As published in the January 2018 issue of Marketing the Law Firm.
Are your lawyers marketing more and receiving less in return? Complaints that CMOs often hear from attorneys include:
- I feel awkward at networking events and don't know what to do.
- I don't want to be like a pushy used-car salesman.
- I hate giving talks, and when I did give one, it produced nothing.
- My bio isn't producing any lead or phone calls.
- Half the money we spend on Google advertising is wasted; the trouble is we don't know which half.
The solution is two-fold: First, attorneys need to improve their in-person marketing to attract quality contacts at social functions. They must follow a simple business development plan to get out of their office. Attorneys need to prompt people to ask for their business card.
Second, lawyers must improve their online marketing by blogging to generate new business, develop a digital content plan, and leverage their in-real-life marketing online.
Attorneys have struggled with networking events even before there was an internet. The solutions were revealed in 1936 by Dale Carnegie in “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” I recommend that CMOs have several copies on hand and give the books to frustrated attorneys.
A key tip from the book is when lawyers meet someone new, they must not talk about themselves. In business development counseling sessions, CMOs should suggest that attorneys ask questions about the other person, to encourage them to talk. Lawyers should develop their observation skills and notice something unique about their conversation partners and compliment them; ask them more about it. Interested to learn more, lawyers can ask their networking partners about their business challenges. Attorneys should probe for challenges that they may have that have legal solutions.
Remember these two follow-ups:
- “Tell me more about that.”
- “What makes you say that?”
Business attorneys can ask about trends affecting a company. Litigators can inquire about employment claims that may be a drag on a business. In general, attorneys should listen, and avoid talking about themselves. The byword is, “If they are talking, you are selling.”
Finding lawyers online
Online, more potential clients are turning to the internet to find law firms. Research shows that more clients find attorneys online than from referrals – see https://goo.gl/LavKga. Clients will use Google to find an answer their legal question. But they won't search for something like “Litigation Attorney New York” or “Business Attorney Chicago.” They are more likely to instead pose a question to Google like:
“What's the best way to give a new employee options in a corporation?” or “How will potential new regulations on net neutrality affect my startup?”
When an attorney answers those kinds of questions in great detail online, Google indexes those pages and is more likely to return those pages to a search engine user -- in this case, a potential client -- when they make a relevant search. This is the best form of SEO that there is.
Content builds that bond of trust and takes the show-don't-tell approach: Instead of shouting from the rooftop that an attorney is the best person to handle their matter, they should show them that they by creating content that showcases their knowledge about the problem a potential client is facing.
- Have solid FAQ pages. Think about the questions that your potential clients ask an attorney when you're sitting across the desk from them. These are the same kinds of questions that they're typing into Google, so if your firm is answering those questions on a FAQ page, you're giving yourself an advantage with search engines.
- Clients an attorney serve. If your clients are businesses, add a link to “Industries Served” on your website. If your clients are consumers, describe the situations that an attorney help them with. This is information that every client wants to know about.
- Case histories. Client success stories prove that your attorneys 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 the attorney achieved.
Working a simple plan
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If attorneys do not have a written business development, they won't generate new files. The ideal length of an attorney business development plan is three pages long, and there are three elements:
Page 1: Clients the attorney will visit.
Page 2: Referral sources the attorney will meet.
Page 3: Organizations whose meetings that the attorney will attend.
These are the primary sources of new business. It's essential that lawyers meet people outside the office, because there is no new business to be found in the office. To generate new business, attorneys need to go to meetings, meet people in person, and develop relationships.
An attorney should plan to devote at least four hours per week on business development. CMOs should advise them to add new business development activities to their calendar – the same calendar on which they book court appearances. A business development activity is equally important as an appearance in court.
Digital content plan
The online marketing version of a business development plan is a digital content plan. The consistent effort an attorney puts in over time is what counts with content. For example, if a lawyer writes one blog post every 30 days, or doesn't regularly add to the substantive pages on your website, that won't move the business development needle.
Yes, blogging really does bring in new clients (see https://goo.gl/lirCKb).
CMOs should recommend that attorneys start by identifying the activity that generates the most revenue for them. This should be the topic that you blog about. They should establish a schedule that they will be able to stick with, for example, one blog post per month.
HubSpot research finds that blogging 2-3 times per week is the optimal frequency. 76 percent of bloggers who wrote this frequently acquired a customer through their blog.
American Bar Association research finds that 26 percent of law firms have blogs, and for good reason. Overall, 42 percent of blogging lawyers said they did have a client retain their legal services as a result of their blog.
Blogging drives traffic to the firm website, helps convert that traffic into leads, and establishes an attorney's authority on the subject. It drives long-term results as well, because a blog post will start by generating leads, and continue to do so over time as it becomes indexed in search engines. The effort put in yesterday for a blog post will turn into many views and leads into the future.
