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Common Marketing Mistakes Attorneys Make

Written by Renee C. Quinn
B.S. Pennsylvania State University
M.B.A. University of Phoenix
Posted: April 20, 2011 @ 11:07 am
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It is probably safe to say that most attorneys are very good at what they do when it comes to the law they practice.  However, being a good or even great attorney does not a marketing expert make.  One thing for sure is that attorneys are busy and pay great attention to detail in their work. When it comes to marketing their businesses however, attorneys may find it difficult to take off their attorney “hats” and look at things from the outside in.  If an attorney or firm is to take on their own marketing agendas, there are some seemingly simple yet very basic elements that need to be implemented in order to see success.

Marketing and brand building for individual attorneys and small firms is crucial to business success, especially in the beginning stages of business development.  For established firms and larger firms, effective marketing and brand building is also critical sustaining that which they’ve accomplished while also seeing new growth.   What works for smaller firms and individual attorneys may not necessarily work for the larger more established firms.  However, knowing the right ways to market your firm and build your brand will inevitably lead to success regardless of size.

Marketing goes way beyond that of simply putting out some ads.  There is a lot of things a firm can do to build a successful marketing campaign, but there are even more things a firm can do that can sabotage your marketing efforts.  Following are seven of the more common marketing mistakes made by attorneys and firms of all sizes and what you can do to move past those mistakes toward a successful marketing campaign.

1. NOT HAVING A WEBSITE

It’s hard to believe that in the technologically savvy world that we live in, there are still many businesses, including attorneys, that do not have a website.  If this is the case for you, you are making a big mistake.  Think of it this way, when you want to learn about a business, such as a doctor, a plumber, an electrician, etc, what is the first thing you do?  Most likely you open up your computer and search for them online.  Having a website is one of the most inexpensive yet highly effective forms of advertising.  It’s a great way to let others know what services you offer and how to reach you.  It also allows you to share more information with prospective clients than does many other forms of advertising.  Having a website will not guarantee new clients, but without a website you guaranteed will be missing out on business.

2. USING GENERIC EMAIL ADDRESSES

Using an AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo!, Gmail or any other generic email address gives the impression that you are not a serious contender. This is especially geared toward attorneys who are fresh out of law school, just starting out on their own, or starting a new firm with new partners, but also includes any attorneys whose firm does not have a website.

If you want to look professional, experienced and grounded, you need an email address that will convey these messages for you.  In most cases, when you purchase domain names, you will often get free professional email @ the domain you purchase.  If you still do not plan on having a website or your own, GoDaddy.Com offers email plains as low as $1.07 per month if all you want is one professional email address.

3. NO BUSINESS CARDS ON YOUR PERSON

It never ceases to amaze me how many attorneys do not carry business cards with them when they attend programs that specifically afford them the opportunity to network.  When I meet attorneys at different functions, all too often they will tell me that they forgot their business cards.  What?!?  How could you forget your business cards?  You are your best form of advertising so what message does not having a business card portray?  How often do you meet people at functions only to forget their name and/or business as soon as they are out of sight?  People will not remember you unless you give them something to remember you by.

4. NOT KNOWING WHO YOUR TARGET MARKET IS

Before you can prepare and implement a successful marketing strategy, you must first identify who your target market is.  Perhaps your firm has many areas of practice and expertise, but marketing to anyone and everyone will not lead to success.  Instead you must ask yourself, “Who is my ideal client?  Where are they located?  What are their needs and how can I meet those needs?”   This may seem like a simple task, but in reality, it takes serious time, thought and effort in order to successfully and sufficiently identify who your target audience is.

Although you may instinctively want to sell your services to any and all prospective clients, you will be most successful in your marketing efforts if you can identify a specific market segment, or identifiable group of individuals or organizations, sharing one or more characteristics or needs, that you would like to focus your marketing efforts on.

