Women in the legal profession continue to face a different set of challenges when marketing themselves and their practices, according to author and attorney, Theda (Teddy) Snyder. Ms. Snyder is a longtime leader of the ABA Women Rainmakers and published the 3rd edition of her bestseller, Women Rainmakers Best Marketing Tips, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the founding of that group in 2010.
Women Rainmakers Best Marketing Tips is comprehensive and contains the advice that you would expect to find on developing and implementing a marketing plan. But it goes further, recommending that readers first answer the question: “Who Are You Anyway?” Teddy Snyder’s advice is that you engage in some self-analysis before spending a lot of time and money on a marketing campaign.
“Your first step must be to analyze yourself. Who are you? What do you feel comfortable doing? It makes no sense to wear somebody else’s ‘clothes’ if they don’t fit you,” Snyder says in the book. “On the other hand, my experience tells me that sometimes you have capabilities that you’re unaware of.” Snyder attributes the growth of her individual practice to gaining a sense of self. She writes, “I didn’t change. I was the same person, but my sense of self and what I needed to do changed.”
Snyder suggests typing your name into a search engine and seeing what results pop up. Since prospective clients and even opposing counsel are surely Googling your name, you should know what they are seeing when they look you up. As part of that self-analysis, Snyder further suggests that you look carefully at aspects of your image as others might see them.
Snyder suggests taking a look at your office. Is your reception room attractive? Are your periodicals appropriate for the people who find themselves waiting for you there? Your marketing plan needs to start with such basics, she says.
“What is your brand? You say you don’t have one? Oh, but you do—it’s your name.” Snyder writes that “branding” is the mantra of legal marketing, and that the word conjures up notions of slogans and logos. But it’s really what people think of when they hear your name or your firm’s name. Everything you do, she advises, should establish and reinforce the image you have chosen to convey to clients, other lawyers and the public.
Once you have done your self-analysis and have put together a marketing plan, Snyder warns that whether a particular marketing outreach is right for you depends on how appropriate it is for your type of practice and your unique client base.
Snyder says that what is appropriate for you, and for other women, may be different than for your male colleagues. Or it may be that the marketing outreach will be the same, but that you will approach it differently. “Don’t worry about trying to decide what the guys do that works for them,” she writes. She even advises that you not try to emulate the successful women partners in the firm.
She goes so far as to say that you should, “view your gender as an advantage that helps you stand out from the crowd. Don’t try to be a man clone.” She warns, however, that while you do not want to become a clone of anyone, you do need to know how you are perceived within your firm. “Others must feel confident in bringing you in on a matter,” she points out.
But should you use your gender as part of your image? Most stereotypes of gender, she suggests, are flawed and inaccurate. “There are aggressive women lawyers and men who are good listeners; women with scientific or military backgrounds and men who are soft-spoken. If appealing to the market’s image of women lawyers—whatever that may be—works for you, great,” Snyder writes.
“Whether to play the gender card as part of your marketing scheme depends greatly on whether you feel you can deliver whatever you see as the implied promise of such a marketing program,” she warns.
Whether one would consider it to be using your gender to your advantage, Snyder seems to suggest that it is perhaps more important for women lawyers to project a professional image in their personal appearance. “Does competing with men mean that you have to walk around in a gray flannel suit and a white shirt?” she asks.
Snyder writes that you don’t have to do that, but you do need to be concerned about “the personal image statement you make when you are out and about on your daily activities—and not just from Monday to Friday.” Even during trips to the mall, she suggests, you should be aware of the image statement you are making.
Snyder also says that the safest approach to your image is a conservative one. “Since a good rainmaker attracts business everywhere she goes, plan on keeping the conservative persona for a long, long time.”
Snyder goes on to advise that your marketing efforts should be appropriate and part of your overall marketing plan. Your website; blog; speaking and writing; and use of social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter; public relations efforts; and the groups you join all should be done with your goal in mind. Not only will those efforts get your name out there, but they will give you an opportunity to develop relationships with the people you meet along the way.
Finally, Snyder suggests that you spend as much time nurturing existing clients and referral sources as you do trying to develop new clients. “Cherish that relationship,” she advises. “Treat your clients well and provide competent, caring service, and they will refer other clients to you.”