Do you want to improve the effectiveness and return on investment of your solo or small law firm marketing – but are hesitant to invest more time and money? Maybe you struggle with thoughts like these:
- If I provide excellent service, business should just come.
- I don’t like “tooting my own horn.”
- Marketing feels so manipulative to me.
- I hate being rejected.
- Nothing I try works as well as I would like.
If you run your own law firm, you are likely facing stiff competition from both large law firms and solo attorneys who can offer similar services – either for lower costs or with more experience – than you can provide.
In addition, your prospects and clients are better educated, more sophisticated and not nearly as loyal as they may have been in the past.
If you don’t put yourself out there – if you don’t market your services and face the possibility of rejection – you won’t be as successful as all the other attorneys who are already doing this.
Small Law Firm Marketing in 2 Easy Steps
The reality of running a successful law practice is: You can have the greatest location, offer the best service, have the most well-trained staff, demonstrate your proven track record of success – but none of that matters if you aren’t able to attract and retain enough clients to generate a steady income over time.
The #1 reason why your law firm will fail is because you aren’t attracting and retaining enough clients who want and/or need your legal services enough to exchange their hard-earned dollars for the services you sell.
So it stands to reason that the #1 most important business skill you can acquire is mastering how to cost effectively attract and keep profitable clients.
Small law firm marketing isn’t difficult. In fact, it can be summed up in two primary steps:
Offer a service that a large enough group of people want enough to pay for and then tell them about it in their terms – so they learn what you can offer and understand the benefits of the services you provide.<
Step 1: Provide A Legal Service People Want and Will Pay For
At the heart of any successful small law firm marketing campaign is what you are selling. This is standard economics 101 with the laws of supply and demand.
You may enjoy a particular area of law that only applies to 50 companies in the US, but you are going to have your work cut out for you to sell enough of those services to make a decent living.
Before you begin your marketing campaign, look at:
- who else offers the type of services you sell
- who is looking for/buying the type of services you sell
You can’t magically grow initial market demand unless you have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on a consumer awareness advertising campaign so pick a service to market that has a decent shot of success.
On the other hand, one of the biggest challenges lawyers have when marketing their services is focus. They want to provide a laundry list of options in hopes that one will catch the eye of their prospect.
This often backfires because your prospect isn’t looking to hire the general practice lawyer who only does two divorce cases each year. He wants the lawyer who specializes in divorce law and derives most of his business from those types of cases. In other words, he wants a specialist, not a jack of all trades.
Your marketing should focus on the specific types of services you provide and build a case for why you are the attorney to hire to deliver that service. Here are a few things to consider:
- Do your services address prospects’ needs? Are you offering custom-tailored services that are specific to your prospects’ problems or concerns? Or do you offer cookie cutter services or a generic list of practice areas to try to drum up business however you can.
- Do you explain how you can help prospects solve their problems? Your prospects aren’t legal experts. They probably don’t understand the law or what you do to solve their legal concerns. It’s on you to explain the range of your services, your processes, and how you conduct business in clear, non-legal terminology that your great grandmother or 10-year old niece could understand. Keep it simple – why should clients hire you to solve their problems?
- Do you demonstrate your knowledge, skills and expertise? Your prospects want to know you’ve helped people just like them solve problems just like theirs. Each person believes their specific case is unique – and it’s causing them a lot of worry. They want to know what types of similar cases you’ve handled, that you have in-depth experience in that particular practice area, that you have the qualifications and skills to guide them to a successful outcome.
- Do you empathize with clients? For many prospects, their legal concerns are embarrassing – a sign that they have morally failed – and they would prefer to sweep those issues under the rug as quickly as possible. When you talk with prospects, are you demonstrating that you sincerely understand their concerns and want to help them, or is this just another case for you? Take time to understand that the bigger your client’s perceived problem is, the greater your opportunity for winning a loyal, grateful client when you successfully solve their problem quickly and compassionately.
- Do you make it easy for prospects to hire you? Some lawyers market their services with an eye on the big price – a multiple year contract or ongoing monthly retainer fee. However, prospects can view these types of services as risky and expensive. Are there introductory services you can offer to get your foot in the door, win initial business, and start building your attorney-client relationship? What can you offer on a small scale that can eventually lead to bigger projects?
