March 2009 Archives

March 30, 2009

Take a Look at the eBook to Market Your Practice

A couple of days ago, I came across an interesting piece from Portfolio.com about a deal between major publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and the online document document-archiving service Scribd that makes an increased number of best-sellers available for free as ebooks.  Though at first blush, giving away a core, revenue-generating product free seems crazy, publishing houses report that the freebies generate increased buzz and exposure on micro-blogging platforms and thus get the author's name and book title out to a wider circle. After reading this, I got to wondering why lawyers don't take a page from publishers and use and promote ebooks to gain greater exposure for their practices. Why indeed?

Turns out, some lawyers are already using ebooks as part of their marketing portfolio.  For example, consider Florida-based firm, Ricardo, Wasylik & Kaniuk, which released a 30-page ebook, The Consumer's Guide to Defending Florida Foreclosures.  The ebook helps consumers avoid the increasing number of sham "foreclosure prevention assistance centers" cropping up around that state which prey on consumer fears.  Plus, it's a way for the firm to demonstrate their expertise and provide useful information to the public. Finally, by requiring users to register for the ebook, the firm can build a mailing list.

Another Florida lawyer, Miami Criminal Defense attorney Brian Tannenbaum, devised his own innovative ebook concept.  Tannenbaum penned a 28-page ebook entitled The Truth About Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer.  Tannenbaum's book offers prospective clients straight-talking advice about what factors clients should consider in hiring a criminal defense lawyer and what clients can do to work with a criminal defense attorney to ensure the best possible outcome.  Tannenbaum's book gives his firm exposure and also educates clients about basics, such as: Be prepared to pay your lawyer!  My guess is that Tanenbaum's book deters those clients who don't realize that attorneys need to earn a living. 

Even more interesting, in order to generate exposure for his book, Tannenbaum asked A-list criminal defense attorney-bloggers like Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice and Mark Bennett of Defending People to review his ebook.  Thus, Tannenbaum set off a nice discussion about various approaches to criminal defense practice and in so doing, gained more visibility for his book.

If these examples have convinced you that an ebook may have marketing value for your firm, here are some ideas for getting started:

Continue reading "Take a Look at the eBook to Market Your Practice" »

March 16, 2009

Why Cold-Calling Is a Hot Idea for Marketing Your Law Firm

phone.jpgLawyers are supposed to be fearless, yet the thought of cold-calling for business is enough to send shivers of fear down most lawyers' spines.   Many lawyers believe that cold calls reek of desperation, while others reject them as undignified or unprofessional. 

But for all of the criticisms that cold calls receive, they're a hot way to market your law practice, if only because so few lawyers are willing to make them.  Moreover, cold calls offer an immediacy that even many social media sites can't replicate.  For example, let's say that you call a family law attorney to let him know that you're available for conflicts cases and unbundled matters.  The attorney may not have anything that fits the bill but may need someone to help out with overflow work on a contract basis.  Because of its interactive nature, a phone call allows you to explore these possibilities.  Cold calls are also inexpensive and efficient -- in the span of an hour, you can speak with five or six prospects.  By contrast, you'd probably need several more hours to draft a personal email to potential referral sources -- and there's no guarantee that the recipient would actually read it or respond.

Before you embark on cold calls, consult your bar rules.  Most bars prohibit phone calls soliciting business from consumer clients.  But these restrictions don't prevent you from contacting other lawyers or professionals to ask for business.  Likewise, if you represent more sophisticated clients, you can probably contact in-house counsel or an executive at the company to set up a meeting to discuss your services.

Once you've concluded that your cold calls pass muster under bar rules, below are some tips for getting started:

1.  Warm Up Your Cold Calls.  As a general rule, a warm call -- one where you can offer some plausible connection to the recipient -- works better than a random cold call, say, to another lawyer in the bar association.  Fortunately, with social networking tools like LinkedIn and online lawyer directories (including Nolo's Lawyer Directory), it's easy to find a connection to colleagues through their online profiles.  You may notice, for example, that another lawyer worked at the same firm where you once worked or attended the same law school.  All of these bits of information can help open the door. 

The other way to generate a warm call is to ask colleagues for people who you might contact about a matter.  Let's say that you want to let family law attorneys know about your estates practice so that you can help newly-divorced clients modify their estate plan.  If you have a friend who's mentioned a colleague who's a family lawyer, ask your friend if you can call and use his name. 

2.  Concoct a Reason for the Call. You're likely to get the best reception from a cold call if you can offer something of value instead of just asking for work.  When I started my law practice, I cold-called various professionals in my field, offering to send them a copy of a law review article that I'd just written.  Offering to send something made the calls less awkward and, in many cases, piqued my prospect's interest in learning more about my firm.  There are numerous excuses that you can give for making a call, from sharing information about a new blog to offering a checklist or ebook that might be useful to your prospects clients -- e.g., a consumer credit lawyer might give copies of a checklist on "Avoiding Foreclosure" to family law attorneys, whose clients might be on the brink of financial disaster following divorce.

3.  Get Organized.  Since cold calls can be uncomfortable, you're best off setting aside a chunk of time (mid-morning and after lunch work best) to make them in bulk, one right after the other.  Be sure to keep track of calls -- who you called and whether you need to call back at another time. 

