Stephen Fairley 2013-01-16 04:03:01
Differentiate Your Practice Time and again I hear of new attorneys entering the legal field offering prices far below typical market rates. Most young attorneys believe this gives them an edge. They are trying to compete with the more established lawyers.The capitalist market has always taught us that by being less expensive, we can make more money. Look at two big examples in our society—Wal-Mart and Costco. Instead of going out into the legal community and establishing themselves as competent attorneys they decide to try and compete on price and invariably, they fall short. They fail by not creating a unique and compelling differentiation; they focus on attracting price shoppers versus good quality clients and while they are trying to win over clients by offering price deductions they often end up losing their shirt! As an attorney, you want to avoid differentiating yourself solely on price, instead you want to focus on the benefits of doing business with you, the solutions you create for your clients, the value you bring to the relationship, and the results you can achieve. While Wal-Mart may sell jewelry, it will never be Tiffany's. Once you position yourself as the "low-price provider," you are stuck there. I have only met a handful of firms who have been able to make the transition from low-cost provider to high end boutique firm; so if you choose to be the former, then plan on remaining in that position for a long time. Just don't believe the myth that you can start out with low, low prices and think "once I get established, I will double my fees to attract higher end clients."The law of marketing is once you become known as Wal- Mart, you can never become a Tiffany's. This is only one of the reasons why I never recommend my clients to use pricing as a major differentiating factor. By not discovering - and emphasizing - true competitive differences, you are relegating yourself to be just another lawyer who is casting their fishing line into the vast ocean of legal marketing. Here are several great ways an attorney can start to set himself or herself apart from competitors: • Emphasize Your Service: I'm not referring to the services you offer, but how you serve your clients. At the Rainmaker Retreat, our two day legal marketing seminar, we use the phrase "micromanaging the client experience" to describe how law firms can create a unique and powerful experience for clients by treating them like VIPs (without spending a lot of money). Most law firm owners would do very well to attend a few seminars on "improving the customer experience." I am on the road a fair amount each year speaking to attorneys, visiting clients, and presenting at bar association meetings. There are dozens of places I could stay when visiting a city. All of them would provide a roof over my head and a safe place to sleep, but there's a reason why I don't stay at Motel 6. It's about the way I'm treated and how I'm "served" by the staff. Part of why I'm willing to pay more to stay at the Palmer House in Chicago, the Omni in downtown LA, or the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island is because they "micromanage the client experience" and make me feel at home. How you serve your prospects, clients and referral sources makes a big difference in how people perceive you and whether they continue to refer business to you. • Market Like a Specialist: One of the most difficult types of firms to market is one that is a generalist. It's always easier to build a financially successful law firm that focuses on a specialty area. The more practice areas your firm promotes the fewer referrals you will receive. There are several major benefits to specializing including: you can command higher prices, more people can send you referrals because they don't view you as a competitor, and you can develop a deeper knowledge about your clientele and their legal issues. By choosing to specialize, you increase opportunities to form alliances with other professionals. • Create a "Double Niche": Focusing on a particular industry is a great way to niche your firm. Jeff Matsen is a well-respected estate planning attorney and a long-time client of ours, but over the last two decades he has become a nationally recognized asset protection attorney (first niche). Even further, he has created a niche targeting asset protection for doctors and dentists (second niche) because he knows it's easier to position himself as a true expert when he applies his first niche (a specific niche within a practice area) to a specific industry (like doctors and dentists) thus creating a "double niche." • Clearly Define Your Perfect Client: Once you have narrowed down your practice area, the industry you focus in, the city you want to practice law in, then you need to determine who your perfect client is. By defining what your ideal client looks like you are in a much better place to educate potential referral sources. For example, if you practice transactional business law, saying you work for "companies who need legal help or outside general counsel" is not nearly specific enough. No Fortune 500 company is going to hire an attorney who doesn't work at a major law firm. Here's a better example of a target market: small to mid-sized companies that are privately held with 2 to 100 employees, in the construction, high-tech, or professional services industries. They may need help establishing their company, are having challenges growing their