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.
Earn the Privilege of Being Selective
Last week I selected 100 people from my list of Rainmaker Minute subscribers and I made them an irresistible offer.
You see, I’ve developed a new self paced coaching program and I need 10 new lawyers to test it each month. So last Thursday I sent an email to 100 people on my subscriber list and offered them the opportunity to be Pioneers in this program.
This means the lawyers selected will receive one video DVD, audio CD and workbook/transcript from me with three recommendations each month. As Pioneers they agree to evaluate the information and if appropriate, implement the recommendations in their law firm. They also agree to provide feedback.
These 10 lawyers get to participate in this new program for a fraction of what the investment will be in the future. (The people who get in this month are only paying $97).
Within 6 hours of sending the initial offering email, I received 17 applications (yes, I make people apply and I evaluate them before accepting them). Within 12 hours I had 22 applications and I am still receiving a few here and there.
But even with that virtual stampede to sign up for this great deal, there were still a few skeptics. And there is a lesson we can learn from a couple of them.
Two people who received the email offer said they would be interested if I sent them some references of people who had already been through the program. This proves two things:
1).These folks do not read carefully. The reason I am looking for “Pioneers” is because nobody has been through this program yet. That’s why I am taking 10 new people each month and adding them to the client roster. As I add new recommendations I am adjusting based upon the feedback of other clients.
As a way to compensate for a lack of track record in this program I do not require any commitment. If you want out, just say so and you do not need to pay for future months. Just send an email and you’re out. It’s easier and quicker than a Las Vegas Divorce.
2). These folks have a distorted sense of value. Think about all the things you spend $97 or more on with no guarantee of success:
- Dinner for two in a chain restaurant (without wine)
- A trip to the movies for a family of 4, with popcorn, soda and candy
- The gym membership you have not used in 6 months
- A Craftsman Drill at Sears
- A tie, on sale, at Saks
- Your cell phone bill without a data plan
- A box of crappy cigars
None of those things or any of the hundred other things you could “invest” your $97 in will have a significant return on investment.
The coaching program I offered to these lawyers will certainly have a return on investment. Quite a few people were astute enough to recognize this fact and they applied immediately.
Could I have done more to demonstrate the value of my service to the skeptics?
I could have given them the names and phone numbers of my clients who graciously serve as volunteers for references. Some of these folks appear on my website with full name and law firm affiliation available for the world to see.
But in this case I chose not to “sell” anyone on working with me.
Because I have earned the right to be selective. Demand for my service is high. People see the value of working with me at $3,000 per month. Dozens of people see the value of being involved with me at $97. I like working with clients who recognize value.
So what does this mean for you and your law firm?
It means you should price your service fairly based upon the value you provide. It also means you should understand the demand for your service and not worry about the few people who do not recognize your value. They were not meant to be your clients…especially when dozens or even hundreds are out there waiting to work with you.
If you have an interest in this exclusive program, call me and I will interview you. If you are accepted, you will fill the next opening on my client roster. 888.692.5531.
How to Look Like An Expert
A few days ago I met a talented corporate transactional lawyer. Let’s call him Steve (because that is his name). He is smart, personable and knowledgeable about his area of the law. He has a terrific reputation and a significant body of work. On paper this guy is one of the top transactional lawyers in the state.
Unfortunately, law is not practiced on paper. It is practiced in real life.
Steve showed up for his meeting with me in a golf shirt and tan pants. His cell phone was clipped to his belt and he had a goatee that looked like it had not been trimmed in at least six months. When we ate lunch he chewed with his mouth open, spoke with his mouth full and used the wrong fork.
During lunch Steve confessed that he meets with lots of potential clients that never end up hiring him.
Steve was meeting with me to see if I could help him turn his extensive knowledge into money in the bank. He was looking for some magic phrase or technique that would help him sign up more clients. Unfortunately, Steve does not know what his true problem is.
Steve’s problem is something many lawyers face. He just doesn’t look like an expert.
Steve has a problem with his personal brand. To a corporate CEO or General Counsel, Steve looks like a middle manager. He doesn’t look like a lawyer who specializes in sophisticated mergers. He looks like the guy who is dating their daughter and not the guy who will help them handle the Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.
To make things clear for Steve, I thought I would share some guidelines that I have developed to help my clients look like experts. Keep in mind that MOST lawyers will not follow these. That is because they are AVERAGE. If you want to be perceived as being average then you should ignore these as well.
How to Look Like an Expert: A Guide for Steve
Shave. Lounge magicians, beatnik poets and high school kids have goatees. Just because you can grow a beard does not mean you should. Look at the CEOs in the Fortune 500. How many do you see with goatees? If you insist on having a goatee, trim it daily.
Lose the belt clip. You are not a Christmas tree with ornaments hanging from your appendages. You should not have a phone hanging from your belt. Put it in your pocket like the rest of the non-senior citizens. If it is too big to fit in your pocket, leave it in the car or buy a smaller phone.
Stop talking. Ask a question then shut up and listen for the answer. Experts impress people with the questions they ask even more than with the information they share.
Eat like a human. Do not chew with your mouth open or talk with your mouth full.
