Recently in Niche Practice Category

May 27, 2011

Let the Message Match the Medium - Legal Marketing Blawg Update

For those who follow me here at my perch at Nolo's Legal Marketing Blawg, you may have heard my webinar on niche practices, or read my post on specific niches such as representing Baby Boomers or African Americans or Latino business owners. Interesting enough, but how do you pitch your niche? In other words, how do you reach your target market of prospects that is most likely to hire you?

I can't answer that question specifically. Because...it depends on what your niche is and who your target clients are. In my case, I represent small renewable energy developers who find me online through blogging or hear me speak at conferences . For landowners whom I represent in siting cases, I've found online e-books highly effective because they objectively educate landowners about a complicated regulatory process, and in doing so make me a trusted information source.

Increasingly, though, smart phones are becoming an important tool for targeting certain populations who rely on mobile devices more than the average. I've noted that evidence shows high use of mobile devices by African Americans and moms. Now, a recent study shows another group - English-speaking Hispanics -who are more inclined to use cell phones than non-Hispanic whites. According to a Pew Study referenced in this CNN piece, not only do Hispanics use their cell phones more often (87 percent own cell phones versus 80 percent of non-Hispanic whites), they also use their cell phones more often and use more features. In fact, in Nevada, a cell phone text messaging campaign was used to organize an Hispanic voter registration drive. Based on these examples, lawyers targeting Hispanic clients might focus on mobile-optimized websites, delivery of information by text and phone apps.

As lawyers, we're natural communicators but often, we focus on what we say. But when you target a niche practice, how and where we communicate our message to clients - whether it's through a blog or an ebook or a smartphone - is just as important as what we say, perhaps even more so.
April 20, 2011

LegalMarketing RoundUp

Here's a quick round-up of updates on earlier posts.

Easy Reading: Back in May, I posted on the importance of typography to legal marketing efforts. This month, the Harvard Business Journal Blog addresses the same topic, emphasizing that:
And good design gives you an edge. How big an edge? It's the difference between getting read or getting ignored. You don't have to understand Photoshop or other design programs to be able to create clean business communications. You just have to develop an eye for the difference between visual order and visual noise.
The post offers a number of basis tips for improving design, including keeping your materials simple, using pull quotes and preserving white space.

The Latino Niche Market: Last month, I posted on growing Latino population and its potential as a niche market. Now, there's an interesting article at Ocala.com that offers specific advice on how to serve the Hispanic population, which is projected to comprise one third of the U.S. population by 2050. From the article:
According to George San Jose, president of The San Jose Group of Chicago, owner of one of the top three Hispanic marketing companies in the U.S., "there are two trends entrepreneurs need to keep in mind as they begin to figure out how to tap the Hispanic marketplace. First, many Hispanics are still comfortable with Spanish as the language of choice. The grandparents may still speak Spanish exclusively; while their children may be bilingual, and the 20-something generation may speak primarily English while still being fluent in Spanish. The second factor to understand is how much family is integral to the Hispanic lifestyle. Not only does the burgeoning younger generation tend to have more children than the general U.S. population, making baby and family products a big seller, but many also have extended families throughout Latin America, offering even more opportunities." Another important factor noted by Helen Rodriguez-Burton, a Hispanic insurance professional who has spoken on the subject, is "Once you've acquired a Hispanic customer, don't overlook the importance of customer service. Offering bilingual service through a customer call center is not enough. Hispanics cherish personal contact, which leads to long-term loyalty. They're known to "talk" with their feet and never come back if they have a negative experience.
Person-to-Person Marketing Though online marketing has its advantages, personal marketing never goes out of style. That being the case, you ought to be prepared when you meet people at events - for example, by developing an elevator speech. Matt Homann offers a creative way to do to do it: using Haiku. Though haiku'ing your way to an elevator speech sounds crazy, it's a sensible approach if you follow the steps that Matt recommends:
• Who do I help? (Answer in Five Words)
• What do I do for them? (Answer in Seven Words)
• Why do they need me? (Answer in Five Words)
April 18, 2011

Mobile Mommy Marketing

Even if you don't serve female clients exclusively, you should be targeting women any time you pitch legal services to a couple or family - because they're the ones making important decisions. A recent study by Prudential Financial, highlighted at Blogher concluded that 95 percent of women are either making or influencing major financial decisions within the household. These results suggest that women's influence has grown; a 2008 study showed that for 43 percent of couples, women make more decisions at home, while in 31 percent of couples, decision-making responsibilities are equally divided.

