By Larry Bodine and Victoria Blute
Are you marketing more and getting less in return? Complaints I 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 SEO is not working and it costs too much.
- Half the money I spend on Google advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.
The solution is two-fold: Improve your in-person marketing to get quality contacts at social functions, easily connect with people at a networking event, and get people to ask for your business card.
The other half is to improve your online marketing through content marketing (such as blogging) to generate new business, navigating social media successfully, and avoiding mistakes in your online presence.
Getting Quality Contacts
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,” a book that I highly recommend.
A key tip from the book is when you are meeting someone, stop talking about yourself. Get the focus off yourself. Ask questions about the other person, and get them talking. Notice something about how they dress or look and compliment them; ask them more about it. Ask them about their challenges at work. Probe for challenges that may have that have legal solutions.
Remember these two follow-up questions:
- “Tell me more about that.”
- “What makes you say that?”
If you have an estate practice, ask how their parents are. If you have a personal injury practice, ask them what they think about texting and driving. Listen, and avoid talking about yourself. If they are talking, you are selling.
Online, more potential clients are turning to the internet to find law firms. They will use Google to find an answer to their legal questions. But they generally won't search for something like “DUI Attorney New York” or “Business Attorney Milwaukee.” They are more likely to instead pose a question to Google like:
“What's the best way to give co-founders options in a corporation?” or “How will a DUI affect my California state nursing license?”
The content that you add to your law firm's website and blog gets indexed by Google. When you answer those kinds of questions in great detail, Google is more likely to return those pages to a search engine user -- in this case, your potential client -- when they make a relevant search.
High-quality content that answers your potential clients' questions 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 you're the best attorney to handle their matter, show them that you are by creating content that showcases your knowledge about the problem they're facing.
- Have solid FAQ pages. Think about the questions that your potential clients ask you when you're sitting across the desk 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 and with your potential clients.
- Blogging. Yes, blogging really does bring in new clients (see https://goo.gl/lirCKb). Writing blog posts is a great way to drive traffic to your site and it should really be done on a regular basis. For example, if you're an immigration attorney, there are lots of things changing about immigration policies right now, and there will be potential clients searching for information about that subject. But if you can't write for your website on a regular basis, then using a professional proxy writer is the next best choice that you can make. Make sure that your writing team understands and will abide by the necessary legal ethics.
Easily connecting with people
It's always uncomfortable to walk into a big room at a social event where you don't know anyone. This is where marketing with premeditation comes in. Before going to an event, request the attendee list, or the directory if you are a member, and study it. Google one or two attendees whom you want to meet. Use Google to research trends affecting members of the organization.
Successful networkers come to a meeting with specific people they want to meet, and they are prepared with questions to get conversations going. I recommend that you rehearse the questions you will be asking until you feel comfortable with them. Prepare for a networking event as you would prepare for a court hearing.
What happens if you attend and your target people aren't there? Simply find the president of the organization, tell him or her that you are new, and ask to be introduced to someone you can talk to. An attendee will be impressed to see the president bringing someone over to talk to them.
Online, there used to be more of a stigma about connecting with strangers online, but I don't think that's so true anymore. People connect online with strangers all the time now and it's become a normal part of our online experience. It's normal to see attorneys connecting with other people on social networks, whether that's their peers, potential clients, or referral sources.
Some attorneys see social media as completely separate from their website and blog, and they take a lot of time thinking about it. This is a mistake. Social media should be supplementary to your website and blog.
One of the best ways to use social media is to publish links to new blog posts that will drive traffic back to your law firm website. Publishing on social media makes it easier for others to share what you've written with their friends or family who have a matter for you. Your goal here is to get people back to your website through social media. There, they can read more about what you have to say, read other blog posts and peruse substantive content.
Three social media sites that generally have more value than others for attorneys are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Avoid spreading yourself too thin by thinking about social media like Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit and Tumblr.
One other way to drive business is to participate in the online conversation -- social media is not a one-way street -- so you'll want to comment on what other people are talking about and build a reputation as an online thought leader. The more you participate, the more opportunities you have for people to recognize you -- whether that's a potential client or a referral source.
All About You
At a networking event, wait for the moment when the other person asks you what you do for a living. This is the big moment for you to respond with your “30-second commercial”: a short description that makes others want to know more about you. 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?)
You can get other people to ask for your business card by getting the other person to talk about their job. Take an interest, ask for more information and the request their business card. In the process, you can make a natural exchange of cards.
After the conversation ends, make sure to write down three things on the back of the card you acquired: the date, where you were and what you talked about. When you get back to the office, immediately enter this information into your computer contact list. Don't stick the card into a stack with a rubber band, because it cannot be searched electronically.
Online, your attorney bio should be written so that people know, trust and like you.
Often times, I'll see attorney bios that are just a list of facts and figures about the attorney: “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 your potential clients or referral sources consider your accomplishments, they want to know about you as a person. The old saying, “People won't care about what you know until they know how much you care,” is fitting. Try 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 your 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 you. The best way to do this is to hold a lunch-and-learn in a conference room. Invite clients, prospects and referral sources to a program that you host. Notify invitees that they can make appointments before and after the program to discuss their legal issues.
Provide inexpensive box lunches and sodas, along with firm gift items like tote bags and coffee cups. Invite all the attorneys from your firm to sit in the audience and make friends with attendees. Make your educational event fun time -- give away prizes like books and gift cards.
For online purposes, videotape the presentations and upload them to your 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.
If you want to take it a step further, why not present a companion webinar to your talk? Whether you're using PowerPoint of Google Slides, it's easy to put together some main talking points and record the audio to go with it.
Another thing to think about is visual aids, particularly infographics. You might want to take points from your talk or elsewhere 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 a 1936 book on making friends and employing web tools effectively, any attorney can have a robust circle of clients and referral sources.