A content plan should be a written document. Otherwise the plan is inchoate and it cannot be shared with others. A written plan will be a guidebook with milestones and accountability throughout the process.
A content plan isn't something that can be executed in a week or a month. It should have a 1-3 year horizon depending on how fast a lawyer can get that content created. It should have a rough schedule of when that content is going to be produced, and assign who's accountable for each piece of content.
If there are multiple people involved in writing blog posts -- for example, if a lawyer has a law clerk writing drafts or the firm outsources writing to a company like LawLytics to produce the content, the attorney should make sure the plan articulates who is going to do what and when they'll do it.
Attorneys feel awkward when they walk into a big room and don't know anyone. CMOs can help lawyers succeed at networking events by giving them a framework to follow. For example, an attorney should wait for the moment when the other person asks them what you do for a living. This is the big moment for an attorney to respond with their “30-second commercial”: a short description that makes others want to know more about them. It begs a question “Tell me how you do that?” A 30-second commercial is concise and can be spoken in a single breath.
It has three elements:
- “I am___________________” (What function do you perform?)
- “I work with_____________” (Describe your ideal client.)
- “To solve________________” (How do you help clients?)
Attorneys can get other people to ask for their business card by getting the other person to talk about their job. In a conversation, an attorney can demonstrate an interest, ask for more information and the request the other person's business card. In the process, they can make a natural exchange of cards.
CMOs should encourage attorneys to build their contact lists with this technique. After a conversation ends, the attorney should write down three things on the back of the card they acquired: the date, where they were and what they talked about. When the lawyer gets back to the office, they should immediately enter this information into their computer contact list. This way the record can be searched electronically.
Online, a lawyer's bio should be written so that people know, trust and like the person.
CMOs often see attorney bios that are just boilerplate: attorney John Smith was born here, went to school here, graduated in this year. It's a shame, because these bios don't give any sense of what that attorney is like, and that can be a real turn-off for potential clients.
Before potential clients or referral sources consider a lawyer's accomplishments, they want to know about the lawyer as a person. The old saying, “People won't care about what you know until they know how much you care,” is fitting. CMOs can recommend this five-step approach:
- Write about your journey to the law. You need to show your potential clients that you care about them, their case, and your practice.
- What motivates you as an attorney and a person? The deeper you can dig for the things that motivate you outside of just winning or making money, the more you can make it about your potential clients, the more relatable you make yourself to a potential client. Ask yourself: what drives you to do what you do and what inspires you?
- Whom do you surround yourself with? What kinds of extracurricular activities are you a part of? Do you support some kind of youth group? Are you a member of charities? What do you do for the community? What helps you define yourself outside of the law?
- Whom have you helped? Discuss cases more generally, think about the type of person you typically help. You want to paint a picture of who you've helped and why you enjoy doing that.
- What have you done? Talk about what you've accomplished in your law career and education. What qualifies you? This can be honors, case results and, publications. Instead of just listing these things, talk about what it meant to you. Take a publication, for example. Talk about what it means to you to have been selected; how the selection process worked; why it's a big deal. Give it some context.
A crowd where everybody knows your name
To overcome the fear of public speaking and to get results from a speech, it's necessary to create a crowd where everybody knows the attorney. The best way to do this is to hold a lunch-and-learn in a conference room. Lawyers should invite clients, prospects and referral sources to a program that they host. Notify invitees that they can make appointments before and after the program to discuss their legal issues.
The firm can provide inexpensive box lunches and sodas, along with firm gift items like tote bags and coffee cups. A CMO should invite all the attorneys from the firm to sit in the audience and make friends with attendees. It's a good idea to make the educational event fun time by giving away prizes like books and gift cards.
For online purposes, a CMO should videotape the presentations and upload them to the firm website. It's important to put up a transcript as well because humans can listen to the audio and video, but search engines need a text transcript.
To take it a step further, attorneys should consider presenting a companion webinar with their talk. Whether the attorney uses PowerPoint of Google Slides, it's easy to put together some main talking points and record the audio to go with it in a GoToWebinar program.
Another thing to think about is visual aids, particularly infographics. An attorney might want to take points from their talk and turn them into an infographic. Infographics are particularly nice in that they compress a lot of information into a small space and one that, if it's done right, is a lot of fun for people to look at. And there are lots of programs now you can use to create infographics for free, and easily.
Putting it all together
In-person marketing is essential, but it only works one-to-one. Complementing it with matching digital marketing will allow you to market one-to-many. By harnessing tools revealed in Dale Carnegie's classic 1936 book on making friends, and digital content techniques invented in the last 10 years, any attorney can have a robust circle of clients and referral sources.