Thoughts On Legal Marketing and Intellectual Property Rights
If you were a carpenter and someone stole your only hammer what would you do?
Most likely, you would chase down the offending party and demand your hammer back. If he failed to give your hammer back, you would look for a legal remedy, in order to continue to make a living.
This is a simple concept to grasp.
Every couple of months (and with a troubling increase in frequency) someone violates my intellectual property rights. They copy text from my website or material, they use my trademark, or they blatantly deliver an identical presentation to one I have delivered in the past.
Many of these people are lawyers turned marketing gurus.
I go to great lengths to find these people. I pay for a service that monitors my intellectual property. I work with two attorneys who not only protect my intellectual property, they help me maintain and enforce my rights.
Why go to these lengths?
First: My business consists of two elements: 1) Goodwill – My relationships with clients, vendors and referral sources and 2) Intellectual property – Work products I create and sell to clients and license to others. I like my business and I want to keep growing it.
Second: Most people lack creativity. My intellectual property is a byproduct of my competitive advantage – my creativity. If you steal my intellectual property you are weakening my competitive advantage.
Third: If I do not enforce my rights to my intellectual property it weakens its value.
Finally: I have an intense dislike for people who compete with me. The best case for me would be for my competitors to go into other lines of business. Absent that happening, I’m always looking for ways to crush them. Late at night, when they sleep, I am on a plane traveling to meet with their best client. When they are sitting on the couch watching reruns of Hogan’s Heroes, I’m coming up with a new consulting methodology that will change the rules of the game.
So when I have an opportunity to legally smack down a competitor, I take it.
Intellectual property is central to my ability to make a living. It is, in essence my hammer. But it is more than that. It is as if the hammer had special and unique powers. Possession of that hammer gives me a competitive advantage. I have every right to keep that hammer for exclusive use in my business or license it to anyone I see fit. When someone takes it, I go after them.
What does this have to do with you?
Attorneys use forms, documents, visual identities and phrases in their practice and in their legal marketing. Often they think nothing of “borrowing” a form they have seen a competitor using. They do not hesitate to “adopt” a phrase from someone else or use a cute derivation from a successful competitor.
Many times this is done with a lack of concern for the rights of the creator of the intellectual property.
Don’t think this applies to you?
What music do you have on your telephone system when you put someone on hold?
How about the photos on your website?
Do you use a fictitious name for your law firm?
How about your tagline or logo on your website or business cards?
The bottom line: Be creative. Create your own forms. Do your own branding. Don’t tread on the intellectual property rights of others.
How Attorneys Differentiate a Law Firm with Marketing
Most attorneys think they are different when compared to their competitors. In reality, to the client, every attorney looks the same.
If you stopped the average person on the street and said: “What makes an attorney a great attorney?”
He would probably say: “He wins all his cases.”
The fact that most people would say this, makes it a point of entry into the market and not a differentiating factor. In other words, “winning” becomes the standard. It is the minimum expectation a client has when he hires you.
This is why the theory of “just be a good lawyer and the cases will fall in your lap” is so wrong.
Everyone says they are a good lawyer. Everyone has references and testimonials that will provide evidence to prove they are a good lawyer.
Attorneys marketing their services must dig deeper to differentiate themselves.
To make matters more complicated, there are only four ways to do this.
Here now, are the four ways to differentiate your law firm from all the others who do what you do:
This is the weakest form of differentiation. If you want to be the discount lawyer in town you will most likely only hold that title for a brief period of time.
Anytime you cut your price, someone will be able to offer an identical service for less money.
Since other attorneys marketing their firms will be hanging their hat on pricing as a differentiating factor, you should avoid that.
In fact, you would be better served by positioning your law firm as the most expensive law firm in town. At least in that case, people will come to you to see why you are able to charge so much. To the extent you can justify your expensive price point; you will retain some clients who believe they are receiving greater value for the higher fee.
Great service is a point of entry into just about any legal market. This means returning telephone calls promptly, strict adherence to appointment times and setting an observing to agreed-upon service standards, will not differentiate you from your competitors.
If you client is facing serious financial loss and/or the loss of his liberty, your retention as his lawyer does not hinge upon the greeting by your office receptionist.
Your client expects to be dealt with in a respectful manner. He expects you to appreciate the trust has placed in you. And he expects you to do your best to represent him.
Attorneys who don’t provide this service will not be able to build relationships with clients and referral sources.
Clients expect high quality work. You can write the best briefs, file amazing motions and create terrific contracts and still be lumped in with everyone else in your field.
Too often I see attorneys compare their work to the worst lawyers in town. They frame the discussion around “How much better they are than that guy.” This is wrong-headed.
The discussion should center on the standard you set for excellence in your profession. It should center on the lengths you go to in making certain you have prepared for representing your clients.
Creating an outstanding experience for your clients is the only way to truly differentiate your law firm from everyone else who does what you do.
