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November 17, 2023 7 minutes to read ∙ 1600 words

Coach’s Counsel: Stuck in the Sahara Without a GPS? That’s Running a Law Firm Without a Marketing Plan

Eleanor Southers

A well-framed marketing plan for your business not only can provide direction but also can produce more profitable clients. Where to start? Below are thoughts to help you review and update your marketing plan.

First Steps

  • Determine the exact needs of your target market.
  • If you are having trouble deciding who your target market is, do some research and find out. For example, it is obvious that family law attorneys need to market to people who are thinking about or have decided to divorce. A business law lawyer will look for marketing accountants, business owners, etc. There are also “gatekeepers” who funnel clients to you.
  • Prioritize at least three needs of your target market.
  • Taking those needs, incorporate them into your website and LinkedIn account.
  • Now, follow up these posts with ones detailing how you would solve those needs. For instance, if one of the needs is to get information about a legal question, indicate that you can do that.
  • Be careful only to indicate how you will go about helping them solve the problem—offer no guarantees regarding outcome.

Next Steps

Take the first of your identified target markets (if there is more than one) and decide the following:

  • Where does your target market go to get advice (the Internet, friends, other attorneys, etc.)?
  • What does your target market read?
  • What other interests does your target market have?
  • What causes your target market stress?
  • Can you identify which age group most of your target market falls into?
  • Is your target market within a certain financial baseline? If so, determine it.
  • Where does your target market spend most of their time?

Continue to do this and add more questions about the details of your target market until you feel like you really know their needs. Now, with that groundwork in place, you can begin your marketing plan.

Organize Your Contacts

When you have gotten as much information as possible, the next step is to organize your contacts around the individuals you have found who will or might support you. I have gone over this process previously many times, but to summarize, it involves starting with you in the middle of a large circle. Around you go, first, all the contacts and their information who you know will refer to you. Include old and present clients in this circle.

The next circle is all the contacts whom you have met but who need more connection with you. There is probably not a clear understanding of how they can help you. This can be someone you met briefly while networking.

Last, the outer circle around you is composed of casual acquaintances such as your barber or hairdresser.

The next step is to color-code the contacts to reflect which group they fall into. Outlook Contacts does this with little or no pain. You will then find numerous ways to utilize these contacts as you set out your marketing plan.

Prepare a Clear, Concise Message

You start off by clarifying the exact type of business in layman’s language that you are seeking. You can discover this by first composing a business mission statement. In a few words, describe what your business is about and how it is unique. For example, my mission statement is, “To assist attorneys at all stages of their careers in uncovering and mastering their deepest desires in the workplace. This is done through exploring the elements that make up that environment and setting a path to attain it.”

Take your mission statement and create a 20- to 30-second elevator speech. You can begin your elevator speech by repeating your mission statement. Then, launch into describing your best client. Include the reasons that this would be your best client. End by stating how you could help them. Finally, check and see if they understood what you said.

Update Your Calendar

Your calendar is the most important tool you have. It controls time management, helps with prioritizing, and lowers your stress. Monthly and weekly are the best calendars for attorneys. This is where you organize your time as you plan strategy. This is how you know what you have to do on Monday, even before you get to the office. There are certain rules for a great calendar for attorneys. (If you want to dive deeper, see my book Be a Better Lawyer: A Short Guide to a Long Career (ABA, 2014); in the section on time management, you will find specific instructions about how to develop a dynamic calendar.)

Implement Your Information

You have now gathered quite a bit of knowledge about the people you want to focus your marketing dollars on. Next, you need to look at the possible avenues where you can spread the message that (1) you understand their problem or challenge, (2) you clearly have the expertise to help them, and (3) you are fair and ethical in dealing with clients. Additionally, you want to have developed a clear and concise description of what you are looking for in a client.

This is where you begin writing out what your marketing plan looks like. It includes all the avenues you have discovered.

Advertising

A lot of money can be wasted on this category. Be sure that your message and image are clear. Carefully look back at your target market identifiers and be certain you are spending time and money on the right audience. Choosing where you will advertise is extremely important.

Direct Mail

This is where your contacts list becomes all important. Even though most people are getting their information over the Internet, it is frequently a gift to get a stunning card with a great note. Hint: Don’t let colleagues tell you birthday cards are not welcome. I send birthday greetings to all my clients and receive positive responses.

Website

My daughter, who is a human resources director, tells me that people look at a website’s landing page, about page, and pricing page in that order. All the other goodies don’t even get a peek. There is no doubt that a nice-looking website with a lot of “eye candy” is required. It is your best brochure and should be available for prospective clients to find. Use your mission statement as a foundation for the points you want to give to your audience.

Endorsements

Those of you who follow me know I hate the word “testimonials.” The rule here is that you need to get the person’s permission to use their words and their full name in any endorsement that you use. No one is going to believe what Jane in Alaska said about you. If done right, endorsements are valuable in building your reputation.

Branding

This is where you let your audience know you are the best lawyer for their job. There are several ways that branding happens. Writing articles and giving seminars or podcasts is an excellent branding activity. Newsletters wisely prepared with interesting topics are another. Also, newsletters can contain what the firm is doing by way of pro bono work, as well as links to the articles. Make them short and use your contacts for emails, etc. One of the best tools for this job I have found is Constant Contact. This site sorts your contacts and helps design your newsletter. Also, it will send out your newsletter and track your responses. There is a monthly fee plus additional costs if you use one of their designers (see their pricing here). Once you have a template designed, you can just plug in information each month.

Social Media

This is now a standard method for getting out your message. It is convenient if you like to do podcasts. LinkedIn is a good business site and is open for posting your article. Facebook is a more personal site, and I find the fact that it keeps limiting my friends frustrating. There is advertising on Facebook, but I have never found it useful. Who knows what AI will bring?

Networking Events

Participating in networking events is the most time-consuming but worthwhile marketing avenue. There are ways to do this more efficiently. It comes down to planning before the event. You will need to find who is sponsoring the event and who might attend; sharpen your elevator speech accordingly.

The first rule in networking is to carefully listen to the person you are talking with. In doing this, you will not only know if he/she is worth more time but will get an understanding of whether you can be helpful to them in any way.

You will also want to plan how many people you want to connect with at the event. These will be the people with whom you want to exchange business cards. You may want to go further and arrange another meeting if it feels worthwhile. Write the name of the event on the backside of the card and put the person’s information in your contacts.

Establishing relationships is an important aspect of attending a networking event, but you will need to make sure it does not turn into a time waster.

Conclusion

I hope that I have given you some reasons to take a good look at your present marketing and see if you need an update. I have gone over just a few ideas to arouse your little gray cells to make plans for a less stressful but highly successful marketing plan.

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Eleanor Southers

Professional Legal Coaching

Owner of Professional Legal Coaching, Eleanor Southers, 310/749-1944 [email protected], coaches attorneys across the United States at all stages of their development who want greater success and fulfillment in their careers. She does this on a one-to-one basis in person, by phone, or via Zoom, assisting the lawyer in identifying issues and creating pathways to overcome problems. She is the author of Be a Better Lawyer: A Short Guide to a Long Career (ABA, 2014).

Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 13, Number 4, November 2023. © 2023 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.