Many lawyers don't get new clients and files because they don't do enough business development activities, or they waste time on the wrong activities or services, or they don't authentically connect with potential clients.
What you'll read next are the most effective marketing techniques. These tips are based on scientific research that I have conducted where we asked 377 marketing partners and marketing professionals in the professional services fields what they did that worked. I'm going to cover 10 particular points.
Number one: The first and most important point is to choose the right infrastructure for your law firm's online presence. For this I recommend that you use LawLytics. This website is powered by LawLytics, as are many of the most successful law firm websites in the United States. I personally love using LawLytics because it is the easiest system to use (and I've tried most of them out there including WordPress), and they have the best support because they are founded by attorneys and the whole system is designed with lawyers in mind. In fact, their support is run like a well-oiled law firm that prides itself on client service. And it's no coincidence, because LawLytics CEO Dan Jaffe is an attorney who practiced for a decade before making the transition into legal marketing and technology. He is licensed to practice in Washington State and Arizona, and treats every LawLytics customer like the most important client of his law firm. LawLytics also produces legal website designs that work without getting in the way.
When it comes to expenses, the conventional wisdom among legal marketing experts is that you have to spend at least 2.5 percent of your gross revenues on marketing. Otherwise, say the experts, you're just pretending to market. That 2.5 percent does not include the salaries of any of the people that you may have hired to perform the work in your firm. If you're not spending 2.5 percent, you're not being serious about marketing, and you're not going to get any results. And 2.5 percent of gross revenues can go a long way if deployed well.
But how do you deploy that 2.5 percent?
I like LawLytics' graduated approach that, over time, can scientifically tell you what is working and what is not, so you can invest in the right marketing services and, if you participate in your marketing, spend your time on the right activities. When you first talk with LawLytics you may be surprised that they don't try to sell you thousands of dollars of legal marketing services. In fact, the core service, on which I've seen attorneys build multi-million dollar yearly revenue from marketing, is only $200 per month and is hands down the best value in online legal marketing.
The system was built from the ground up for lawyers, and they focus 100 percent of their time, energy and technology on helping lawyers grow. They are also attorney owned and operated, and are experts at the challenges and opportunities facing law firms today. I strongly recommend that you schedule a demo to discover how to effectively deploy your firm's marketing resources.
Number two: The second technique is to put high quality content, including both written words and video on your website. According to Attorney Dan Jaffe, who founded LawLytics in 2011:
"Written content is the most important ingredient for a successful law firm website. Get the written content right, and everything else will fall into place. Neglect written content, or delegate it to a non-lawyer, or to a lawyer who doesn't understand the modern internet, and it doesn't matter how much money you spend on the other activities, because they will result in a less than optimal outcome."
Three of the top reasons I love working with LawLytics are:
- They understand lawyers and the business of law, and help attorneys understand what works and what doesn't, so attorneys don't waste time or money. Collaborating with the LawLytics team make me better at my job; and
- The software makes it easy for me to add and edit content, including the words that you are reading now; and
- When lawyers don't have time to write their own content, or simply don't want to do it, their professional writing department, which is managed and staffed by lawyers, can produce effective, highly targeted and ethics compliant content that any law firm can feel comfortable will serve them well with their state bar, potential clients, referral sources, social media and the search engines.
I recommend starting with LawLytics and working with them to create a content strategy for your law firm. If you already have a website or a blog, I recommend that you talk with them about importing your site into their system (that's what I did, and it's made a huge difference). They always improve the quality of the site both in terms of look and feel, and also structure. This is because they way your high-quality content is organized matters. They are experts at upgrading any site, from sites that are getting no traffic at all, to sites that are getting thousands of visitors a day but could be converting better. Their import process assures that you won't lose traffic or ranking during the transition process.
Once you have established a solid base of high-quality written content on a LawLytics website, then it's time to look at other forms of content. These forms of content include:
- White papers.
Remember, however, that until you have sufficient written content (it's more than you probably think), it's not efficient to start creating these other types of content. That is because it is written content that drives traffic and ranking to your website. The people at LawLytics are excellent advisors about how much content, and what types of subjects, should be addressed on your website before you start adding these types of ancillary content.
Once you are ready for other content, it is imperative to plan it in conjunction with your written content. It does not make sense to just show up and shoot a video if it doesn't match the information, tone and style of your website content. Once you have videos ready, it couldn't be easier to drag them into your website when you use LawLytics.
