Tag Archives: marketing

Website Designer’s Oath: “First Do No Harm”

 “It is only at the first encounter that a face makes its full impression on us.”        Arthur Schopenhauer 

Not long ago just having a website was enough for a lawyer to demonstrate being current with the times.  At least it seems not long ago to me.  Then again, nearly half of my career was before there was wide spread Internet use.  Exactly when the “Internet” was created depends on how you define it.  Some historians trace it back to the Soviet Union and the United States military in the 1950’s.  But the Internet as we know it today was not a common household term until the mid-to-late 1990’s.  Remember the “information highway” commercials?  I remember watching them and wondering what the heck they were talking about.  How things change. 

Today most lawyers have some web presence.  But is “presence” enough?  Expectations have changed in the past ten years.  Unless you are representing clients that are not Internet users (a group that is shrinking dramatically by the day), you need to take a serious look at what your website (or lack thereof) says about you.  Like it or not, your website is an extension of your firm and sets the tone for your “brand” of service.  If it looks like you created it ten years ago and is little more than a firm resume, you may need to consider a facelift, or more likely an overhaul.  

For many clients, the Internet is the ultimate reference tool.  Whether they find you on the Internet, or check out your website after meeting you or receiving a referral, by and large prospective clients will look at your site for decision making information.  What do they want to see?  To some degree it is a matter of taste, but for the most part, people want to see a site that demonstrates whether a lawyer is current with the times, expert in their area of practice and successful in achieving good results in cases and conditions similar to theirs.  Does your website do that?  If not, your website could be doing more harm than good.    

For example: 

  • Does your site depict you as current with the times? 
    • Is it visually appealing by creating a mood that is consistent with your message?  There is a big move away from the very traditional heavy tone and style of legal marketing materials in years past.  Websites are like housing developments.  Many times you can tell when they were created just by observing the style and colors.  Top sites today have a more upbeat, uplifting feel to them.  If you’re unsure what to do, take a look at the sites of your most successful competitors.  You may not be able to afford the kind of money the top competitors spent, but it will give you an idea of what their likely high priced marketing experts recommended for the markets they are targeting.    
    • Does it include interactive tools or references?  Options to schedule appointments directly through the site, emailing directly from the site, subscriptions to the site and more are becoming the standard.  Most of these tools are included in many free website templates offered on the Internet and are becoming a minimum standard.      
    • Does it include news and articles of interest?  Posting references on current issues through relevant articles not only provides your clients with valuable information, it is necessary to make you appear relevant.  Articles of interest are also becoming so common that if you don’t have them, you appear out of touch.
    • Does it include regular updates?  It’s difficult to appear cutting edge when your site is no more active than the glossy brochure printed for your firm three or four years ago.  Make sure all the information is current and that you are adding new content regularly.  As with the articles of interest, frequently updated and interactive sites are becoming so common, not having one can make you appear very outdated.  The more new content on the site, the more you demonstrate active participation in your field.  Besides, updates help with search engine optimization (another very important subject, but too extensive to address in this posting).
  •    Does your site demonstrate your expertise?
    • Most sites will include a resume or summary bio of each lawyer to demonstrate expertise, but is it enough to help you stand out? Consider writing your bio in a more results oriented fashion.  Areas of practice, awards and associations are great, but how does that translate to the services you will be providing for your clients?  Certainly those things should be advertised, but the compelling bio is one that answers the question most important to the prospect, i.e. “What will you do for me?”
    • Nothing demonstrates expertise on a website better than thought provoking, leading edge articles written by you.  Consider including a formal articles section, a blog or both on your site to provide your prospective customers with valuable information they can use to solve their problems and simultaneously to confirm your expertise.  As discussed above, an article section is almost a minimum standard.  Including a blog that is updated regularly may be the added edge needed to set you apart. 
  • Does your site demonstrate your ability to achieve desirable results? 
    • What prospective clients really want to know is whether you can deliver the results they want, at a price they want and with the service they want.  In addition to a results oriented bio, consider including a news section that includes descriptions of your recent successes.  The success stories don’t have to be earth shattering.  They simply need to demonstrate that you can deliver the results the prospective client wants for the type of case or legal work they are seeking.
    • Most firms focus their attention on selling expertise and experience in their marketing materials, but there is usually much less attention paid to customer service.  In reality most legal work does not require an exceptionally high level of skill beyond that of the average competent lawyer.  Clients expect lawyers to have the expertise and experience, but what usually ends up turning them off is poor customer service.  Consider including references from former clients focusing on your excellent service (which naturally requires you to actually provide it – not a bad marketing idea as well) and to include a section on your website describing your philosophy of customer service.  

