Can Lawyers Really Choose Their Clients?
One of the biggest benefits to a great legal marketing plan is having the ability to pick and choose your clients. Few lawyers think about this. If someone walks in the door, and they seem demanding or they seem like they are holding back, or even worse, they are abusive to your staff, what do you typically do?
If the answer is: “Deal with it and cash the check” you have a marketing problem.
One of the true benefits of legal marketing is being able to develop business at will. If you have the right systems in place, you should have a constant flow of leads to your law firm.
Here are some things to think about if you want to be one of those lawyers who choose their clients:
You need to have your marketing message constantly in front of your target audience and/or referral sources. If you only write one article each month and you only speak to groups of prospective clients once a year and you only attend networking events every-so-often, you cannot choose your clients.
Along those same lines, if you only use one form of media you cannot choose your clients. Lawyer blogs are everywhere. If you are a blogger, that’s great. If you update your blog every day, that’s fantastic. If that’s all you do, you’re screwed.
Spice it up a little.
Quality of Content
It’s not enough to market frequently and to use multiple marketing methods, you also have to provide great quality content to your audience. If you don’t, nobody will be interested in hearing what you have to say. But more importantly, they won’t think you are good enough to hire.
Creating high quality content is essential for great legal marketing.
Ability to Say “No”
You need to be able to say “NO” when you spot a client that it not a good fit for your law firm. Have some unbreakable rules.
Want an example?
One of my unbreakable rules is that I will not work with anyone who is abusive to my staff. I don’t care how much money they have and I don’t care who they are, if they cannot extend some common courtesy to my team, they need to go.
The next time you find yourself taking money from a client who makes your skin crawl, remember that you put yourself in this situation. Ramp up your marketing now so you can be a lawyer who chooses his clients.
Marketing for Lawyers: What’s Working Now?
The question everyone asks me is: “When it comes to marketing, what really works?”
People think there are a couple of things that work to attract clients and deepen relationships and they think the rest of the marketing world is hocus pocus.
People also think you need to beat the living snot out of prospective clients in order to get them to sign on the dotted line.
Finally, people think that a lawyer should be “above marketing” and should not promote himself or his services.
Essentially people have no flippin clue what’s going on in the real world.
Let me address each of these cranial rectal insertions.
First: Everything works.
You read that correctly. Everything works if you know:
1) Your target audience
2) How they think
3) What media they consume
If you have a deep understanding of those three aspects of marketing, you can select the ideal form of media to reach your audience with the right message.
Here are the questions you need to ask before you select any form of marketing:
- Who is your ideal client?
- Who does he/she trust?
- What does he/she read?
- What groups is he/she a member of?
- Is there a secret desire?
- What angers/frustrates him/her?
- What is he/she missing?
- What keeps him/her up at night?
If you know the answers to those questions, you can develop a great message and select a form of media that will work every time.
Sorry. You’ve got to do a lot of work before you spend any money. You can just drop a truck load of cash on a kid with a computer in his garage and hope to get more clients.
Second: You don’t close deals. The client invests in a relationship with you.
Selecting an attorney is not like buying a large appliance. You cannot be forced into an upgrade to the deluxe model.
The notion that someone comes into your office as a tire-kicker and walks out thrilled with his selection of a shiny new attorney complete with cup holder and fine Corinthian Leather is beyond ridiculous.
If a client comes to your office, he wants to hire you. If he does not engage you, it is for one reason and one reason only: He doesn’t trust you.
People invest their trust before they invest a dollar.
If someone says price is an issue to them, it is because they don’t see the value in investing in you. Value is related to trust.
If I have an issue and I trust you to resolve it, I will invest in you even if I have to borrow the money, sell my baseball card collection or raid my kid’s piggybank.
Finally: Go ahead. Be the best lawyer nobody has ever heard of.
If you are as good as you think you are, you owe it to the public to let them know about the valuable service you provide.
Think about that for a moment.
You are good. People deserve to work with you because you deliver value. Why would you ever deprive them of your services?
You wouldn’t or you shouldn’t.
But that is exactly what you are doing when you spew the stogy old line: “It is not professional to market my services.” You and I both know that is pure, unadulterated bull shit.
Be a great lawyer and also be a great, ethical marketer. This way you can help as many clients as possible.
The next time you see me and wonder what’s working now, you’ll know my answer.
What’s working is clear-headed thinking about marketing and business strategy.
If you want more of this clear-headed thinking, delivered with a lovely, melodic, New York accent, listen to the Q&A podcast I recorded. It is a special episode in which I answer questions from you, my readers.
