Every attorney wants more of the right kind of business, yet I regularly encounter smart professionals who operate under revenue-limiting marketing fallacies that hamper their business development efforts. Very often, lawyers adhere to longstanding — yet erroneous — myths, handed down by successful people who have served as role models for generations of attorneys. Because these myths emanate from such respected sources and were at one time accurate or at least contained a facet of truth, they are difficult to reject. It’s also human nature to resist change, making it both more comfortable and easier to accept these myths as fact and maintain the status quo. It can be challenging to explore new ways of doing things or accept that we may have fallen behind and must catch up. It’s preferable, however, to strive to catch up than it is to fall by the wayside and ultimately off the map. Therefore, reevaluating some of these fallacies can help you enhance your marketing and pave the way to income.
• “Our business is based on relationships.” At the beginning of a meeting, professionals often explain that their business comes from relationships as a way to rationalize why “traditional” marketing — online lead generation, newsletters, publishing bylined articles — doesn’t apply to them. There is an inference from this that because you generate leads through relationships, all your marketing should be one-on-one. This is a limiting concept because your universe of qualified prospects far exceeds just those individuals you know.
All professional services generate business through relationships; however, the initial contact can come through what may seem like impersonal sources, such as through your website or receiving a direct mail piece. Marketing is about creating opportunities to initiate and build productive relationships. Some opportunities are more personal than others, such as when one client introduces you to his golfing buddy who may be a prospective client. You must decide if you want to wait for these relationship-building opportunities to come to you or generate additional opportunities by elevating your visibility and credibility.
Those you connect with, whether for the first time or over the long term, need to consistently be reminded of who you are and how you benefit them. Others who seek to appropriate your relationships are persistently pursuing these clients. Consequently, a consistent marketing program will not only help you remain front-and-center for these existing clients, but it will also expand your circle of prospective clients and referral sources.
• “All our business is through word of mouth.” If you believe you garner business only through word of mouth, you are again limiting your opportunities. Just as relying solely on relationships to attract new clients narrows your field of prospects, so, too, does depending on others who know you to spread the word about you and your firm. To remind those who are already familiar with you and acquaint those who don’t yet know about you with your education and experience, you need a consistent marketing and public relations program, which multiplies the number of individuals who are talking about you and enhances your reputation in both your existing and expanding circles.
• “Our clients are too sophisticated (or wealthy) to look for a lawyer online.” This fallacy is likely aging faster than any other. You, too, are sophisticated and more than likely you begin your searches for everything online. It makes sense that corporate counsel, high net worth individuals, or adult children who are searching on behalf of their high net worth parents would do the same. Once they have the results of their searches, these prospective clients will do their due diligence by seeking referrals from those they trust. When you are among those referrals and your name has also surfaced in their Google searches, you have made the short list. If the prospect is given your name and that of another attorney, your substantive website and on-target biography will give you the advantage.
It’s critical to have a website so robust it makes it immediately clear to prospective clients that they have come to the right place. Because Google seems to favor LinkedIn, you will also need your LinkedIn profile to be as complete and up-to-date as possible.
Your search engine rankings are equally important. You want to come up on the first page of search engine results and as close to the top of the search as possible, ideally in the top three spots. Achieving this status can occur organically through focused search engine optimization, commonly referred to as SEO. You can also appear at or near the top through sponsored searches — pay per click — and either approach requires a focused and ongoing marketing effort.
• “I don’t have time for social media, or I’m too old for social media.” Most likely, social media is broader than you believe, encompassing blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other important online avenues. Everything in marketing takes time, and you have to prioritize. Depending on your practice area, social media may or may not be among your top priorities. As a professional, however, you should at least focus on your LinkedIn profile and network, and taking advantage of this professional site as a communications vehicle.
Blogs can also be a valuable means of increasing your search engine ranking and enhancing your visibility and credibility. If you’re going to embark on a blog, you need to commit to posting to it consistently — at least weekly. If you and your firm don’t think you can keep that pledge, focus your marketing elsewhere.
• “We’ll start our marketing after we finish our website.” Many lawyers never have the opportunity to get a marketing education. They learn on the job as they are exhorted to develop business, and therefore may not realize their firm website is a vital component of marketing, not separate from it. To execute the most effective marketing that will generate the most qualified leads, the tools in your marketing portfolio should be integrated so that the messages from one element reinforce those of the others. Time is limited so perhaps you are focused on getting your new or revamped website up and running, but it’s important to understand that all your marketing comes under the same umbrella.
• “We finished our website.” If you want your website to persuade prospects that you are the undisputed choice for them or serve as a lead-generation tool, your website is never finished. The first iteration may be complete, but websites must evolve. You want to expand and update your website to keep it current and fresh. That is the way to demonstrate energy and industry leadership.
Most likely, you and your firm have a marketing orientation, and business development is a high priority. Take a moment to consider these widely accepted revenue-limiting fallacies and reflect on whether your unrecognized, therefore unquestioned, adherence to some of them is hampering you. If so, take steps to ensure that you take the lead through effective and coordinated marketing efforts and cast off those ties that bind.
This article first appeared in The Recorder, a Legal affiliate based in San Francisco. •
Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Corp., a marketing and public relations firm which specializes in working with law firms. She can be reached at email@example.com