One of the biggest challenge you may face when marketing your legal services is identifying those people who you want to work with, who need your services, and who are willing to pay your prices. This usually involves picking a target market and perhaps even developing a niche law practice.
Many people are initially scared of narrowing down their prospects and ask “You mean I have to turn away clients?”
For your marketing to be cost effective, the answer is yes.
There will only be a small portion of the population who will even be interested in your services – why waste your money on marketing to those that don’t need them or are half way across the country and difficult to access?
By targeting a small group of people who already have a need for your services, you drastically increase your marketing campaign’s likelihood of success.
Why Choose a Target Audience?
The goal of marketing is to get into the heads of your prospects and figure out their motivations for needing a lawyer and their potential objections and concerns. These should be addressed in your marketing materials. You can’t do that with a generic letter that goes out to everyone.
If you try, you end up with a generic marketing message that states something like “We focus on customer service” or “Our firm has a collective 225 years of experience” or “We offer great results at a reasonable price” but never adequately and meaningfully explains why or how you are different.
The two primarily benefits of picking a target market boil down to:
- Increased marketing results. You can focus your message to address the unique needs of a smaller audience. This means addressing their common concerns and creating a unique message that is meaningful to them.
- Decreased marketing cost. Because you are working with a select number of people, you don’t have to spend as much money reaching them. You have lower mailing costs and you have a good idea of where to advertise – it’s usually in cheaper publications rather than expensive mass media.
Here are 3 steps for choosing a target market.
Step 1: Decide What Type of Niche Law Practice To Create
How might you narrow down a target audience? Most law firms specify a target market either by the types of services they want to offer or the types of clients they want to serve. Target markets can be based on:
- Geographical area – Defined by the geographic area your firm is capable of serving.
- By business or industry – Can be a type of business such as manufacturing or a specific industry categorized by SIC code.
- By size – number of prospects in the company (ie corporations grossing over $50 million or with more than 500 employees)
- By client needs – and what services your law firm wants to offer
Step 2: Prioritize Your Values Against Client Needs
Now that you’ve segmented the market, the next step is to prioritize what each segment values. The biggest mistake most attorneys make is to assume that each type of legal client values similar things. This is rarely the case. Different segments will want different offerings. The best way to determine what’s most important to each market segment is to ask them.
Create a survey that lists a number of benefits of working with a law firm. These might include:
- using a fixed cost billing system
- notifying me weekly of hours billed
- offering a flexible payment system
- expertise of lawyer in my particular industry
- expertise of lawyer in specific type of law
- expertise of lawyer in working with a business of my size
- returning phone calls within 1 business day
- clearly explaining my options so that I understand the pros and cons of each
- ability to emphasize with me over my particular issue
You’ll want to add/delete/reword options as they relate to your firm but the gist is to outline all the options that might be relevant to prospects. Some might want to hand you the work and you take care of it. Others may need a lot of hand holding and empathy. Others may require specific expertise. The only way to know for sure is to ask prospects, rate the results, and compare them.
Step 3: Choosing Your Ideal Target Market
The final step to segmenting and choosing a target market is to compare the results of step 2 with your firm’s strengths. There are two major factors to picking a good target market:
- Market attractiveness – Not all segments will be attractive in terms of size of the market, growth rate, the cost of serving those specific clients, or how price sensitive they are. Your goal is to pick those that will be most attractive to you. Make a list of characteristics you would find attractive in a market segment (such as they have a specific problem, they are of a certain size, they are in a particular industry, etc) and compare them to what each segment values.
- Your ability to serve that market – Not all segments that you might possibly target are going to be a good fit for you. If a segment requires extensive expertise in a specific industry and business size and you only have moderate experience in those areas, they might not be a good fit.
Often, there is no “absolute” right or wrong answer in choosing the “perfect” target market for your niche law practice. You will often find that several possibilities look good.
My advice is to pick one. What do you want to be known for? What do you find most interesting? Go with that and see if it works for you for a few months.
If it doesn’t work out, you can always switch into another niche law practice area, take on a wider range of clients, or try something completely different. You aren’t locked into your decision forever.
Segmenting your market helps you focus, which gives you clarity and helps you get things done. Confusion and uncertainty breed indecision. Make your decision and get started.