Spending time on marketing isn’t necessarily the same thing as bringing in new business though. A lot of what is described as “marketing” is just effort without results. We all have a finite amount of time. Doesn’t it make sense to spend marketing time as effectively as possible?
Most lawyers devote their marketing time to things like networking in the community, joining charitable boards, and showing up at events. Sometimes these things pay off. Many times they don’t. Do you really believe that a potential client at a cocktail reception is going to remember you more than the 10 other lawyers she met that night? And even if you do stand out in some (hopefully) positive way, do you think she’ll remember you more than 48 hours after the reception?
Be Five to Ten Times More Effective
Networking has its limitations, yet for most lawyers, networking accounts for most time spent in marketing. There is another type of marketing, however, that generally is five to 10 times more effective than networking.
Business articles in disciplines all over the spectrum note that it costs five to 10 times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. Although it is true that determining the actual cost differential is complicated and varies from industry to industry and situation to situation, it is fair to say that it is almost always much less expensive and easier to do additional business with someone you already have a relationship with than it is to land a new client.
What does this mean in terms of your practice? At a minimum, it means you should make an effort to maintain regular communication with clients even after you have completed their matters. (In all cases, of course, ensure that contact is in compliance with all relevant state and local ethical and other legal requirements.)
If you prepare a will, you know the client probably will want to make some changes over time, and ultimately there will be a probate. Yet you would be surprised how few lawyers make an effort to keep in regular contact with clients for whom they have prepared wills and trusts. Almost all of these clients represent an opportunity for more business, and not just on their wills and trusts. If you proactively reach out on a regular basis, you significantly increase the chance that these clients will remember to use you again when they need help.
The same principle applies to almost all areas of legal practice. If you successfully represented someone on a real estate transaction, you might assume that the client will turn to you if they have more real estate work. That assumption may turn out to be right sometimes, but often the client will forget who they worked with on the previous matter and hire someone else next time. And if their next legal matter isn’t a real estate transaction, but say a corporate formation, they may not even realize you do that kind of work. But if the client receives regular contact from you, it is much more likely they will remember you when the next matter arises.
Newsletters, Emails, and the Personal Touch
What is the best way to maintain contact with clients? The rule of thumb should be that any contact is better than no contact, and personal contact is better than impersonal contact.
For example, in many practice areas it makes sense to do a periodic newsletter on relevant legal developments to send to existing and former clients. At a relatively low expenditure of time and cost, it keeps you front-of-mind with clients you have worked with before.
Even better, if you become aware of a development in the law or a news item that might be important to a particular client, don’t wait until you get around to writing a newsletter. Take five minutes and send them an email.
Newsletters and even emails are not the same thing as personal, face-to-face contact though. At its core, the relationship between lawyer and client is a personal, trust-based relationship. The most effective way to maintain contact with your clients is personal face-to-face meetings.
Think about this: in a 48-week work year, you potentially have 240 opportunities to meet a client for breakfast, 240 opportunities to meet a client for lunch, and 240 opportunities to meet a client for drinks after work. In the course of a year, you should have the opportunity to meet with each and every one of your clients face-to-face in a nonthreatening social setting. Many of these breakfast, lunch, and cocktail meetings will result in new work. Even when they don’t, the meetings will keep you front-of-mind with your clients when they do need legal help.
Not everyone is comfortable at networking events. Many lawyers are introverts. But even the most introverted lawyers should be comfortable meeting with people they have already created successful relationships with, on the basis of good legal work they have already did for them. These are not strangers; they’re people you have helped on an important matter in their lives. Most clients will be happy, even flattered, if you reach out to them to maintain contact. And if you maintain contact with your clients, they will come to think of you as “my lawyer,” not just a lawyer that helped them on something in the past.
Set a goal of at least annual face-to-face contact with each of your clients, and you will get more repeat business. This is marketing time well-spent.