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What’s the key to attracting more business in today’s rough economy and competitive climate? Law Practice Editorial Board member and “Ask Bill” columnist K. William Gibson posed the question to attorney Micah Buchdahl, the ABA Law Practice Management Section 2009-2010 Chair, who also assists law firms with business development initiatives. Micah is participating in panel discussions on marketing ethics and lawyer-rating services at the ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference November 12-13. Here’s how he responded.
The economic turndown took most of us by surprise. And for many law firms it has been a rather cruel reminder that marketing and business development needs to be continually addressed. There is a reason highly successful firms never stop marketing—even during times when their lawyers are more inclined to say, “I’ve got more business than I can handle as it is.” The reason is that a key element of marketing strategy is keeping your brand highly visible at all times. Budweiser and Coke probably sell more beer and soda than they “can handle,” but they never stop keeping the brand front and center. Marketing is the core element of business, and it should never be off the table.
Of course, that does not mean that if you’ve fallen behind on your marketing efforts, you should wave the white flag. There are plenty of things that you can be doing to market in difficult times. You should keep the theme of the upcoming ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference at heart when doing so: Differentiate. Do something that makes your firm, your practice or your geographic space unique from the other 1.1 million lawyers trying to grab a finite amount of business opportunities. Locate those pinpoint items on your CV or in your portfolio that others cannot claim. And avoid generic say-nothings like “prompt service,” “reputation,” “ excellence” or “ focused.” Also avoid touting “awards and honors,” something that in this day and age everybody is capable of doing. Just apply for something and you will find yourself “award-winning” like everyone else.
The hottest “no-cost” trend to getting your marketing message out continues to be through social networking resources—ABA’s LegallyMinded, Martindale-Hubbell Connected, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and the like—that allow you to reach broad or specific audiences with the only cost limited to your billable time (which might not be a sacrifice if you need new business). Also, it is impossible not to get published, if you have a desire to write. Besides countless publications eager for content, there are millions of blogs that would be glad to publish you as well. Web 2.0 tools are the zero-cost method of working your profile in the legal community.
This does not mean you should necessarily avoid the old adage “you have to spend money to make money.” Well-directed dollars at search engine optimization (where you can truly track the ROI), public relations agencies (where you can see the results in media exposure) and advertising agencies can result in money well spent.
In the end, good work is still your best marketing tool. However, making sure people know of that good work is equally important.
For more details on the upcoming ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference, go to www.lawpractice.org/marketingconference,