Here's the content recipe I recommend:
- Start with a LawLytics website or upgrade your current site to LawLytics. Follow their advice about law firm website design, and let them turn your site into something that is beautiful, practical and extremely effective.
- Follow their advice about creating content (or have them create the content for you). Content is the most important ingredient in law firm SEO.
- After you have traffic, use the built-in analytics to see which pages and topics are the most popular on your site, and create video scripts around that content. LawLytics does not create videos for you, but has partnered with one of the top video producing companies so that you can order your videos through LawLytics and have a local professional in your area produce and shoot your video in their professional studios or in your office.
- Once your videos are produced, strategically insert them into the corresponding relevant article (they will help you with this, and it's so easy that any lawyer can do it themselves).
- Measure the impact of your videos on your content. After you have traffic, it's highly likely that the strategically placed videos will give you a conversion boost.
The same recipe holds true for other content types such as infographics. The design department at LawLytics, working with the attorneys in their content creation department, have created some of the most beautiful and most effective law firm infographics I have seen, and at a price that is less than many of the providers out there that produce drastically inferior work.
Number three: Don't waste any money on marketing that is not measurable. If you can't measure it, don't do it. Too many lawyers don't know if, or why, their marketing is succeeding. This dooms them to spending money and efforts on things that work, but also on things that don't work. To be highly competitive you need to measure everything so you can eliminate what doesn't work, and double down on what does work. For instance, advertising and public relations are widely used, but after you've spent $20,000 on it, do you have any way that you can check to see if it actually generated any results? I don't think so. What I would suggest you do is pursue techniques that you can measure. That would include blogs. You can publish a blog and see how many people visited. On a blog, you can also see how many people commented. And, when you're on LawLytics, using their built-in reports and lead tracking, you can actually tell whether a blog post or piece of substantive content influenced a potential client in his or her decision to contact and hire your firm.
Number four: When it comes to business development, start with the low-hanging fruit, and that is your own clients. These are people who trust you, they send you work, they send you checks. It's incumbent upon you to get to know them better to see if you can generate additional files from them. It's much easier to open a new file from a current client than it is to originate a brand new client. It's also easier and less expensive to get a referral from a satisfied client than to get the attention of a potential client using advertising. Again, this is something that you can measure. You can measure the number of times the attorneys in your firm have actually visited the client, how many times they had lunch with a client or a referral source. Or, if you have an event at your firm, you can count the number of attendees, keep track of all their contact information, and then trace in the new matter reports how many of them turned into new files. The bottom line is you should start at the beginning of any sort of marketing initiative by figuring out how are you going to measure it. If you don't do that, you have no way of knowing whether it succeeded or not. According to Dan Jaffe:
"When potential clients are referred to you, the first thing they usually do is look you up on the web. If you are doing things right, they will find your firm's website first. When they do, it must make a good impression. If it doesn't, you'll never have that opportunity. Bottom line is that your website, not you, is what imprints on your potential clients' emotional decision centers. So make sure you get it right."
I recommend using LawLytics landing page creation capabilities to create a referral page for referred potential clients. This is a page that you can give your clients and other referral sources. You can even use LawLytics to create a page that is unique to each referral source. This allows you to both tailor your messaging to that referral source, and also precisely measure how many leads the referral source is sending. It takes a bit of time to set up (any lawyer can do it, or LawLytics can do it for you), but it's worth it. It also takes discipline to implement, but those firms that do can multiply the effectiveness of their marketing efforts and dollars immensely. This is something that very few attorneys are currently doing, and that no provider that I've seen other than LawLytics seems to get at this point (though I suspect that it will start catching on more widely and other mainstream legal marketing providers will build technology and expertise to utilize it).
Number five: The next thing is to cultivate referral sources. A lot of lawyers get most of their business from referrals, and that's a wonderful thing, but the point is that it doesn't just happen all by itself. The people who get these referrals are lawyers who cultivated them.
- Where I would start is with clients. Again, these are people that you're doing work for, but unless you tell them that they're supposed to send you new work and that you would welcome this new work, they won't know that they're supposed to do so. You actually have to tell them.
- Step two is you tell them what kind of work you're seeking. If you're doing a lot of commercial real estate transactions and they're sending you matrimonial cases, you haven't explained the kind of work that you're looking for.