- Do you provide attractive fees? How you price your services plays a big part in how well your services will sell. If you say your standard rate is $300/hour and you have no idea how many billable hours the project will take, most people will be hesitant to hire you. They want an accurate estimate of your fee without hidden costs. Consider packaging your services into different option levels with flat-fees for each.
Step 2: Clearly Explain What You Do
Once you know what service you will be marketing, the next step involves creating a clear, consistent marketing message that explains to prospects the benefits of hiring you and why they should choose you over all other options they have available – including doing nothing.
Your prospect may have a pressing legal concern – or he may be contemplating preventative measures – but his two biggest concerns are
- why should I spend money to solve this now?
- why should I pay you to solve this for me?
If you don’t have answers to these two questions, you become a commodity. It doesn’t matter what service you offer, someone somewhere is offering something similar faster/better/cheaper.
Think about the service providers you keep patronizing. Why do you have a long term relationship with your doctor, dentist, accountant, etc? What is it about these people that keeps bringing you back to them? Is it their personality? That they know about your problems/history? That they’ve been helpful, empathetic, effective in the past? That they make you comfortable? That they offer you something special or unique you can’t get from competitors? That they are convenient?
Your marketing message needs to clearly communicate these types of benefits along with why you are the best choice to solve your prospects’ problems. For instance:
- Does your message speak directly to your target audience? Marketing messages must be personalized to the type of audience they are addressing, whether that be blue-collar workers, doctors, housewives, first time home buyers, or entrepreneurs. You will need to craft a different marketing message for each target audience that addresses their specific problems, wants, needs and concerns. In addition, you will need a unique marketing message for each practice area you handle. The more you broaden your message, the more you dilute its effectiveness.
- Is your message clear and easy to understand? People are busy and don’t have the time to try to decipher legal jargon, flowery messages or cute slogans. Prospects won’t pick up the phone if they are confused about what you offer or the benefits of hiring you.
- Does your message make a complete case for why prospects should hire you? Your marketing campaign should present a complete and compelling case for why prospects should hire you to solve their legal problem. Approach your marketing as if you were going to trial to argue a case before a jury. To succeed, you have to tell them a story, present evidence, and be extremely clear about why jurists should believe you rather than your opponent. A complete marketing message includes identifying a key problem your prospects have, proving why this problem is causing your prospect harm and why it’s best to handle it sooner rather than later, explaining various solutions to this legal problem and what each might look like long-term, and building a case for why you have the knowledge, skills and experience to solve this problem.
- Does your message include urgency? Most people don’t wake up one morning and think, “Today is a great day to hire a lawyer!” Rather, they usually wait until the last minute – after they’ve exhausted other options – before calling your office. In many cases, this can be problematic and cause setbacks, so your marketing message should explain the risks of allowing the problem to continue as is. You don’t need to use scare tactics, but if a prospect doesn’t think it’s urgent to solve his problem, he won’t take action. He’ll think about it, mull it over, read about it, and maybe one day, get around to doing something about it.
- Does your message explain what prospects should do next? It may sound silly, but if you don’t tell prospects exactly what you want them to do, they are far less likely to take action. You may think just putting your website URL or phone number or address in your advertisement is enough. It’s not. Instead, tell prospects what, exactly, they should do, the benefits of taking that next step, and what they can expect if they call to set up a consultation or attend one of your seminars or visit your website for your free report.
Achieving success with small law firm marketing takes ongoing effort, time and resources. If you dabble or jump from one thing to the next, you likely will never have much success. This doesn’t mean you should stick with a program that doesn’t work – but it does mean it can take multiple trials and a few rounds of testing different tactics to see what works and what doesn’t before you find the right marketing mix for your specific law practice and target audience.
There are no cookie cutter marketing solutions – but if you want to create a successful law practice for the long-term, you have to spend time mastering the art of attracting and retaining clients.
Fortunately, it’s a skill anyone can learn with a bit of practice and patience.