10 Problems Lawyers Face in Marketing Their Practice

Too often lawyers forget that they are in business. It is not enough just to set up shop and expect clients to somehow find you. It takes a lot more to let the world know you exist, that you have great skills and will do an excellent job for your clients.

But, unfortunately you can’t do a great job for clients that don’t know about you. This is where good marketing comes in. When you look around and see successful practitioners in your field, you can safely assume they have effective marketing methods that helped them build a viable practice.

The most effective method of building and sustaining an active business is a mix of networking, referrals and marketing. For most lawyers, the first two-networking and referrals are the most natural to manage. Marketing, however, is more difficult to master and many lawyers don’t know how to do it well. Indeed, many make mistakes that can cost them time, money and clients.

Below is a list of 10 problems and sometimes mistakes lawyers make in marketing their practice:

1. Not devoting enough time spent on marketing

As in every “self- employed” business, practitioners need to devote a certain amount of time in bringing in new clients. Marketing is a part of that equation. A question that needs to be considered is how much time to spend on marketing? Consider allowing at least 200 hours a year for marketing. If you break this down by week, it’s about four hours during your work week. Your marketing can be done during a business lunch or at a professional conference. It is not difficult to weave those hours into your day if you plan ahead.

2. Counting on industry exposure

Speaking at conferences, doing interviews, writing articles or doing radio interviews isn’t enough. Simple industry exposure alone will not count towards explicitly planned marketing efforts. Marketing is not an “organic” process. If you do have an interview, whether it is radio, TV or a podcast, be sure to put it on your website. Roughly 30 percent of the population has grown up with the internet always present in their lives and video is a big part of how they look for services. If you don’t already have video on your site, you need to add it. It’s an excellent opportunity to show your best skills in how you represent your firm and impress future clients. It’s a great business-getting technique. Live interaction on your website can certainly count towards your marketing efforts.

3. Not sure of your target audience

Who are your clients? If you are not sure, then your advertising and marketing efforts are a waste of your time and money. You need to analyze very carefully and clearly who wants your services. Otherwise, you will waste time and energy on the wrong prospects. Once you have identified and analyzed your target client, will your advertising and marketing efforts be more effective, when you do have your ideal client, that client will be an excellent advocate for future clients. Just as referral business is always ideal, directing your marketing efforts towards the right client base to produce a more optimal result. You can meet your ideal client anywhere, especially when you know where to go to find them.

4. Failure to measure marketing results

How do you know your marketing plan is working if you don’t measure the success or failure of your campaign? Line up the specific actions you have taken and see which ones are getting the most action. Even if some are not getting the same level of response does not mean you trash it. What measuring does tell you is which areas to beef up. Like any advertising or marketing fishing expedition, you want more than one line in the water. Take a look at the response to your blog, for example. See how many people visited or commented.

Law firm marketing is relationship-based like most other service industries. It is how sales originate. One option for measuring is to look at the elements that can be measured and will have easy to identify metrics. Some of those include:

Open rates on your email
Click-through on your website and analytics
Results from client satisfaction interviews
Rates than win proposals
Events that gain repeated attendance
Business from seminars and CLEs
Good placement for your articles
5. Lack of a clear marketing message.

Too many law firms get disillusioned and have a negative attitude towards marketing. One of the problems is that they don’t have a clear idea of what their marketing message should be. A half-hearted approach or lukewarm effort certainly won’t work. If your method is good but the message is vague, then you have a problem. If your message isn’t clear, then chances are the entire campaign will fail. Be clear on your message before you create a program, make sure you create a competent marketing message. A good message is critical to a good marketing method. You must have both to succeed

6. Poor website design

Your website is a reflection of you and your brand. It is an important venue for your public relations reputation. Your website is your marketing image and platform. In terms of your public relations component, your website offers the opportunity to position your firm securely as an expert in your field. If there is a case in which there will be media attention, your website will gain significant attention both from the media as well as the public. Consequently, you need a good design that is easy to navigate and matches the personality of your typical client. According to the top law firms who rank high in the web design world, the overriding recommendations suggest keeping it clean and simple. Content should be informative, engaging and highly readable. Visitors should be able to easily find what they are looking for without having to leave your home page. Tabs should indicate where on the site the visitor can find specific information as well as a way to send a question via “contact us” page.

7. Poor business development

Marketing is more than advertising and getting the word out about your practice. Business development should be part of your marketing plan. List every way you plan to develop your practice. Start your plan with clients you know you will win and work from there. Build a reputation and have references. These should be people who know and trust you. In fact, these clients will be a very important part of your marketing operation. These are the clients that you can count on to send you new business and keep you informed of current issues in your field of practice. A business development plan is something you can measure. Create a file of every part of your practice where you plan to grow your business. From that measure how many times you “touched” a client. For example, how many times did you have lunch, talk on the phone or received a referral from that client. How many clients did you gain from a networking event, professional meeting or lecture?

