YourABA: April 2014
YourABA April 2014 Masthead

Marketing and sales tips to help build your book of business

When working to build their book of business, lawyers must first implement a compelling marketing campaign and then close the deal by making the sale to potential clients.

Expert panelists participating in the American Bar Association webinar “Building Your Book: The Nuts and Bolts of Business Development” advised lawyers on essential marketing and sales strategies for increasing their client base.

Marketing Your Brand

For truly persuasive marketing, you need to stand out, said Ross Fishman, CEO of Fishman Marketing and a leading strategist on branding in the legal profession. Lawyers must differentiate themselves, he said, either by their practice specialty, target community, niche industry, style, price, etc.

Julie A. Eichorn, president of Paragon, a management consultancy company, recommended completing an in-depth self-assessment to determine what makes you unique.  

After you’ve identified your branding focus, step out of your comfort zone and get creative, Fishman said. “Creativity is hard for lawyers because we are very precedent-based,” he explained. Lawyers observe what others in the profession are doing and then copy that, Fishman said.

He pointed to law firm websites as an example, noting that they all use the same visuals and icons and thus create the same impression. “Those sorts of things are very safe, very easy, and they are completely invisible,” he warned.

“The goal in marketing is to help you stand out in some meaningful and differentiating sort of way,” Fishman said. “And that’s hard for lawyers. It’s not our training. It’s not our comfort zone.”

The panelists also stressed the importance of sufficiently defining your target audience. Eichorn said a good marketing approach is working backward from your ideal clients. For example, ask yourself: What do they do? What do they read? Where do they go? Use the answers to these questions to connect with the right audience in a trustworthy way.

Making the Sale

“Marketing makes your phone ring. Once you answer, you’re selling,” Eichorn said. At this point, lawyers make a big mistake if they continue to talk about themselves and their skills, she said. Instead, they must turn their focus exclusively to the client. Asking questions about the client helps you build a rapport as well as uncover the reason behind the call and how you can help, she explained.

When it comes to in-person pitching — regardless of whether you’re at your kid’s soccer game or a business event — Fishman said, “If you feel uncomfortable about doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.”

He said this type of sales revolves around engaging in polite conversation by asking people about what they do, how they do it and what they’re encountering. “Great rainmakers are great listeners,” Fishman said. “They don’t talk their way into the business. They don’t persuade you by the force of their compelling arguments to get hired. That’s the misperception.”

The legal issues that people have tend to turn up in the course of conversation, he said. “They’ll be much more impressed with your intelligence by the insightful questions you asked rather than bragging about where you went to law school or what a terrific firm you’re at,” he added.

For more advice on branding, check out the new ABA book “Personal Branding in One Hour for Lawyers” and the recent online course “Ethics and Personal Branding: The Dos and Don'ts in Effectively Standing Out.”

Kathy Morris, who founded Under Advisement Ltd. in 1988 to assist lawyers in their job searches and to help them manage their careers, moderated the webinar, part of the CareerAdvice LIVE! series of free monthly webinars for ABA members. Past programs are available on demand for free to ABA members and cost $95 per program for non-members.

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