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Seven 'aha' marketing moments for lawyers and law firms

By Jana Schilder

1. Are you a B2C law firm or a B2B law firm?

Business to consumer (B2C) law firms include: personal injury law, wills and estates, residential real estate, criminal law, and family law. You are marketing to individual Canadians who will pay your bills rather than businesses or organizations.

If you’re a B2C law firm, you’ll need to have a robust marketing program including an updated website with great original content, a basic understanding of Google keywords, search engine optimization (SEO) and a content marketing program. These are the basics required to start a business.

If you have a B2B law firm, you are marketing to other businesses. You still need a website, original content, and so on, but your marketing approach will be geared toward a more sophisticated audience of in-house or general counsel and savvy CEOs and business owners. What are their pain points and how can you help them? 

2. Who is your ideal client?

“Everyone” is not the right answer. Stop kidding yourself. Instead, describe the personality, attributes, behaviour and physical characteristics of your ideal client including:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Where they live
  • Their occupation
  • How much money they make
  • Who their referral networks are; who they are connected to
  • Whether they can they afford your services 

The more accurate picture you have of your ideal client, the easier it will be to reach them and understand which approach will work best. 

3. You don’t operate in a vacuum.

Everyone has competitors. Some law practice areas are crowded (personal injury, family law), others have been commoditized (mortgage closings, wills and estates kits for $50 on Amazon).

Checking out your competitors' websites is mandatory and free. 

The more targeted your law practice is, the fewer competitors you’ll have. Fertility law, health law, and elder law are three niche practice areas with little competition — for the moment.  

Many lawyers adopt a “me too” marketing strategy, essentially copying what another law firm is doing — and do it better. If you’re a leader in your practice area, watch out for copycats. 

4. Marketing is a bus — and you must drive it.

Nothing happens in business unless you act. Get into an action mindset!

Action means writing a blog, creating a video, making a speech/presentation, or having a coffee or lunch with someone.

In an over-communicated world, face-to-face activities win out over blogs. Many well-intentioned lawyers write blogs. Many more have derelict blogs; their last entry was May 2014.

5. Write a simple marketing plan.

Plan your marketing activities and work your plan. These days, you need to spend 20 per cent of your time marketing. If you’re not busy, marketing is all you should be doing.

Your marketing plan can be one page. Populate it with activities and actions you can reasonably manage. You don’t need to include research or a competitive analysis in your one-page plan. For example: 

Referral sources: I will do one breakfast, one lunch and one coffee per week with someone who can refer business to me.
Blog: If you commit to a blog, you must write content regularly. 
Speaking engagements: If you are comfortable making speeches, look for opportunities to give them.
Boards/community involvement: Boards can increase your profile, but they can require plenty of extra work.
LinkedIn: I will connect to three lawyers/referral sources per week on LinkedIn.
Public relations: Write articles for publications.

Without a plan, it’s too easy to not focus on your marketing. Or market only when you don’t have enough work. Marketing is a process, not a vending machine. (How great would that be: drop in $100 and out pops a paying client?)

If you think that doing no marketing is still an option, read this shocker.

6. Referral networks are key.

Most lawyers understand the importance of referral networks. If you know lawyers in complementary practice areas who can feed you work, that’s huge. You should also know lawyers in your practice areas, because sometimes you also need them because of conflicts.

Smart lawyers leverage referral networks all the time. It takes effort to build a solid referral network. The secret sauce is they must be mutual and work for both lawyers. You have to give and receive referrals.

Here is an earlier article about how to set up effective referral sources.

Also, review and update your LinkedIn profile. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile you are missing the boat. LinkedIn works and is a great way to connect with lawyers across Canada and internationally. Comment on their “shares” and see if you can strike up a conversation.

Here is an earlier article about how to write a lawyer profile on LinkedIn that stands out.

And here’s an earlier article about how lawyers can use LinkedIn to beef up their referral sources.

As important as websites are for B2C law firms, at least two of The Legal A Team’s clients don’t rely on them for client leads at all. Instead, they have very robust referral networks.

7. Be disciplined about social media.

Google likes it when you use social media. And there are many social media sites. You can waste time getting “likes” and “shares” but not prospects for initial consultations. So it's important to figure out who your ideal clients are and if they use social networks. Otherwise, you're wasting your time or educating your competition — or both. 

The other thing to seriously consider is that social media is very crowded and becoming more so. In many cases, people on sites like Twitter connect to you to sell you products and services. So, you may end up with an opt-in to a stream of junk mail.

Here’s an earlier article about the risks of social media

While referral networks function in strange and mysterious ways, it's important to consider where your resources are best applied and how to get the most from your marketing dollars. 

Jana Schilder is a marketing and public relations expert and co-founder of The Legal A Team

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