Marketing Tips

Marketing Tip #1

Provide quality work and service to your clients. The best referral opportunities you can develop are those from satisfied and happy clients. Be sure you are accepting cases that you have the expertise to handle. Be timely in meeting deadlines and responding to critical dates for each matter. Communicate frequently with your clients, returning phone calls promptly and keeping them abreast of the status of their case. Be pro-active in your client communication rather than reactive, copying them with correspondence related to their case and providing monthly detailed billing. Thank them for their business and provide them a chance via a client survey to tell you how well you did. Be sure to take seriously any comments that would help you improve your client service and implement them.

To obtain a copy of Mr. Calloway’s article entitled, "Marketing Magic for Lawyers", which appeared in the April/May 2002 issue of GPSolo, call 312-988-5648.

Marketing Tip #2

First impressions are lasting impressions. Is the first impression a potential client has of your office, building and reception area first-class or second-rate? Is your office waiting area well-appointed? Is your furniture comfortable? Do you have current reading materials on the coffee and side tables? Are there brochures relative to your practice area available for clients to review while they wait? Does your receptionist answer the phone in a timely manner? Are callers provided a chance to speak with your assistant or to leave a message on voice mail if you are not available? Is the receptionist pleasant to clients who call and come to your office? Do you offer your clients beverages while they wait? Are clients made to wait too long for you to appear? Do you have a well-appointed conference room to meet with your clients? Is your office organized and neat, if that is where your client meetings take place? Are papers strewn throughout your office and common areas, on file cabinets and desks, or are they neatly filed? Does your office say, "organized", "competent" or "chaos"? Clients who come to you need help with a situation or event that, for them, is the most important thing in their life. Does your office reflect the type of place your clients can trust with the most important event in their life?

Lawyers have always marketed their practice
According to Jim Calloway in a recent article in GPSolo, lawyers generally do not have a clear grasp on how to market their practice. He states that lawyers generally equate marketing with advertising; when, in fact, advertising is only one of many ways in which a law firm can market its services. In fact, Mr. Calloway reminds us that while advertising was only permitted in the legal profession a quarter-century ago, marketing has been around since the beginning of the practice of law. In his article, "Marketing Magic for Lawyers", which appeared in the April/May issue of GPSolo magazine, Mr. Calloway reminds us that the best way to market a law practice has nothing to do with advertising. It has everything to do with building relationships and providing quality work and service. What are the best ways to market your practice? How can you attract the best clients? The next few weeks of tips will try to answer that question. Here’s the first installment:

Marketing Tip #3 – How did they do it way back when?

How have lawyers historically built their law practice? The way any business man or woman builds a business . . . through relationships. What relationships or associations interest you most? Is your church affiliation a priority? Are you a coach or official for recreational sports? Are you a member of your local chamber of commerce? Are you on the board of a non-profit charitable organization for a cause you admire and want to support? Are you on your local school board or counsel? Do you participate in family reunions? Are you a member and active in your local and state bar association? Do you play golf or tennis? Are you a member of a country club? Are you a regular at your YMCA? When was the last time you took a potential client or a referral source to lunch? Building relationships is key to building a law practice. In most cases clients still hire the lawyer rather than the law firm. A bit of advice: Building relationships takes time. Don’t get involved in any of these activities for the sole purpose of getting business. Your participation in outside activities should express your passion about those activities or causes. You should do something you enjoy. The relationships will then easily develop out of common interests and passions.

Marketing Tip #4 - Develop a marketing plan

Most lawyers cringe at the concept of developing a marketing plan. How many of you roll your eyes when one of your partners calls a meeting of the attorneys to talk about marketing? Many think they need a professional "marketer" to develop a plan. Developing and ensuring implementation of a marketing plan for a medium-size to large firm probably requires a person with marketing expertise. But the solo or small firm practitioner can’t afford and doesn’t need a marketing person to help them develop a plan. The small firm practitioner needs to commit some time to identifying potential client and referral sources and to developing a plan for getting in front of those sources on a regular basis. Set weekly, monthly and quarterly goals for 1) surveying existing clients as to their degree of satisfaction with your services, 2) getting in front of potential clients, 3) making contact with referral sources, 4) meeting new people, 5) participating in a civic, religious or community meeting, 6) attending a local bar meeting, 7) participating in a CLE program, 8) hosting a dinner party or 9) writing an article for the local or state bar publication or your local newspaper. Record all of your marketing activities as to date, activity, who you met or talked with and any business that may result from it. Review your efforts monthly and quarterly and follow up as appropriate. Marketing your practice requires some planning and discipline. The reward is building a practice made up of clients that you enjoy working with in an area of the law that you’ve chosen to develop.

Marketing Tip #5 – File Closing Letters and Client Surveys

The use of file closing letters at the end of a case is not only a good discipline for ethics and risk management reasons, but also a way to pleasantly end the relationship. A file closing letter should state that the matter on which you represented the client has concluded. It should contain the final bill, if appropriate. It should inform the client that you are closing their file and will store it for whatever retention period is appropriate; and, that at the end of that retention period, the file will be destroyed. The file closing letter can also be used to thank the client for the opportunity to represent them in the matter and contain an offer to assist them in the future with any other needs they might have. You should state your firm’s other areas of practice. A client survey can be included with the file closing letter which provides the client an opportunity to provide you with feedback as to their satisfaction with the legal services rendered and as to how they were treated by not only you, but your staff.

Marketing Tip #6 – Brochures

The hot marketing tool of the recent past has been firm brochures. Many law firms have hired marketing firms to develop expensive, slick brochures that describe the firm’s philosophy, history, current services and expertise, depth of legal experience and office locations. Much time is spent on the "look", "tone", "feel" and "message" of the brochure.

