More on Marketing…

A business attorney in solo practice who just relocated to a very large city and knows not a soul e-mailed me for marketing advice.  My reply…

Here’s my recipe for marketing, which has worked for me:
1.  You need a kick-ass website.  This doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands of dollars a month on search engine optimization.  This means you have a site that’s easy to navigate and to which you add new content regularly, like once a week.  Once you have a solid website, you will point your other marketing efforts to it, which will increase its rankings in searches.
2.  You need to get out there.  Traditional advertising (TV, radio, print) only works if you have a giant budget to throw at a campaign designed to touch people at least seven times with regular frequency.  I believe people across the board have ceased thinking that traditional advertising has some correlation to the firm’s quality (full page ad in Yellow Pages = good lawyer) and rely more on referrals or recommendations.  Building relationships is the new way to market anything, from a law firm to a bank to a bakery to a personal trainer.  The fastest way to build relationships as a business lawyer, I think, is to join a local chamber of commerce.  Attend every event they have and find out from the salesperson who sells you the membership how you can get in front of people to do a seminar.  Popular topics out here are Entity Formation, Employee vs Independent Contractor Classifications, and How to Collect Money You’re Owed.
Don’t make the mistake I did by marketing to business owners.  Marketing to the end client is often an exercise in futility and has very low ROI.  Instead, find other professionals who market to your same clients – CPAs, bankers, commercial insurance brokers, other lawyers (more on this later).  Develop these relationships and the referrals will come.
3.  Be a resource.  Too many people believe networking is running around a room handing your business card to as many people as possible.  Networking should be less about what the person you meet can do for you and more about what you can do for them.  If you can be a resource to people, they will value you and keep you in mind for the future.  Whenever I meet someone, I always ask “who are you looking to meet?”  Then, I do my best to facilitate an introduction.  Become the go-to guy.
Being a resource includes teaching seminars on topics you’d normally be able to bill for.  You want to educate people because those who are going to do it on their own will do that anyway.  Many people get the education and realize how complex the work may be and hire you.  Be generous with your information.  It will come back to you.
4.  Keep in touch with the people you meet.  I’m not going to lie; networking is exhausting.  For probably the first 18 months of my practice, I went to at least two events a day.  I was a cranky girl.  But, I amassed a pretty decent sized database of people.  Now, I keep in touch with them through my e-mail newsletter that I send once a month if I’m not lazy, which I have been lately.  My newsletter is simply a collection of my three most recent blog articles, with a quick intro paragraph and a conclusion.  It takes me about 10 minutes to put it together and I use Constant Contact to send it out.
I also have a decent-sized Twitter following and about 1,000 Facebook friends.  I use both my Facebook and Twitter accounts for business, which doesn’t mean I post exclusively business related information.  That’s boring.  I mix about 50/50 personal and business.  I obviously don’t get TOO personal, but showing you have a human side makes you more approachable and people are more likely to trust you, which lawyers don’t get the benefit of right off the bat.  My business posts are a combination of promoting my blog and other articles I find online that might be of interest to business owners.
5. Network with other lawyers.  I need to take my own advice on this one.  I don’t like most lawyers I meet, so I don’t particularly like networking with them.  However, they are more than likely the best source of referrals for you.  Those in big firms are constantly meeting with clients who can’t afford their fees and they would rather refer them to a warm body than shove them out the door.  Be that warm body.  An attorney I knew from law school wrote letters to a bunch of his fellow alumni announcing that he’d opened his own practice and would like the opportunity to learn about what areas of law I practiced.  He got every single family law referral from me for three years.  It was a cheap way of reaching people and worked like a charm.
When you network with other lawyers, let them know you’re available on a contract basis.  That way they can still get the work done for the client, get paid, and look like a hero, and you don’t even have to take on the client.  Those gigs are pretty good as long as your fees aren’t too high.
If you are in a city that has some industry, which I assume yours does, write those types of letters to the general counsels of a few big companies.  Introduce yourself and your background and let them know you’re available for overflow work.