The competition for attracting and retaining law firm clients is tougher than ever. Currently, there are more than 100,000 practicing lawyers in the State of Florida alone. Undoubtedly, the numbers are as huge, close to or even bigger in some other states, such as New York.
What motivates so many to find their way to the legal profession? Some are driven by a true altruistic need to help others, some are attracted to the lucrative income that can be earned, and some are following in a family member’s career path. For whatever the reason is, law schools continue to turn out large numbers of graduates and the market is saturated with law graduates searching for their opportunity to get a foot in the door somewhere, somehow. Add to this the fact that these days many lawyers practice law well into their 70’s and some into their 80’s.
Solo and small(er) firm practitioners, and even some medium size firms, are having to go up against some huge advertising budgets that the larger firms can afford to spend. Advertising such as television, billboards, radio commercials and my all-time favorite - bus shelter ads cost money. And it starts to add up. Some firms have a marketing budgeting of millions of dollars a year.
How can you compete?
1. Prepare a strategic business plan for your law firm and be sure to include a marketing plan. Your marketing strategy should begin with what it is necessary (website) and what is low/no budget marketing, such as social media.
2. Before I even talk about your website - you need a website! Everyone is pretty technologically savvy these days. At least enough to know that if you are in business, you should have a website. And if you don’t there is a problem. Even if you are starting out, get a website up there that can be simply put together so you have a presence. I have helped many, many attorneys put together websites with hosting fees under $200 a year. The important thing is get a website out there. I regularly blog for the attorneys and post social media designed to get traffic to the website. You can track website traffic and you can track the success of your blogs by seeing how many views you get. Social media also have ways to track the analytics of your posts to see what viewers are responding to when they view your posts.
3. Your website content and website design is very important. You need high quality content, written by someone who has experience in a law firm environment. Anyone would find it difficult to write well about something they know nothing about in a manner that is going to convert a potential website surfer into a client appointment. If you delegate writing website content to someone with no experience, don’t even bother. Be sure there is at least one picture (preferably more) of you on the website.
4. Do not pay a website hosting company that does not do anything for you. I have had clients who pay $5,000 for a website design, and then $500 a month or more to maintain the site. But they don’t get anything for the $500 monthly fee. Unless you have someone who writes blogs on a regular basis that are posted to the site, or any other changes in the website content, the website sits there from month to month. You are essentially paying $6,000 for a stagnant website.
5. Do not waste marketing dollars that you cannot measure your ROI (return on investment). I have asked clients what is the ROI on your marketing investment? How do you track conversion? Do you ask clients how they were referred to you? The answers usually are - I don’t know, I don’t know and no. This is a marketing strategy set up for failure. If you continue to invest money in a marketing strategy that you cannot or will not track you are throwing away money.
6 Client retention and referrals. This is a #1 good source for business. Make sure your current clients are well-taken care of and zealously represented. If you do a good job for them, even if things do not turn out the way they want/expect, they will still send you referrals. And as importantly, they will come back the next time they have a legal problem. It is easier to get repeat business or referrals from a client, than it is to spend money advertising for clients - competing with everyone else.
7. Cultivate referral sources. Many lawyers get a lot of their clients from business referrals. It works well but you have to work at it. In addition to mentioning to clients that you want to them to send you referrals, you have to be prepared with a pocketful of business cards and a 1 or 2 minute pitch that you are accepting new clients.
8. Get involved with marketing groups, trade associations or other networking opportunities that are not related to bar association activities. You want to network with lay people or other business people who have a need for your services. You will get little, if any, business from attending bar association functions as your networking plan.
Whatever marketing plan or strategy you plan to use, track your results. The approach you need to take with any marketing that you do is track the referral of business from your marketing strategy, such as billboards. If you keep track of how many new clients you get from billboard ads and you aren’t get any new business at all, discontinue that marketing plan and move on to something else.
If you have any questions or need assistance with preparing a strategic marketing plan, or have other questions regarding managing the business of practicing law® feel free to call me at 813-340-9569 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.