Lawyers who rely on traditional marketing methods are fast discovering that many “time-proven methods” no longer work. You could dramatically improve your marketing results by avoiding these mistakes and heeding this updated advice.
MISTAKE #1: Failing to distinguish yourself from other lawyers. One primary purpose of marketing is to clearly state how you’re different from every other lawyer on the planet. To achieve this, you must know your competitive advantages – the positive ways you differ from other lawyers. Usually, these differences hinge on your knowledge, skill, judgment, experience and services. Look at your competitive advantages from your prospective clients’ point of view because your prospects evaluate you based on what is important to them.
MISTAKE #2: Failing to give every client your Guarantee of Unique Value. When you claim that your firm provides good service, you’re making an unsubstantiated claim. You must go further. I recommend that you guarantee and provide evidence in writing that your client will receive unique value from your firm, nothing like he has experienced before. And the focus of your guarantee should be what clients tell you is the primary reason they chose you, stay loyal to you, and refer their friends.
MISTAKE #3: Relying solely on referrals. When you depend on referrals as your sole source of new business, you allow middlemen to control your flow of new clients. You may discover that whether you receive referrals has nothing to do with your knowledge, skill or experience. Instead, it may be based on your ability to return referrals. You’re smart to develop sources of referrals, but don’t use them as your only method of marketing. In addition, make sure your marketing program attracts inquiries directly from prospects. This allows you to manage your marketing program, rather than relying on third parties over which you have little or no control.
MISTAKE #4: Failing to create and deliver a competent, complete marketing message. If lawyers don’t get the marketing results they want, they often conclude their marketing methods don’t work. But usually the problem isn’t the marketing method, it’s the message. In court, if your message isn’t complete, you probably won’t win over the jury. Likewise, in the marketplace, if your message isn’t complete, you won’t win over new clients. Before you implement your marketing program, make sure you create a complete, competent marketing message. Without a powerful message, your marketing program is doomed.
MISTAKE #5: Writing an intricate marketing plan that becomes impossible to carry out. Many marketing plans look like jigsaw puzzles with dozens – or even hundreds – of pieces. And while the plans might work, most lawyers and their staffs don’t have the hours needed to carry out the plans. Make sure your marketing plan is built on simple steps that have proved to be effective and efficient. In my 40 years in marketing, the most profitable, efficient and effective method I’ve found is my method of Education-Based Marketing.
MISTAKE #6: Making decisions by committee. The quality of a marketing decision is based on how long it takes to make the decision and how much the decision has been watered down by compromise. One person working alone has the potential to make good decisions. When two people work together things begin to bog down. And if you’re waiting for three people to agree, don’t hold your breath. Marketing is like football. Can you imagine how long it would take if the entire team offered their ideas and everyone had to agree before they could make the next play? Choose one quarterback to direct your program. If you don’t get the results you want, change strategies or change quarterbacks. But don’t compound your quarterback’s problems by bringing in more people to help make decisions.
MISTAKE #7: Depending on media publicity as your marketing program. Without question, articles in the print and online media – and interviews on radio and television – can help you attract new clients. But many lawyers rely on publicity as their entire marketing program. True, exposure can increase your credibility. But in most cases, exposure by itself isn’t enough. Lawyers routinely report, “We were very happy with the number of articles about our firm, but we didn’t get a single new client!” Your marketing program should include a powerful, aggressive publicity program designed to attract inquiries from genuine prospects and to increase referrals. But don’t think a mere publicity program is a marketing program.
MISTAKE #8: Failing to carry out a marketing program that achieves the six essential elements for success. Your marketing program must (1) establish your credibility by providing information and advice, (2) spell out important differences between you and competing lawyers, (3) bring about an interaction with your prospects, (4) identify sound reasons for urgency, (5) gain your prospect’s commitment, and (6) maintain your client’s loyalty. Programs that don’t achieve all six steps will fail.
MISTAKE #9: Failing to take the leadership position in your market. When prospects perceive you as the leader in your field, you have a substantial advantage over other lawyers. Yet, many marketing programs aren’t designed to seize this powerful, profitable position. Look at your position in the marketplace. From your prospects’ point of view, is any lawyer clearly the leader in that category? If not, design your marketing program so you take control of your niche. If that niche is already dominated by other lawyers, create a new category for yourself. Then promote the category so prospects see you as first in that new area. One of my clients created a new category and successfully dominated his niche for five and one-half years, when he changed to another area of law. You gain an amazing advantage when prospects see you as the leader.
