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Why Don’t Solos Market Effectively? On Some Level, They Are Scared

Eleanor Kay Southers


  • A recent survey showed that solos spend most of their time practicing law, but they should be spending at least 45 percent to 50 percent of their time on tasks such as marketing, planning, networking, and keeping healthy.
  • Marketing is first finding out what the target market needs and then designing a campaign to fulfill those needs.
  • A marketing campaign should be created to be specific to the various outlets (LinkedIn, Avvo, website, blog, networking) and to target a specific market, which will reduce mistakes and overspending.
Why Don’t Solos Market Effectively? On Some Level, They Are Scared
Tsvetan Ganev-CECLII / 500px via Getty Images

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I know you don’t want to hear this, but there are many attorneys who don’t really want to market themselves or their firm out of fear or, at least, apprehension. Unfortunately, solo attorneys don’t have a choice—they must market their services or be working at a severe disadvantage.

Introverts especially don’t like to feel that they are “imposing” on others. So, let’s look at some of the reasons that solos may be afraid even to draw up a marketing plan for their firm.

  • They feel their services are not worthy.
  • They think that they might offend someone by asking for business.
  • They think that they are entitled to business without having to extend themselves.
  • They are afraid of the time it takes to market correctly.
  • They don’t like to plan because then they must try to meet goals.
  • They don’t buy the notion that every solo has to be a marketing guru.
  • They think that they don’t know how or have the skills to market.

This last one leads to real trouble because, frequently, solos will spend big dollars to hire someone to market for them. Unfortunately, this only really works when the attorney knows how to market and exactly what he or she wants the outcome of the relationship with the “marketer” to be.

I’ll tell you another little secret. The very premise of marketing has changed. Formerly, the intention was to “sell” a product or service by describing its virtues and how you can’t live without it. Today, the intent has changed to first finding out what the target market needs and then designing a campaign to fulfill those needs. This is done by letting the customer know that you have value to offer to them and you recognize their need. Look at the difference:

Old ad: “All of our used cars are sleek, sexy, and in top-notch condition.”

New ad: “When inflation hits but you need a car, our salesperson will take into consideration not only your pocketbook but also your personal taste, showing you our large selection of used cars.”

In other words, preplanning an entire marketing campaign that coordinates the various outlets (LinkedIn, Avvo, website, blog, networking) and targets your specific market will reduce mistakes and overspending.

If you are unsure how to market or your marketing is not working, it’s time to review what you are doing and revise your marketing plan—or get one! In the current economic climate, the best way to do this is to not only take into consideration how you want to market but also what this diverse culture needs. Marketing to millennials is different from marketing to Generation X, let alone Generation Z.

The Untold Truth about Marketing for Solos

I’ve always liked to use that phrase because the media seems to use it to get your attention to buy stuff you don’t want!

However, I want you to “buy” my stuff. Why? Because coming out of denial and starting to market strategically and consistently is the way to increase your profit as well as your ultimate success. For some time now (hopefully), you have been reading about target markets and mission statements. But have you done any work about implementing them? This is where I hear solos saying they don’t have time. I once heard that we have as much time as Beyonce—she gets a lot done and looks great!

A recent survey showed that solos spend the vast majority of their time practicing law. Here comes the untold truth: You should be spending at least 45 percent to 50 percent of your time on tasks that are important but not urgent. This includes marketing, planning, and networking—not practicing law. This also includes keeping yourself healthy and not stressed out. (For more, see Stephen Covey’s books, such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.) Don’t ignore the important and urgent tasks, but those are already calendared, leaving a lot of your time open for the “business of your business.”

I also came across another survey attempting to locate what makes attorneys happy. The most important thing was to have client contact. Guess what? You need to have clients to have client contact. Feeling that you are helping someone is usually a very high priority of solos. The trouble is that you can’t have clients without proper marketing.

That brings us to the ultimate marketing task: the marketing plan. If you don’t have one, then you are without your best GPS for finding business. You can wander around the Sahara for days or weeks without a GPS in your car or your camel, and you may finally get where you are going, but you’ll waste a lot more time and energy by not having a step-by-step plan with a well-defined end in place.

Got Your Attention? How about Immediately Reviewing or Creating a Solid Marketing Plan for Your Firm

Here’s the unfortunate truth: It’s hard work! Marketing starts with (in this order):

  • Careful definition of your target market
  • Mission statement
  • Elevator speech to incorporate into marketing
  • Three-month marketing plan, including all the marketing categories
  • Goal setting for the first month
  • Calendaring the goals faithfully each week

The only thing I left out was the different marketing categories, which you need to take one by one with your goals for each clearly set out. The categories are:

  • Risk reduction (which clients don’t you want)
  • Advertising
  • Public relations
  • Direct mail
  • Website and e-promotions
  • Endorsements
  • Branding
  • Networking
  • Budget

Take each category and write down how you will market with it. Do some reading. Guess what? You will end up with a marketing plan.

I’ve given you a bare-bones outline to start you thinking. Hopefully, you will put it to good use.