company, looking at adding a partner, or want to acquire another company. • Be Smart About Your Office Location: You've heard the importance in real estate of "location, location, location." It isn't just applicable to real estate or restaurants.The city you practice law in will determine a lot of things; it can also be a factor in your success.Targeting immigration law in San Francisco provides you with more opportunities than practicing immigration law in Fargo, North Dakota. Setting up shop as a commercial litigation attorney in Queen Creek isn't going to help you attract high quality clients as much as if your office is in Phoenix or Chandler. Top 10 Ways to Dominate Your Niche There are many ways you can dominate your chosen niche. Below are the top 10 ways I've seen work in the legal industry. Focus Your Website On Your Primary Area(s) Of Expertise. Whether it's a doctor or a lawyer, no one wants a generalist we all want to be treated by a specialist. Find a targeted, focused legal niche where you can specialize and ensure your website focuses on just that niche. Do not create an online presence that makes you look like a general practitioner. Most savvy consumers will check you out online before they ever pick up the phone and call you. Own Your Niche's Keywords. Select 20-30 keywords or phrases that prospects likely use to look for you online and work with a search engine optimization company to help you get to the top of Google for those keywords. Don't make the mistake of just targeting the obvious key terms. For example, yesterday I was talking with two partners who specialize in legal malpractice. They are convinced there are only two phrases everyone uses to search for someone in their niche: legal malpractice or malpractice attorney. That's completely false, there are dozens of phrases your average consumer could use to search for an attorney who handles that legal practice.The key is thinking like a non-legal consumer versus an attorney. Get A Blog. Subject matter experts (SMEs) are well-read in their niche and they can and do comment on what the big topics are, the major cases, and emerging trends. One of the best ways to position yourself as a SME is to blog several times per month on your niche. Become a Guest Author. Target high-traffic or highly influential industry blogs that appeal to your specific target market and offer to write a guest column. Create a Special Report or an E-book. Publications are viewed by many as a sign of authority and prestige.You don't need a major New York publisher to "discover" you to become an author. Write a simple 5-10 page special report, white paper or turn it into a PDF and call it an "e-book." Speak at Live Events—Your Own or Others. Few things are more authoritative in the field of marketing than speaking at events, either events you offer or for other associations, whether live or online via webinars, speaking positions you as an industry expert. We have several clients who have built million dollar practices simply by speaking 2-3 times per month at local and regional events. Send Out A Press Release. Press releases are a great way to build your online credibility. Create a media list of target publications that reach your perfect clients and regularly send them press releases.You can do a press release on almost any topic like: Is your law firm growing/hiring (while other firms are downsizing)? Did you expand your offices to better serve your clients? Are you involved in philanthropic work? Did you recently win a big case? Did you land a major client? Is there a specific legal issue facing local people that you can comment on? Are you giving a seminar you would like to promote? Perhaps an article or free report you recently published? Create a Radio Show. With modern technology you can easily create your own "online radio show." For only a couple hundred dollars per year you can use platforms like BlogTalkRadio. com to create, host, and post your radio show.They can even help you promote your show online. There are thousands of online radio shows currently and if you don't want to create your own you can contact the owner and ask to be interviewed on his or her show. Most of them welcome professional guests. Publish an Industry Survey. Surveys are powerful tools that can open doors to high profile interviews with industry leaders, media attention about the results, and inbound leads when you publicize the results. There are several good online survey tools like SurveyMonkey.com and Zoomerang.com.Target a specific topic like "The impact of the new estate tax laws on small business owners in Phoenix" or"The Top 10 Biggest Legal Issues Facing Divorced Women in Arizona." Create Information Products. Write and distribute articles, e-books, free reports and other information products that demonstrate your authority in your niche. I have personally used every single one of these to build The Rainmaker Institute's credibility and national presence. In addition, we have hundreds of law firm clients who have used these with great success. Just remember, there is no easy button and there is no "magic wand."You have to work at it to create a niche and it will take time and consistent effort to position yourself as a true expert. If you would like some assistance in implementing any of these strategies I invite you to contact our office and ask for a complimentary strategy session from one of our Rainmaker advisors.
Published by Target Market Media . View All Articles.