Practice Management
Business Development Strategies For Smaller Firms

By Nicholas Gaffney

To stay competitive in a rough economy, it is essential that smaller law firms aggressively promote their services. Here’s a look at some of the tools that you can use in your marketing mix to get a wicked competitive advantage.

Essential online tactics. Having a website where potential clients can view at least your profile and a description of your practice is almost as essential as having passed the bar. Update your site on a regular basis—“regular” meaning daily or weekly, not once a year. Freshen up your site by creating new keywords and title tags and adding brand-new content and news.

The same advice on focusing on the client’s perspective holds true when writing articles for online publication elsewhere. Placing articles on the web, where you have a huge potential audience, is a great way to highlight your position as an expert in your field. Offer bylined commentary wherever you can—on blogs, in online newspapers’ op-ed sections, and via e-mail to reporters who cover the relevant topic. This tack has the potential to lead clients directly to you and also to produce articles that you can forward to future prospects as validation of your expertise. The bottom line? Clients want niche experts, not legal generalists.

Join online directories such as Avvo.com, Lawyers.com, and local legal listings, which are popular destinations for small businesses and consumers seeking representation.

Also, are you sending an e-newsletter to clients and contacts on a routine basis? Compared to regular newsletters, these cost far less to distribute and are more likely to actually be read by recipients. Always include contact hyperlinks so that readers can easily get in touch with your firm.

Offline strategies for reaching out. Of course, not all marketing and business development efforts need to be—or should be— conducted through the web. Here are some low-tech and no-tech tips for differentiating your practice from the rest of the pack.

  • Subscribe to a few key clients’ industry or trade association magazines to learn more about the clients and their needs. If applicable, consider writing an article or advertising in these publications.
  • Share articles you think would be of particular interest to your firm’s clients. If you write an article yourself or are quoted extensively in one, then don’t think twice about sharing it. E-mail a brief note along with the article’s full text or copy it and send it via snail-mail.
  • Consider co-authoring an article with a client or co-presenting a speech at a trade association meeting. You’ll develop a stronger bond, a satisfied client—and future referrals.
  • Strengthen and expand your referral network by building relationships with noncompeting lawyers, bankers, accountants, financial planners, and consultants.
  • Set aside a couple of hours each month to assess your network and locate upcoming events that will help you expand your network of potential clients and referral sources.
  • Identify a trade or professional association that attracts your ideal clients or referral sources. Join and offer to write articles, give talks to members, or assist in any other way that you can.
Free tech tools that can really help. Here are ideas for lawyers and law firms looking to be more productive marketers, including some favorites for collaborating on and tracking efforts, capturing content for your website and presentations, garnering media exposure, and more.Making everything count. Look at return on investment per effort. Do all you can to find out which of your marketing strategies are having an impact. Now is not the time to cut back on your marketing budget or your efforts. Many firms’ knee-jerk reaction to tough times is to hack here first. Instead, pledge to make every penny count by adopting some of the suggestions outlined above, and you’ll wind up with a wicked competitive advantage.

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