As published in the Wisconsin Lawyer magazine.
If you think your business development efforts don't work, welcome to the club. Only 49 percent of law firms said their business development is successful, according to new research by LexisNexis InterAction.
What is the problem?
Lawyers are pursuing too many new business development opportunities, have a lack of focus, target prospects poorly, and fail to follow through.
Law firms also don't spend enough on business development. On average, firms spend only 2.1 percent of firm revenues on marketing, according to a 2019 Calibrate Legal survey. In contrast, high-growth firms spend 5 percent of annual revenues on their marketing budget, according to Hinge Research (defining high-growth law firms as those with 20 percent or greater annual growth in revenue).
Furthermore, many lawyers focus on business development only when they have downtime or when a matter concludes. And, when they do have time, they go to the same old networking events, write for the same old publications, and give the same old speeches.
What is the solution?
Strategy and Tactics That Work
Lawyers need to change what they are doing now for business development. This is vital because the demand for legal services is flat, and the only way for lawyers to improve their market position is by taking existing market share from others.
The best strategy is to get more files for your top revenue-generating practice area. You may practice in several areas, but now is the time to identify the one that earns the most money. Your aim should be to differentiate yourself from competitors, which is another hallmark of high-growth law firms.
One change to make immediately is to devote four hours per week to business development. This applies even when you are extremely busy. Prune activities that don't generate new business. Spell out what you'll do in a written, personal marketing plan. You are free to use the three-page plan I set out in my blog.
The plan is necessary to avoid pursuing too many new-business opportunities, having a lack of focus, targeting prospects poorly, and failing to follow through.
If you are already having in-person meetings with referral sources and potential clients, keep them up. But drop the activities that don't generate new work.
Prioritize Digital Marketing
Next, adopt new tactics that prioritize online marketing. Research shows that 80.8 percent of clients check out potential professional services firms by looking at their websites (Hinge). Your website should have at least 200 pages of content. And Netline Corp. has found that during most of the buying cycle, clients are educating themselves online before calling the firm.
Tips for Effective Marketing
Take advantage of marketing trends by focusing on:
Don't Do This
In short, it's time to focus on video, webinars, podcasts, case studies on your website, blog posts, social media, and online reviews.
Highlight Case Histories Online
Client success stories prove that you have actually won cases and closed deals. A case history can be as short as a paragraph, describing the client, the problem involved, the dollar amount at stake, and the result you achieved.
Showcase clients you serve. If your clients are businesses, add a link to “Industries Served” on your website. If your clients are consumers, describe the situations where you help them.
Have solid FAQ pages. Think about the questions that your potential clients ask you when you're sitting across from them. These are the same kinds of questions that they're typing into Google. So, if you're answering those questions on a FAQ page, you're giving yourself an advantage with search engines.
For more ideas, see “7 Habits of Effective Online Marketers.”
More Blogging Results in More Clients
Aim to write once per week. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of bloggers who wrote weekly acquired a new customer through their blog (HubSpot). For more, see “9 Best Practices for Blogging that Gets You New Business.”
Consider the effectiveness of blogging:
57 percent of marketers say they've gained clients specifically through blogging.
Law firms that blog get 97 percent more links to their websites.
Businesses that blog get 434 percent more pages indexed in Google.
When blogging is done right, it can allow you to become an influencer, attract followers, and become part of the news cycle. Blog posts can help you declare what you're thinking about and what you want readers to consider on a given date.
I've written the LawMarketing Blog at https://www.larrybodine.com/blog for more than 10 years, attracting more than 1 million visits over time. I know it is working because lawyers nationwide phone me out of the blue to ask for advice on marketing.
Set Up a Video Studio
Eighty percent of people would rather watch a video than read text on a website (Livestream). Video is the number-one reason that people go online (Pew Internet Research). Clients and potential clients would rather watch and listen to a two-minute spoken explanation than read a two-page article.
Using video blogging, you can get visitors to know, trust, and like you. After they've seen you in a video, people feel as if they've met you in person. Take your videos and post them on YouTube, Facebook, and your law firm's website. Aim for a length of three to five minutes.
Creating a video studio can be as simple as getting an HD camcorder, a tripod, and video editing software for your office. If space permits, set aside a dedicated room (without windows), and install lights, a background setting, and lapel microphones. I did the latter when I was editor of Lawyers.com, and we created a library of dozens of practical and entertaining videos.
One change to make immediately is to devote four hours per week to business development.
Enhance Your Reputation with Online Reviews
Eighty-eight percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal). The three social sites to focus on are Google, Facebook, and Yelp.
Identify all the review sites to all staff and lawyers.
Ask new clients if they found or decided to use the firm because of an online review.
Request reviews after a positive in-person consultation or a favorable settlement.
Hand out professionally printed review cards with links to your review pages.
Send an email to happy clients with links to review sites and respond to all comments – good and bad.
New research shows that about half (51 percent) of Americans have listened to a podcast, up from 44 percent in 2018 (Infinite Dial report). For example, many people listen to The Daily podcast from the New York Times, the true-crime podcast Serial, and a progressive political podcast, Pod Save America.
The easiest way to market your law practice with podcasts is to be a guest on an established show. Simply conduct research on Google to find an existing podcast where you'll fit in. Also, you can check the ABA's list of top law podcasts. Ideally, find a podcast that focuses on your practice area. Introduce yourself to the host and spell out a topic you can discuss.
We at LawLytics have recorded 50 podcasts on Law Firm Marketing D.e.c.o.d.e.d.. Our ace podcaster Victoria Blute uses a Blue Yeti microphone ($119 on Amazon) and Camtasia software (for $250), which can record and let you edit the podcast.
Present a Webinar
A webinar is an interactive online seminar that can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection. The main benefit of webinars is they are location flexible. The host can be living in one part of the world while the guest and audience members participate from anywhere in the world. The host or guest even can take questions from the audience in two-way communication via online messaging.
Get started by opening an account with Zoom, which everybody is using for meetings these days. Zoom enables you to invite attendees by distributing a provided web link to the program.
Take a look at a popular webinar, “How to Get New Business from Your In-Person and Online Marketing.” After they've seen you in a webinar, people feel as if they've met you in person.
Focus on Facebook and Skip Other Social Media Platforms
Facebook is by far the most effective social media platform. Facebook is social media for many consumers. Sixty-six percent of adults log on to Facebook every day (Social Media Explorer).
In one survey, 54 percent of consumers said they'd be likely to hire a lawyer with an active social media presence. Among millennials, 72 percent would.
Absorb the fact that Facebook:
Has far more engagement with people than LinkedIn or Twitter.
Has the highest percentage of daily users.
Is where most people in the United States get their news.
Is where 34 percent of consumers find help to select a service provider, such as a lawyer, an accountant, or a doctor.
If you are thinking about what to do next, you should identify your most profitable practice area and write a three-page business development plan. Avoid pursuing too many new business opportunities, having a lack of focus, targeting prospects poorly, and failing to follow through. And take advantage of marketing trends by focusing on video, webinars, podcasts, case studies on your website, blog posts, social media, and online reviews.