What You Don’t Know About Marketing for Law Firms Can Kill You
This past week I met the leader of a law firm that is on life support. His firm is literally hanging on by the thinnest of threads. This guy is hoping that they will land a big client “within the next few weeks” to help him make payroll.
He called me to “pick my brain” on law firm marketing. He wanted me to show him the magic beans he could plant that would help him grow his revenue overnight. He asked about pay per click advertising, newspaper ads, handing out flyers at flea markets, etc.
Unfortunately for this guy (and the 40 employees of his law firm) it is too late.
He can do all that stuff and some stuff he didn’t mention but even if he gets 20 new clients he will be in the same predicament within the next six months. Why?
Because there is nothing that makes his law firm different from any other law firm in his area. Clients have no compelling reason to work with him. He is the same as everyone else. There is no law firm marketing trick that can fix that overnight. It takes time and it takes some careful planning.
The one question I ask every new client before I decide if I work with them is the question this guy can’t answer:
Why would someone choose your law firm over everyone else who does what you do?
Ultimately your clients decide if your answer is correct…and they vote with their wallets.
Your Law Firm is Leaking
Each and every month you lose influence over your clients. Each month some of the people who have paid you the highest fees or done the most work with you become less and less interested in you. Each month your stellar reputation fades a little more in the minds of the folks who refer you new clients And most people are probably not doing anything about it.
Because most people are lazy.
You lose 10% of your influence with your clients, prospects and referral sources for every 30 days you do not have contact with them.
This means ten months from now, the great client you had lunch with today will have forgotten all about you. It means the doctor who sent you that great referral last week will have a hard time remembering what you do for a living. It means the business owner you met at the networking event yesterday will not recognize you if you hit him with your car next spring.
So what is the solution?
The answer is to start communicating with these people. Each month you should have some kind of communication with your clients, prospective clients and referral sources. This communication can be a newsletter, it can be a card or it can be a phone call or an email. It really doesn’t matter how you interact with them. You simply want to remind them that you are here and ready to help them and the people they know.
Some people will say: “I don’t have the money!”
Do you have a real business or are you just playing around? You need to invest money in your client acquisition efforts in order to develop a real business (a law firm is a business by the way).
It costs less than a dollar to purchase and mail a greeting card each month. It costs about $2 to send out a printed newsletter (in small quantity). Email is practically free – just type and hit send.
But some people will need to be convinced. Here’s how the math works:
You mail 1000 newsletters at $2 each (the cost for printing and mailing). You mail 1000 greeting cards at $1 each. You type and send 1000 emails to the people within your database (only to those from whom you have received permission). You do these three things every month. That is a total monthly expense of $3000.
Let’s say it takes you three months to see any business from these efforts. So you have spent $9,000 in keeping up with the most valuable 1000 people in your database.
On the first day of the fourth month you get a client as a direct result of these efforts. This client is your average client. And your average client pays you $10,000 in fees.
Was your investment worth it?
Will you get more than one client from these efforts?
Most likely. There is a cumulative effect to this kind of system. After about six months you will start to see more and more interest in your services. It takes some people a little longer to absorb the information and react.
Will you get more clients by doing this compared to doing nothing?
What are you waiting for?
If you need a kick in the rear end and want some help in setting up this type of system, give me a call. 1.888.692.5531
Even a Small Law Firm Has a Brand
Branding is the relationship between the legal services you provide and your clients. Yes, you read that right. Believe it or not, all consumers have relationships with brands. Think of your favorite soft-drink, restaurant, or anything you use that you paid money for. Like all consumers, you have emotions, memories, and ideas that spring to mind when you think of that special product. These emotions, memories and ideas create a connection between you and the product. This connection is actually being managed by the company that markets the product. This is called branding. The legal services you offer are your product and your potential clients will view you, your firm, and your services as a brand.
Branding has everything to do with how clients and potential clients perceive your practice. This perception needs to be planned, executed, and managed by your firm.
Potential clients evaluate you in a variety of areas. Are you professional, ethical, and competent? Are you the experts in a particular area of law? Does working with your firm bring a level of prestige? Are you innovative? Are you overpriced or are you a discount firm? Before you even see a potential client, they have already made up their mind about most or all of the above questions. They have a sense of who you are and what you stand for before they even walk through your door.
The Elements of a Brand
From the first time a client hears the name of your firm to when they send in their final bill, they are having a brand experience. This experience should be peppered with clear, well-planned, cohesive messages. These messages are the building blocks or critical elements of your brand.
One of the most important elements of branding that law firms must consider is the brand promise. Your clients need to believe not only that you are capable, but also that they can trust you with their privacy. Your brand promise is what gives your firm credibility. No amount of talent or discount specials can make up for a firm that as lost the trust of its client base.
Another crucial element of branding is brand positioning. Your brand position explains the services you offer. Law firms need to be very careful about how they position their brand. You may offer several services that do not generate much revenue for your firm. Decide on which services you want to become known for and consider these first when deciding just how to position your brand.
Another aspect of brand positioning is determining and expressing to clients what it is that makes your firm unique. What sets you apart from other firms? Consider your price, your reputation, your geographical location, and any hidden talents or strengths in the lawyers that are a part of your firm.
Your brand identity is who you are beyond your promise. You need to decide how you want potential clients to view your firm. Do you want clients to see you as innovative, well established, small and personable, or large and competent? Consider how you want clients to describe your firm. Jot down a few words that you would like clients to associate with your firm. These words are the basis of the brand identity that you want to develop.
One of the most critical elements in legal branding is your brand reputation. It is important that your branding efforts don’t stop once the client has hired you to represent them. Your marketing efforts and networking got the client in the door, but when they leave they are a walking, talking advertisement for your firm. A client’s experience with every person they encounter within your firm needs to confirm the brand promise, brand position, and the brand identity that you are trying to build.
First Things First
Before you can decide where you are going, you first have to know where you’ve been. Find out how your current clients view your firm. This can be done by sending your clients a questionnaire or having potential clients check a list of attributes that lead them to your firm. Research what other firms of your size and specialty are doing. How you compare to them in price, technology and other areas, will give you an idea of how clients view your firm.
If you have not been managing your brand, you may have established a brand that is not one you’d like to keep. If this is the case, then you will need to rebrand your firm through marketing. Whether you are branding or rebranding, consistency is critical.
Once you have defined the elements of the brand you would like to project and you have done research to determine your position in the marketplace, it is time to create a multi-faceted marketing plan that promotes and reflects your brand. Decide from the beginning that all of your materials will be cohesive. A mistake commonly made by larger firms is that they allow lawyers to make adjustments to their printed materials. At times it is a slight change to the letterhead, other times it is a change to the format of the business cards, some firms will even allow different departments to choose their own styles all together.
Your color scheme, logo, and fonts all play a part in the building your brand. Keeping them consistent will help to solidify your message.
Today marketing is more than commercials and mailers. Many firms are using blogs, search engine optimization, email newsletters, and podcasts to stay in touch with clients and to get their name out. Regardless of what form your marketing takes, it is critical that the brand you are trying to portray comes across loud and clear.
Your brand is crucial to your practice. Even though this basic fact of marketing has been known for decades, many law firms still fail to grasp it. Don’t be one of them. In order for your firm to thrive, you need to manage your brand with clarity and consistency.