Attorney Marketing: Build Your Personal Brand & Client Base
Your success in client development depends on you identifying which marketing activities are right for you, based on your particular strengths, interests, and practice area.
This outline addresses a number of common questions I have heard from attorneys over the years:
- How do I create my own marketing plan built on my strengths and interests?
- Where do I get started if I am new to client development?
- How can introverts excel in marketing while doing what they enjoy?
- How do I eliminate anxiety around marketing by selecting strategies that fit me?
- How do I determine if social media or online marketing is right for my practice?
- What are best practices for attorneys to build their personal brand?
- What are new techniques in professional services marketing?
- How did your firm grow from one to ten attorneys in six years?
- What are ways to get referrals from those who already know many attorneys in my practice area?
The steps below will enhance your development and performance as a lawyer, giving you greater career satisfaction, relieve stress, and improve your outlook on life and the profession.
Create Your Attorney Marketing Strategy
Fortunately, you don’t need to build your plan from scratch. Our law firm experienced consistent annual growth by using the Traction EOS system to identify our goals and keep our attention on them.
In this outline, the first two steps help you apply Traction EOS concepts to your practice. Once you have that foundation, the subsequent steps will help you build your practice and become a leader in your niche.
1. Read One Book: Traction.
One book, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, by Gino Wickman gives you a simple process for identifying your unique vision for your practice:
- your core values,
- your core focus,
- your long term goals,
- your marketing strategy,
- your 1-year plan, and
- weekly routines that give your practice the traction to move forward.
This book is written for small business owners. The concepts are equally important to a solo attorney, a partner growing a law practice, and small law firms.
2. As You Read Traction, Fill Out the VTO for your practice.
3. Have a Separate Plan to Reach Referral Sources and Potential Clients
Only two types of people should get your attention in marketing:
- Referral Sources (people who frequently hear from your potential clients)
- Your Target Market (potential clients)
Referral sources are long-term relationships you can build.
Clients can typically be categorized as relational clients (long term clients with multiple matters) or transactional clients (clients who hire you for a single matter). For example, relationship clients would include corporate clients and others with multiple legal needs over many years. Transactional clients would include a bankruptcy, DWI, or personal injury client.
For relationship clients, help them be successful and invest in the relationship over time. For transactional clients, focus on either building relationships with referral sources (i.e. who would your potential clients tell about their problem?) or using marketing channels (e.g. online marketing) that are present where your potential clients are seeking help.
Example of a DWI Attorney
One DWI attorney felt dismayed. “DWI clients come in every shape and size,” he said. “The only thing they have in common is that they all drink and drive.” He knew he could do traditional paid advertising like the Yellow Pages or online marketing, but he felt there was no way to pinpoint referral sources or marketing channels that were not already saturated.
However, other DWI attorneys found riches in unique niches. One DWI attorney got most of his clients from tow truck drivers who handed out the attorney’s business card when called to tow away the vehicle at an arrest scene. Another DWI attorney got his referrals from a bartender who handed out the attorney’s business card when patrons told of their recent legal problems. Another DWI attorney made sure he or his staff had a repetitive presence where drinkers congregate, like softball leagues, rock concerts, and festivals. Another DWI attorney gave everyone a list of their rights if arrested, including his contact information and a reminder to “keep this in your car.”
- Identify your best potential referral sources: Who do potential clients talk to about the problem you can solve? This might be a hotline, government agency, nonprofit organization, CPA, bartender, or physician. Attorneys in other practice areas are often great referral sources because their contacts call them and trust their referral.
- Identify where you can reach your target market: Where do your potential clients congregate? This might be certain events, organizations, websites, or locations. You have limited time and money, so you only want to fish where the fish are biting.
Demonstrate Thought Leadership to Get Clients
Share your best ideas
- in writing,
- on websites,
- at presentations to your target market, and
- with your referral sources.
Before your potential clients will invest money with you, they must know you can solve their problems by either
- receiving a referral from someone they trust and
- observing your expertise in action, in an article or presentation.
Do not withhold your expertise. People need a sample before they will buy (unless you were referred by a trusted source).
This is great news for introverts. Thought leadership involves marketing through introverted activities like writing articles, social media posts, and emails.
When Meeting Clients, Focus on Them, Not the Law
When you meet with potential clients or existing clients, focus on them, not the law. The time for showcasing your thought-leadership is before clients come to you. When they do, they want you to listen to them and share your strategy to solve their problem. They don’t want you pontificating about the law, listening to yourself speak, building your ego. Similarly, if knowing your credentials are important to a potential clients, you can avoid the need to toot your own horn when speaking with them by having your staff give out your bio sheet before you first meet.
Clients hire attorneys who
- understand their problems and
- can solve their problems.
This means you should listen 80% of the time, asking questions to gather the information you need to articulate a strategy. Then discuss your strategy for solving the client’s problems.