5. SELLING NOT MARKETING

So frequently people equate “Marketing” with meaning “Sales.” According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary,

Sales is defined as 1 a: of, relating to, or used in selling b (1): to give up property to another for something of value (as money) (2) to offer for sale

Marketing is defined as 1 a: the act or process of selling or purchasing in a market b: the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service

According to BusinessDictionary.com,

Sales is defined as a contract involving transfer of the possession and ownership (title) of a good or property, or the entitlement to a service, in exchange for money or value

Marketing is defined as the management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer

Although they may seem as one in the same they are really quite different. “Sales” essentially means the exchanging of goods, i.e., giving products or services in exchange for something of value, such as money.  In sales, something actually changes hands.  “Marketing” however, refers to the process that leads to the exchanging of goods, the key terms being “the process that leads to…”

In other words, simply making a sale does not mean you are marketing your products and services effectively.  Effective marketing is the process by which you promote your firm through the sharing of information with prospective clients about what you have to offer, with the ultimate goal being that a sale is made.  Without an effective marketing strategy, you are far less likely to facilitate the sale.

6. OVERSELLING

You do not have to “sell” yourself to make sales.  In fact, the opposite is true.  The more you “sell” yourself, the less likely you are to land the client at hand.  With the widespread use of the Internet, consumers, no matter how sophisticated, no matter how mobile, and no matter how remote are no longer forced to settle for the first products and services that come along. They have the freedom to choose their providers and products now more than ever.

Clients do not want to be sold to by their prospective attorney.  If you approach your clients as if you were a car salesman, you are far less likely to get the work.  If you find yourself thinking, “But wait…  There’s More!” the likelihood is you are overselling.  Ask prospective clients what their needs are then educate them, increasing their awareness of your firm and the specific ways that your firm can meet those needs.  Talk about your firm in language that cites the benefits and goals that the client would not only benefit from but will find value in.  Use wording such as “We help clients (fill in the blank) rather than, “Do you need this?  Well have we got the answer for you!”  A

7. FORGETTING TO BUILD YOUR BRAND

A very important aspect of effective marketing is to build a strong brand identity through positioning and name recognition. Even though attorneys sell services and generally A brand is defined as a unique color scheme, design, sign, symbol, logo or phrase or a combination of these used in creating an image that identifies a firm’s product and services and differentiates that firm’s products and service from that of its competitors.  Therefore, in order to effectively build a positive and strong brand identity, you need to determine what image and message you wish to portray and then consistently deliver that message through the same look and feel of all of your marketing materials.

Building a brand takes time, because the message must be ingrained into the minds of your target market.  You need to differentiate your firm from your competitors, building a strong brand identity that will ultimately result in higher profit margins in comparison to your competition.

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Posted in: Attorneys, Brand Building, Business, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Marketing, Renee Quinn

About the Author

Renee C. Quinn acquired a Masters of Business Administration with her course work focusing on e-Commerce and e-Business, with an emphasis on marketing via the World Wide Web. Her particular career focus to date has been on business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing. She writes on various business and social media topics for IPWatchdog.com. You can follow Renee on Twitter at IPWatchdog_Too. Renee is available to consult with individuals and businesses on how to set up and effectively use social media and social networking tools to establish a successful marketing campaign. You can contact Renee via e-mail.

7 comments
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  1. Yes, yes, yes. #2. Don’t tell me your a professional and hand me a business card with a hotmail account on it ok?

  2. Renee,

    Nice reminder to us folks who can sell a case, but have trouble marketing our services. Item no. 3 (have business cards at all times) was the greatest advice I ever got from a former partner of my dad. Business cards are a medium of exchange in the networking world, and not having them with you leaves you without “marketing coin.”

    Responding to item no. 5 (marketing not selling), before I offer my business card, I ask the other party for theirs (and look at it carefully). Alternatively, I suggest “let’s make an exchange of business cards.” I also try to find out what the other party does. That makes the marketing/networking a two-way street.

