Apr 11, 2011

Marketing: A Journey, Not a Destination

Marketing a law practice is an ongoing iterative process. Starting out, many lawyers make rookie mistakes - such as spending thousands of dollars on Yellow Pages ads because an older colleague told you this is how it's done. Or spending money to join the Chamber of Commerce only to discover that as a new lawyer, you're on the low end of the totem pole when it comes to consideration for referrals. These types of errors are easy to recognize and correct. If you've paid $5000 for a Yellow Pages ad and it's only yielded a $1000 client, then it's a waste of money. Ditto the Chamber of Commerce, which may not be as expensive but produced no results whatsoever.

It's more difficult to recognize a need for, and to change course in marketing when you've been practicing for a while. For starters, your revenue may be stable for several years and you won't realize that with some changes, you could earn more. You may have also fallen into a comfortable marketing routine comprised of a few favored activities, and so you figure that if it's not broken, don't fix it. Trouble is, if you don't constantly monitor your marketing results and keep track of your competitors and future trends, those old standby's that once performed so well now fall flat. For example:

1. You were an early adopter of Twitter, using it well before anyone else in your geographic or practice area. As a result, your initial returns from Twitter weren't very promising and so you stopped using it. But now, your competitors and target clients are coming on board. Thus, you may lose out on opportunities if you don't return.

2. As a new lawyer running a solo practice, you had plenty of time of your hands but little money for advertising. So you joined several bar associations and professional clubs, enthusiastically volunteering for whatever work was available. Two years later, your work has paid off and you're receiving several referrals a month from others in these organizations. Trouble is, now that your practice is so busy that you simply don't have thirty hours a month to devote to all of these organizations. In this situation, even though your bar association work doesn't cost money, it now represents an opportunity cost that may force you to turn down paying work. For now, you'll either need to drop the bar work, or perhaps use the revenue from your new work to hire an intern or associate who can help out.

3. You've been handling family law cases forever, and your business is generally steady. But you've noticed that a couple of new lawyers' practices are going like gangbusters. The reason? They've been tracking that new law in your state that legalizes gay marriage - and they've developed a niche that highlights that particular area. Now, they're swamped with gay and lesbian clients who want to get married seeking advice on prenuptial arrangements, adoption and other issues. Although this particular niche may already be saturated, you may want to start tracking trends to identify whether another niche could serve as an easy add on to your practice.

4. In a fit of enthusiasm, you signed up for a dozen different social media sites. You thought that this broad presence would generate SEO, but that hasn't worked and your left with a bunch of barren profiles scattered across the Internet. Here, identify the platforms that have been working best and remove your other profiles.

5. You've always written a monthly column for your local bar newsletter - and your colleagues have complimented it. But you'd like to get more "bang for the buck" out of the time you put in. Maybe it's time to turn those articles into an ebook - or to start a blog.

Roscoe Pound, a legal scholar once said "The law must be stable, but it cannot stand still." The same holds true for your marketing efforts: invest time regularly and strive for a consistent brand and message. But always reevaluate your results and what lies ahead, and make changes as necessary to stay at the head of the curve. In Roscoe Pound's words, don't ever let your marketing stand still.

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