19 Steps to Building a Nationwide Law Practice
by Trey Ryder
We’re seeing substantial changes in attorney marketing programs. Thanks
to sophisticated law firm marketing efforts, many lawyers are now expanding
their practices beyond state boundaries, building regional or national
practices. In some cases, they provide narrowly focused services; in others,
they offer broad-based skills with the hopes of attracting a handful of
the best cases in the country.
I urge attorneys to go beyond their state boundaries, for four
Reason #1: You have more opportunities to attract the types of
cases you want. When you draw clients from 50 states, you have a much
greater selection than when you limit your field to your home state. If
every state has three really good cases, you can compete for the three
in your own state -- or you can compete for your share of 150 from across
Reason #2: You have many more opportunities for media publicity.
Gaining publicity outside your state is often easier than getting attention
in your own state. This is because nearly every business wants to be featured
in your local newspapers. But when you pursue articles in regional and
national publications, you often find yourself competing with fewer businesses
and fewer lawyers.
Most businesses and lawyers get customers from within a few-mile
radius, so they don’t need attention beyond their local boundaries. Plus,
businesses often assume that gaining national publicity would be much
harder than gaining local attention. But, in fact, when you go beyond
your state’s boundaries, you have access to hundreds of additional publications
at the state, regional and national levels, all of which could be suitable
targets for your publicity effort.
Reason #3: The Amystery of distance@ results in your being perceived
as the authority in your field because you’re from out of town. You have
probably heard of this marketing principle, but you may not have used
it as part of your marketing strategy. The mystery of distance says: The
farther you go to get a product or service, the better and more valuable
it is. Here’s an example:
You can buy a pair of binoculars at your local sporting goods
store. Or you can buy them online from a company in Switzerland. Which
pair is better? Obviously, the binoculars from Switzerland.
There’s no logical reason to believe that something that comes
from far away is better than something that comes from down the street.
Still, subconsciously, we think it is.
Reason #4: You can live wherever you want. Many lawyers don’t
need to see their clients often. Some never see them at all. If you can
service clients by phone, fax, mail and e-mail, then you don’t need to
work with them in person. And if you go to trial in their state -- or
if you need to meet with them -- you can always travel. Technology has
changed how we market and deliver services.
Here are 19 attorney marketing steps to building a respected
regional or national practice.
Step #1: Identify the niche you want to fill and the services
you want to market. When clients hear your name, you want them to associate
you with a specific type of legal services. For example, John Wilbanks
is a personal injury attorney. Karen Ambrose is a tax lawyer. Mark O'Connor
is a corporate lawyer. Consider whether any lawyer in your market area
immediately springs to mind when you mention your area of law. If so,
that lawyer owns a very strong position. If no lawyer comes to mind, an
effective marketing program will help you build the perception that you
are the leader in that practice area.
Step #2: Identify the type of clients you want to attract. You
must know where to aim if you expect to hit your target. List the types
of people or companies you want to attract that are ready, willing and
able to hire your services. Identify your prospective clients by who they
are and what they have. For individuals, consider things such as gender,
age, marital and family status, education, occupation, income and home
ownership. For companies, consider things such as industry, gross sales,
number of employees, level of risk or whatever makes a client attractive
Step #3: Identify how you and your services differ from those
of your competitors. Positive differences are your competitive advantages.
Negative differences are your competitive disadvantages. Identify both
so you’ll know your strengths and weaknesses. Evaluate your qualifications,
background and experience. Evaluate how you serve clients. Evaluate the
environment in which you serve clients. Look at your strengths and weaknesses
from your prospects’ point of view because prospects evaluate you based
on what is important to them. Every time you talk with prospects, make
sure you emphasize your competitive advantages so prospects appreciate
how you differ from other lawyers.
Step #4: Identify ways you can add value to your services so
prospects eagerly choose you over all other lawyers. What can you add
to your services to make them more attractive than they are now -- and
more attractive than services offered by your competitors? If you were
in your prospect’s shoes, what could your lawyer provide that would cause
you to choose him or her over every other attorney? Review how you currently
provide legal services. Then ask yourself how you could provide services
more efficiently, more effectively, more completely, or faster -- with
your client benefiting from less risk and more value. Then, in addition
to what you listed in step 3, the ways you add value to your services
now become more competitive advantages.
Step #5: Compile and keep on computer a comprehensive mailing
list. Your most important business asset is your mailing list. It’s your
own personal area of influence. It should include your current clients,
past clients, referral sources and prospects. Whether your list contains
20 names -- or 2,000 names -- these people are the core around which you
build a prosperous firm. As you attract an ongoing flow of new inquiries,
keep all of your prospects’ names and addresses on your mailing list.
The critical element in your marketing program is your ability
to add new names of prospective clients to your mailing list. You want
to attract names at whatever rate will bring you the number of new clients
you want. How long you leave names on your mailing list will depend on
how long your prospects need to make their decision and at what point
the list becomes unmanageable.
Step #6: Make sure prospects and clients can reach you easily
and without hassle. As distance increases, prospects often grow concerned
about their ability to contact you. To reassure them, explain the many
ways you invite contact from clients, like these: Toll-free direct line,
cell phone, pager, fax, e-mail, mail, courier, as well as intake and contact
forms on your web site.
