Get Into Motion
Many people think about law firm marketing as television advertising, billboards or fancy brochures. While many lawyers use those marketing methods, there is a better way to jump start your client attraction process.
Here is a four step process I use with my private clients:
Invite Your Current Clients and Former Clients to an Event
It is a good idea to hold a client appreciation event at least once a year. At this event you have some live entertainment and some food and beverages. The event should be an informal gathering designed to thank people who have done business with you (or referred clients to you) in the past year).
You must use a multistep marketing sequence to get your clients and former clients to attend the event. People do not agree to come to something just because it is free. They must be sold on the idea.
There are three specific purposes to holding this event:
1).To rekindle your relationship with past clients
2). To educate them on who you are and what you do
3). To initiate an on-going dialogue with them
Make Them Feel Like They Are Part of an Exclusive Club
By hiring you at some point in the past, your clients should feel like they are part of an exclusive club. They should feel as though they have a lawyer in the family. They should be encouraged to call you for any legal need. If you do not handle the issue of the day, you will refer them to someone who can help them.
Educate to Demonstrate Your Expertise
At this event you should give a brief talk covering something in your field of expertise. This is not a sales pitch nor is it an academic lecture. Most often, I advise my clients to discuss a case that has been in the news or something that is of particular interest to the local community. This not only showcases your expertise, it demonstrates leadership and people gravitate toward leaders.
Follow Up with Regular Communication
After the client appreciation event, each person should receive regular, frequent communication from you. This communication (newsletter, email, card in the mail) does exactly what the event did. It reminds the client or former client that you are still open for business. It lets them know that they have an attorney in the family. And it encourages them to call you if the have a need.
Note: In some practice areas, this event will be more geared to referral sources or people who are influential in the community (criminal defense, divorce and immigration for example). While it may be appropriate to invite clients to these events, you will also want to include your best referral sources as well.
Good Law Firm Marketing Includes Speaking Engagements
Law firm marketing is most effective when you can establish credibility and differentiate your firm in the minds of many people at one time. This is called marketing leverage and public speaking is one of the best examples of it.
You can speak at a convention or trade show, in front of a large or small group, locally or internationally. The venue is less important than the audience. Your audience should include the same people you target with your law firm marketing plan. In other words, it should include your ideal client. Select your speaking engagements based upon WHO will be in the room and not necessarily WHERE you will be speaking.
Once you have the right people in the room it is incumbent upon you to engage them. You need to be interesting, entertaining and leave them wanting more. Once they feel this way you must capitalize on that feeling. Doing that is how you leverage speaking as a marketing tool.
Here are five ways to use speaking engagements in your law firm marketing plan:
Get contact information from attendees. The goal of a speech is not to get a client. It is to get contact information. Few people will jump up during a talk and rush to the stage to hire you. Don’t sell anything. Do not give the audience “twenty one reasons to hire the Jones law firm”.
In your talk you are selling the audience on trusting you. Earn that trust during your speech. Show some vulnerability. Give them good information. Be the kind of person they want to know more about.
Always make an offer in your speech. Give away something in return for collecting contact information. At the end of every speech you should make the audience an offer to get a free report containing more information about the topic you covered. They can get this by filling out a form and providing their contact information. This gives you permission to follow up with them after the event. If your information is valuable, a significant portion of the audience will respond and this is a solid law firm marketing practice.
Numbers tell but stories sell. You talk must include both facts and stories. You want to both entertain the audience and inform them. Many times when an attorney gives a talk it is loaded with so many facts and so much case law that it makes watching Congress seem exciting. Give your audience facts but also tell stories. Pull them into the talk much like a good book will pull in the reader.
Tell them what to do but not how to do it. This is one of the key rules of law firm marketing. You can’t change someone’s life during a speech but you can generate interest. Few people will run out of your talk and try to handle their own legal matter. When you tell people what to do you pique their interest. Give them enough information to select a good lawyer.
End on a high note. At the end of your speech people must feel good about you. People will never remember what you have said but they will remember how you made them feel. Finish your speech with a humorous story or a story that makes people feel good about themselves. That’s what they will remember about you.
If you like to speak in public, getting up in front of a room full of people is a great way to differentiate yourself and your law firm. Add public speaking into your law firm marketing plan. It will help you develop relationships with many potential clients at one time and it provides a boost to your credibility.
How One Attorney Uses Seminars to Build His Law Firm
Vince Walker owes a great deal of his success in the legal profession to his stamp collection. Well, not exactly, but it was his fervent interest in collecting stamps that led to the law firm marketing strategy that propelled Vince’s practice into the fast lane.
As a boy and all through school Vince was a stamp enthusiast. He collected stamps from the United States as well as from all over the rest of the world. As far back as high school it was said that his own collection was worth more than $15,000 – all stamps that he’d researched and procured with very little help from others.
Much of his interest (and most of his success) was nurtured by his stamp collecting mentor. The man went by the name of Ernie and ran a large stamp collector’s store in the state capital. But that’s not how Vince met Ernie. Ernie was devoted to stamp collecting and held classes and seminars about stamps all around the tri-county area. Vince met Ernie at a class he’d held years ago in the auditorium of the high school. From that first meeting Vince didn’t miss a single class held by Ernie. In time Ernie and Vince became not only friends but nearly contemporaries in the field of collectable stamps. And Vince’s collection continued to build value with Ernie’s help.
