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Advice for Startups

Free Marketing Is Always the Place to Start When Building Your Law Firm

By Ali Katz

In this preview from her upcoming book, “The New Law Business Model Revealed,” attorney Ali Katz explains the ways free marketing can build your practice.

Free Marketing Book Cover New Law Business ModelLike so many lawyers, I knew nothing about marketing when I first started my law practice. I was shocked by just how much there was to learn and how costly it would be to learn it. In law school, I wasn’t taught how to engage clients, and neither were any of the other lawyers I’ve met over the years. We came into this field assuming that once we had the education, the law degree and the skills, people would flock to us, ready to buy our services.

But that’s not how it works with legal practices — or with any business, for that matter.

Fortunately, you can build your practice without spending too much money if you start by learning to use free marketing.

What Is Free Marketing?

When you think about “free marketing,” you probably think of networking. But networking the old way — going to every coffee and lunch you are invited to — gets costly quickly, especially when it takes up all your time and energy and rarely turns into paying clients.

Using free marketing effectively starts with strategically shifting from the old way of marketing and business development.

Free marketing means educating your potential clients and referral sources. One way to do this is by speaking to affinity groups and attending the expos and trade shows where your ideal clients show up and are ready to learn from you. When leveraging free marketing, it’s all about giving away education of value to people who, in exchange, will give you their email address, and possibly even phone number, because they want to hear more from you going forward.

How Does Free Marketing Work?

To use free marketing effectively, you need three things:

  1. A topic of interest to educate your ideal clients. 
  2. A free piece of follow-up content — a book, report, or even a webinar you can send out after meeting people interested in learning from you. 
  3. An automated, personalized follow-up system, in which you consistently communicate with your ideal clients, making regular offers and giving new reasons, inviting them to come in and meet with you for a scripted, proven meeting that turns them into paying clients.

One of the most effective ways to leverage free marketing is to speak to relevant groups in your community. For me, this meant conducting lunch-and-learn sessions at tech offices and other law firms. It meant educating members of parents’ clubs, community service organizations, real estate brokers, CPAs and churches with young family bases. I learned to make sure that every speaking engagement translated into at least one booked initial consultation by making an immediate offer to meet with me for my initial consultation — an educational meeting scripted and designed to result in me getting hired. In addition, I consistently communicated with those not ready to meet with me using an automated, personalized follow-up system.

Stay Engaged! A System for Following Up Is Critical

All the free marketing you do will be for nothing if you aren’t able to stay engaged with the leads you receive. Creating an automated, personalized follow-up system is not that difficult — or costly — with the email marketing platforms available today. Such a system allows you to stay engaged with everyone you meet at speaking engagements or other events in a way that is both efficient and effective.

I’ll say it again: If you do not have an effective system for following up with the people you meet through your free marketing, you’ll be leaving huge amounts of income and impact on the table.

Typically, a potential client needs to be exposed to you and your message about a dozen times before they are ready to make a hiring decision. This is what builds the “know, like and trust” factor that results in you getting hired. Most lawyers are afraid to follow up even once, or they don’t have the systems to do it. So, if you have a system to help you make consistent, weekly contact with the people you meet via alerts or newsletters or educational material, you will stand out from the crowd in a way that truly matters.

Thanks to my systems, I was able to stay top of mind with 5,000 people in my community. Most lawyers aren’t willing to email their audience more than once, much less weekly, because they think it’s annoying. What they don’t realize is that it’s only annoying to people who aren’t interested in their services, or if they are sending out uninteresting legal content.

And, while only about 15% of the 5,000 people on my email list opened any given email I sent, that was still more than 600 people reading my messages regularly.

The content I sent out was personal and engaging, once I learned how to do it. People would come to my office after years of receiving my email newsletters and say, “Wow, Ali, it’s so good to meet you. I’ve been getting your emails for so long I feel as if I already know you.”

Remember, until your messaging is honed and your client engagement system is dialed in to the point where you’re getting hired by at least 80% of the people you c0nsult with, you only want to engage in free marketing. Only then is it time to make a financial investment in paid marketing, so you can ensure you’ll see a return on paid marketing.

This article was adapted with permission from the upcoming book “The New Law Business Model Revealed,” by Ali Katz. 

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Ali Katz Author Ali Katz

Ali Katz is the founder of Eyes Wide Open Life, Family Wealth Planning Institute, and New Law Business Model, named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies three years in a row. She is the author of the new book, “The New Law Business Model Revealed: Build a Lucrative Law Practice That You (and Your Clients) Love.” Ali graduated from Georgetown University Law Center as a John M. Olin Law and Economics Fellow, and was ranked first in her graduating law school class of 1999, under her prior name Alexis Martin Neely. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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