In Victor Li’s ABA Journal review of the new biography of Richard Nixon’s years as a lawyer, he noted that Nixon was a rainmaker for his firm. When asked by young associates how he generated so much business, he said that “for young lawyers who are wondering how to attract business, the most effective way is indirectly.” Nixon further elaborated, “I have never asked anybody for business, never.” He found this strategy to be the most effective.
No comment exemplifies the power of branding in law. If you systematically build your brand and stay in front of your prospects, business will flow your way. So how does one go about the task of building his or her personal (and professional) brand?
Learning how to market oneself is essential to success. Those who market and build their personal brand are the future rainmakers. Here’s what works for me.
First, clearly define your target audience and what you want them to know about you. Identify the types of clients you want to attract and strategize how to best reach them. This is called “positioning.” How you compare among your colleagues who have targeted the same potential clients—your positioning—is critical.
Second, develop a simple plan to reach your target audience. For example, should you be involved in non-profits? Is your target audience involved there? Will you have exposure to your audience if you do get involved?
Research what your target audience reads. Publish an article or take out an ad. Streamline your networking. Is LinkedIn a good tool for targeting or are there social platforms that seem like a better fit?
And third, build trust that you can do the job. Ask yourself, is my price competitive and commensurate with the services I offer?
When I was a young lawyer, the most valuable advice I received was from a senior partner at my firm. He said that the best way to get in the door is to lead with a “freebie.” Offer your “target” some advice, exposure, or something of value to the potential client. It will be appreciated and rewarded. Don’t ever lead with an “ask!” It will kill any chance of doing business with them.
Once your potential client has a positive experience, trust and rapport is established. Business soon will flow. It will be small at first, but soon you will have a thriving practice.
One final piece of advice: always ask questions—personal or business! Become curious. It will set you apart. For the most part, people don’t want to hear about you. They want to talk about their issues and concerns. Get them talking! If you hear them, and really listen, you will gain greater understanding. Then you can tailor your pitch around their needs, not yours. A counselor that listens will build his or her own brand and become a trusted advisor for clients.
We don’t all have the advantage of being a former president, but Nixon’s comments have been echoed by my successful, business-generating colleagues. It has been my experience too! The biggest deals I have closed, just happened. Why? Because I was known and trusted. My ability to perform was never in doubt.
So, to build your practice, build your brand.
Christopher Longley is CEO at Atticus Administration, LLC in Minneapolis, Minnesota.