The best way to create a unique marketing message that will differentiate you from other lawyers within your local legal market is to check out your competitors and analyze what they are currently doing to market themselves.
How much do you actually know about how competing law practices do business?
Fortunately, with a little sleuthing, you can fairly easily uncover who their new clients are, any new accounts they’ve just received, new hires, the outcomes of recent cases, and any press releases and articles they’ve recently published.
Step 1: Find Competitors in Your Legal Market
Where would your target market look to find attorneys who offer the services they need? Put yourself in the minds of your prospective legal clients and think about how they might research law firms. Then, start informational files on each competitor you find. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Google search – A large number of your potential legal clients will probably start with a Google search, so try typing in different keywords that may lead to your website. Try [-insert state region/city-] [-insert practice area-] ["lawyer", "law firm", "attorney"] – like “Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney” or “California Tax Lawyer”. Brainstorm other possible ideas for how people might search for your services, such as describing their problems like “starting a sole proprietorship” or “register a copyright.” Head over to the Google Keyword tool for more suggestions one how people might find services like yours. Then, make a list of which law firms show up in the organic listings? Which law firms are paying for ads?
- Websites – What information do your competitors include on their websites? Do they blog or have an email newsletter? If so, subscribe. Do they have social media accounts? If so, follow or friend them. Check out sections on recent news and events, verdicts, press releases, upcoming speaking engagements, articles published and other interesting tidbits.
- Yellow Pages – Flip through your local Yellow Pages. Which lawyers have the biggest or most prominent ads? For each ad, write down what the law firm says their competitive advantage is. In other words, how do they specifically answer why should people choose them? (Don’t make this up or guess – write down what the ad says.) When you are done, you will probably have a list of very similar ideas. If you want to differentiate yourself, delete all traces of these similar slogans and ideas from your marketing materials.
- Advertising – Where do lawyers advertise? Whenever you see a law firm ad, make note of it. Check out your regional newspaper, local publications, movie theaters, ads on grocery store baskets, billboards and bus display ads, your religious bulletin, and so forth.
Analyzing Your Competitors
Once you’ve collected information on at least 10 other law firms who offer similar legal services as you do, it’s time to analyze the data. Focus on what their marketing says, not what you believe their reputation is. If you think someone is a slimy, ambulance chasing lawyer, that’s your opinion, not necessarily your potential legal client’s. Keep personal opinion out of this and analyze for effectiveness. Consider:
- How do you compare? For each law firm (including your own), list at least three strengths and weaknesses. In other words, based on the advertising and marketing materials you’ve collected, what does the firm say their strengths are? Why would clients choose them? What are their weaknesses? What do they avoid saying?
- Who is their target market? What types of clients do they state they do business with?
- Where do they market themselves? List all the places they have a presence (such as online, tv and radio, billboards, ads, publications, websites, social media sites, pay per click advertising, etc.)?
- How do they display credibility? Do they have connections/affiliations with politicians, journalists, or local colleges? Are they well-known within the legal industry for a particular specialty? Do they publish articles or offer speaking engagements? Do they teach?
- What’s new? What have they done recently that they promote via press releases, websites, or social media? What are they telling the world about themselves? Have any partners joined or left? Clients? Partnerships?
- What is effective? What “reasons why” do they use to make the best case for why prospects should hire them? What do they say are the benefits of working with them? How persuasive are these statements?
- What are they doing wrong? – What’s not working with their marketing materials and website? Do their marketing materials meaningfully differentiate them from others? Is their website confusing? Is it interesting and helpful to read? Do all their links and features work as expected? Does the text still make sense if you substitute the name of another law firm? (If it does, it’s too generic.)
Analyzing your competitors within your local legal market will help you understand the competitive landscape. By looking at what other lawyers are doing, you can position your firm differently, thus standing out from the crowd.