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Practical Low and No Cost Marketing and Rainmaking

by Dan Pinnington

May 2006

Some lawyers find rainmaking very natural and easy, others struggle with it, and some are oblivious to the need to market their services. But in today's competitive environment, a marketing and client development plan is essential. The most successful rainmakers are using both traditional and technology-based marketing opportunities

An individual marketing plan is often more about a commitment of time than a financial one. Marketing legal services does not lead to instant results. Not everyone needs legal services at the moment. Good marketing does pay off, but generally only slowly and with a steady effort over the long haul. Therefore is it critical that you market yourself on an ongoing basis, even when business is good.

While you should have a formal marketing plan, you can market yourself at little or now cost by networking, having a prepared an elevator speech, and making sure your office is presentable and professional.

Networking

Networking is an essential part of marketing, as well as your own personal development. Meeting regularly with other non-legal professionals, and people in other walks of life, broadens your perspectives and provides insight into others’ issues and concerns.

Never join a civic, non-profit or social organization just to make new business contacts. If you believe in a group’s mission and goals, then by all means participate, and perhaps you will meet someone who can be a client or business source. If you do not believe in an organization, you will more likely fail to complete some assignment or just be an uninvolved, apathetic member. People will see through you and this is more likely to damage your reputation than to enhance it.

Use your client's goods or services (and don't ask for discounts). Build bridges and relationships by introducing your clients to each other, and by sending referrals to them. These efforts will be returned to you in kind.

Don't be afraid to ask your clients for referrals. You would be surprised at how often your clients won’t think of referring work to you, or may assume you don't want referrals from them. Lawyers often hesitate to ask clients for work because it may look like they are struggling financially or need to find more work. This concern shouldn’t prevent you from seeking referrals from clients.

Prepare an elevator speech

All lawyers should have their own carefully planned and crafted “elevator speech.” An elevator speech should grab someone’s attention and say a lot in relatively few words. It is not a direct sales pitch. Don't get caught up in telling the listener how great your services are. Rather, describe what you do, and show passion for it. You are marketing yourself and/or your firm in a way that will make people want to know more about you, not put them off.

Include an introduction, emphasize the benefits you provide or solutions you offer, and showcase your uniqueness or how you are different from the competition. Write and rewrite your speech, sharpening its focus and eliminating unnecessary words, legal jargon and awkward constructions. Consider including a compelling "hook" or intriguing aspect that will engage the listener, prompt him or her to ask questions, and keep the conversation going.

Generally, your speech should not be longer than 30 to 60 seconds. In some circumstances, a longer pitch may be appropriate. Develop different versions -- length and content-wise – for different situations or audiences.

Memorize and practice your speech. It should sound effortless, conversational, and natural. Let your personality shine through. When delivering your speech, be warm, friendly, confident, and enthusiastic. A smile is the best way to show friendliness and enthusiasm, while a strong, firm voice the best way to express confidence. Don't rush through it, pause briefly between sentences. Maintain eye contact with your listener.

Wrap up earlier than you were planning if you see the listener's eyes glazing over or interest waning. End with an action request: Ask for a business card or find out if the listener would like to hear more. Steer the conversation back to the listener and ask what he does.

This will show that you are interested in him, and may help you gain an appreciation of where your services might be required.

Rather than saying “I am a family law lawyer,” try:

“My name is Courtney Filer. I am a senior partner at Start Over and Associates law firm. I am certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as a specialist in family law. I try to protect my client’s legal and property rights when their marriage breaks down; and I help them deal with the many issues that you typically find when marriages or relationships fail.”

Or, rather than saying “I am a wills and estates lawyer,” try:

“Hi. My name is John Goodbye and I am a wills and estates planning lawyer at the Say Goodbye and Associates law firm. I have more than 15 years of experience in helping individuals plan how to dispose of their estates in a way that will reduce taxes and ensure as much as possible reaches the hands of beneficiaries. I also do a lot of work helping clients with business succession planning.”

Marketing yourself with your office

Although you may not realize it, your office and reception area speak volumes about you and the quality service that your firm provides. What impression of you does your office, desk and reception area give your clients?

Sit in the client’s chair in your office for three minutes and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is your office neat and tidy?
  2. Is your desk clear of files and documents from other matters when you meet with a client? A cluttered desk distracts both you and your clients.
  3. Have you personalized your office with pictures of family, artifacts or items that reflect your hobbies or interests?
  4. Does your office layout give you the option of a separate room for meeting with clients? This allows you to meet with a client in a clean desk.

Your reception area is the first part of your firm that clients see when they arrive, and the last thing they see when they leave. Sit in your reception area for three minutes and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is it professional, neat and presentable?
  2. Is your receptionist presentable and professional?
  3. Are your reception relief people equally presentable and professional (or do they consider time at reception as a break and read a book or magazine)?
  4. Can clients see what is on the reception computer screen? If so, consider relocating it or putting a privacy filter on it (so that it is only visible in a narrow field of vision looking at it straight on).
  5. Can clients easily eavesdrop on what your receptionist is saying on incoming telephone calls? Is your receptionist discreet in dealing with this?
  6. Is the receptionist desk clear of client files and documents?
  7. Is there water or fresh coffee?
  8. Are there toys for children? This can be appropriate for some firms, inappropriate for others, and in some cases, appropriate for some clients of a firm but not for others.
  9. Are reading materials current? Anything older than three months should be tossed out.
  10. Do you have newsletters or brochures that cross-market your firm’s services?

This article is an excerpt of managing a better professional services firm, a resource created as part of the practicePRO risk management initiative (www.practicepro.ca) by the Lawyers' Professional Indemnity Company. The full booklet is available at www.practicepro.ca/servicesbooklet

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