Dress better than the client. If the client is casual, you should have on a jacket and slacks. If the client is in a jacket and slacks, you should have on a suit and tie. If the client has on a suit and tie you should have on an impeccably pressed suit, designer tie and unique cuff links (and/or a pocket square). You always want to dress one level above the client. Psychologically it positions you as an expert.
These five tips are a great start toward improving your personal brand. Keep in mind that you have to dress and act like an expert in order to be treated like an expert.
In Marketing for Lawyers Free is Bad
Most attorneys think offering a free consultation is mandatory. Free consultations are no bargain. Not for the lawyer and not for the client. Here’s why:
A Free Consultation Immediately Positions You Poorly
People believe they get what they pay for. Affluent people and business owners keep this ideal present in their minds at all times. Most people have this permanently ingrained in their psyche. Charging nothing means you are worth nothing.
You Welcome Shoppers
There are a handful of people out there who would shop for a bargain in parachute repair. If you want to meet with all of these people, do not charge for a consultation. Free consultations welcome shoppers to your law firm. You can be certain that if you do not charge people for an initial consultation, people will meet with you just to get a number out of you.
You Devalue Your Time
What is your time worth? If you charge nothing it is worth nothing. Not to you and not to your client. It is that simple.
The Quality of Your Clients/Matters Decreases
If you want crappy matters, a free consultation is definitely the way to go. Money tends to be an indication of how seriously someone is taking an issue. If you are willing to spend $250 on something are you more likely to pay attention to the outcome?
You Take on Liability with No Upside
In a free consultation you will often dispense advice. When you do, you expose yourself to liability. If the person sitting across from you implements your advice and things go badly, they will find you. You do this with no compensation in return.
One of the arguments I hear all the time is: “It is customary in my practice area to offer free consultations. Everyone does it.” Following a majority does not always mean you are acting in your own best interest. In fact, it probably means you are doing what the average industry professional will do. Do you want to be average?
This decision should be easy. When someone comes to your office to discuss a legal matter, they should pay you something. That is one of the reasons you do what you do. This is a business as well as a profession. Treat it like a business.
What Lawyers Can Learn from Sarah Palin
Everyone who is interested in promoting a business or a brand can learn a great deal from Sarah Palin. Yes, you read that correctly. Sarah Palin is conducting a clinic on marketing and anyone who wants to grow a law firm should watch.
Why Watch Sarah Palin if you are Interested in Law Firm Marketing?
Politics aside, the management of the Sarah Palin Brand has been outstanding. Look through the news during the two years since the last Presidential election campaign. You would be hard pressed to find a week during the past 100 when Sarah Palin has not been in the headlines. Her nomination as a Vice Presidential candidate put her on the map but it is her own personal branding power that has kept her there.
A law firm can only benefit from the media if it is IN the media. Many attorneys choose not to take a high profile. They prefer to have more direct control over their marketing. That’s fine. But if you want to be in the media, you should go big. And Sarah Palin can provide you with a blue print to do just that.
Sarah Palin Teaches Law Firms to Handle Negative Attacks
Attorneys can take a page out of Palin’s book for handling adverse media conditions. Palin takes every negative article that is written about her and every negative TV piece produced about her and turns it around on the media. She paints her attacker as an overzealous partisan for the left wing. And this is EXACTALLY what her constituents (the right wing base) want to hear. So in the eyes of her core audience, she never looks bad. In fact, the more she is attacked, the better she looks.
Law Firms Can Learn about Message Delivery from Sarah Palin
Even if she has to write the message on her hand, Sarah Palin never waivers from her core message. She stays on track. And her supporters love her for it.
She knows what people want to hear and she gives them what they want. This works if you are looking to attract more of your core audience. She speaks with passion and comes off as believable. She shares much of her own personal story with her audience and they buy into it. She aggressively takes on her opponents and she galvanizes support from her base of adoring fans.
Sarah Plain Knows her Audience
If you know your audience you will always be successful at message delivery. Sarah Palin is an expert at this. She delivers the perfect message at the perfect time to the perfect audience. That is why many of the Republican politicians who have been on the national stage for a decade or longer are now awash in her wake. Other politicians try to be everything to everyone. Sarah Palin does not. She knows that engaging her core audience will get the job done so she focuses on them.
Your law firm should follow the same strategy. Do not try to focus on everyone. Do not try to dominate every legal field with your marketing. Pick one narrow area and aggressively market in that niche. If you do, you will dominate.
When you stop and think about it, no matter what your opinion of Sarah Palin as a person or what you think of her as a politician, you and your law firm can certainly learn a great deal about marketing from her. She is a master at managing message, market and media. And if you are not careful, you might wake up and find someone like Sarah Palin aggressively pursuing your potential clients.
The Truth About Self Promotion and Lawyer Marketing
Are you a good lawyer?
You can be the best lawyer since Clarence Darrow but if nobody knows who you are and if nobody knows what you know, you will starve.
The only way to be certain that people will know who you are and what you know is to tell them.