In this day and age, not only is a website imperative for a successful law practice, if it doesn’t meet the minimum expectations of its prospective clients, like an old shabby suit that doesn’t fit properly, it could do more harm than good.  Take a minute to give yours a fresh look.  It may take some time but the good news is it may cost you less than your original site.  There are so many free tools out there, the cost of a much more impressive website may be almost nothing but the time you put into it. It may take learning a little technology, but the payoff can be a very competitive site that creates a brand and reputation that closes deals and keeps your clients coming back for more.  Put it off for another day and you could be leaving business at the door.   

 

If You’re Pavarotti, Just Sing: Effective Business Development in a Solo Practice

“Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.”      Marilyn vos Savant

In some of my earlier postings I discuss breaking client development into separate tasks and having participating attorneys only do those tasks they are most suited for.  The idea is to capitalize on the individual’s natural talents and strengths in combination with others to contribute to a well rounded marketing program.  While it makes sense, it’s not much help for the solo practitioner.  So what can a soloist do to develop business on his own, with no one to share in the heavy lifting?

The ideal law firm marketing plan has several components.  There will usually be some networking and expert positioning involved.  A well designed, active website with good search engine optimization is also helpful, among other things.  But what if you’re not a natural at all the various business development activities?  Does that mean that you are doomed to fail?  All evidence to the contrary.  There are more solo firms than any other firm size in the country and it is doubtful that all of their principals are good at all things marketing.  So what do successful solos do?

While I have only anecdotal evidence to back this up, in my estimation the successful soloist still focuses his development efforts on his strengths.  If you happen to be a great writer, but a not so great networker, you can still be successful in developing business.  The idea is to not only customize the marketing plan and strategies to fit the targeted clients you have defined, but to customize your plan to also fit what you do best.  For example, let’s say you have determined where your targeted clients gather and what publications they read.  Instead of spending most of your time trying to overcome your awkward resistance to breaking the ice at some sort of community association meeting, why not focus most of your efforts on writing?  Write some compelling articles that can be published for the group and you may not have to break the ice.  Someone will break it for you by asking for your opinion or to speak at a function.  You can do what you do best, and inadvertently get some help (i.e. breaking the ice) with what you are not so great at.

Another anecdotal observation is that most people who take the plunge and go solo tend to be more willing to go outside their comfort zones and try more things.  It’s a great attitude, but that does not mean that all activities should be equally conducted.  That would be like insisting Pavarotti (God rest his soul) dance while he was singing, since the combination of singing and dancing can be very entertaining.  While I cannot attest to Pavarotti’s dancing abilities, my guess is that he would not have been as successful entertaining if he split up his performance equally with a marginal dance routine.  As in entertainment, the marketing strategies should focus on the abilities that the solo excels in and then perhaps supplemented with what he does not.  Showcase your genius while supplementing with your mundane and you can still be very successful.  Too much focus on a mundane performance will only dim your brilliance.  So unless you’re Fred Astaire, just sing!

 

The Secret of Life is “One Thing”

“Success demands singleness of purpose”       Vincent Lombardi    

Ever have one of those days when you start one thing, only to be distracted by something else?  You start working on the something else and then get distracted again.  Before you know it, hours have gone by and you realize you’ve been busy all day, but haven’t accomplished a thing.

Like those days when you can’t get anything done because you can’t stay focused, marketing efforts without focus can be totally unproductive and no more effective in generating a return than gambling.  If you do not develop a clear and focused plan to generate business, you might as well just donate your money to a local charity.  At least a donation is something you could feel good about. 

One of my favorite movies in the 90’s was “City Slickers” starring Billy Crystal.  It was a story about a man named Mitch (played by Crystal) suffering a midlife crisis.  To cheer him up, his best friends buy him a vacation where he and his buddies go to a cattle ranch and learn to be “cowboys” while herding cattle across the state.  They are guided by a tough-as-nails trail boss who taunts Mitch throughout the movie.  At one point, the trail boss asks Mitch if he knows the secret of life.  Mitch has no answer.  The trail boss puts up one finger and says “It’s one thing, just one thing.”  Mitch asks what the one thing is, and the trail boss just chuckles and moves on.  This is repeated throughout the movie until the trail boss finally answers him.  “I don’t know.  That’s what you have to figure out.” 

Many times, the secret to building a solid client base is “just one thing.”  But that one thing that is right for you might not be the one thing that is right for someone else.  The point is, as in the Billy Crystal movie, you have to figure that out for yourself.  Figure out what type of client you want to go after and simply go after that.  Just like starting and stopping a bunch of tasks leaves you with a bunch of things undone, a mixed bag of uncoordinated and unfocused marketing efforts will not likely generate a reliable business base.  Many attorneys will go after any and everything in an effort to generate business, but the reality is, efforts made for the sake of getting anything are usually ineffective in generating anything.  Business that is generated tends to be more from luck than effort. 

