Stephen Fairley 2013-02-01 03:21:20
I gave up on creating New Year's resolutions a long time ago, but I'm a big believer in setting goals—annual and quarterly, personal and professional. As we begin this new year full of hope and promise I wanted to give you several specific tips you can use to build up your client base this year. Step 1: Make Marketing Your Law Firm a Top Priority. Too many lawyers fall prey to the myth that they are in the "business of law." You are not! You are actually in the "business of marketing your law firm." You can be the best attorney in Phoenix, but if you don't have any clients to practice law on it won't matter. I understand your law school completely skipped over the fundamentals of running a business, personal marketing, and business development, but these are the things that set apart good attorneys from truly great ones. As long as you are completely dependent on someone else to hand you a new client you will forever be at risk. A lawyer can only argue over the intricacies of law if they have a client to represent. The primary objective of your business is the marketing of your services; your secondary objective is then the delivery of those services. Most attorneys have it backwards. Simply because you may deliver excellent service and provide enormous value, clients will not automatically knock your door down. Over the last several years I've heard from a growing chorus of long-time attorneys complaining bitterly of "young bucks who don't know the law, but seem to get all the clients." If you find yourself asking a similar question then may I recommend you are not putting enough emphasis on marketing and business development? If clients don't know about you, then they will approach the attorney who markets himself. By making yourself more visible online with your website, blog, social media and press releases you can begin attracting more and better clients. By attending the same trade association events as your potential clients or referral sources, you can begin to build up your referral base. By offering seminars to your referral sources you are seen as an industry thought leader. You don't need to do everything, but if clients aren't lining up at the door any more then you need to do more than you are currently doing! The key to building a long term, solid practice is the quality and consistency of your marketing—just as much as the actual quality of your services. Working on your business is much more important than simply working in your business. Building your list of potential clients is essential as very few law firms can grow when they solely rely on existing client relationships. If you're depending on the same select group of clients year in and year out, then you are looking for trouble. A good rule of thumb is when any one client is providing over 30% of your annual revenues then you are at high risk. A law firm that continually markets themselves ensures that they will have a strong and diverse client list down the road. Step 2: Choose Positioning Over Prospecting. Positioning is building up your personal brand and your firm's reputation so prospects are attracted to you. Those who position themselves as a thought leader can pick and choose their clients, whereas prospectors hustle and struggle to get clients. Start positioning yourself as the "go-to" person for legal solutions by sharing your valuable knowledge, expertise, and education with prospects. One of the easiest ways to do this is by focusing on a specific industry. For example, here at The Rainmaker Institute® we specialize in helping only attorneys and over the last 12 years we have worked with, consulted to, and trained over 9,000 attorneys. The depth and breadth of experience we have gained has positioned us to be seen as industry thought leaders and true experts in legal marketing. Examine your top 10 clients and look for patterns. Are they in particular industries or niches? Do you enjoy working with that type of clientele? In my experience it is always easier to market a law firm who wants to be viewed as an "expert" or "specialist" versus one that tries to position themselves as a generalist. It is the niches that lead to the riches! If you position yourself correctly at the forefront of a specific trade industry or profession (e.g. hi-tech community, telecommunications, privately held manufacturing companies, professional services, etc) then clients will begin to view you as one of them and will be more prone to do business with you versus a "full service" law firm. There are several great ways to become a thought leader: write articles for industry specific trade magazines, give seminars and presentations targeting that industry or profession, focus your website on that niche, create a separate website just for that industry, create a free report targeting a hot button in your focus area, send out a newsletter specifically for that profession, and build relationships with referral sources who are industry thought leaders. By positioning yourself as the leader in their niche, profession, or industry prospective clients will start to look to you for legal advice. The very best attorney in terms of service and ability may never be hired. It is all about perception in the marketplace. If the CEO of a software company is looking for an intellectual property attorney and sees Mr. John Smith of Smith & Smith give a seminar on leveraging your IP at their industry trade association's annual meeting, then later sees Mr. Smith's article in their industry magazine, and signs up to receive Mr. Smith's monthly newsletter specifically for software companies who are looking to protect and leverage their IP then to the CEO Mr. Smith begins to be seen as the industry's "go to" person for legal issues. It has little to do with how good Mr. Smith truly is as an IP attorney and he may not be any better than you, but to the client he is. At