I’ve tried working harder, and I’ve tried working smarter. After years of both, it’s easy to tell which works better. Yet so many lawyers I know suffer from tunnel vision while performing work for clients, shattering all notions of work-life balance. They spend too much time working in the business rather than on the business — especially marketing.
I follow the 80/20 rule that says small business owners should spend 80 percent of their time improving the business model and 20 percent doing the actual work. This ratio may sound ridiculously unattainable, but you ignore the business side to the detriment of your firm’s revenue and your overall well-being.
The key to finding clients doesn’t lie in doing excellent work behind closed doors, but in producing smart, aggressive marketing.
A Short Guide to Effective Legal Marketing
To find more clients, stop thinking like a lawyer and start thinking like a small business owner: Evaluate your market, identify what you want to sell and advertise yourself effectively.
To that end, remember that people who aren’t intimately familiar with local attorneys don’t necessarily pick the most credible counsel — they pick the most visible. (Even I would rather ask Google who’s the best lawyer than waste my brainpower trying to remember who to call, and I’m a lawyer.)
In today’s “microwave mentality” world, where you have 30 seconds to impress, visibility is key. Here’s how to ensure people know who to call when they need your specialized expertise.
1. Own your own brand. As an individual lawyer, you want a fraction of the work your firm generates. But if you’re in a large firm, your work markets the firm as a whole — not you personally. Clients might recognize the firm’s message but not remember you, so the work you want could go to someone else under the firm’s umbrella. You need a marketing plan that goes above and beyond the firm’s.
2. Find your niche. Identify your specialty and assert yourself within that niche. The newer or smaller you are, the more specific it should be so you can shrink the competitive landscape to a more manageable size. After you figure out which area you want to dominate, don’t send out preprinted fliers; use strategic, targeted marketing to get your message across to the right specific demographic.
3. Become a go-to local counsel. If you’re targeting large corporations as clients, don’t place ads on Facebook and Twitter. Instead, look for out-of-state businesses seeking local counsel in your state. Establishing yourself as a local authority can make you the go-to attorney in your state. Acting as a local liaison for the main counsel out of New York City, for example, provides a great foundation for referrals as your initial clients recommend you to other businesses.
4. Get social. Corporations don’t base decisions on social media posts, but individuals do. If you aren’t on Facebook and Twitter, sign up immediately. You don’t have to share your midnight snack or your puppy’s first haircut, but you should create a memorable online presence. The general population doesn’t read the latest journals. A few minutes spent thinking up pithy, relevant messages to post throughout the week will earn visibility.
5. Nourish profit centers. Every business has profit centers — points from which it derives revenue. For lawyers, these profit centers are often other lawyers’ referrals. As an industry, we don’t spend nearly enough time tracking these referrers, or whether we make money on the clients they send to us. Figure out who sends you the best referrals and show your appreciation. Keep them updated on the clients and (even better) direct referrals their way, too.