Marketing 101: Stake Your Claim and Be Open and Notorious
Most marketing failures result from neglect of the basics:
* a target
* a plan
* consistent effort
The first step is deciding how you want to spend your time – who are your favorite clients and what is your most-engaging work in practice?
The shotgun approach of wearing yourself out networking or spending your marketing budget on widespread advertising will merely waste your resources.
With a clear goal – an ideal client in a specific practice area – you can develop a plan to reach those people with a targeted campaign that focuses your investment of time, money and emotional energy.
Your plan should hit on these basic Points of marketing:
Positioning: identifying your distinctive service and clientele
Packaging: the presentation of your services
Promotion: how you communicate your positioning and packaging to your chosen niche audience
Persuasion: how you motivate potential clients to become actual clients
Performance: how you satisfy clients so they become referral sources
A friend jumped from the commercial law department to the probate department of her firm when she grew weary of the scheming entrepreneurs her firm attracted. This was not a choice but a movement by default.
When you select your position in the legal marketplace, don’t start with an environmental scan of the legal marketplace. Start with yourself. When do you feel both most competent and most challenged?
Begin by deciding what type of legal work you find most engaging, which skills you must enjoy exercising, and which people you want to spend your time with – this is your niche. For example, if you enjoy creative personalities, consider entertainment or copyright law. If you find paperwork is engrossing, choose a practice area that is document-heavy.
Positioning is about more than your practice niche. It also encompasses the “brand” image you use to convey the way your service differs from that of others. When selling services, you are the brand and how you communicate that brand determines the perception of you held by potential clients.
Once you figure out who you want to be, the positioning issue may be settled: “I am a lawyer who helps business people get their goods off customs dock so they can get them moving.”
A competent consultant can be of help now. How do you take a law practice and make it look appealing, friendly, and efficient? It is not brain surgery but it requires a better feel for the public’s perspective than most lawyers possess. After figuring out what you want, you need to package it as something that your potential clients want, even need, in a form that is attractive and easily grasped by them.
Knowing your target clients and your niche, you need to let the world know as well. Time to be open and notorious.
The niche you choose will determine the who, what, where, when and how of your promotional efforts. Promotion is more than advertising. It may involve the bundling or unbundling of services, your pricing structures and alternative billings, and the way you communicate those that is consistent with your positioning strategy.
For example, with a consumer target, education-based marketing (meaning educating potential clients on legal issues they should be aware of and providing expertise on your legal subject area) is definitely a good way to build a practice.
How can you close the deal? It actually starts with how you open your pitch. With sales of professional services, the usual first step is diagnosing the problem that a person needs you to solve. To get that far, you need to establish personal relationships with people such that they will tell you their business problems.
Converting potential clients to paying clients requires that you meet them halfway. They may perceive that they are taking a risk in hiring you, but you can appear to mitigate that risk so they are more inclined to work with you. Try offering inducements like a client-service guarantee or fees based on performance.
The primary source of business for lawyers is personal referrals. We know that the majority of clients do not automatically return to their last lawyers but first ask around for a personal referral. They are looking for someone who is a better communicator or shows more personal concern for client causes.
How do you get personal referrals and get repeat business? By delivering the best legal services in a personable, sensitive manner. The most cost-effective business development is client retention.
Sometimes the best work comes not from a new client, but from cross-selling within your existing client base. Increasing your billable services to an existing client is much more cost effective than trying to generate new clients.
Consider implementing a referral reward system, rewarding clients who refer business to you or increase their service consumption with lunches or service discounts.
You should also periodically review your efforts and measure the level of success you achieve. Doing so will help you pinpoint what works and what was a waste of money. Formal and informal client surveys also help you identify problem areas and areas of strength that you can focus on.
So, have a goal, a plan, a strategy, and follow-up on a regular basis. Nothing beats consistent effort to win new business and keep your satisfied clients.
Marketing books for those considering a solo practice:
These books were recently recommended by members of the Yahoo email list on marketing solo and small firm practices:
Through the Client's Eyes: New Approaches to Get Clients to Hire You Again and Again by Henry Ewalt
The Complete Guide to Contract Lawyering by Deborah Arron, Deborah Guyol
The Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, Robert M. Galford
Selling the Invisible : A Field Guide to Modern Marketing
What Clients Love: A Field Guide to Growing Your Business
The Invisible Touch : The Four Keys to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith
Flawless Consulting : A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used by Peter Block
Rain Making, The Professional's Guide to Attracting New Clients and
Creating Rainmakers, Training Professionals to Attract New Clients
both by Ford Harding
Marketing Your Services : A Step-by-Step Guide for Small Businesses and Professionals by Anthony O. Putman
Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional's Guide to Growing a Practice
Getting Started in Consulting, Second Edition both by Alan Weiss.
Prospecting Your Way to Sales Success by Bill Good
To Do, Doing, Done by G. Lynne Snead, Joyce Wycoff