Ahh, legal marketing, how you have changed since the days that I was a one-man content farm (unpaid intern) at a personal injury attorney. What was once a field so disgustingly littered with keyword stuffing, link farming, and other questionable practices had to change overnight in the wake of Panda and Penguin, both of which had an immense impact on law firm marketing. Combine this with the fact that you still need to close new business after getting someone interested in your services, and you realize that you have a robust challenge ahead.
With legal services being one of the most competitive industries, as well as one of the most heavily scrutinized ones by Google, marketing can be an immensely frustrating experience. Yet with the right strategy, the right tactics, and most importantly the right mindset, it can also be the bridge between where your firm is today and where you want it to be. To help you address and embrace these challenges head on, we’d like to provide you with strategies and ideas to develop business, build a referral base, and grow your firm.
Have a Plan
Marketing will be just one of the many job descriptions that attorneys have, and could be considered a major part of modern business development. The traditional decision process for finding an attorney has changed, with more and more clients taking their research online each year. In addition to this, the tactics used by the rainmakers of old may still work for them (and their clients), but for the hungry young associate, it’s hard to take actionable advice from someone who closes most deals on the golf course and couldn’t remember his or her LinkedIn password, much less how to add useful information to their profile.
Luckily, the internet has made it easier to drive interest in your services, so long as the work that you do is effective, actionable, and time-bound. Knowing that marketing is not your only role, you need to make sure that any marketing activity brings you closer to your clients.This is why you need to have a plan to turn your marketing into business development:
- Look at Your Current Activities: This requires an honest assessment of current and former activities, including how much time you spend on them and how many of those actually have provided you a client or referral source.
- Set Goals: Next, draft a written marketing and business development plan for the next 12 months with achievable weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals, along with the necessary steps to achieve each.
- Act on Your Goals with Big and Small Initiatives: Finally, set aside a fixed amount of time each day to work on marketing and business development, focusing on shifting business development from “necessary task” to “essential part of your practice.” This could be as little as twenty minutes a day spent accomplishing simple tasks like setting up a lunch meeting or coffee with a potential client, commenting on a LinkedIn post, or forwarding an article of interest to a colleague/potential referral source, or you could allot or more time spent writing an article for your local newspaper or professional blog.
Understand your Legal Consumer: Buyer Personas
In marketing, a “buyer persona” is a semi-fictional profile of your potential customer based on market research and your knowledge of your existing client base. This includes target demographic data aid consumer’s likely needs, and their goals and challenges in meeting those needs. By grouping your potential customers into these generalized personas, it makes it easier for you to tailor your messaging and communications for them, and will make it easier to remember the human element of law and differentiate yourself from other law firms.
For example, an estate planning attorney could be writing for John Smith, 53, skilled union laborer, whose biggest fears include how he will be able to afford end of life expenses leave a nest egg, and prevent fighting amongst his three children over how to split up assets. While somewhat tech-savvy, he prefers face-to-face communication and sitting down to read the paper every morning before work.
Develop a multitude of these personas, and during planning, schedule business development activities around each of these.
Consider running a speaking engagement for John’s union or writing articles on “financial fears for pensioned employees” to reach this persona.
Developing a Buyer Persona with HubSpot Persona Templates
As an agency who provides HubSpot support services and has a few inbound and content marketing certified individuals, our team is well-versed in buyer personas, and recommends you look into the buyer persona templates offered by HubSpot: Buyer Persona Templates.
Establish Your Brand
With your plan in place and your target clients identified, it’s time to turn your attention inward, namely asking yourself, “how do I look?” Business development experts at law firms of all sizes know that hiring is done on a “hire the lawyer, not the firm” basis, and for solo practices especially, these clients are hiring both.
The Honest, Useful Bio
Where should you begin? Look no further than your bio. To most clients, your lawyer bio is a collection of past employment, accomplishments, schooling, and clerkships listed neatly on the about page of your website. While all of this is important, the average legal consumer is rarely versed in this year’s law school rankings and doesn’t know what a judicial clerk does. It’s likely you’ve seen this diagram, and can laugh about it because it’s true:
Important concepts to consider are as follows:
- Talk about why you got into practicing law
- Add to that by talking about why you chose your specialty
- Who you help
- Who you have helped
- How you help them.
Your potential clients are seeking a lawyer out of need, and are looking for someone who can empathetically listen to their concerns, confidently answer their questions, and who can demonstrate that they have a passion for helping people in the client’s position.
Show Some Empathy
For instance, a recent article on the Rainmaker blog profiled Otis Landerholm of Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C. and his journey toward profitability at a small firm. While much of the article focuses on the business itself, it also allowed Landerholm to share his story on how he found his way into immigration law. It also provided the opportunity to share his expertise by telling a story about a very complex immigration case that he won for a client.
Landerholm’s interview is just one example of how firms can build their brand to demonstrate passion and expertise, display the human behind the shingle, and ultimately land more clients.
Making It All Work
Successful business leaders know that often, the best plans need to shift, pivot, or completely change in order to be successful. With this in mind, if you begin to see diminishing returns from one tactic, another must rise to take its place. Always be measuring the effectiveness of methods, testing new ways to improve your business development, and focusing on the end result: Firm growth, profitability, and the life of which you dreamed when you decided to go to law school.
If you need help bringing in new clients, we’d love to help. Read our guide to building and launching a successful law firm website, and get in contact with us to learn more.