- There are lots of other referral sources besides clients. There are people that you will know in other professions such as investment brokers, accountants, and bankers. These are all people that can send you business so long as you tell them that you would like them to and what kind of work to send.
- The same thing is true with law school classmates. These are people who know you. If you're a litigator, obviously you don't want to approach the litigators because they're in competition with you. Approach all the people who have a transaction practice. Chances are they're going to have some sort of a transaction that went south, and they're going to need your help.
- One of the most efficient ways you can create referral sources is to blog. I recommend that you website be combined with your blog to maximize the marketing impact. If you are unsure of the value of blogging, I recommend watching one of these on-demand webinars to get up to speed.
Number six: Get active in a trade association, and get on the board of directors. You'll notice that I said, trade association, and not bar association. You should join an association of clients. You want to get in front of a room full of clients, people who can potentially hire you. You find out about these trade associations by asking your current clients what meetings they go to. Then it's a simple matter of saying, "I'd like to join you at the meeting. Would you introduce me to your friends?" These friends, of course, are all potential clients for you. It's no good just going to the meeting; you have to be visible. Your goal when you join a trade association is not to be just a face in the crowd. Your goal is to get on the board of directors. The way you do that is you seek out the president and you volunteer. You volunteer to help put together programs; you volunteer to help with the newsletter; you volunteer to help in any sort of activity that is going to lead to a board position.
Number seven: Only after you've done all of these things, then pursue target clients directly. What I mean by "target" is a business executive whom you already know. You don't have to make any cold calls. Whom you're contacting could be a neighbor. It could be another dad or mom at a little league game. I originated a Fortune 500 company by just talking to another dad at a little league game and asking him what line of work he was in and what kind of business problems he faced. You can meet targets in the religious organizations that you go to and the clubs that you belong to and the charities that you're active in - these are all people who have businesses - that's what you looking for - and they all have careers. Ask them questions about it.
Number eight: If you do have a business plan, write it down. It's not real until you write it down. What you want to be writing down is whom you're going to call, when you're going to meet them, and some sort of an outcome that you're expecting to have. The idea of writing it down is now you've moved it on to your calendar. Once it's on your to-do list, you're going to do it.
Number nine: A question I get a lot is "How much time should I devote to business development?" Point number nine is I would recommend 200 hours a year. That may sound like a lot, but when you break it down by week, it's really only four hours a week. You can meet somebody for coffee at Starbucks in the morning. You can meet a client. You can meet a referral source for lunch. You can go to a trade association meeting in the evening. All of this you can weave into your ordinary to-do list, and before you know it, you've devoted 400 hours. I guarantee you are going to get way more back in new business and new clients than the value of the effort that you devoted. And if you don't have time to do in-person meetings because of your busy practice or court schedule, the good news is that you can do it effectively even in the middle of the night by creating content for your website and blog. Most lawyers don't recognize the great value that can be created by consistently watering the garden that is your website. Dan Jaffe tells a great story about one of LawLytics' earliest adopters:
"One of our early adopters, back when LawLytics was only a do-it-yourself service (note: they now have the best full-service marketing and content creation department available), started writing content on his LawLytics website. Instead of being up worrying about the tens of thousands of dollars he was spending on marketing elsewhere, he channeled his angst about his firm's future into creating content. Within six months his LawLytics powered website was outperforming all 10 websites he had with other companies combined. Within a year he had taken over a significant portion of his local market, and within two years he was dominating the market. All this is while on a basic LawLytics membership, which costs only $200 per month. His ROI on LawLytics, not including the time that he invested, was more than 200 to 1. The best thing is, that it continues to grow to this day based on the effort that he invested in developing his business in his early days of using LawLytics. I wish every attorney would realize that it's just that easy, because we have the technology and training that they need to achieve these kinds of results. It's awesome that literally any lawyer can compete and win in today's marketplace, even against firms that are willing to outspend them by many multitudes."
The clients are there. The value is there. And I can't encourage lawyers to go after that value enough. Success is yours to grab, so why not run with it?
Number ten: My closing point is to track your results. If you are undertaking a marketing initiative such as, joining the local business owners club, make a point of writing down the people that you want to meet before you go. After you've met your targets, asked them about their business challenges, later you can to go back and ask yourself, "Did this work? Did I get a new file?" I recall working with a lawyer who was spending money on radio ads, and he was reaching a huge number of people, but he examined his new clients and none of them came from the radio. He wasn't getting any new business out of it at all, so he discontinued it. That's the approach you have to make, but you only will be able to do that if you track your results.