According to Burkey Belser, author of Chapter 4 - "Developing Your Visual Image" in the ABA LPM publication, The Complete Guide to Marketing Your Law Practice, most firm brochures widely distributed to potential clients find their way rather quickly into the nearest waste basket. Mr. Belser makes the point that brochures do have value in the marketing plan of the law firm when they are used correctly.

Brochures can be effective when talking with a potential client – reiterating the points made during the "sales call". Brochures can, according to Mr. Belser, speak for you after you leave a meeting, when a hiring decision is made. Brochures can help with cross-selling of services and educating your clients on specific areas of law. In some practice areas, where clients are not necessarily sophisticated consumers of legal services, a brochure explaining the legal process can help you educate your client and manage their expectations; i.e., a personal injury practice, a divorce practice or an estate practice where issues relating to the development of a will and estate plan can be overwhelming to a client.

Brochures can be developed by a marketing professional or by you, using your word processing software and the resident brochure template. If you are going to develop a brochure, before you start, determine the purpose of it, your audience and the most effective way to develop and distribute it. The ABA’s LPM section has excellent resources for marketing your practice. Go to www.abanet.org/lpm/catalog

Marketing Tip #7 – Newsletters

According to experts in the industry, clients do read newsletters. Newsletters can produce new business and referral sources. They can also help with firm branding and reinforcing your presence and expertise with existing clients. However, clients also are receiving an increasing number of newsletters from various sources, so it is important that your newsletter stand out among the crowd. Here are some tips:

1. Content: Your newsletter should contain "news" that is related to your clients’ businesses; i.e., development of important case law, changes in current law or trends in your clients’ industries that could impact their business. It can also communicate important developments in your firm which will enhance your client service; i.e., the addition of a new practice area, new capabilities resulting from additional technology, the opening of a new office or the addition of new attorneys.

2. Length: It is generally held that more is less when it comes to newsletters. Most readers of newsletters will scan it for subject matter that is relevant to them. Summarize your points in one or two paragraphs and direct your readers to a phone number or web site for more detailed information on the subject. A one page newsletter is ideal for a weekly or monthly publication. Quarterly or annual publications can be longer, but should be no more than four pages.

3. Frequency: Will you publish a newsletter weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually? The frequency with which you distribute a newsletter will depend upon a couple of factors: a) the purpose of the newsletter and b) the amount of resources and management support available to produce it.

4. Don’t start something you can’t finish. Before starting a newsletter, be sure you have the resources and firm support needed to continue to publish them. They take time. Time to research the subject matter, write the copy, design the layout, manage the distribution list; and, if you are relying upon others to write for the newsletter, time to harass them to meet their deadline. In addition, you will need a back-up person who can get it out should you be out and unavailable to complete the next issue.

Finally, if you don’t feel you have the time to put together a newsletter yourself, there are services which will provide content, using your firm name and address. One such service, is through Lawyers Weekly. Go to www.lawyersweekly.com/newsletters for more information.

Marketing Tip #8 – Advertising via Yellow Pages

If your practice is one that is conducive to yellow page advertising (and statistics show that personal injury, bankruptcy, criminal, family law and workers’ compensation practices make up 90% of all lawyer display advertising), then you should read the ABA Law Practice Management Section’s most recent publication on the subject, Effective Yellow Pages Advertising for Lawyers, A Complete Guide to Creating Winning Ads. This book is a fairly complete, light-hearted (and frequently humorous) instruction manual on how to develop the best yellow page advertising for your practice. It takes the reader through the history of lawyer advertising and explains how yellow pages advertising works and how it differs from other forms of advertising. In Part II and III, the author discusses how to create the best ad for your practice by using case studies, exercises and questions to take the reader through the process of developing an ad. In Part IV, the book addresses buying strategies – how to make the best purchasing decisions for yellow page advertising. It has an easy style and is well organized. This book is available through the TnBar Management Services Lending Library. Go to www.tba.org/tnbarms to check out this publication. It can be purchased directly from the ABA Law Practice Management Section at www.abanet.org/lpm/catalog or by calling 800-285-2221, Product Code 511-0478.

Marketing Tip #10 – The World Wide Web

Why market your practice on the internet? According to Gregory H. Siskind, author of the ABA book, The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet, there are a number of reasons to consider internet marketing: 1) it can reach an untapped client base; 2) it is cost-effective; 3) it delivers information effectively; 4) it can be a complement to the firm’s other forms of marketing; 5) it can enhance the firm’s image; 6) it reduces geographic barriers; and 7) it can be used as a recruitment tool. The Complete Guide to Marketing Your Law Practice provides some general guidelines for internet marketing:

1. Keep visitors involved from the first moment they get to your site – design your site to keep visitors’ attention.
2. Be sure your site is client-oriented rather than firm-oriented – focus on your target audience’s needs and guide them to sections of your site or other site links to find the answers.
3. Deliver a high return on time invested – design the site to address the concerns of your target audience.
4. Think of your site as a magazine – plan movement through your site around visitor behavior.
5. Don’t keep clients waiting – avoid graphics that take too much time to download.
6. Provide information that will help the clients make the right decision – educate the visitor on the firm’s expertise and experience. Use it to educate visitors about needs they yet to know they have.
7. Update the site regularly.
8. Promote the site online and in print.
9. Have a plan to bring visitors to the site and to bring them back – you must continue to provide substantive content that will keep visitors coming back to your site.
10. Determine who does what in the development, management and monitoring of your web site.

The publications mentioned in this tip are available for lending from the TnBar Management Services library. Go to www.tba.org/tnbarms to make a request. They can also be purchased directly from the ABA’s Law Practice Management Section. Go to www.abanet.org/lpm/catalog or call 800-285-2221.