Step #7: Compile your information and advice into your own unique
educational message, built on this proven five-part framework:
Part #1: Identify and explain your prospect’s problem. People
won’t pay for a solution until they understand their problem. The bigger
the problem -- and the greater the risk of allowing it to persist - the
more they will pay to solve it.
Part #2: Prove the problem exists. Prospects know you earn your
living from solving problems. Skeptical prospects may think you are overstating
the depth of the problem. You can overcome this sometimes-hidden suspicion
by taking time to prove the problem exists and to prove that it is serious
enough to warrant your client hiring your services to solve it.
Part #3: Identify and explain one or more solutions. Prospects want a
clear understanding of what you recommend to solve their problem.
Part #4: Prove the solution works. Prospects may be skeptical
as to whether your recommended solution will actually do what you claim.
You can expect an even higher level of skepticism if the solution you
recommend is perceived by your prospects to be expensive.
Part #5: Build yourself into the solution. You don’t want prospects
to agree they have a problem but then hire another lawyer to solve it.
You must do everything possible to make sure that your prospects conclude
you are best equipped to provide the solution.
Your marketing message is the same as your educational message.
You build your message on a foundation of information that explains your
prospect’s problem and the solutions you can provide. Then you support
your message with proof documents that further add credibility to everything
you say. Proof documents include your photo and biography, article reprints,
schedule of services and fees, and references. Testimonials help a great
deal, but some jurisdictions do not allow their use. Check your rules
of professional conduct before using testimonials.
In this way, you create a powerful, competent message. And the
result is that your message is much more compelling and credible than
messages used by other lawyers.
Step #8: Educate your audience with written information and advice.
Write your marketing message in a form that you can send to anyone who
calls your office. Then, by offering to send copies without charge, you
attract calls from genuine prospects. When prospects call, they give you
their names and addresses (or e-mail addresses). Then you add these prospective
clients to your in-house mailing list.
Important Note: The longer your materials, the better. The longer
you keep your prospect’s attention -- and the more facts you provide --
the more likely your prospect is to hire your services. Fortunately, prospects
will read long materials, provided they are well written and relevant
to their problem. The fact kit I used for 15 years varied from 40 to 50
pages in length. And many lawyers (my prospective clients) told me they
read every word. I have now included all this information on my web site
and in the article packet I send by e-mail, so I no longer use a printed
Step #9: Define the geographical area from which you want to
draw clients. Geographics identify individual prospects by where they
live, where they work, and where you can find the prospective clients
you want. Geographics identify companies by where they are based, where
they have facilities and where they do business.
Step #10: Compile a media list of newspapers, magazines, newsletters
and other media you want to receive your news releases and query letters.
Your articles will appear in national, regional and local publications
in all the states where you hope to serve clients. You can usually find
current media lists online and at the library reference desk.
Step #11: Launch an aggressive publicity campaign by sending
news releases, feature articles and
query letters to your entire media list. If you send articles 4 or 5 times
each year, you could have an ongoing flow of articles appearing in various
parts of the country.
Step #12: Contact high-profile publications and interview shows
on an individual and exclusive basis to gain the highest level of nationwide
publicity. Offer to write ongoing columns for publications, and appear
as a periodic guest on interview shows. You might offer to host your own
legal, news-talk or interview show.
Step #13: Compile a list of trade associations that serve the
prospects you want to attract. Keep these trade groups on your mailing
list. Offer to present seminars that are sponsored or co-sponsored by
these trade associations, in hopes that they will mail seminar invitations
to all of their members.
Step #14: Compile a list of referral sources in the states you
serve. Send them your packet of information so they understand what you
do. Invite their referrals and offer referral fees, if appropriate. Keep
these referral sources on your mailing list.
Step #15: Compile a list of past clients. Send them a letter
announcing your regional or national practice and a copy of your information
packet. Most people have friends and colleagues in other states. Keep
these past clients on your mailing list.
Step #16: In all of your marketing materials, make sure you tell
prospects the geographical area from which you accept clients. You might
say something like: “Serving clients in the United States and Canada.”
Or, “I welcome inquiries from clients in (name the states).”
If you don’t mention the area you serve, prospects could easily conclude
that you limit your services to your city or county. So be sure to tell
prospects where you practice and put this information throughout your
Step #17: Establish a web site. The easiest way to reach prospects
in different states is to establish an internet site. This puts your materials
at everyone’s fingertips 24 hours a day, whenever they want it.
The more information you provide, the more likely you are to win a new
client. So be generous with the information you post.
Step #18: Market your seminars and speaking engagements nationwide.
Make sure everyone on your mailing list knows you offer seminars. While
they might not be the contact person, they can make your seminar known
to the right people, who may get in touch with you. This is the most common
way I receive invitations to speak to lawyers. Also, thanks to technology,
now you can offer seminars over the telephone, by video conferencing,
and over the internet.
Step #19: If you can collect e-mail addresses from people on
your mailing list, send an e-mail alert or briefing every week or two.
The more often you stay in touch with everyone your mailing list (prospects,
clients, past clients and referral sources), the more new clients you’ll
After your law firm marketing efforts take root, and your publicity
starts to appear, you’ll get inquiries from prospective clients. Trade
and professional associations will invite you to speak. And, one by one,
you’ll start getting clients from throughout the geographical area you
wish to serve. Soon, you’ll have a profitable, prestigious nationwide
law practice, thanks to the energy you’ve invested in attorney marketing.
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