Jan 29, 2010

Why Are You Marketing Your Law Firm?

Why are you marketing your law firm? 

Maybe that sounds that a stupid question.  After all, isn't marketing all about making money? 

Not necessarily.  True, in some instances, a law firm may initiate a marketing campaign that's designed to attract more clients.  For example, marketing techniques like special discounts on estate planning or incorporating a small businesses or free consultations in a market where they're not traditionally offered are largely intended to bring more client matters through the door to generate more revenue. 

Trouble is, if your primary goal isn't short term cash infusion, then discounts or free consults or doing whatever your competitors are doing won't help - and in fact, may actually hurt your practice.  Let's take the hypothetical case of Louis, a busy immigration lawyer.   Due to a couple of contacts in his country of origin, Louis has dozens of clients beating down his door.  He's so busy he can barely keep pace.  And yet, neither can he afford to hire an associate to share the workload.  That's because to date, Louis' business model has consisted of charging less than other lawyers but making it up in volume.  For Louis, additional discounts would exacerbate his stress rather than improve his practice. 

Louis' immediate goal isn't necessarily making more money.  Instead, he needs to be more concerned with keeping his income at the same level by cutting down on the number of clients.  To do that, he needs to implement marketing techniques that will help him improve the quality of his client base.  How to do that?  Education based marketing initiatives like ebooks or blogging might be one place to start.  Clients who take the time to learn about the immigration process are often better educated and therefore, potentially higher earners.  In addition, by using educational tools to explain the complexity of the immigration process and the need for expertise, clients will come to appreciate the value of the service provided and may be willing to pay more.  Another way to find better quality clients is through use of testimonials.  A former client's recommendation is powerful and lets potential clients know that you have the ability to assist them effectively - which also enhances your value to them. 

In other cases, a lawyer's primary goal in marketing may be to expand or diversify a practice.  Here again, discounts and free consults aren't the most effective way to go.  Instead, stepping up networking events with other lawyers would help more because they give you a way to get the word out about your new practice area.  Likewise, speaking engagements on your new practice area are a way to introduce yourself to new audiences who may need your services.

Ultimately, better quality clients or an expanded practice will yield more money in the long term.  But if quality of life or diversity are your short term goals with money being an added reward, then discounting services or running expensive television or newspaper ads aren't necessarily going to bring you closer to those goals.