I always enjoy getting your questions and I especially enjoy smacking around the people with their head firmly planted in their anus. For lots of anus and lots of smacking, listen to the podcast by following the link below. You’ll enjoy it and it may help you make a buck or two.
Diversity and Law Firm Marketing
Diversity is critically important to law firm marketing. You must match your message to your target audience and your target audience may not necessarily be all of one race, gender or ethnicity (in fact it isn’t).
Your law firm marketing message must be delivered so it resonates with each audience member. Each of us has our own filter that we use to receive and disseminate the information. These filters develop as a result of our upbringing, our environment and the experiences each of us have faced, and continue to face on a day-to-day basis.
Let’s say you grew up in a single parent household and your mother was the guiding influence in your life. She made all the decisions related to household finance, your personal wellbeing and she provided you with nurturing, discipline and guidance throughout the years. Let’s say she did a great job and you and the rest of your family grew up strong and well adjusted.
It is reasonable to expect that your opinion of women would be that they are strong, capable leaders who can make decisions about anything in life.
If you were marketing to women, you would, most likely, position your message to a strong woman with experience in making difficult financial decisions.
Your law firm marketing messaging would be reflective of this experience.
The disconnect occurs when your message is targeted to a group of women who have not had an experience similar to that in your mother’s background.
If you position your marketing to the woman who has made all decisions, including those about money, for an entire lifetime, to a group of people who have never had to deal with the implications of such decisions, you will not be successful. The audience simply cannot relate to your message.
When we discuss diversity in a law firm marketing context, we are not only focusing on avoiding offending groups of people, we are focusing on the efficacy of the message- to-audience match.
The way to make certain your message resonates with the audience is to test it with a representative sampling of the target audience.
The internet offers an opportunity to test messages because of the ability to segment your audience by both demographic and psychographic qualities.
This research should not be limited to gender and race but also to age, geographic preference and industry experience.
Thinking about your audience is one of the basic tenants of law firm marketing. Understand how they make decisions and appreciating the differences that each of us brings to the decision-making process, will make you more successful in crafting marketing messages.
Good Lawyers Hate Marketing? No. Good Lawyers Hate Bad Marketing
Good lawyers don’t hate marketing.
Good lawyers hate bad marketing.
Good marketing is educating the lawyer’s client. Bad marketing is stalking him.
Good marketing is helping the client make a sound rational decision. Bad marketing is emotionally manipulating a vulnerable client.
Good marketing is when lawyers offer clients options for his/her representation. Bad marketing is forcing him to make a decision RIGHT NOW.
Good marketing = Seminars, White papers, educational web content
Bad marketing = Screaming television ads, deceptive telephone numbers and letters and bus stop benches.
The next time you think that good lawyers hate marketing, think again.
Marketing is about starting and deepening relationships. There are good ways to do that and bad ways to do it.
Which way will you choose?
The Most Valuable Thing They Forgot to Teach in Law School
There’s a lot of practical information missing from a law school education.
The most valuable lesson they left out has to do with client lifetime value.
Before a client ever gives you any money he has to give you his trust. Once a client trusts you, as long as you do great work, provide a fantastic experience, and improve his condition, he will come back to you for legal work over and over again.
This means your client relationship has value beyond the current matter. Well beyond.
In every other business, marketing focuses on deepening the relationship with people who have purchased the business’ goods and services in the past. Service businesses even create loyalty (rewards) programs to track and measure these relationships.
Yet in the practice of law, the minute a matter concludes, the attorney runs to find another client and ignores the client who just left the office.
Focusing on client lifetime value requires developing deep relationships. It requires excellent listening skills. It requires developing systems that will help you keep in touch with clients even after your current work with them ends. In short, it requires that you invest, emotionally and financially, in maintaining these relationships.
What about Criminal Attorneys, Divorce Attorneys, and Personal Injury Attorneys?
You might think attorneys in consumer oriented practice areas do not need to focus on client lifetime value. After all, in most cases, they will only represent each client one time.
Client lifetime value extends well beyond representation of the individual.
Think about it: That client has already placed his trust in you. If you have zealously represented him and improved his condition, he will recommend you to others. The key is to keep your relationship with him alive and on the top of his mind.
In addition to referrals from past clients, consumer focused attorneys can always count on referrals from people who are “centers of influence” in the community. These people include: members of local church and religious groups –particularly volunteers and leaders of committees, members of civic organizations and community organizers.
Smart attorneys track the lifetime value of these referral sources as well as the lifetime value of their clients.
For more information on tracking lifetime value of clients and referral sources, watch this video I recorded on this topic.
