Good marketing is the art of differentiation. If you present yourself like any other lawyer in the marketplace, potential clients and referral sources are less likely to remember you when they encounter a need you can service.
This is a hard lesson to embrace in a competitive field for legal services. Most of the clients I work with are concerned that if they do not mention everything they do, they will miss out on opportunities. But by not focusing your marketing message, the opposite is true. You run the risk of being memorable for nothing.
Think of it as you would when taking a photograph. A good photographer will focus in on those elements in the scene where they want your attention drawn. If your main subject is out of focus, then you often end up with a bad photo and the viewer doesn’t know where to focus his or her attention.
So if your primary practice focus is creating estate plans for middle class couples, don’t be afraid to tell that to the potential clients and referral sources you meet. If the individual is looking for a good divorce lawyer and you happen to do some of that work, you can always indicate that as the conversation progresses. Similarly, if they are selling a home or have a potential conflict with a business partner, and that is work that you have successfully handled, then you can add that to the conversation, as well.
The point is when someone asks what you do, try and limit yourself to one or two (possibly three), types of matters that you handle and who are the most likely clients for that work. Like a good photograph, a focused marketing message will stick longer in the memory of those who you are relying on for your work. You can always clarify that you also handle the type of matter that the individual needs help with. But keep the focus of your marketing message on those areas that you want to be known for. A focused message like that is much more likely to stick.
Great venn diagram on the subject.
I write a lot in this space about relationship building, reputation building and the tools you need to market your law practice. For those of you who practice in a law firm setting (either as an associate or as a partner), there are some bigger issues you should also address in your career.
There will always be tradeoffs when deciding where to build your career. But, what are some other questions you should ask yourself in order to assess whether your platform is the “right” platform?
Click here to listen to the whole podcast.
When you get right down to it, fear is the biggest obstacle to marketing success for most professionals. No one likes rejection and if you plan to ask anyone for business or referrals, the odds are very high that you will experience a significant amount of rejection. The key is to get beyond the fear and act.
Set up a system that rewards yourself for your actions not your results. Over time, you will achieve the volume of contacts you need in order to get the success you want. The important thing is to ignore the “no’s”, “not interested’s”, “not now’s” and the ever pervasive “no response whatsoever”. Click here to read more.
Building relationships with potential referral sources is an important part of building your law practice. But given the huge range of possibilities about who you can spend your time with, where do you begin?
The starting point of course is deciding who you identify as your ideal client. Once you have established this, your next step is to identify who are the referral sources who work with these same clients. These can be other professionals who provide different services to the same clientele; they can also be other lawyers who are billing at a different rate and need a lower-cost alternative to refer work to when prospective clients cannot afford their fee.
Beyond this, how do you spend your time efficiently and focus on good “potential referral sources”. The following is a four step process for making that determination:
1. While your referral source may serve some of the same clients that you would like to serve, is that referral source well-connected to that clientele? Does that individual seem like someone who is interested in relationship building and do they seem well connected to those clients?
2. Is the individual the type of professional who likes to connect professionals with each other? In other words, is the person a connector who has a helpful personality and who will go out of his or her way to try to make connections on your behalf? (This certainly does not describe many professionals you may encounter, not because professionals are antisocial; rather, because being a good connector is a skill in and of itself – so look for the bright spots.)
3. Is the individual someone you like and someone that you feel you can relate to? Don’t underestimate the value of spending your time with people who you like and whose company you enjoy. If you focus on this group, you will be much more motivated to spend time with them, and you are much more likely to make connections that will result in referrals.
4. Does the individual have any shared interests? This of course is related to item number three. If you both happen to enjoy baseball, then not only will you have more to discuss, but you may have an activity that you can spend time doing together. In contrast if you think you have a good referral source but you have nothing in common with that individual and you don’t particularly care for their company, it will be very difficult to form a relationship with that individual.
While this may all seem like common sense, it is easy to fall into the trap of chasing individuals with whom you have little in common and whom you do not care for. We have all met charismatic individuals who seem to be the key to our future success. While these individuals may be seemingly well-connected to the clientele that you want to serve, the barrier of trying to build relationships with these individuals is likely to be high. So aim for your ‘best’ prospects when putting together your list of potential contacts
Instead you are much better off trying to spend time with people that you do like and with individuals who share your interests. This is the foundation that relationships are built on this is the kind of trust you need in order to generate referrals.
I was speaking to one of my clients the other day and he described for me what he does any time he makes a court appearance. At the end of the day, he goes back to his office and takes a few minutes to document what happened. He has a longstanding practice of doing this and he always tries to do it the same days so that his memory is fresh. In effect, he has created a habit which ensures that he does not have to rely on his memory to keep track of his cases.
Many lawyers do this as a matter of course. In fact it is good practice whether you are a litigator or a transactional lawyer to generate file memos that are written after you have met with a client or interviewed someone on behalf of a client. As lawyers, we are very good at documenting in our case work.
But when it comes to networking meetings, we forget to use the skills we use all the time in practicing law. We do not prepare in the same way. I wrote about this after the blizzard in February. And we do not take the time to document our activities (and calendar next steps).
This litigation client of mine has begun incorporating his regular business practices into his marketing activities. After each networking meeting, he makes sure to write down notes about the conversation (including both personal and professional things he learned from the individual). I am also encouraging him to “docket” a next step with that individual (if he deems the individual to be a potential referral source or client).
No one likes to take time to do this. Tracking time, documenting what you have done and making a point of deciding on next steps before the day ends is all cumbersome. But when it comes to relationship building, documenting is an invaluable activity that can help you greatly as you cultivate relationships over time.
Posted by Stephen Seckler