Marketing is not rocket science.  Genius is not necessary, but FOCUS is.  Pick one type of client, and focus all your efforts on that.  What activities are the best for reaching your targeted client will depend on who the target is.  Once identified, you must identify how they find and choose their attorneys.  Do they rely mostly on referrals?  Do they go to the yellow pages?  Do they search the internet?  The better you understand their decision process, the more likely you will be at determining what marketing efforts you should implement, and the more successful you will be at getting their business.  

Focus on the “one thing” and you will be surprised at the business it will bring.  It may not lead you to the secret of life, but it will almost certainly lead you to more clients.

 

Is Your Glass Half Full?

“If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.”      Unknown

A recent BTI Consulting Group study revealed a startling finding:  “87% of law firms have at least one major client relationship at risk.  Yet few law firms are aware of their vulnerability – and even fewer are doing anything to change the landscape.”  Legal Trends, Most Law Firms Have At Least One Major Client at Risk, by Marcia Borgal Shunk, Principal at BTI Consulting Group, April 9, 2009.

If you are a glass is half full sort of person you would immediately look at this and think, “Wow, what a great opportunity to pick up some new clients!”  And that observation would be correct.  If you are seeking to grow your business, this statistic illustrates an encouraging opportunity to win over some new business.  Your next step should be to develop a strategy of how you are going to capitalize on that fluidity.  But in developing that strategy, consider the glass is half empty sort of person who is worried about which client in their portfolio is on a possible exit.  To figure out the best way to win clients from others, you should start with getting a clear understanding of why the clients would consider leaving.  Figure it out, then offer what’s missing.  And even better, make sure your own clients are getting what’s missing as well.

The focus of the study was not on how to win new clients from others, it was on what it takes to retain them.  Obviously, winning clients while simultaneously losing others is not going to grow revenues.  The study indicates that using aggressive client surveying to uncover client satisfaction is critical to gaining client loyalty and to becoming one of those rare 13% of the firms not at risk.  I agree, but I also suggest that after you do your surveying not only should you use the information to keep your current client’s happy; you should use the information to design your next marketing campaign.  You see?  The glass is half full!

There’s Always a Silver Lining

Samira Mery Lineberger, Esq.
 
“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles; it empties today of its strengths.”        Unknown

With the economy at its lowest point in decades, the legal industry is taking its share of the brunt.  More and more firms are downsizing, some in drastic measures and still law schools are turning out new graduates in record numbers.  So what’s a lawyer to do?  Start an emergency fund and hunker down until things get better?  That’s certainly an option.  It’s all in how you look at it.

Economic turmoil is not pleasant, but with turmoil there is always opportunity, and the opportunity for small to mid-size firms to build their commercial business is better than ever.  Companies are tightening their belts, looking for better, more affordable legal services.  A recent study by BTI Consulting, a leader in legal industry research, suggests that now is the time for small to mid-size firms to ramp up their marketing efforts to go after big company legal business.  According to BTI research, companies are moving away from big firm services in favor of the more affordable and flexible services offered by small to mid-size firms.  In fact, the nation’s top 100 revenue generating law firms went from servicing 64% of the 550 large companies surveyed in 2007, to only 36% in 2008.  The next 100 firms picked up some of the top 100 losses moving from 13% of the business in 2007 to 26% in 2008.  But big gains in market share also went to those firms under the top 200, who went from 26% in 2007 to 38% in 2008.  Why the shift?  More and more companies are looking at innovative ways to stretch their legal dollars.  Smaller firms not saddled by big associate salaries, heavy personnel infrastructures, and considerable overhead have the flexibility to offer more innovative billing practices, staffing and communication.

So what does this mean?  There has never been a better chance for small to mid-size firms to break the glass ceiling and pick up some of that premium legal work.  Not only does the recent economic crisis encourage large companies to look for cheaper alternatives now, it will also go a long way to breaking the pattern of many executives who feel compelled to go with the big name firms, if only to cover themselves should their hiring decision be questioned.  Companies are no longer expected to stick with the big boys, and in fact, there is a shift in the mood toward greater appreciation of executives who are innovative and willing to make smarter legal service choices.

What should you do to capitalize on this opportunity?  BTI research suggests that expensive marketing campaigns are not necessary.  Turns out that the combination of traditional and cyber networking, expert positioning through association activity, speaking engagements and white paper publication can get you there… i.e. good old fashioned elbow grease.  How’s that for a silver lining??