Yeah, sure, you can take some pro bono work; do a good job, and hope that somebody notices. You can also go to work in a big firm and slave away for a decade or so and hope to have the freedom to select your clients one day.
Or you can be smart.
You can work on stuff other people are afraid of, do a good job, and tell everyone about it.
Here are some simple truths about working as a lawyer today:
Truth 1: Working in a big firm is the equivalent of slave labor. If you take a job in a big firm you will go unrecognized and under rewarded.
Truth 2: Working for someone else is ok as long as you get the full breadth of experience you need to be successful. This means you have to be free to make decisions on cases. You have to be free to select the cases you will work on. You have to learn by getting bloodied in the real world.
Truth 3: Marketing is essential to building relationships and relationships are essential to long term success. You must promote yourself. You must put your talent on display every chance you get. Sometimes you will look like a jackass. But more often than not, you will get noticed.
Truth 4: If you do not define yourself and your law practice, somebody else will. People will occasionally talk about you. If you do not dictate the terms of the conversation, you will not be happy with the reputation you develop.
Why have I chosen this day and this time to put these seemingly unrelated thoughts together? This is exactly the conversation I had with a highly successful lawyer this morning. They were thoughts formulated over a 30 year career.
I asked one question:
Given your success and experience, what would you tell a lawyer graduating from a top law school today?
I find it interesting that Lawyer Marketing and self promotion were top of mind when a successful lawyer provides career advice. There are a lot of soggy old lawyers who will not like that. After all, if you just be a good lawyer business will come…right?
The Easy Way to Select a Niche Market For Your Law Firm
Much of my work focuses on helping lawyers position themselves. Our goal is to make them stand out from the crowd. This is no easy task as lawyers do everything possible to look, sound and act just like other lawyers.
I want lawyers to be perceived by their clients as experts in a specific, focused area of law. This is a powerful and highly effective strategy for those who choose to employ it.
Why is this so effective?
Well, for too many reasons to enumerate here but it starts with the fact that an expert can always command a fee premium and an expert is always in demand. Think about the Heart Surgeon at The Cleveland Clinic and your Family Doctor. Who makes more money? Who is in such demand that people from all over the world fly in to see him for his opinion?
Quite frankly, I do not want to sell you too hard on this strategy because it is a huge competitive advantage for the lawyers I work with. But I am willing to give you a step-by-step process you can use to develop your own specialized, niche market focused, law firm marketing plan.
These six factors are the keys to developing a law firm that will allow you to call the shots. If you get these things correct, you can effectively set your fees at will and select your clients as you see fit.
Factor 1: Who You Work With
Marketing to everyone is the kiss of death for a lawyer. Marketing to everyone in a specific, focused area of practice is slow but still certain death. Marketing to everyone in very specific, focused aspect of the law in a specific focused practice area is the key to success.
Criminal Defense Attorney – Not specific enough
Criminal Defense Attorney with Expertise in Handling DUI Cases – Better
Criminal Defense Attorney with Expertise in Handling DUI Cases and a History of Getting Great Results for Repeat Offenders – Best
Intellectual Property Attorney – Not specific enough
Intellectual Property Attorney Focused on Licensing of Business Methods – Better
Intellectual Property Attorney Focused on Licensing of Business Methods for Service Businesses – Best
Factor 2: What You Do
You must have an approach the client perceives as unique. The experience of working with you must be different than the experience of working with every other lawyer who does what you do. There is something that makes your law firm different and special. You need to highlight that in your marketing.
Factor 3: When Your Clients Need Help
Timing is a critical component of establishing a niche marketing plan for your law firm. You must be present in the mind of the prospective client when he needs help. If this factor does not exist, you will not be successful no matter what you try.
A divorce attorney focuses his practice exclusively on working with doctors and dentists. He partners with financial planning professionals and delivers seminars on the importance of having a prenuptial agreement before entering into a marriage. Each month he sources between 6 and 10 new prenups with this marketing strategy. Who do you think these people call when they need a divorce attorney? By focusing on prenuptial agreements this lawyer has his name in front of the doc when the marriage falls apart. His timing is perfect.
Factor 4: Where You Can Find Them
Your ideal clients have to be easy to find and they must be easy to communicate with. Targeting undercover CIA agents is not a good idea. You need to be able to source your target clientele in at least five different ways (with dozens of sub variations).
This requires research and it requires creativity.
Factor 5: Why They Should Work With You Now
This factor has two components to it. It involves selecting you, and making a call to you now. This means you must have a compelling message with a direct, powerful call to action. You must be tastefully forceful at convincing the client to get out of his comfortable chair, put down his remote and walk a mile through a snow storm to come work with you.
That is an exaggeration but it demonstrates the kind of effort it takes to get someone to make a move…now.
Factor 6: How To Reach Out To Them
This is about using a message delivery device (also known as media). If you want your prospective client to move, you need to reach them with the right message delivered in precisely the right way with the right media.
These six factors are literally the keys to the castle for lawyers. If you want to build a law firm that is truly special, a law firm that will allow you to take control of client attraction, this is how to do it.
If you want more details on how to structure your marketing to build this kind of law firm, call my office for an appointment today. 888.692.5531