Vince’s interest in stamps waned as he made his way through college and the arduous study that comes with law school. His efforts paid off though as he breezed through the bar review and passed the bar on his first try. Vince agreed to work as an intern in a personal injury law practice for two years after passing the bar. From there he planned to open his own practice if things seemed right. They did. About halfway through his two-year get acquainted with the law apprenticeship, he began to roll out his marketing plan ala Ernest.
Remembering how he felt sitting in Ernest’s stamp classes so long ago Vince wanted to get his practice up and running using the same strategy – teaching classes. Since he planned on opening an estate planning office he began offering local classes on filling out simple wills. He also offered a class on incorporating a business along with one on using a family trust. At first the classes were lightly attended but along about the fourth month people started showing up in droves. Vince was still working at the personal injury firm but was building a client base with the list of attendees showing up for his classes. Not only that, but he was getting some actual paying clients from them as well.
By the time his two-year stint with the personal injury firm was up Vince’s classes were quite popular. He’d added a lot of new topics too. Every month Vince would conduct a class and almost every month he’d get paying work from one or more of the attendees. It only made sense to lease some space and set out on his own. And that’s what he did. Here are a list of the more popular classes and seminars he offered in that first year and every year since:
- Avoiding Probate
- Writing Your Will
- Trusts Made Simple
- How to Hire The Best Attorney For Your Personal Matters (every attorney should offer this one)
- Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies and Corporations
- Understanding Living Wills
- Planning Your Estate
- Understanding Power of Attorney
- Offshore Wealth Preservation Strategies
- Asset Protection and the Patriot Act
- Family Limited Partnerships
Vince has taken the time to research and write comprehensive course outlines for each of his classes. He’s actually developed several of the more popular classes into two-day weekend seminars. These almost always bring in lucrative business and lots of referrals. But Vince sees his efforts as more than just a ploy to bring in business. He sees his teaching as a way to get out and meet people; to offer something of value for people who might not have such information otherwise. Vince believes that success comes from a fair value for value exchange and he knows that if he makes the first move in offering something of true value, that before long that value will be returned to him in the form of new business or other opportunities.
Oh, now that Vince has his practice up and running he’s made a little more time for his old passion, stamp collecting. He still makes Ernest’s stamp workshops though. Wouldn’t miss them. Vince tells me and anyone who’ll listen that he learned all he needed to know about business and marketing through his interest in stamp collecting. Most don’t completely understand that comment, but no matter, it’s all good – and we’ve got another truly dedicated lawyer right here in town.
Being Stuck in a Snow Storm Leads an Attorney to a Great Marketing Plan
Victor Lombardo owes much of the success of his thriving legal practice to a crippling snowstorm that literally shut down the city of Chicago in January of 1979. Victor was returning to Saint Louis from New York on behalf of his firm when his flight was re-routed for landing into Chicago due to severe storms. He spent the following 36 hours camped out in an employee lounge at O’Hare airport with more than 3,000 other stranded travelers.
Victor spent a week in his firm’s New York office orienting with a senior partner who specialized in corporate law. He was tired and like everyone else stuck at O’Hare wanted nothing more than to be able to be on his way home. The room had turned into a makeshift shelter. Babies were being fed and changed. People were playing cards and other travel games. There were children running around unattended. At times tensions were high as virtually everyone was frazzled. Victor sat on the floor against a wall and reached into his briefcase for some work and pulled out a blank will form. There was a man sitting by his side who commented on the will saying that he wished he was rich enough to leave everyone in his family a yacht, mansion, and millions.
Victor was slap happy by now so he played along and began to fill in some of the spaces in the will as the man dictated. Another of the airport-campers noticed what they were doing and joined in leaving his kids each a savings and loan. Before long there was a small gathering around Victor with each of the people adding their fantasies to the will. The little group was drawing the attention of the larger crowd. Victor saw an opportunity to offer a bit of relief to the weary assembly. He stood and explained to the entire room that he was an attorney and he’d been creating a fantasy will for some of the others. The people picked right up on the game and began shouting out offerings for their surviving loved ones.
Within a few minutes an airport employee offered to make multiple copies of the blank will and distribute them to the entire group. This way everyone could fill in the blanks on their own pretend wills as Victor offered legal tips along with some lighthearted kidding around. The session was a hit with the stranded travelers and Victor held several of them with people recycled through the room from other parts of the airport. He was actually performing a valuable service in providing an interesting distraction for the weary and airport officials were glad to utilize his generous ad hoc class to relieve some of the tension of the travelers. But there was much more going on than simply relief for the weary.
Victor came up with a strategy for using a learning environment to attract new clients. It has worked for his law firm for almost 30 years.