So count to ten, pick the ideas you will pursue, and just do it. The more activities you choose, as long as you follow my advice and measure them, the more clients and revenue you'll bring in.
And if you're not yet using LawLytics, you are probably spending too much money, getting less than the best results, or not reaching your full potential online. So do yourself a favor and check out LawLytics, read their blog, watch their webinars, and book an interactive demo to see it in action for yourself.
Dennis ansong Reply
Posted Jun 02, 2014 at 09:14:41
As a new attorney, that has a solo practice and is trying to gain clientele, do these same 10 steps still apply, or would it just apply to a large firm.
Larry Bodine Reply
Posted Jun 02, 2014 at 09:29:51
Yes they apply to you — especially building your referral network and getting active in an organization of clients.
Best of luck!
Joshua Stanfield Reply
Posted Jul 01, 2014 at 14:46:41
Good evening Larry,
First, great article by the way. I am a recent law school graduate and am currently studying for the bar. I am ambitious and intend on hanging my shingle once licensed. As you are probably aware, there is a gap of time between taking the bar, getting results, and being sworn in. In New York this process tends to take longer than most states. Generally speaking, what are some things you suggest I do between that corridor of time in order to hit the ground running with clients once I am sworn in?
Larry Bodine Reply
Posted Jul 02, 2014 at 06:27:19
Hi Joshua, Your best move is to make sure that you have phone numbers, email addresses and land addresses for all your contacts, especially fellow students from law school. These will be the people who refer you business once you get into practice.
Alex Kleanthous Reply
Posted Aug 25, 2014 at 05:06:46
You are spot on with this – so many firms don’t resource marketing enough and simply do it ad hoc, with no consistency or measurement. It’s now vital for all law firms so it should be uppermost in the mind of all fee earners. A team approach is also important and another area where many law firms need to radically improve.
Posted Aug 29, 2014 at 08:48:51
“The third point: Don’t waste any money on marketing that is not measurable. If you can’t measure it, don’t do it. For instance, advertising and public relations are widely used, but after you’ve spent $20,000 on it, do you have any way that you can check to see if it actually generated any results? I don’t think so.”
While you are absolutely right that it is essential that you are able to measure your success for all marketing tactics, it sounds like you are confused about advertising and PR in this point. You can absolutely measure success with advertising and PR – I’m not sure why you say you can’t, especially because you continue on to discuss advertising and PR tactics that are measurable. Some tactics will require advanced knowledge or the help of a marketing/advertising/PR firm to measure, but trust me – no one in the above mentioned industries who are worth hiring would run a campaign without having a plan of measurement in place.
Monika Scott Reply
Posted Dec 22, 2014 at 10:09:02
This is a great article, thanks. I had a follow up question for you. How important do you think blogging is as a client development tool? Thanks!
Larry Bodine Reply
Posted Dec 22, 2014 at 10:17:40
Blogging is the key to content marketing, which is the most effective digital marketing technique. See Does Law Firm Blogging Really Bring New Clients? at http://www.larrybodine.com/price-chart-for-lawyer-written-blog-posts
Richard Johnson Reply
Posted Dec 29, 2014 at 07:47:22
In discussing social media for attorneys, it’s critical to define when a tweet “advertises lawyers’ services.” It makes more sense to add some type of disclaimer to the profile, if that’s even needed, than to each post. Simply sharing industry news developments does not constitute either legal advice or advertising, yet still enhances thought leadership. We are using mostly social media and blogs. http://cabreralawoffices.com/
Nilanshu Khanna Reply
Posted Mar 30, 2015 at 06:31:14
Great Article .. Thanks for concluding all the aspects of Law Firm Marketing and challenges faced by new start ups or should say a most of the law firm .
Thanks and Regards Nilanshu Khanna Advocate
Ingrid Patin Reply
Posted Apr 15, 2015 at 17:19:30
I am sorry that it has taken me this long to find this article. Not only is it a great article, as others have commented, but it is also motivating. You have an ability to make “marketing a law firm” sound so easy. As the owner of my own firm, I have had great difficulty trying to figure out where to begin. This article was very helpful in setting forth the basics of marketing for a small firm. I intend on implementing your tips, and hope to see results. Thank you!
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