8. Trying to do everything at once

Marketing ambition is a good thing. Certainly it is better to be enthusiastic about marketing your firm, but stay focused and accomplish each task fully before jumping to another. Focus on one strategy at a time. You can begin with your website.

Create and launch a newsletter
Join some networking groups
Investigate effective advertising options, such as a pay-per-click plan on Google
9. Not using social media

If you do not have more than a website, no one knows you exist. It’s not enough just to have one presence online. Even if prospective clients see your website, they will also be looking for you elsewhere to get to know you better. Create a Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, Google+ page, Twitter account and record some lectures you gave and put them on YouTube. Social media has changed the marketing balance. Today it is about building relationships and communicating with the world via an online message. Your future clients want to feel they know you and they do this by seeing your persona online. Now the emphasis is on building direct relationships and developing a conversation with the people you want to reach.

10. Ignoring the world of mobile technology

More people find what they are looking for from a mobile device than even a laptop computer today. Every part of your online presence must have a mobile component to it. Research has found that 84 percent of Americans use smartphones, and for about half of those people, their smartphone is their main connection to the Internet. A recent study from Portio Research found that mobile applications will exceed 200 billion per year by the end of full year 2017, and revenues in 2017 will reach 63.5 billion US dollars.

Mobile computing and searches have far exceeded desktop for several years now. In fact, 70 percent of all online searches come from mobile devices, far outnumbering desktop and laptop. Of that, 31 percent of searches to law firm websites comes from mobile search. That means that about half of all of your web traffic is coming to you from a smartphone or tablet user.

Marketing mistakes can derail even the sharpest law firm. A lawyer can’t exist without clients and clients can’t find you if they don’t know you are in practice. It is just a fact of the business world that effective marketing practices are necessary to let the world know you exist.

The Importance of a Marketing Plan

There aren’t many things in life that you would get into with out a plan. Marketing is no different. Your overall marketing plan should cover about a six month period, and should be made up of weekly and monthly marketing schedules.

This is how you do it:

1. Figure out how much money is in your budget.

As we all know, marketing of any kind costs money. How much money you are willing to commit to the cause is going to determine some key factors about how that money can be best spent. Remember, you want to be economical but you also need to be realistic on what it will take to pull in the leads you need to close new and repeat business.

2. Determine your target market.

Who is most likely to buy your product? Are they married? Are they business owners? What is their income level? These are the people that you want to target. One of the most common mistakes in marketing is answering “Everyone” to the question “Who is your target market?” It may be that you have more than one target market, but there is no product in the world that appeals to each and every person. Even Coca-Cola targets different people with different messages. Decide who is MOST LIKELY to buy what you have to sell and target them. Your message to teenagers will be different than your message to housewives even if the product is exactly the same. Different markets may require different mail pieces or advertisements.

2a. Using the Right Mailing List.

In making sure that your message is getting across to the right people – people who are in the market for what you’re offering usually comes down to finding the right mailing list.

There is a great deal to know about mailing lists. There are pointers you could follow when buying a mailing list that tell you what to watch for in a mailing list company to make sure they’re reputable. They are:

i) Get references. Talk to other people that have purchased mailing lists from that company.

ii) Do they guarantee on delivery? That means due to the inevitable number of bad addresses there are in a list, can they still guarantee a high percentage of deliverable addresses. That number should be 90% or better. People move all the time so a mailing list company cannot guarantee 100% deliverability – but they should guarantee at least 90%.

iii) How often do they update their information? They should be able to answer this question and should be updating their information monthly.

You can get burnt on mailing lists – it is the most expensive part of your campaign. Ask friends who own businesses. Don’t just purchase from the first person that tries to sell you mailing lists. Do your research.

3. Select what media to use. (i.e., Direct Mail, Television, Radio, etc.)

This decision will depend on both your budget and your target market. If you have not done a good deal of marketing in the past we recommend picking one media to start. This is much easier to keep track of and you will better be able to tell whether or not it is working. Also, since repetition is the key to marketing success, using one media to begin with will help you reach the same people multiple times. If you run a
newspaper ad and send out a postcard, you run the risk of the majority of the people only seeing your ad once. However, if you send out the postcard twice you can guarantee that you get your message to the same people twice and you will start to build recognition.

Once you are getting the returns that you want from the first media, or if you decide that it is not working for you, you can branch out into another form of advertising. Over time you will build up a very diverse marketing plan.