What makes an outstanding experience?
That’s up to your clients. But it starts with combining all of the elements listed above into one compelling value-filled offering. This means successful attorneys marketing their law firms will understand what the client needs and will find a way to help him want what he needs.
This is no small task because it involves creating realistic expectations and meeting them.
If you want to truly differentiate your law firm from the others, you must provide an exceptional experience to your clients. All of the tangible aspects of running a successful business apply but the intangible aspects of your practice will truly make the difference.
Marketing For Attorneys: Your Body of Work Matters
Want to land the next big case?
After the client leaves your office send him a box of testimonial letters written by your former clients. Also include copies of the books you have written and a CD of an audio interview with a news anchor. Don’t forget to add in some past copies of your newsletter and articles written about you by various publications.
While he is waiting for that package to arrive send him an email with a link to some of the videos you have posted online (and maybe also a link to your past podcast episodes). You might as well include links to some of the articles you’ve written and posted on your website as well.
All of these things matter in marketing for attorneys.
They make up your “body of work”. They enhance your credibility. They demonstrate the value you provide to clients.
You have spent the better part of your career amassing accomplishments. You should confidently share your successes with people who can hire you.
What if you don’t have any of the things I listed above?
Begin to assemble a body of work. With technology today it is easier than ever to write and post articles, shoot and upload video and create high quality educational content for a podcast.
The more educational material you publish, the greater your body of work, the more likely you are to be perceived as an expert.
In Marketing For Law Firms Thought Leadership Makes a Difference
In any business there are certain people who get the really difficult assignments. These folks are the people who are known as the experts in their field.
When a client has a particularly difficult issue, there is one person who is known as the “go to” guy/gal for solving this specific problem.
Some lawyers are geniuses at drafting agreements. Some are fantastic at mergers and acquisitions. Others are great trial lawyers. The list is as expansive as there are nuances in the law.
If you want to be perceived as someone with mastery of a specific area of law, you must seize the mantle of thought leadership.
When it comes to marketing for law firms, thought leadership is the key to becoming the “go to” person.
Thought leadership means publishing ground-breaking work on the subject.
It means speaking on your area of expertise at leading industry events.
It means being quoted in industry trade publications often as “THE expert.”
This seems like a lot of work because it is.
That’s why there are so few thought leaders.
If you want to command high fees, if you want to be the only person on the list when clients are listing the people who can help them solve their problem, you must be a thought leader.
Think broadly about marketing for law firms for a moment. So much of it is similar.
Stand out from the crowd and leverage your expertise. Become a thought leader and begin to attract high quality clients.
It is worth the effort.
Law Firm Marketing Advice You Must Ignore
There are lots of people out there today who want to take your money. In the process of trying to sell you their version of “snake oil” they make all kinds of promises.
Unfortunately, most of those promises are hollow assertions made by people who have not used marketing to build a business…ever.
The problem: Most lawyers are so desperate for clients that they will listen to anyone with a microphone or a column in a national lawyer publication.
Here are three of the more egregious lies that you absolutely must ignore.
Lie Number 1: The Internet Is All You Need
Some lawyers get a huge number of clients from the Internet. They use Search Engine tricks, pay-per-click advertising and advertising on Facebook to make their phones ring. There are two problems with using the Internet as a marketing panacea:
1). The Internet is constantly changing and evolving. If your Internet advertising team cannot keep up with the changes, you will wake up one morning and find that your client base has dried up.
2). Relationships always trump clicks and page views. The person who finds you on the Internet is a shopper. He/she is probably looking for a bargain. You may spend time with them only to find they can’t or won’t pay you.
You should definitely have an Internet strategy but make sure it is just one piece of your overall marketing plan.
Lie Number 2: Focus on Brand Building and Clients Will Follow
Each of us has a personal brand. Your brand is essentially your reputation. The misguided part of this advice is that you should focus on building a reputation. Think about that…If you have to focus on building a reputation there is no substance to your work.
As an alternative to building a brand, I recommend you focus on doing good work. Take care of your clients. Go the extra mile. Make a difference in their lives. If you do that your brand will be strong.
The “branding experts” have it backwards. In truth, build your law firm on a foundation of service and integrity and your brand and the clients will follow.
Lie Number 3: Former Lawyers Are Excellent Sources of Law Firm Marketing Guidance
This statement just defies commonsense. If someone was a lawyer, and the quit being a lawyer to teach others how to build a law firm, why would you listen to them? If they were so good, so successful at attracting clients, why wouldn’t they keep attracting clients and practicing law?
Put another way: Would you want to learn how to drive from someone who had several car accidents in the past two years?
If you want advice on the law, ask a lawyer. If you want advice on marketing, ask a marketing expert.
We are living in tough economic times. Even the con artists are having difficulty making a living. Don’t be a victim. If you hear any of these lies, run the other way.