MISTAKE #10: Failing to deliver your marketing message until prospects come into your office. Lawyers usually have no problem persuading prospects to hire their services once the prospect is in their office. But getting prospects through the door is another matter. In addition to posting your marketing message on your website, I urge you to develop marketing materials that you can send to prospective clients. Then create a marketing program that uses print, online and broadcast media to attract inquiries from prospects who ask to receive your information. When prospects call your office, you respond by mailing (or emailing) your packet and adding their names to your mailing list. This allows you to put your marketing message into their hands regardless of their location. If your materials are powerful and persuasive, you’ll find that prospects call you and request consultations.
MISTAKE #11: Failing to market to your law firm’s mailing list. Your firm’s mailing list is your own personal area of influence. It should contain the names of all your past, present, and prospective clients – and your past, present and prospective referral sources. Make sure you mail to your in-house list at least monthly. Your mailings can include your law firm newsletter, invitations to seminars, announcements of upcoming events, holiday cards and so on.
MISTAKE #12: Failing to take all the steps required to carry out a competent marketing program. Lawyers who achieve success often trim back their marketing programs hoping to save money by eliminating the bells and whistles. What they often don’t realize is that many of the so-called “bells and whistles” are not bells and whistles at all. They are the essential components that make their programs work. When you take marketing shortcuts on the front end, you slash the number of new clients on the back end. If you want to streamline your marketing and determine if any steps might not be needed, start slowly and track results. Be careful not to cut away the steps responsible for your success.
MISTAKE #13: Failing to maintain open, honest communication about everything involved in your client’s case. Invite feedback from clients so you discover not only what you do well, but also what you need to improve. You can do this through surveys, phone conferences, roundtables – any way you devise for clients to tell you what they think and feel. Getting feedback is key to your marketing effort because it helps you discover your strengths and weaknesses from your client’s point of view. Then you use this information to increase client loyalty for future referrals.
MISTAKE #14: Failing to make marketing your highest priority. For most lawyers, practicing law is their highest priority. When they get busy, they often reduce their marketing efforts because they need that time to work on their clients’ cases. These lawyers operate under the false hope that their momentum will attract new business long into the future. But when they cut their marketing efforts, they actually shift their marketing into neutral. As a result, inertia takes over and things slowly coast to a standstill. Make marketing a priority for you or a marketing professional in your office. Or hire an outside Lawyer Marketing Specialist so you make sure the work gets done. Don’t turn your marketing off and on like a light switch. Keep your program in gear so you attract an ongoing flow of new clients.
MISTAKE #15: Failing to start your marketing program until your cash flow improves. More often than not, lawyers who use this reason never start marketing because they aren’t aware that their logic is backwards: Their cash flow won’t improve until they start their marketing program. Maintaining an effective marketing effort is the most important investment you can make. Why pay for an office and staff if you don’t have enough business to justify the overhead? Start your marketing program now so you have an ongoing flow of new clients.
MISTAKE #16: Failing to devote enough of your marketing message to explaining your prospect’s problems. Marketing-savvy lawyers spend a considerable portion of their marketing message explaining their prospects’ problems – rather than what the lawyer will do to solve those problems. The more your prospect understands about the gravity of his dilemma, the more likely he is to hire you to correct it. Don’t spend time discussing solutions until you have focused extensively on the seriousness of your prospect’s situation.
MISTAKE #17: Failing to provide prospects with both logical and emotional reasons to hire you. Often, prospects retain your services for emotional reasons, such as whether they like you and whether they feel you truly want to help them. Then they use logic to defend their decision to their spouses and colleagues. When you provide both, you help your prospect justify his decision to hire your services.
MISTAKE #18: Asking prospects to provide too much information before they’re ready. We live in an age when everybody is – and must be – concerned about privacy, especially considering the epidemic of identity theft. Yet many lawyers, through submit forms on their websites, require prospects to provide more information than the lawyer needs at that moment. Clearly, the more information you get from prospects, the sooner you can evaluate their case and respond. Still, you must be sensitive to the fact that prospects aren’t always as eager to provide information as you are to receive it.