    As you might gather, marketing/networking isn’t an inherent gift I’ve got. Instead, I learned these techniques the hard way and from watching (and listening) to other attorneys who do marketing well. Law schools are frankly awful in how they fail to each their students how to do this basic and critical task for being successful as an attorney.

  3. “Law schools are frankly awful in how they fail to each their students how to do this basic and critical task for being successful as an attorney.”

    That’s about number 157 on the list of things law schools are awful at teaching.

  4. An important aspect of marketing is making the message easy to remember. This means either being having a short name, one that has relates to the field, or both.

    This aspect applies to both the marketer (attorney) and the prospective client. I had a lawyer-like domain name and email address for a while, and I always had to speak the letters one by one so a prospective client or client could write it – and few if any ever remembered it. I’ve also noted this trouble with other law firm websites – MumbleMumblelaw.com is difficult to remember unless I personally know Mumble and Mumble.

    To improve my message, I looked closely at my field (patents and intellectual property), and did a lot of domain searches until I found one easy to remember and available. Then I registered the domain and copied over my website.

    I also learned the trifecta of how popular, powerful, and easy to use is a gmail account. I got an easy to remember – yet lawyer-like gmail address. Now I market with two easy to remember keys. “If you’ve got a bright idea, please visit my website, gotabrightidea.com” and my grplaw (the lawyerly initials plus the word law) gmail address. I’ve received several complements on the domain name (and I’m told the website isn’t so bad either).

    Lastly, join a business networking group. The marketing (pitching) practice you get is invaluable, you may get some business as well, and you get to know people you can trust when you need products or services.

  5. Thank you all for taking the time to comment on my article.

    Marketing Yourself-

    Agreed. It never ceases to amaze me how often these little things are overlooked by “professionals.” Thank you for following IPWatchdog.com

    EG-

    Thank you for your input. It really blows me away how frequently I ask people for business cards and they say they do not have them. It really is such an important and relatively inexpensive marketing tool. And with companies like Vistaprint, having professional looking business cards is not a high cost endeavor. Business cards are just as important a marketing tool as an ad campaign and in fact has arguably a greater impact than do your typical ad campaigns. As always, thank you for reading IPWatchdog.com

    Prof. Lutz-

    Thank you for your input. I think it is safe to say that most graduate programs do not offer the “real world” info that students need. Thank you for reading IPWatchdog.com

    Prettyman-

    I agree with you on the easy to remember domain name. There are so many domain names still available and with a little imagination and some time well spent searching as you did, an easy to remember domain name should be easy to get.

    As far as your comment on your gmail address, I have to still disagree. From a non attorney point of view (and as reiterated by the first comment above) have a generic email gives the impression that you are not rooted. Since you have a website address, it is not difficult to add an email with the same @ address as your domain. What it also does is it gives a consistant message and consistency is key to a strong marketing campaign.

    More importantly, even if your email is in a list of other emails being cc’d, a prospective client can simply cut and past the end of your email into a url track and Voila, they are at your website! A gmail account, albeit much more professional than hotmail, will still not give you these added benefits. Thank you so much for reading IPWatchdog.com.

    -Renée

  6. I want to extend the point about business cards. I feel it is important that lawyers (and all client driven professionals) have a linkedin account. This social media site can act as your virtual business card and help professionals to connect to clients and, by extension, become introduced to others in their client’s field that may require their services.

  7. Simon-

    I am working on another article currently that will focus on the use of social media by the attorney. I agree, LinkedIn does act as a virtual business card, and is fantastic for those who find you online. However, if when you meet someone in a real world setting and you do not have a business card to share, unless you have made a very marked impression on those you meet, they will be less likely to look for your profile on LinkedIn or otherwise (either because they forgot your name or were turned off by your not having a business card). I will cover this topic specifically in my article.

    Having a business card in hand is key when meeting people face to face. Thank you for reading IPWatchdog and for taking the time to comment.

    -Renée