Section Review

Building your practice with dignity

Some lawyers spend thousands of dollars on their marketing. But the demands of clients and the lack of time often doom the best-laid marketing plans. The following steps can't ensure success; they just provide a guideline.

Identify your niche. When prospects hear your name, you want them to associate you with a specific type of service. Don't be a jack-of-all-trades. You can't please - and you shouldn't accept - each client who calls. If you do, you'll be jeopardizing your efficiency (and thus your profit), your professionalism, and the balanced life you deserve.

Identify your ideal clients. If you expect to hit your target, you must know where to aim. What are the characteristics of your ideal clients? Be specific. What avenues can you explore to find these prospective clients?

Identify what you can add to your services. How can you provide services more efficiently, effectively, or faster so that your client benefits from less risk and more value?

Identify how your services are different. Positive differences are your strengths, your competitive advantages. Negative differences are your weaknesses, your competitive disadvantages. Identify both.

Competitive advantages can include your education, background, and experience. Everywhere you deliver your marketing message - in written materials, at seminars, during interviews, on your Web site - clearly spell out your competitive advantages.

Learn how to establish your credibility and communicate without selling. At the initial consultation, ask what problems the person wants solved or goals he or she wants achieved. Listen carefully so you know which points he considers most important. Recommend possible solutions. Provide facts about your background and qualifications. Explain how you have helped others in similar situations. Then allow would-be clients to make their own decision without pressure from you.

Compile and maintain a comprehensive mailing list. Your mailing list is your most important business asset. Whether your list contains 20 or 2,000 names, these people are the core around which you build a successful practice.

Your mailing list should include past and present clients, prospects, referral sources, and people at media outlets that reach your target audience. Code your mailing list so you can call up whatever names you need. The critical element in your marketing program is your ability to add prospects' names to your mailing list at whatever rate will bring you the number of new clients you want.

Make sure prospective clients can reach you easily. If people have a hard time reaching you, they will often call another lawyer.

Install a toll-free number. It's not so expensive as you may think. Set up your voice-mail and update it daily. Display your e-mail address prominently in all communications. Many people have grown more comfortable with e-mail, especially when they don't know you personally or may be reluctant to make that first call.

Compile your information and advice into a unique educational message. Title your message so you attract the clients you want and they realize that your materials will help them solve a problem or achieve a goal.

For example, you might offer "Five steps to getting a fair settlement for your injuries" or "Nine ways to reduce the pain and expense of divorce." List each point along with your suggestions, and write in plain English.

To be effective, your educational message should (1) identify and explain the potential client's problem; (2) identify the solution; (3) prove the solution works; and (4) build yourself into the solution.

Educate your audience with written information and advice. Write your message in a form that you can send to anyone who calls your office. Offer to mail copies at no charge. When prospects call, they give you their names and addresses, which you can add to your mailing list.

Important: the longer your materials, the better. The longer you keep your reader's attention with more useful information, the more likely he or she will be to call upon your services.

Educate your audience through articles and interviews. Media publicity provides you the opportunity to educate prospects, offer your written materials, and invite prospects to seminars. Media attention can help to establish a high level of credibility, thereby attracting more prospects.

Educate your audience through paid advertising. To assure that your message appears at the times and places you desire, buy advertising time on the broadcast media and space in the print media. The focus of your ads should be to persuade prospects to request your free written materials or attend your free educational seminar.

Educate your audience through free seminars. Seminars save time because you present information to many prospects at once. Also, seminars enhance your credibility and allow you to talk with qualified prospects in a non-threatening educational setting. Your prospects have the opportunity to ask questions, discuss problems, and request an appointment with you.

Educate your audience through direct mail. Direct mail provides the opportunity to educate your prospects, offer your written materials, and invite prospects to seminars.

A brief letter from you educates your prospects and can be a powerful marketing tool. Make sure you check all ethical rules about mailing information to non-clients.

Educate your audience through a newsletter. Mail your newsletter to prospects, clients, and referral sources. Your newsletter serves as an ongoing contact and provides a tangible tool to increase referrals.

Your newsletter can be as short as a one-page letter, or as long as you want. Frequency is more important than length. Mail your newsletter at least quarterly.

Educate your audience through your Web site. When you do so, your educational information is there 24 hours a day, whenever your prospect wants to read it.

Include articles, checklists, and recommendations. The more you educate, the more a potential client trusts you and values your knowledge. Try to answer every question that may be asked.

When you use different educational materials together, they reinforce and clarify your message. Together, these steps can attract new clients, increase referrals, strengthen client loyalty, and build your image as an authority without selling. Best of all, this plan gives you complete control over your marketing future.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association