It goes against everything we believe in. Yellow page ads, obnoxious late night cable commercials, glossy brochures and similar looking web sites all serving only to gratify an attorney’s ego rather than sell real benefits and value reinforce this negative view of legal marketing. Most of us know that today’s typical legal marketing activities represent the opposite ends of the spectrum…either professional garbage about the impressive “image” of the lawyer, or raunchy ads about getting the client massive amounts of money for injury claims. And worse, they all look alike.
The reason the majority of us dislike attorney marketing is that we were never taught how to do it in a professional and personally fulfilling way. And with the pressure to bill hours, how do we find the time to market? Even more, what tactics should we use that fits our personality and are comfortable to implement? Let me assure you that when you know how, marketing your solutions can be easy and enjoyable…if you implement a few of these ideas.
First and foremost, determine what it is you really want to be, do and have with respect to your legal career. Failing to address these important and unique issues will render any legal marketing strategy completely useless and boring. In other words, what do YOU want to do with your legal career; where do YOU want to do it, and what do YOU want your professional legacy to be? The answers to these three important questions explores what inspires and motivates you, what it is you stand for, what activities you love to do, the environment you want to do them in, who you want to serve, and what you want your professional life to stand for.
Second, you will need to adopt the mindset of a rainmaker, for being a rainmaker should be the most important activity you’re engaged in and having a list of profitable and loyal clients should be viewed as your most important asset. You are simply going to have to recognize that legal marketing is not selling your soul or compromising your ethics, but is the key that will dictate your future. A marketing mindset is simply the expansion of your value proposition and awareness into the relationships and assets that already exist within your business and sphere of influence. You already have what you need to become a master rainmaker; you just have to leverage your existing assets for the opportunities that await you.
Third, get some help. There are coaches, consultants, books, experts, all sorts of people out there who can help you get started. You’re an expert at the law…not marketing. If you want to cut years off your learning curve, cut down on failures and save thousands of dollars, get the expert advice you need.
Fourth, the key ingredients of any marketing plan include: (i) strategic planning, (ii) tactical execution, and (iii) follow-up. Woody Allen may believe that half of life’s success is just showing up, but real achievement comes from preparation and follow-up. Marketing cannot be performed as a shotgun approach like the occasional power lunch or attending a dreaded networking event. You wouldn’t prepare for a deposition or trial without a plan; why implement a marketing plan without the same thought process. Every aspect of your client development plan must address your long and short-term goals, your strengths, niche, and what you want out of your business. Your strategy should be laser-focused and measurable.
Fifth, get someone to help with the grunt work. Your secretary or a virtual assistant can help write letters, call clients, send out articles, press releases, and help you build a client database. There is no way you can do this alone or completely depend on the firm’s marketing manager. It’s up to you; but apply the 80/20 rule and spend the brunt of your time on the most important clients and matters.
Sixth, do a little client development every day. Call that client who you haven’t heard from. Send an article of interest to a new prospect. Set a little bit of time every day to do some marketing and you’ll soon see a flower grow where once there was just a seed.
Seventh, the reason most marketing efforts fail is due to a lack of follow-up with action. And we all make this mistake. In many ways, this is what determines your success or failure, and too often, we don’t realize it until it’s too late. Your system should utilize a “ladder” or “drip” multi- contact approach which will show you’ve been there for them and you’re the “go-to” person they need and want. The mantra here is to follow-up and stay in front of them consistently. And don’t stop until you either die or they tell you to drop dead!
Eighth, have fun with all of your legal marketing activities. Practicing law is difficult enough not to make the marketing fun. Choose tactics that you enjoy and are comfortable, or you won’t follow through. Be targeted and optimistic that you’re going to meet the people you need to advance your career and cause. And then with only a few simple disciplined actions every day, you will be led to the kind of success you desire. Executed properly, legal marketing will become like a second skin as your leads, relationships, and opportunities begin to grow exponentially.