Like most attorneys starting a new firm, I want to know the best way to build my reputation—and my client base—so I asked for some advice from Erika Napoletano and Ari Kaplan. Erika Napoletano is Redhead Writing and author of the new book “The Power of Unpopular: A Guide to Building Your Brand for the Audience Who Will Love You.” Ari Kaplan is an attorney and author of “Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace” who speaks frequently on the power of social media and marketing, with Ari Kaplan Advisors.
Here’s what I asked and what they had to say.
Q. Some law firms have a reputation for being professional but stoic, boring, greedy and arrogant. What is the best way for a firm to maintain its reputation for professionalism but communicate that the firm is friendly, helpful and caring?
- Erika: I think the most important thing that a law firm can do is be human—and that comes from having a personality. I see it happen all too often with attorneys—they’re afraid to say the wrong thing and feel so confined by legal parameters that they say nothing at all, and come across so matter-of-fact that no one can relate to them. People do business with people, so be human and have an opinion. Clients will respect that—and even more so when they’re entrusting you with matters that depend on your honesty and expertise.
- Ari: One of the most effective ways for a firm to convey its character is by routinely engaging clients in a dialogue about business goals, performance and expectations. When I conduct client interviews on behalf of various organizations, the firms find that clients and even prospects are often happy to share perspectives on their ideal relationships, what strategies help to exceed expectations, and where they have an additional need for support. [Check out Ari’s book for eight resources to help you do this!]
Q. What are the biggest marketing faux pas that you see law firms committing these days?
- Erika: Being broadcast-only in social media outlets. Nobody likes to be “talked at.” People want to be spoken with. Digital marketing is no different than a great in-person meeting: All parties feel like they’re contributing and everyone walks away from the exchange feeling better for having had it and like they learned something, too. You’ve got to listen before you can contribute.
- Ari: I see firms missing potential opportunities to more effectively target their prospects, or secure additional work from existing clients. Attorneys who have access to dynamic training and coaching resources tend to engage in more efficient marketing.
Q. What is the best way for attorneys or law firms to establish themselves as an expert in a niche area?
- Erika: Become a resource! Start a blog or article library. Host a podcast or radio show. Do video blogs. Offer insights on forums like LinkedIn. It’s that simple. If you have a PR firm, they should be looking for opportunities to build relationships with journalists so you can be contacted as an expert source in your area of specialty.
- Ari: Publishing in a specific area is a great way for a practitioner to set the foundation for expertise. It allows the writer to convey substantive knowledge while also showcasing his or her talent for simplifying the complex. Writing also provides you with a natural opportunity to reach out to clients and prospects for advice or even a publishable quote. Technology has also exponentially increased the potential return on the investment a firm or individual might make in a published article, client alert or case summary. One can still provide content for magazines and newspapers, but blogs and social media platforms have positively transformed the way in which we distribute our work.
Q. What are your top three marketing tips for law firms?
- Be human.
- Only spend your marketing time and resources on social outlets that fit your personality.
- Remember that people do business with people—a great firm reputation can help, but in the end, your future business comes from people who have used your services and will recommend you. Nobody recommends a dick. 🙂
- Members of the marketing team should study who follows the firm’s Twitter feed and the feeds of its leading practitioners because there will be a number of clients and prospects with whom you can follow up to provide richer information.
- Create marketing duos by pairing an associate and a partner so that each is accountable to the other. This will help them develop an organic support system, encourage mutual mentoring and spark creativity. Successful rainmakers often operate in tandem.
- Vary the formats of your content. Write articles, release survey results, produce video, record audio, generate ebooks and offer webinars, among others. The value can be significant while the technology to do so is often free.
Putting the Tips to the Test
As a new law firm owner, I often think about what I’m doing to maintain my online presence. Currently, I have two blogs and accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn for connecting with others, but I’m contemplating adding videos and a podcast this year as additional ways to connect with potential clients. I really appreciate Erika’s advice to be human and put energy into outlets that suit my personality. It’s a reminder that it’s good to talk about normal things like movies, food and events I’m attending, as well as my areas of professional interest. People want to hire a person, particularly when they’re hiring a solo or small firm attorney.
Thank you, Ari and Erika, for sharing such wonderful advice!
Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. She is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing her practice on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal 2012 Legal Rebel, Ruth is author of the ABA book “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” In “Nothing But the Ruth,” she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her practice. She blogs at UndeniableRuth.com. Follow her on Twitter @rbcarter.
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