GPSOLO March 2010
Business Development Strategies For Smaller Firms
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.
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.
- Buzzword ( www.adobe.com/acom/buzzword) is a must-have if collaborating on documents is a key part of your work life. Your document resides on the web as a single file that can be shared by multiple collaborators, with changes and comments viewed in real time.
- Co-op ( http://coopapp.com) makes it a snap to stay connected with your co-workers without disrupting them. Use it to post updates, ask questions, share links, track time, and share daily agendas.
- CyberAlert ( www.cyberalert.com) offers up a comprehensive list of free and low-cost press release distribution services compiled from various sources.
- Evernote ( www.evernote.com) is a memory tool that allows you to make “note” of anything you want using your desktop, the web, or your phone and its camera, and easily retrieve it later.
- FreeConferenceCall ( www.freeconferencecall.com) allows you to record phone meetings, consultations, and teleseminars—and turn them into easily downloadable audio files.
- GatherGrid ( http://gathergrid.com) is your go-to tool for scheduling a meeting among multiple parties—or maybe that small group seminar you’re planning for your best referral sources.
- Google Alerts ( www.google.com/alerts) is invaluable for tracking stories about clients and prospects, their industries, your competitors, your own firm, and much more—and it’s a breeze to use.
- Google Reader ( www.google.com/accounts/ServiceLogin?hl= en&nui=1&service=reader& continue=http%3A%2F%2F www.google.com%2Freader) allows users to subscribe to their favorite websites so that new or updated content lands in their e-mail in-boxes the moment it’s posted. You can organize the content by subject matter and choose to share items with a list of contacts, as well as add your own notes to your shared items.
- Help a Reporter Out ( www.helpareporter.com ) is a mailing list—but don’t let an old-fashioned connotation prevent you from joining one of the most helpful free PR resources there is. Sign up and every day up to three e-mails will land in your in-box, each containing 15 to 30 queries from journalists eager to connect with suitable sources.
- Jing ( www.jingproject.com) allows you to capture any image on your screen, mark it up using a basic text box, highlighter, and a few other tools, and zap the results to others.
- Live Mesh ( www.mesh.com) enables you to synchronize files across all your devices and access the files from any of them.
- PBworks ( http://pbworks.com; formely called PBwiki) provides on-demand collaboration for managing projects and sharing and storing documents. A wiki is an extranet without the expense of an IT department.
- PDF Download ( www.pdfdownload.org) converts any web page into a PDF file—an indispensable tool for creating press clips of your online coverage.
- Premier Survey ( www.premiersurvey.com/default.aspx) provides a free, hosted application for conducting web and e-mail surveys. Use it to check up on your clients’ satisfaction or perform market research of various kinds.
- Remember the Milk ( www.rememberthemilk.com) is a web-based app that lets you create as many to-do lists as you need; share, send, and publish tasks and lists with your contacts; and get reminders via e-mail, SMS, and instant messenger.
- Zamzar ( www.zamzar.com) converts images, documents, music, and videos from one format to another. It stores all converted files online for 24 hours.
- Zoho CRM ( http://crm.zoho.com/crm/login.sas) is an on- demand customer relationship management system, and it costs nothing for up to three users. You can import contacts from a CSV file, and from there you can maintain as simple or complex a program as your situation demands, from generating CRM and marketing reports and forecasts to utilizing dozens of other related tools.