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Twenty Marketing Tips for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers
by Larry Bodine
May 2004

Forget the Yellow Pages. They're expensive and won't generate the clientele you'll want. Instead let me give you several better ideas that will get you better, and more clients:
  1. Marketing is a contact sport, so get out of your office and start meeting people. Get active in your local business community. Join the chamber of commerce, Rotary, and other service clubs. Go for the purpose of making as many new friends as you can.
     
  2. Make a list of groups, people or companies that might be a good target for you. Look for a common theme. Pick one of those groups to focus on over the next six months. When you have figured out that target group do some research—what trade organizations, associations, etc. do those people belong to? What do they read? Where do they hang out? What would they be interested in learning about? What might they need? Who are their competitors?
     
  3. Get active in the trade associations where most of your clients come from. Go to the meetings and volunteer to be active on a committee. Find ways to make yourself useful. Work your way into a role on the program committee or publication, where you can make a big difference in the organization.
     
  4. Write articles. The same trade associations will be dying for articles. Write a column for your local weekly newspaper. Find a newsletter or Web site that is read by your clients and write articles for them. Pick a topic and two or three targeted publications. If your firm has a marketing person, they can contact the publication for you. Otherwise, you can make the call yourself.
     
  5. Get on the lecture circuit. An in-person presentation is the single most impressive marketing tactic you can try. Tailor your presentation to the audience and talk about how you can help them. Take along plenty of business cards.
     
  6. Get a Web site. A new study by Touchpoint Metrics of San Rafael, CA, proved that law firms are getting new business from their Web sites. The report found that articles and white papers written by the firms’ lawyers generate visitors who become new clients. It also reported that there is a significant competitive advantage for firms that deploy a Web site as a component of their prospect generation, marketing, and client service efforts. Put your Web address on your business cards, letterhead, and brochures.
     
  7. Use your lunch hour for networking. Never eat lunch alone. Call people who can refer you business and take them out to lunch at the local restaurant. This would include your local realtor, accountant, lawyers at larger firms, bankers, etc. Also, contact all your law school classmates, just to say "hi." Find out what they're doing and let them know you can handle their referrals.
     
  8. Spend $150 and get a handheld PDA to record your contact list. You should spend time really getting to know your referral sources—find out their kid's names, the person's hobby, and what they do for fun. Ask them their birthday. Write all of this down in your PDA device so you can instantly find it. Make sure to get everyone's e-mail address.
     
  9. Sit down and write an individual marketing plan. Decide that you are going to spend $5,000 in the next 12 months for marketing and figure out how to spend it. This is not an expense, this is an investment in yourself. To get a free form, visit the LawMarketing Portal at www.lawmarketing.com, click on Resources, and click on Individual Marketing Planning Form.
     
  10. Develop an e-mail distribution list. It can be to individuals at first—send the realtor a "happy birthday" wish by e-mail (you should have this address in your PDA). As your list grows, you can start to send your contact list legal alerts, money-saving tips, or a newsletter.
     
  11. Join the PM Forum, a global organization of 3,000 marketers in the law, accounting, and management consulting fields. The Web site at www.PMForumNA.org and the association's magazine features articles about best practices in professional services marketing.
     
  12. Your marketing plan must mesh with your strategic plan for your future. Creating a marketing plan is only one component of your success. The creation of the marketing plan is what comes after developing your goals and objectives for what you want your practice to be and look like.
     
  13. Create a budget or financial plan by which you can measure your success. Your goals might include increasing revenue by $100,000, opening 10 new files worth $1,000 in revenue per month, or launching a new practice area that will generate $20,000 per year.
     
  14. Build on your existing base in one area of law and decide what other areas you'd like to expand into. This requires that you ask yourself, "What am I good at?" "Which of those do I like most?" and "Which will clients buy?" If the clients won't buy anything you are good at, then you need to upgrade your skills. This is tough to do in solo practice but always worth it.
     
  15. Broaden your services to existing clients. Let your clients know what other skills you have that they haven't tried yet. Many techniques will work—face to face; seminars; speaking to trade associations; direct mail pieces; e-mail newsletters...the list is endless, which is why a marketing plan is necessary. Once again, picking the techniques you are comfortable with works best. If you are strong face to face—do lunch. If you are more of a podium speaker, hit the circuit.
     
  16. Referrals from other lawyers are your best source of new business. Contact lawyers in your area who may not provide the services you have experience in and solicit your services for referrals. Be certain to do a good job the first time, and then work on broadening their confidence. Also solicit experienced litigators for conflict referrals. Litigation boutiques in larger cities do virtually nothing but conflict work referred from mega firms.
     
  17. Solicit referrals from other professionals. You probably have a banker who wants you to pay loans and a CPA who needs his fees paid. Tell him what you do and ask him to recommend your services. Most surveys show that the accountant is the first advisor called in a crisis. Litigators thrive on crisis referrals. Get your name on their Rolodex or PDA.
     
  18. Do not try to be all things to all clients. Focus on niches. But also accept any work you can do well. Refer work you cannot do well to other lawyers, and the lawyer you refer it to may return the favor.
     
  19. Visit the LawMarketing Store at http://www.lawmarketing.biz/Store/ and buy a book, video, audio, encyclopedia, or newsletter about marketing. There are also titles on customer satisfaction, management, and relationship selling.
     
  20. Consider hiring a coach and attending marketing training classes. Rainmaking is very personal. While marketing is natural for some lawyers, other aspects of forming a client relationship and making "the close" are a mystical, Zen-like art form. Without these skills, your marketing skills are wasted.

Larry Bodine, is the North American Regional Director for the PM Forum, a global association of 3,000 marketers in the law, accounting and consulting professions. Larry can be reached at 630.942.0977 and Lbodine@PMForumNA.org.