the end of the day, the client's perception becomes their reality. Step 3: Use Education-based Marketing to Attract New Clients. This is the process used by industry leading service professionals to attract and enroll highly qualified prospects by giving them what they want, not by selling or promoting. People don't like salesmen, so don't become one. You're a lawyer. Present yourself as one. Offer your potential clients advice on how to hire an attorney or the top mistakes to avoid or reasons why they shouldn't try to handle this legal issue on their own. The key is to look for opportunities to create and give your information away, which in turn will position you as the expert. As a result, you will create a powerful magnet to pull clients to you. By branding yourself as an expert and not a salesman, people will trust you. Some of the most effective mediums for education-based marketing are found in the form of writing. Use blog articles on your website. Send out a monthly newsletter to clients. Write articles about your practice area and get them published in a newsletter or local magazine. If you want to see how we use this strategy with law firms go to www.RainmakerReport.com. Step 4: Design an Effective Marketing Website. If you don't have a website, you are behind the times. Over 95% of law firms already have a web presence, but there are a few hold outs. Whether you are building your first website or your fifth, here are a few recommendations to keep in mind. • Include a newsletter sign up. Have a place where website visitors can sign up for your monthly newsletter. What, you don't have one? Then start one this month. It doesn't need to be perfect, but our clients have found monthly newsletters to be one of the most cost effective forms of keeping in touch with prospects, former clients, and referral sources. If you need some help give us a call and we will give you some resources. • Offer a free report. In addition to your newsletter and a form to sign up for a consultation you should also include a free legal report or consumer guide. • Make your phone number prominent on every webpage. It boggles my mind when I come across a law firm's website and it takes me two or three clicks just to find out what city they are in and what their phone number is. The number one purpose of your website is to make the phone ring! Put your phone number in large font in the top right header of each web page. • Include live chat. This is a powerful tool attorneys are using to turn web browsers into buyers. Many of our clients are generating 20-30 qualified leads per month using live chat. Email me if you would like my recommendation of a company who can do it for you. • Make your website mobile friendly. By the end of this year Google estimates more people will search online via their smart phone or iPad than by their desktop computer. If you don't have a mobile friendly version of your website than you need to get one fast. One of the best ones I've seen recently is www.NotaCriminal.com (be sure to view it from your cell phone). Here are several things to avoid on your website: • Pop-up ads. People hate them so don't use them. Instead, have a good call-to-action on every page of your site and create compelling content to get them to do what you want. • Generic stock photography. We've all used it, but people are savvy to what is fake. Use photos of your actual attorneys and staff, not stock images of good looking models who look like they are all simply delighted by the piece of paper they're staring at. • Legal jargon. Don't write for other lawyers, write for real people. Tell them how you can solve their problems by telling compelling case studies and engage them with thoughtful content. • SEO-driven content.Write for people, not search engines. Google's algorithm is very sophisticated and can detect a page's relevancy better than you think. However, you should make a list of key terms potential clients would use to find you online and include those in the content. • No way to share. Include social share buttons for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter on your pages so you can encourage people to share your content with their friends, family members and colleagues. • No blog. Prospects want to learn more about the real you when they come to your site, and having a well-written blog that's updated on a weekly basis helps position you as an industry thought leader. • Boring bio. Don't make the mistake of including a boring bio of yourself. Spice it up a little, make it more personal, share your hobbies, interests or groups you're a part of. • Amateur website design. Do not hire the teenage kid next door or your out of work nephew to build your website! For many prospects your website will be the very first impression they have of your law firm. Don't blow it by being cheap. Find and hire a website development company that specializes in working with law firms and has a long history of successful clients you can talk to. Take time this week to write down 5 specific goals you want to achieve this year and then I would invite you to email them to me or someone else who is willing to hold you accountable for reaching them. Remember, the difference between a dream and a goal is a plan to get there! Stephen Fairley is CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, LLC, the nations largest law firm marketing company specializing in small law firms. Over 8,000 attorneys have benefited from applying their proven Rainmaker Marketing System. Stephen is a best-selling author of 10 books and a nationally recognized law firm marketing expert. He has appeared in the American Bar Association's Journal, Harvard Management Update, Inc and Entrepreneur. To receive your FREE copy of his book "Top 10 Marketing Mistakes Attorneys Make" visit www.TheRainmakerInstitute.com or call 888-588-5891.
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