Finding the right clients is a lot like online dating. The way people find a date has changed dramatically, with eHarmony, OkCupid, Match.com and Tinder, but the rules of attracting and making someone “yours” really haven’t. The same is true of making a match with a good legal client.
Sure, the way clients arrive at your door may vary. Maybe they find you through social media, your firm’s blog or even an old-fashioned referral. But the rules of attracting the perfect clients remain the same.
The Art and Science of Attracting Clients Today
At Avvo, we’ve done a lot of research on attracting clients. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you must know what type of client you want. It’s simple: If you can describe your perfect client, you can better focus your marketing efforts. And once you know who you are pursuing, winning them over — beginning with a strategically written online profile and targeted social media efforts — is much easier.
Here are a few more things I’ve learned.
1. Plan your work, work your plan. You don’t wing the perfect first date — you make a plan. You know where you’re going, the ambiance and the mood you want to create. The same goes for how you approach new clients.
It’s important to step back from your day-to-day work to define your vision for your practice. Without a vision, how do you know whether the things you do every day match up to your long-term goals? If your vision is to help divorcing couples reach amicable solutions, your day-to-day work — from blog posts to answers on Q&A forums — should reflect that. And you probably don’t want to engage people who are interested in taking their soon-to-be-ex for all they’re worth.
Once you define your vision, you need an actionable plan for attracting clients that match up to your vision. Your plan doesn’t need to be fancy or take a lot of time, but it should be clear, specific and have a firm time frame for implementation. In fact, one-page plans are often quite effective for small businesses. Programs like Lean Canvas can help guide you through building your plan in very little time.
2. Show off your best side. Let your personality shine, wherever potential clients may find you. Creating online profiles that are both professional and personable is key in successfully conveying who you are and why someone should hire you instead of a competitor. Make sure that all your profiles are complete, including credentials, years practiced, areas of expertise, location and awards. And don’t underestimate the power of a headshot: Attorneys with a headshot in their Avvo profile receive 17 times more contacts from potential clients than those without one.
Also, consider producing and posting a short video that tells the story of your practice: 57 percent of legal clients say video increases their confidence in an attorney.
3. Style matters. Always speak to your clients on their level. Enough with the legalese! Just as in dating, conversation, tone and listening style all play a part in how potential clients perceive you. When you are speaking with them in person or on the phone, potential clients often pay more attention to your “PVT” — pitch, volume and tone — than what you’re actually saying. Many get turned off quickly if you sound loud and arrogant. Don’t make that mistake. (See “How to Sound Like a Winning Lawyer” by Nika Kabiri.)
Listening well is just as important as how you speak. Be an active listener by not interrupting. Repeat what you’ve heard through paraphrasing to ensure you’ve heard correctly, remember to ask if they’d like your opinion and, of course, ask questions and make sure you’ve answered them to the client’s satisfaction.
4. Educate prospects. You wouldn’t immediately ask someone you just met to go on a date, and you don’t immediately sign an engagement contract with a client. Education and preparation are involved. Consider that, according to our research on today’s legal consumers, three out of five legal consumers go online at some point to investigate or try to resolve their legal issue; 42 percent go online to research their issue specifically. Knowing this, you can see that it’s imperative to have a meaningful profile and relevant posts on social media. Being active on social media helps to build your online reputation, makes it easier for potential clients to find you, and presents a more holistic view of who you are. It may seem like a big investment but if you set aside a little time every week, it will pay off.
Our research also shows that one in five consumers believe that, with enough research, they can know what a lawyer knows. Rest assured, 66 percent reported feeling stuck at some point in dealing with their legal issue, and 42 percent felt so stuck that they needed a lawyer. When clients call, be prepared to educate them and “upsell” them on the value you provide. Explain to them why hiring a lawyer — particularly, why hiring you — is valuable.
5. Leverage your network for referrals. You probably know a few people who met their significant other through a friend. Similarly, your clients and peers can bring new clients to you.
- Request reviews from satisfied clients after every case. You may think of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and email newsletters as straightforward means to build your network and reputation. But, while they may seem challenging, client reviews are very effective. They provide invaluable insights into you, your firm and the experiences of previous clients.
- Ask your peers for endorsements, too. Many attorneys rely on referrals to obtain new business, and nearly 58 percent of firms say referrals are their primary source of new clients.
More than 50 percent of consumers who go online to resolve legal issues are also researching attorneys to hire. Since checking lawyer reviews is the first step for approximately 83 percent of those looking for an attorney (according to a 2015 ReviewTrackers.com study), you can see how important it is to use your network. Ninety-five percent of consumers who’ve hired an attorney in the past two years say client reviews played a role in their decision. And attorneys with just three client reviews on Avvo get 15 times more contacts from clients than those without.
6. Sweat the small stuff. Think about who you are as a lawyer, what kind of firm you run and the story you want to tell. Then figure out how that translates to everyday moments.
How you present yourself matters — from your hygiene and clothing to how well you remember your potential client’s issues. If you are a personal injury lawyer in Oregon and an avid outdoor enthusiast, you might wear a fleece jacket over your button-down instead of a blazer. If you are a female family lawyer who caters to women in tough situations, consider how you will make them feel at ease in your office — down to cozy chairs and pillows and the kinds of magazines you keep in your waiting area.
The details of how you market yourself before that initial meeting matter, too. Delivering information in a memorable and authentic way can have a big impact. Think about using memes on social media to promote your firm. Or put an “Easter Egg” on your website to surprise and delight potential clients. Or, follow the lead of the estate planning lawyer who sends every client a dozen oatmeal raisin cookies, complete with a cartoon strip, to make sure they know he’s thinking about them.
Improving Your Odds of Making a Match
The basic rules of attracting the ideal client haven’t changed. With so many things to try online, though, it can definitely feel overwhelming. Commit to a few hours a week at first, focusing on one or two items you know you can tackle successfully and quickly. Soon, you’ll see that the more things change, the more things really do stay the same — including winning the perfect client.