Three Missed Opportunities in Law Firm Marketing
The generation of attorneys who still consider any type of “marketing” to be unprofessional is diminishing, concurrent with the increase of “Emeritus” partners listed on law firm websites. That evolution notwithstanding, most law firms and younger practitioners remain stuck in neutral, in terms of marketing sophistication.
Hard-wired to follow apparent industry “best practices” (mostly based on mimicking competitors), law firms of all sizes continue to miss opportunities to increase clients and revenue. But pathways for improvement are available. Adoption of a few simple marketing principles applied by successful professional services firms in other disciplines – including financial services, accounting, architecture, engineering, and management consulting – can drive consistent engagement with existing and new clients for any law firm or practitioner.
Here are three ways that law firms are missing opportunities to accomplish that goal:
Shortcoming #1: Over-Reliance on the Influence of Law Firm and Attorney Rankings
The proliferation of legal rankings combined with greater understanding of the economic self-interests of ranking providers has eroded the legitimacy of their “Super” and “Best” attorney and firm rankings, and greatly reduced the impact of rankings as a selection factor. Because these (largely “pay-to-play”) recognitions do not allow prospective clients to draw first-hand conclusions regarding a practitioner’s or firm’s ability to address their needs, they are a relatively weak and lazy marketing tactic.
Law firms and attorneys would be better served by not playing the rankings game, and investing whatever time and attention is required to create substantive content that showcases their intellectual capital in their areas of expertise, and by having that content published under their byline in respected business or industry publications. This earned media exposure generates an inherent 3rd party endorsement from an objective, credible source. In turn, these “credibility tools,” require no leap of faith regarding the practitioner’s or firm’s potential to add value. Prospective clients can judge that for themselves.
Shortcoming #2: Failure to Drive (Relevant) Top-of-Mind Awareness Among Target Audiences
Like other service-related businesses, law firms have no insight into when a client or prospect will require their services. So most law firm marketing plans are based on putting several lines in the water, and hoping something takes the bait. Practitioners and firms invest in online directories, on search engine optimization or paid search, on Google ads and even highway billboards to drive new business inquiries. At the same time, they often fail to leverage the strength of their most powerful marketing asset; by not communicating – effectively, consistently, or at all – with their established database of clients, prospects, and referral sources; ideally on a quarterly basis.
But driving top-of-mind awareness in an effective manner among established contacts does NOT mean sending them a laundry list of items about your firm’s recent wins, about its new class of summer interns, or about its charitable golf outing. Those largely self-promotional items are more appropriately communicated on social media. Direct communication is an opportunity, and an obligation, to demonstrate thought leadership and subject matter expertise (perhaps with a recap of your recently published bylined article?), and to address the most important question on the minds of all your recipients: “What’s in this for ME?”
Shortcoming #3: Not Managing the Sales Cycle by Hijacking the Buyer’s Journey
Some law firms are unwilling to directly solicit prospective clients, either for fear of appearing desperate for business, or being accused of acting unprofessionally in attempting to displace a prospect’s current law firm. But if your firm accepts the notion that business development is a game played with a hardball rather than a softball, there are effective ways to shorten the sales cycle without compromising the written and unwritten rules of law firm marketing. Notably, this involves hijacking the Buyer’s Journey.
What does that mean?
By approaching high-value, targeted prospects with well-crafted, tailored solicitations that describe a solution to a specific problem or opportunity, a law firm can:
- Demonstrate its value proposition (Create the “Awareness” Stage)
- Gain competitive advantage (Eliminate the “Decision” Stage)
- Immediately engage with prospects on a substantive basis (Initiate the “Consideration” Stage)
- Avoid competition and responding to RFPs and RFIs, and
- Earn a position on the prospect's “short list” for future assignments
For decades, successful professional services firms have applied these same strategic marketing principles to drive consistent client and revenue growth. There’s no reason why law firms can’t benefit from these practices as well.