At the end of your first client meeting, estimate the costs of solving the problems, and ask if that aligns with his/her expectations. If not, the feedback will give you an opportunity to determine whether less expensive alternatives are available or whether you simply are not the right fit. You are not the right fit if a potential client will not pay the fees required to achieve his/her goals.
Improve Your Clients’ Experience
Think about every “touch point” where a client interfaces with your practice and consider whether there is a way to improve your client’s experience in that part. Perhaps an example would be helpful:
A referral source tells Jane, a potential client, she should contact you.
- Jane decides to look you up online. Do you show up when someone types your name in a search engine?
- Jane goes to your website. Is it easy for her to identify that you have expertise in her problem? Is it easy for her to find your phone number?
- Jane calls the phone number on your website. How professional, smooth, and pleasant is the process of scheduling a meeting with you?
- Jane drives to your office. Is it easy to find your office?
- Jane enters your reception area and sits down. Does the office look professional? Are the reading materials geared towards her? Is she greeted warmly?
- Jane fills out a new client form. Does the form require more information that is necessary? Is Jane given her attorney’s bio to learn more about your practice before you meet? Is jane given other materials with outside resources related to her problem?
- (continue with the typical chronology of your clients)
Continue this exercise through the attorney meeting, payment, communications during representation, the conclusion of representation, and follow-up communications. Continually ask
- Is there a way to improve the client’s experience at this point?
- What would it look like to incredibly exceed expectations at this point?
- If the client were paying twice our normal rate, what “extras” could we provide?
These questions can help you think creatively, expanding beyond your traditional quality of service. When this brainstorming exercise is complete, identify which ideas you want to apply in your practice.
When our law firm did this, in our reception area alone we found problems:
- the reception area had legal magazines, not topics of interest to our clients,
- our new client form asked unnecessary questions related to practice areas that no longer existed in our firm, and
- nothing in our reception area helped clients learn about our team and other services for them.
- Make a list of every touch point your client has from the moment she first hears about you.
- Walk through each touch point yourself, and make notes about ideas you have to improve the client experience.
- With your staff, spouse, or a friend, consider how to improve clients experience for each each touch point.
Be a Resource for the Whole Problem, Not Just the Legal Issue
All attorneys were trained in law school using an approach like IRAC: Issue, Rule, Analysis/Application, Conclusion. That is, identify the legal issues, identify the relevant rule of law, analyze by applying the rule of law to the facts, and conclude. This works in the controlled universe of law school, but real clients require more: problem solving.
Too many attorneys listen in the client’s first meeting and then go into IRAC mode. Before you do, as clients about their big picture goals. Understand what they want to accomplish. Many clients are not rational, thinking solely about resolution of legal issues. They have a host of emotions and other issues, and by you knowing them, you can
- solve the legal issue more effectively,
- interact with the client more sensitively, and
- be a resource for the whole problem, not just the legal issue.
Over time, you can become a resource for all of the problems your client is facing.
Perhaps an example best illustrates this. One immigration attorney meets with a client, discusses the visa immigration issues, and prepares a plan for resolution.
A better immigration attorney does all of that, but also
- provides a list of resources including (A) free ESL classes for children in the community, (B) contact information for local immigrate organizations or community leaders, and (C) other resources that provide great value, beyond legal services, to the client.
As another example, some business attorneys recognize the importance of understanding business strategy, not just being legal technicians.
It goes without saying that the attorney who helps the client solve the whole problem, not just the legal issue, will
- be seen as a more valuable resource and
- have clients who recognize the attorney understands them and provided significant value for the cost of legal fees.
Identify marketing tactics for your practice
The best marketing tactics for you will probably be new to your niche, either
- considering how best to take your message to where your target market is seeking services like yours or
- applying a proven strategy in another field to your practice.
Here is a collections of marketing ideas to consider: ABA’s 50 simple ways you can market your practice. Identify which concepts apply to your practice by comparing them to your VTO.
Most attorneys have a website. As the firm grows, it increasingly has a need to
- demonstrate a professional first impression on its website
- post articles online showcasing attorneys’ expertise, and
- easily update information as the firm evolves.
This is usually accomplished through a content management system (CRM). WordPress is the most popular CRM for small law firm websites because it is easy to update and the cost is reasonable:
- a license is free,
- thousands of free design templates are available, and
- hiring a designer to create a custom design can be a few hundred dollars.
As WordPress has grown in popularity, hacker attacks have increased, requiring firms to schedule routine backups and frequently apply security updates to protect their website. To address this problem, alternatives like SquareSpace.com provide a hosted service with features similar to WordPress, alleviating the need to manage the security and backups of your site. Companies like WPengine.com will manage the security and backups of your WordPress site while providing excellent speed and reliability, but the cost can be substantial.
We have a WordPress site hosted at WPEngine.com. If we were to start a website from scratch today, we would use SquareSpace.com.
About the Author
This was written by Aaron Hall, CEO and attorney at JUX Law Firm