MISTAKE #19: Failing to create a separate website for each major practice area. If you depend on high search engine rankings to attract inquiries from prospects, you can improve your search ranking by having separate websites for each practice area. Here’s why: One way search engines rank your website is by the amount of content that is relevant to the search words. If you have both business law and family law information on your site, (assuming an equal amount of information for both), then the search engine will see that your site is only 50% relevant for a search in either practice area. When you separate the practice areas into their own websites, then each website is 100% relevant to a person’s search for either topic.
MISTAKE #20: Failing to market specifically for the types of cases you want. It isn’t hard to attract cases if you’re willing to accept anything that comes through the door. But if you want to target only certain types of cases, then invest the time to identify the cases you consider most desirable and the types of people you need to reach. Each category of legal services needs its own marketing message. Then you need methods that are effective at delivering your message to the specific prospects you want to attract.
MISTAKE #21: Committing to a print ad or broadcast commercial for the long term before you test over the short term. The only way to test a marketing opportunity is to test small. No doubt, your
sales rep will show you testimonials from happy advertisers. And you’ll likely see page after page of powerful statistics. So you might conclude that your ad can’t lose. Not so. Even if you design the perfect ad with a powerful message, your ad could still fall flat on its face if for no other reason than that medium doesn’t reach your target audience. So, unless you’ve got money to burn, start small. If you’re pleased with the quality of responses, you can always run the ad or commercial again. But if you start big, you may spend a fortune before you discover that you made a mistake – or that “something went wrong.”
MISTAKE #22: Promoting your services. When you promote your services, you take on the role of a salesperson. This method, called selling-based marketing, undermines your credibility and causes prospects to question whether they can trust you. Instead of promoting your services, promote your knowledge.
When you educate prospects, they come to you because of the depth of your knowledge, skill, judgment and experience. Education-Based Marketing gives prospects what they want, information and advice – and removes what they don’t want, a sales pitch.
MISTAKE #23: Failing to take full advantage of an Education-Based website. Today, when prospects need a lawyer, they usually turn to the internet. If you don’t have an in-depth website with relevant articles, tips and advice – plus information about you and your services – you’re missing a huge opportunity. In years past, simply mailing your information packet to prospects was enough. But today, prospects want reliable information immediately. One easy way to provide it – 24 hours a day – is to post it on your website. The more you educate your prospect, the more he trusts you and values your knowledge and experience. In your materials, answer every question your prospect might ask. The more information you provide, the more you help your prospect qualify or disqualify himself as a candidate for your services.
MISTAKE #24: Failing to get calls or emails from qualified prospects before they visit your website. When a prospect goes to a search engine and types in specific keywords, if you’re lucky, one of the websites it brings up is yours. The problem is, the search engine displays dozens of your competitors’ websites, too. So getting a good search engine ranking – usually defined as being on the first two pages of search results – also means your prospect could easily get distracted by many other competing websites.
The result? He may never click on the link to your website and go to a competitor’s website instead. This means you wasted the money you paid to write and design the website. You wasted the money you paid for search engine optimization. You wasted the money you paid for ongoing monthly maintenance. And you lost the opportunity to get what could have been a desirable client. In fact, it could have been a multi-million-dollar case. But your prospect clicked on the link to another firm’s website… and you lost out!
MISTAKE #25: Failing to pre-empt your competitors’ marketing message – including their websites – by offering free articles and then delivering your marketing message directly to qualified prospects. When you offer free articles in places other than your law firm website, your prospect sees that you offer free information. He wants your articles so he requests them by calling or emailing your office. Then he receives your articles, reads them, and follows your instructions to go to your website where he can find more helpful articles and information. If he hasn’t already found you on the internet, he opens his browser, types in your website address, visits your site, reads your marketing message, and contacts you to evaluate his case. Here’s what just happened: You completely pre-empted your competitors’ websites by getting the inquiry first. Your prospect did not do a keyword search. Your prospect did not see dozens of links to your competitors’ sites. And yet he still found his way directly to your website.
MISTAKE #26: Offering a free article on your website’s home page – and then requiring your prospect to give you his contact information before you provide the article. When you use Education-Based Marketing, you post educational articles on your website so your prospect gets tips and advice with no strings attached. Then, after you have increased your credibility with free materials on your website, you can offer more articles that you’ll send when your prospect gives you his name and e-mail address. But when you require your prospect to reveal his name and address before you give him any articles, you arouse suspicion and lose inquiries that could lead to highly desirable cases.