The National Law Review recently posted their Top 5 Tips for lawyers starting a law firm. And will you look at that, Marketing is #3. Certainly, when I was in law school, there were no courses on how to run a law practice that involved the business side of the equation. I have always thought this was a mistake. I understand the argument that law school should be a time for reflection on the legal principles, but the truth is that most people who go to law school end up in what is effectively a business setting. If law school is supposed to prepare people for the practice of law, the lack of any education around the business reality that lawyers face is a serious shortcoming. Moreover, these days there are greater demands on new lawyers to contribute to a firm's bottom line via business development activities. The problem is, no one has ever taught them how to do this.
Let Google be Your Mentor
It's stressful enough trying to find your feet in what can feel like an ever-shifting landscape for ooohhhh the first five years without having to figure out how you are supposed to help bring in business. So, whenever I see content like this I welcome it; particularly when it makes the point that what you do on the business development side needs to be focused on providing useful, relevant information to prospective clients. If you have heard anything about search engine optimization (aka SEO), this statement may sound familiar. It's basically Google's mission statement. You know Google, that monolithic company that structures how people find goods and services (like yours). If you align your goals with Google, i.e., providing useful, relevant information to people who are actively looking for your services - you set yourself up for optimum page rank. It's common sense really, but it requires that lawyers recognize that the ability to explain why a client should hire them (aka their value proposition or differentiating factors) depends on clearly demonstrating that the lawyer knows all about the client's goals and how to achieve them.
Knowing Your Clients is the Key
When asked the question "Who's your target market?" many lawyers will say..."Everyone. We can help anyone with X,Y, Z legal issue," That is simply not good enough. Let me repeat...that is not good enough. To effectively reach client groups with messaging that resonates you need to know a great deal more about these people. Age, gender, education, marital status, where they hang out online, what are they talking about on social, what worries them, what makes them angry, what are their short term goals, what should they be thinking about (this is the piece where lawyers can score points). All of this information gathering is valuable competitive intelligence that can go into online content that captures the attention of the people you want to reach because it leads to broadcasting information that is useful and relevant...to them. So, while I agree that learning to differentiate your practice is the key to your success, I also say that learning as much as you can about your clients is the key to differentiating your practice. Learning about them and reflecting that knowledge in your messaging is one way to show them you "get it" and that you can help them build that company, resolve that regulatory problem, help with that estate plan, or whatever type of law you happen to practice. Lawyer, know thy client.
Realize that consumers are confused about the legal marketplace and are looking for ways to determine differences between what appears to them to be a sea of lawyers all offering the same services, marketing to them in the same way. Learning to differentiate your practice will be the key to your success.