Your Most Valuable Relationship
A couple of weeks ago at a meeting of my Strategic Advisory Group for lawyers, one of my clients was telling the story of how his client, a very big celebrity, was going to be honored at an industry event. As he told our group this story, he ran down the list of all the things he had accomplished with and on behalf of this high profile individual. The list could have easily been mistaken for the achievements of a CAREER – yet my client helped his client accomplish these initiatives in less than twelve months.
I am not easily impressed or star struck – but in this case my jaw dropped.
Not because of the fame of the celebrity involved. Not because of the sheer volume of work accomplished in a short time. And not because of the fees transferred from client to lawyer. All of these were significant but none as impressive as the one thing that can literally make or break any law firm or lawyer’s practice….the strength of the relationship between the lawyer and the client.
In this particular attorney/client relationship, the client, a mega star, does not make a business move without talking to his trusted advisor – the lawyer – my client.
Why is this so impressive?
Because that is the true nature of the practice of law. That is why you exist and why I help you. The client seeks your counsel. You guide. You advocate. You opine. And you represent. An ideal attorney/client relationship is not bound by specific matter or individual transaction or passing legal case. It is life-long and it is built upon bedrock of trust.
You may know me as a guy who helps lawyers attract clients but that is only partially true. I am the guy who helps lawyers attract the RIGHT client and then I help lawyers develop those life-long relationships.
In my world, marketing for lawyers is relationship development. To me a billboard is equal to speed dating. Lawyer referral services are essentially on-line match makers. Books with faces and twit websites are akin to The Singles Bar Scene.
I prefer my clients to meet their clients the old fashioned way – through a referral, by being approached by an admirer or by seeing them speak at an event. Making this happen is both an art and a science but it is only the beginning. Delivering value (real value in the eyes of the client) is what makes a relationship last.
How many of your clients will NOT make a move without first discussing it with you?
That list, in essence, is a demonstration of your value as a lawyer.
Great Legal Marketing Starts with Doing Great Work
As I have discussed several times, if you want to attract clients as a lawyer you need to let people know you are open for business.
But do not mistake my advocacy for law firm marketing as a license to be a bad lawyer and make up for it with great legal marketing.
That is not only unethical, it is criminal. Bad lawyers who are adept at marketing are perpetrating a fraud.
The first rule of marketing is to provide great service at a fair price.
If you are not a good lawyer, I cannot help you. Simply put: You will piss people off faster than I can help you attract them.
If you know you are a bad lawyer and you do things that serve only your interests and not the interests of your clients, I will not help you. (I have fired more than a few of those clients in the last couple of years).
Marketing is not good or bad. Marketing is a business discipline. Be a good lawyer and promote your law firm. People deserve to have access to the best lawyer they can afford. Help them find you.
Great legal marketing starts with being a great lawyer.
How To Raise Your Fee and Have Your Clients Love You For Doing It
One of the ways I work with attorneys to improve their income is by helping them implement value-based pricing. Whenever I survey my clients, this one topic is identified as the most valuable thing they discover in working with me. It is also the single biggest factor in law firm marketing. After all, if you can get your clients to see your services as incredibly valuable, you can make more money per client. This means you need to see fewer clients and do less work to make more money.
Here are two stories that illustrate my point (the names have been changed to protect the newly-reformed):
Intellectual Property Lawyer Triples his Income Overnight
Pat is an intellectual property attorney who came to me complaining about the number of hours he worked. His biggest complaint was that he was working on too many small matters. Since there are no small matters, only small fees, I delved into his client list and we made some adjustments.
It seems Pat was filing about five trademark applications per month for his clients and charging $1,500 each. His justification for this fee was: “This is what everyone else charges.”
The first adjustment we made was to Pat’s mindset. When a business owner owns a trademark he owns an asset. This is a thing of value to his business. It helps build equity. This means filing a trademark application and having it approved is making a sound investment (not unlike investing in Real Estate or the Stock Market).
But that is not all Pat’s clients are investing in. They are also investing in a relationship WITH HIM. (This was a new philosophy for Pat). This investment in the relationship means that all the work done on this matter would be covered by one fee (less the government filing charges). If it took 20 revisions to get the mark approved, Pat would resubmit the paperwork 20 times. Once the client invested in Pat, he would not need to spend another penny on this matter.
Finally, we added the glue that cemented the relationship between Pat and his clients. We offered three years of monitoring to protect the trademark from infringement and we offered LIFETIME consultations on this trademark INCLUDED in the fee. This means ten years from now, if someone has a question about this particular trademark, they can call Pat and he will answer their question for free.