4.  Write a script.  Cold calls can be awkward, so you'll want to jot down a script and practice it a couple of times.  Your script should include an introduction, your connection to the prospect -- and, most importantly, a question asking whether it's convenient to talk or if you should call back. 

5.  Think Positively.  If you're feeling desperate when making cold calls, prospects will hear it in your voice.  So think positively and smile across the phone lines. 

6.  Don't Quit.  Almost immediately, you'll get rejections or people who don't want to talk.  Just tough it out and try to finish.

7.  Try It At Least Once.  If you've never made a cold call, try it at least once.  There aren't any real financial costs associated with cold calls, so you have nothing to lose if they don't pan out.   Moreover, if you can muster up the guts to make a few cold calls, even a nasty opposing counsel won't seem quite as scary by comparison.
March 2, 2009

Marketing Through Testimonials: Giving and Receiving

Most of us lawyers know that inside a courtroom, there's nothing quite as compelling as testimony, a personal narrative of events from witnesses with personal knowledge of the facts of the case.  So it's surprising, then, that few lawyers recognize the value of a related marketing concept -- the testimonial -- wherein a lawyer's clients or colleagues endorse or recommend a lawyer's service or qualifications based on personal impressions formed during their professional relationship.

Like testimony in court, testimonials are compelling because they're personalized.  In contrast to the cookie-cutter jargon that most lawyers include in brochures and websites about being compassionate or caring or responsive or aggressive advocates, the best testimonials convey those same concepts through examples drawn from an individual's personal experience.  In addition, testimonials frequently focus on points that matter to potential clients, but that a lawyer might not recognize as important.  For example, some testimonials I've seen compliment lawyers on their staff's friendliness -- a significant benefit for harried or stressed clients, but not necessarily a feature that most lawyers would think to highlight in their marketing materials. 

On the other hand, just like the witness whose testimony goes south in the courtroom, a poorly executed testimonial can do far more harm than good.  Testimonials from fellow lawyers that simply state "nice guy, great lawyer" aren't worth the bandwidth they require, while testimonials that are clearly reciprocal -- i.e., where one lawyer endorses a colleague and the colleague returns the favor without any useful information -- can damage a lawyer's credibility.  In addition, testimonials that aren't truthful or that violate client confidentiality rules can put lawyers in trouble with the bar.  In fact, as discussed below, lawyers should consult their respective bar rules prior to seeking testimonials from clients -- or even other lawyers -- because some bars do prohibit the practice.

Below are some how-tos for getting effective and compelling testimonials from clients and lawyers and using them in marketing materials.  But when it comes to testimonials, many lawyers find that giving is just as important as receiving -- and I'll also detail some ways to offer testimonials to colleagues and service providers to generate ancillary benefits for yourself.

A.  Getting Testimonials

1.  What Is Appropriate for a Testimonial?

Testimonials are appropriate for virtually any type of service that you provide.  If you are marketing a divorce or bankruptcy or criminal practice, then testimonials from clients on everything from their satisfaction with your work or your personality and demeanor are appropriate.  On the other hand, if you're trying to generate more referral-based work from other lawyers, then testimonials from lawyers who've worked with you and are familiar with your skills and reliability make the most sense.

But you're not limited to testimonials about your work.  If you write a great blog or produced an e-book, why not ask for endorsements from other readers?  A testimonial about your online materials can help them stand out from the avalanche of information available on the Internet.

2.  How Do I Use Testimonials?

You can incorporate testimonials into your marketing materials in a variety of ways.  For example, you can include testimonials in written brochures and at your website.  As noted, many online lawyer listing services like Avvo or LinkedIn allow users to post testimonials as well.  Finally, some lawyers choose not to publicize testimonials and make them available to prospects on request instead.

3.  Consult the Bar Rules

Before you go to the trouble of seeking testimonials, consult your respective bar's ethics rules.  The ABA maintains an online list of state bar rules on advertising, including those states that prohibit or restrict testimonials.  On the other hand, don't go overboard and assume that because restrictions apply that you can't obtain testimonials at all.  Some bars, for example, prohibit client testimonials but do not limit testimonials from colleagues and/or other lawyers.  Other bars maintain general proscriptions against testimonials that include information that cannot be verified (e.g., "Joe Jones was the best lawyer ever!").  However, this type of restriction would not prohibit testimonials with verifiable, factual information, such as, "Joe Jones timely filed all my pleadings" or "Jane Doe returned my phone calls".  And in fact, if you think about it, it's this kind of specific detail that makes testimonials far more compelling than one that consists of conclusory statements -- just as in a court room.

Bear in mind that bar rules on confidentiality may also prohibit you from disclosing the identity of clients.  Therefore, be sure to obtain appropriate authorization to use a client's name in connection with their testimonials.  Where a client declines to be identified, you may still post the testimonial but indicate that the client's name has been withheld to preserve confidentiality.  In no circumstances should you post a testimonial with a fake name -- that would undermine its credibility.   

4.  Gathering Testimonials

Continue reading "Marketing Through Testimonials: Giving and Receiving" »