Victor was amazed how eager people were to learn. As he went along he fielded many intelligent questions and was able to offer some good suggestions for the people in attendance. The experience made a profound impression on Victor. Several years later he decided to open his own firm and used his airport experience to create interest in his legal services. His plan was simple. Each month he’d offer a free class that anyone could attend where they’d learn how to fill out common legal forms. Not only that, for attending the class they’d actually receive a couple of blank forms along with instructions on how to use the form. He decided he’d offer one class every month for an entire year and evaluate the strategy after the year was up.
Since it had been such a success in the past, the first class he held was on wills. Seventeen people showed up and Victor loosely stuck to the casual teaching style he’d used at the airport. The class was a great success. Every one of his sessions had more people than the one before and Victor was building a nice client base from the people who needed actual legal work. Here are the classes he offered in the first year:
1. Make Out Your Will
2. Simple Contract
3. Promissory Note
4. Rental Agreement
5. Simple I.O.U.
6. Credit Application
7. Employment Agreement
8. Financial Statement
9. Bill of Sale
10. General Affidavit
11. Pre-Nuptial Agreement
12. Divorce Filing
Surprisingly, the class on pre-nuptial agreements was the most popular but Victor received absolutely no business writing pre-nups following the session. Still, the classes were a huge success bringing in 50 and more people for each one – he was converting between five and ten percent of them into clients so the classes were definitely paying off. Victor provides a valuable service for people with his classes and is more than happy to help folks further by offering honest and fair legal services to those who need more. Sounds like a winning formula.
Law Firm Seminars: If You Teach – They Will Come
Before changing careers and becoming an attorney my good friend James was a teacher for nearly 15 years. I guess he’s still a teacher at heart. As far back as I can remember James has been completely unselfish in offering to help people and explain things. In fact, it’s been said of James that his true ability lies in making complex subjects easy for the average person to understand. This is what led him to the teaching profession. But somehow he wasn’t completely fulfilled as a teacher. He wanted more. So he went back to school and before we knew it he had become an attorney.
He worked several years in a family law practice before branching out on his own. At first, his old firm offered a fair number of referrals. Added to those clients were the friends and colleagues he’d known as a teacher. And slowly but surely his business grew. But it wasn’t until he did what comes naturally, teaching, that he hit full stride in what has become one of the most lucrative law practices in town. And it all happened quite by accident, though many would say there are no accidents in the world.
One day James received a call from the curriculum director at the community college. He wanted James to teach a civics class two nights a week at the adult education program the college offered. Well, James could never turn down a teaching opportunity or an old friend so he agreed to teach the class. And something happened when he did. The material offered in the civics class was closely related to some of the family law matters he dealt with on a daily basis in his law practice. Before long James was offering a question and answer session related to certain family law issues after regular civics class hours.
Word of these sessions got back to the college and James was offered an opportunity to teach his own family law class the following semester. It soon became one of the college’s most popular courses and brought James a good deal of business to his practice. But it didn’t stop there. James so much enjoyed teaching the class that he began offering short weekend seminars on family law matters such as simple contracts, divorce counseling, child custody issues, bankruptcy, immigration and others. These classes were usually full and these too brought James a lot of business.
If the story ended here it would be a happy one for sure. But it doesn’t end here. James ended up literally developing and adding a teaching arm to his practice.
Here’s how he did it:
The new division of his firm specialized in offering family law seminars to the public as well as a weekend seminar offering to show other attorneys how to build their clientele by teaching classes of their own. So even though James had become a lawyer he never stopped teaching. It wasn’t long before James was offering marketing seminars to other professional such as chiropractors, insurance and real estate brokers, and of course, attorneys. As it turned out, James was once again a full time teacher. He enjoyed teaching and referred most of the legal work to other lawyers in his ever-growing practice. I guess things had gone full circle.
I once asked James what it was he though had made him successful. He answered rather quickly as though he’d thought about it a lot. He said he believed it was his willingness to share his knowledge with others without asking for anything in return that made him successful. He also said that in the beginning he never taught a single class with the intention of picking up clients. It was always about the instruction and his goal of helping to educate people, to help make their lives better. As time passed he obviously began teaching to build his practice and produce income but things didn’t start out that way.
I asked James what I might do to build a business around a teaching theme. He told me that there are many businesses that could easily benefit by offering instruction as a lead-in. He explained that this should be evident in many fields where people offered classes not only as a source of actual income but to secure clients for their main business. I then asked what was necessary to conduct successful classes and to actually acquire clients from them. He offered the following items in no particular order:
- Know what you’re talking about – have some valuable expertise to offer. People can easily spot a blowhard.
- Don’t hold back on information. This is one of the hardest concepts for new instructors to grasp. Many think that if they unload all they know in the class or seminar people will have no need to contract for their services. To a small degree this might be true but in the long run being generous with your knowledge will pay huge dividends as new clients recognize that you’re trying in earnest to help them.
- Teach concepts that people need to know. In other words, offer real value. It’s amazing how appealing you become as a service provider when people realize that you are sincere in offering great information – information that will make a real difference in their lives.
- Remain humble. No matter how much success you achieve, never forget where you came from or the people who helped you to gain your success.
There were a few more items but most were simply common sense – stuff like keeping your word and doing a great job for someone once he became a client. It’s clear to me that James not only talks a good game but lives it as well. We could sure use more devoted people like him in the world.