The outcome: Pat was able to move from charging $1,500 for filing a trademark application to charging $4,997 for a trademark application.
The Will To Bill
Joe is a Trust and Estates attorney. He came to me complaining that people would not pay more than $500 for him to write their will. He said this was all he could charge since everyone else in town was charging that fee.
After interviewing Joe I learned there were three other documents that were critical to setting up a sound estate plan. I also learned that Joe’s average client revises these documents at least once during their lifetime. Finally, Joe told me that most of his clients only learned of advantageous changes in the law when he brought them up.
Under my guidance, Joe immediately stopped offering the drafting of a will as a standalone service. Instead, he began offering his clients a long-term relationship that included the drafting of all estate planning documents, the review of twelve different kinds of legal contracts (including mortgage documents, auto financing agreements, leases, basically any document that bound his client to an investment of $1,000 or more) and two estate planning meetings per year.
Overnight Joe went from being the guy who writes the will to becoming a trusted family advisor.
How did this affect his income? Well, remember that Joe was charging $500 for the drafting of a will? Now he charges $2,400 per year for his Concierge Legal Service. And oh, by the way, he went back to his clients who paid $500 for their will and he was able to sign up more than half of them to the new relationship.
There are a couple of significant points to make about these stories:
First: You may think this is not applicable to you and your law firm. If you do, you are DEAD WRONG. This is applicable to every attorney in every law practice. We have even used it for litigation. I have given you two examples – one in a business to business setting and one in a consumer setting. There is absolutely no value in thinking that you cannot use this model in your law firm. You absolutely can.
Second: You need to wake up. Your clients do not pay for the documents you draft. They do not pay for the time you spend arguing with your opposition. They do not pay for the research you do. They pay for your expertise, they pay for your guidance, and they pay for the privilege of HAVING A RELATIONSHIP with a great lawyer.
If you want to discover the dozens of ways you can elevate your status in the eyes of your client (and charge higher fees) give me a call today.
Random Legal Marketing Thoughts I Wrote on My Hand
Not that long ago a media-savvy politician taught us that notes on your hand were better than a speech on a teleprompter. As I travel around the world sharing my hopey, changy legal marketing stuff I use my hand as a notepad.
Here are some things I wrote down that I thought I would share with ya:
Referrals are still the best way to get clients as a lawyer. You still need a legal marketing plan but it should have a segment dedicated to keeping your name in front of your potential referral sources. Frequency of communication builds trust. Trust is important both from clients and from people who are sources of referrals. Legal marketing must include a referral strategy.
Clients still hate hourly billing. This one is not going away just like everyone’s favorite former beauty queen turned TV anchor turned politician turned pundit. If you bill hourly, you will lose clients. If you don’t figure out alternative billing strategies in the next few years, you will lose lots of clients.
The law is still a profession and a business. I know, I know, the “Just be a Good Lawyer” crowd hates when I say this. If you are not living the lifestyle you thought you would when you graduated from law school, you probably forgot about the business aspect of owning a law firm. Put together a legal marketing plan and start attracting clients. Be a good lawyer but find good clients too.
The Internet has changed everything...well, okay…I guess it has replaced the Yellow Pages. You need to have a web strategy as part of your legal marketing plan. You can’t go rogue and not be on the Internet. Get a website and a blog and start posting something each week. This will help us realize how smart you are.
My final random thought is that just because I can see Cuba from my house that doesn’t mean I’m a communist. So keep in mind that just because I help people with legal marketing, that doesn’t mean I like bus stop benches and 800 numbers that spell PAIN or HURT. I may go rogue once in a while but my legal marketing advice is still pretty sound – even though I wrote it down on my hand.
Hey, can I call ya Joe?
Attorneys Marketing Question: How do I get new clients?
One of the questions I am asked most frequently by attorneys marketing their services is: “How do I get new clients?” My consulting practice is dedicated to helping attorneys answer this question but unfortunately there is no one right answer. Each attorney is different and each practice area has different nuances. Applying a one-size-fits-all answer to this question would be to do a disservice to anyone genuinely interested in the answer.
There is a way to answer this question and have the answer broadly apply to just about any attorney in any practice area. That is answer can be summed up in two words: DO SOMETHING.
It’s not complicated.
Each and every day you should do something that helps you build your law firm client base. Today you write an article for a trade journal. Tomorrow you ask a colleague to make an introduction for you to an influential individual in a target company. The next day you reach out to the chamber of commerce to see if there is an opportunity to give a speech.
Start each day by doing one thing that will help you get closer to your client acquisition goals for your law firm.
Now I have a question for attorneys marketing their services: What have you done today to get new clients?