GPSOLO October/November 2010
Become a Marketing Guru in Under Ten Minutes
By David Leffler
The law firm of Klew, Les & Laust was having its weekly Friday afternoon partners meeting, and the three partners were sitting around the table talking about how to increase business. Things had slowed down quite a bit during the past year with the economy still wavering between recovery and a “second-dip” recession, leaving many business owners dazed and confused. No one wanted to spend any money on new projects, new hires, and especially not legal fees for either business transactions or litigation—even if you won, you didn’t know if your opponent would be in business to allow you to collect on your judgment.
Marty Klew started off the discussion. “Hey, let’s work on branding. I heard that branding is all the rage these days for law firms.”
“Well, gee, Marty, that sounds like a great idea,” responded Mike Les, “but I thought I read somewhere that you had to know who your target client is before you could create a brand.”
Larry Laust jumped out of his chair and exclaimed, “Wait, I saw these great pens that you put your law firm name and phone number on. They look really cool and everybody uses pens, right?” Larry sat down feeling pretty proud about his contribution to the discussion.
Mike looked at Larry for a moment and then shook his head, deciding not to say what he was thinking. “Look, guys, branding is great and I guess pens are great, too. But that’s like trying to build a house without a foundation.”
“But I thought that pens were a good idea,” said Larry, his ego now somewhat deflated.
“They might be, Larry, but first we have to think about what types of clients we are targeting and what’s the best way to reach these potential clients. So before we decide on pens or umbrellas with our names on them. . . .”
“Umbrellas, yea!” interrupted Larry.
“I said before we decide on any of these promotional items, we have to define what is the best type of client for our firm.”
“Well, what’s wrong with each of us just going out and getting the clients, and if we want to give out a couple of pens with the name of our firm on them, so much the better?” asked Marty.
“Because, Marty, that’s a haphazard way of doing things. Without planning, we waste a lot of time going after what we think would be great clients when in reality some of them would be a bad fit for the firm. If we figure out who is our ideal client, then we get to spend all of our marketing time going after that type of client, and then getting more bang for our buck, be it money spent on pens or time spent looking for clients.”
“Yeah, pens,” offered Larry, trying to keep up with the conversation.
Mike shifted in his seat for a moment and then asked, “What does our law firm do? In what areas of law do we practice?”
“We do a lot of commercial litigation,” offered Marty.
“Yes, we do,” Mike said. “But let’s get more specific than that and identify the specific types of commercial litigation in which we’ve been involved.”
“Well, it’s usually some kind of fight over a contract, or business partners fighting, or product licensing disputes,” answered Marty. “That’s it, we do a lot of product licensing disputes.”
“Great, anything else?”
“Oh, yeah,” Larry responded, “we do some corporate work, house closings, and even a few wills from time to time.”
“Yes, I think that just about covers it,” Mike said. “And I’d say that out of all that we do, we get involved in product licensing disputes the most and that is our most lucrative area of practice.
“Let’s drill down on this a bit more,” Mike continued. “What kind of licensing clients do we represent?”
“Mostly smaller companies,” answered Marty. “You know, an inventor who is being cheated on his royalties or a licensee company that is having its license agreement shut down without cause by a big licensing company.
“So we should focus our marketing efforts on representing small outfits involved in product licensing litigation, and not look for or take on more clients in the other areas of our practice.”
“No more house closings? I’m not sure that I want to give up that business,” protested Larry. “I do at least ten or 20 of those a year!”
“Yes, I know. But did you ever consider how many hours you spend on a house closing and how little you get paid? With our flat-rate pricing on house closings, I’d say that you wind up making about $50 an hour for the firm, maximum. With litigation, we bill hourly and make $300 or more an hour. So why not concentrate our marketing efforts on more profitable business? After all, we only have 24 hours in a day to sell, and I’d rather sell them at $300 per hour instead of $50 per hour. Also, it’s a lot more cost efficient and effective to go after just one kind of client than two or three.”
Mike saw a look of awareness on his law partner’s face, a refreshing and novel sight. He continued, “Because the type of client that brings in the best return for this law firm is the product licensing litigation client, we should focus our marketing efforts on getting these companies as clients.”
Mike gave his partners a moment to let this all sink in and then asked, “Anyone have any ideas of how we market to these types of clients?”
Marty’s enthusiasm was growing and he suggested that he attend a product licensing industry show. Larry finally agreed to let go of house closings and was interested in writing an article for an industry magazine, focusing on the vulnerabilities of the little guy in product licensing. Mike had his eyes set on writing a blog about current legal issues in product licensing, which would include some posts about issues facing smaller companies.The law firm of Klew, Les & Laust was on its way to developing a well-thought-out marketing plan, making the firm neither clueless nor lost. And while not strictly part of the marketing plan, they got the pens anyway.
David Leffler is a member of the New York City law firm Leffler Marcus & McCaffrey LLC, which represents clients in business matters and litigation. Prior to that he was a solo attorney for more than a dozen years. In his spare time he blogs at staringatstrangers.com . You may write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org .