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.
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.