4. Make a Schedule and Stick with It.

Figure out how many people you have in your target market. For this example we will use Direct Mail Marketing. If you have a mailing list of people in your target market that has 1500 names, figure out how many times per month you can mail a postcard to them and still stay within your monthly budget. Once you come up with this number, do it!

The importance of having a marketing plan cannot be stressed enough. Create one and follow it and you’ll start seeing the benefits.

Is Your B2B Firm REALLY Marketing, Or Simply Making Tactical Soup?

Many B2B firms invest significant dollars and hours maintaining a broad range of marketing tactics that may or may not demonstrate economic value. Often, the value of marketing activity gets measured in tactical terms-such as volume of media exposure, website traffic, webinar attendance, email click-through rates, awards for civic participation and social media “Likes” and “Followers,” rather than by tangible business outcomes such as lead generation, conversion rates, acceptance of new service offerings among existing clients, or revenue per associate.

When this situation exists, a B2B firm is not marketing; it’s simply making Tactical Soup.

Here are 3 steps to get out of the soup kitchen, or to avoid it altogether:

1. Put every marketing tactic under the microscope. If there’s no tangible connection between a current marketing tactic and bona fide business results, throw it out. Be ruthless in your tactical assessment and focus on marketing initiatives that demonstrate a direct correlation between activity and a measurable business outcomes.

2. Calculate the value received from the marketing activity. Press releases and related media exposure is a good example of marketing activity that is often overrated in terms of effort vs. tangible outcome. Unless your firm has accomplished something truly noteworthy-like discovering your profession’s equivalent of cold fusion-then the likelihood of your clients, prospects and referral sources actually noticing the media exposure and doing something about it, such as visiting your firm’s website or requesting an introductory meeting, is probably low. Exposure that’s largely based on a firm’s achievements delivers little practical benefit to existing clients and may leave them wondering if such self-promotion will result in higher client rates and fees.

3. Schedule ongoing maintenance of the activity. Unfortunately, many B2B marketing tactics are often one-off or plug-and-play solutions. Blogs and newsletters demand original, timely content; not canned information. White papers and case studies become quickly outdated. Website effectiveness requires ongoing attention to visitor traffic analytics and search engine optimization. Webinars and public forums entail lead qualification and follow-up with prospects.Email and direct mail campaign accuracy depends on a reliable and accessible database. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook must be updated regularly to stay relevant. Before embarking on these activities, make sure you have the time and resources to dedicate to their maintenance.

THE PAYOFF

B2B firms can avoid the pitfalls of tactical soup by being selective in the type and volume of marketing tactics they apply. Most importantly, they must identify a specific and measurable strategic outcome in advance of any tactic’s design or application. For example, a 25-person CPA firm with an emerging practice among medium-size, privately held businesses sought to add a pharmaceutical company to its client list. Leveraging the life science industry background of one of its senior partners, the firm proposed and published a bylined article on Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) revenue-recognition compliance-a supply chain issue of great interest and value to pharmaceutical industry executives-in a leading life science publication with more than 35,000 print subscribers and an even greater number of online readers.

Instead of simply posting the bylined article on its website and adding article reprints to its marketing kit, this firm understood three important considerations regarding the real value of media placement as a marketing tactic:

  • The article’s content was not as valuable as the firm’s indirect affiliation with a respected pharmaceutical industry publication.
  • On its own, publication of the article was unlikely to generate any viable, near-term new business prospects.
  • For the firm to benefit from the credibility associated with publication of its partner’s life sciences expertise, it would need to proactively merchandise this inherent 3rd party endorsement.

Now that its marketing toolbox contained validation of the senior partner’s intellectual capital in a leading vertical trade magazine, the firm leveraged the value of that exposure. It used the article reprint as the cornerstone of a direct mail campaign designed to raise awareness of the firm and to initiate substantive conversations with CFOs at pharmaceutical firms matching the criteria of prospective clients it had targeted-in terms of geography, ownership, revenue growth, number of employees and apparent levels of sophistication.

The firm’s mailing included a hard copy, personalized cover letter to those targets, offering to provide a pro bono analysis of the prospect’s SOX exposure, which was followed by a courtesy phone call designed to measure levels of interest and to schedule an introductory meeting. Over the course of this six-month campaign, which effectively combined two marketing tactics-media exposure and direct mail-this accounting firm netted two new pharmaceutical industry clients.

Instead of generating marketing activity for its own sake, this B2B firm effectively applied specific marketing tactics to yield a predetermined business outcome.

Tactical Soup was not on this B2B firm’s marketing menu, and it has no rightful place on yours.