A reader asks:
I specialize in estate planning (living trusts, powers of attorney, wills.) The problem with this area of law is that people don’t see an immediate benefit to hiring me, other than “peace of mind.” Their loved ones benefit only after my client has died. Another problem I have is that people only need my services once. Once they have a living will, they don’t need another, so I am always hunting for new clients rather than getting repeat business. Also, there is a lot of price competition. People see services advertised for 1/3 what I charge and question me about my fees. What do I need to do to market my business effectively in this type of environment?
I find that most legal services fall into two categories: crisis and elective. With crisis services, prospects have an immediate need to take action after a specific event (e.g. they were arrested, in an accident, or sued). Estate planning and business law services tend to fall into the elective category, meaning your prospects don’t have a pressing need and can take action whenever they want.
Marketing Estate Planning Legal Services
Here is a 10-step approach you might take for marketing your estate planning services.
- Choose your target market – Consider who you want to target, such as the top 5% of wealthy individuals in your geographical area, and start finding ways to meet and build relationships with them. If you were to target those with higher disposable income, consider: What country clubs have they joined? Which charities are they involved with? What neighborhood events do they attend? People want to hire a lawyer they know, like and trust, so actively get involved with the types of prospects you want to work with and become a trusted adviser to their lifestyle.
- Build relationships – Relationship building takes time, but if you stay in touch and keep up with people’s lives, you can follow major milestones like if they get a new job, marry, or have kids. Send them a card to congratulate them. Later, you can follow up with a conversation about any new liabilities or changes to their will that might need to be addressed.
- Start a newsletter – Send a monthly newsletter to clients either via email or snail mail where you offer articles, firm news, case studies, and other legal tips. This can help brand you as the “go-to” estate planning lawyer in the area – and can be good for attracting referrals.
- Create educational materials – What frequently asked questions do you receive? Perhaps you can create a series of pamphlets on topics like avoiding probates, protecting assets, and reducing estate taxes. Or how parents can ensure they don’t become a financial burden to their children. What are your prospects’ key fears and aspirations? Use those to come up with topic ideas.
- Look for PR opportunities – Any time you see an example of estate problems, offer to write an editorial or give your opinion to journalists. High-profile deaths hit the news all the time. If one seems like a “worst-case scenario” or “horror story,” use it to educate your audience about how they can avoid such mishaps.
- Run small ads in local publications – What local publications are delivered regularly to your target audience? What do they read? You don’t have to run full-page color ads to get people’s attention. Often, if you regularly run smaller black-and-white ads that offer your educational materials, you can build awareness of your services cheaply over time.
- Give seminars – Consider offering free seminars to educate prospects about probates, asset protection, estate taxes, living trusts and so forth. Make your seminar 95% informative, then offer attendees a free (or low cost) consultation before they leave.
- Get involved with local charities and non-profits – Local charities can be a great place for you to meet people with higher disposable income. They also offer you a way to give back to the community and potentially receive good PR.
- Expand your referral network – Who is in a position to send you business, such as nursing homes, financial planners, and local pediatricians.
- Partner with local universities – Many universities have annual fund-raising campaigns asking for donations. Perhaps you can partner with universities to help alumni set up planned giving.
By building relationships and providing helpful advice during key milestones and life transitions, you can get repeat business from clients without worrying about being the low-cost attorney. These types of relationships take time and work to develop, but they can be greatly rewarding.