So if women are the audience for legal services, how do you reach them? Perhaps a quarter of a century ago, you'd run an ad campaign on daytime television or talk shows, but no more. Today's women, and moms in particular, have gone mobile. According to a survey by BabyCenter, (summarized here, smartphone use among moms has risen 64 percent over the past two ears, with 51 percent of moms saying that they are addicted to their smartphones. Top smartphone activities by moms include reading social media newsfeeds, updating social media status and reading answers to posted questions. And moms are also using smartphones to research products and for health and wellness information.

As I've posted before, if you're targeting an audience that makes use of mobile devices, make sure that your message matches the medium.

In practical terms, what does that mean if you're marketing to moms? First, make sure that your website and blogs are optimized for mobile use. Second, since moms use smartphones to track social media, distribute blog posts or other news items through Twitter or Facebook. Finally, consider creating a useful app (such as a checklist of documents to compile for estate preparation or a list of laws relating to special education) that might interest moms, or assist them with legal issues that they may have.
March 28, 2011

A Business Niche for Your Business

As you probably know by know, I'm an aficionado of niche practice. So I'm always looking for the next emerging niche to share, and with this month's release of the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, I've stumbled on a treasure trove.

In 2010, Latinos experienced the largest entrepreneurial activity increase of all race demographics. In addition, the latest Census data also shows that between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population of the United States grew from 13 to 16 percent - or 35 million to 50 million. Thus, a niche law practice that caters to Latino businesses, or serves the Latino population may have strong potential.

The Kauffman study also found that certain states enjoyed higher entrepreneurial activity in 2010 than others. Nevada and Georgia ranked first, followed by California, Louisiana and Colorado. So if you're interested in representing new businesses and start-ups and have some flexibility in where you can locate, these are the states to target.
January 7, 2011

Boomer Law!

With the arrival of 2011, the oldest of the post-World War II Baby Boom generation will turn 65. In fact, every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 more will cross that threshold, notes the Philadelphia Bulletin. By 2030, a full 18 percent of the nation's population will be 65 or older, up a full five percent from current numbers.

As the population of aging Boomers grows, so too will their unique legal needs (described later on in this post). Yet surprisingly, few lawyers, particularly younger solos or more recent graduates are targeting the Boomer population. Sure, there are plenty of law firms that market themselves to "seniors" with a focus on "elder law," which traditionally covers estate or medicare planning, health care issues, guardianships or nursing home abuses. Trouble is, most Boomers don't view themselves as growing old and indeed, cringe at being referred to as seniors.

Lawyers aren't the only group overlooking Boomers as a potential market. Most companies do the same when advertising, to their detriment, according to the Nielson Blog, since Boomers are, on the whole, more affluent than younger segments of the population. Nielson suggests that marketers tend to ignore boomers because of "conventional wisdom that they spend little, resist technology and are slow to adopt new products needs to be re-assessed." But actually, aging Boomers are enthusiastically adopting technology and showing willingness to try new brands and products.

A recent Pew Internet Research study on older adults and social media Generations 2010 report confirms Boomers' tech savvy and propensity to try new things: as of May 2010, nearly half of the adults between the ages of 50-64 were using social media, up from just 25 percent a year earlier, with 20 percent of this group using social media sites on a daily basis. Another Pew study, Generations 2010, released in December 2010, shows that Boomers are using online resources for more substantive purposes such as reading the news, buying products and locate health care information which means that they're likely to be equally receptive to using the web to find lawyers as well.

The Changing - and Expanding Scope - of Boomer Law
Boomer Law is a growth market, not only because of sheer numbers, i.e., more aging boomers, but also because the legal needs of boomers are far more diverse and complex than those of the generations that preceded them. In addition to traditional matters like guardianship, nursing home abuse and estate planning where older clients have also needed assistance, there's a range of potential new practice areas that might cater to the unique needs of today's Boomers. In no particular order:

1. Elder Care Mediator

Improved medical care means Boomers are likely to live longer, and because of that, they may need specialized caregiving or ongoing medical attention. Yet, as Smart Money reports, the financial costs of caregiving are increasing as are less measurable costs - such as added stress or interference with career advancement, as today's dual-working families struggle to care for aging parents. As a result, adult children often bicker over fair allocation of responsibility for caring for aged parents which can drive families apart. Increasingly, families are turning to elder care mediators many of whom have legal training, to resolve these disputes reports the Washington Post. Rikk Larsen, a mediator quoted in the story says:
use [of mediators] has mushroomed for reasons both demographic and cultural. Americans age 85 and older comprise one of the fastest-growing segments of the population, according to the Census Bureau, and their children, the baby boomers, "are comfortable with the notion of therapy and [experts who provide] services."
2. Granny Snatching - A New Form of Elder Abuse
In a down economy, aging boomers may also be vulnerable to theft - by their own children. Ron Winter of the Connecticut Watchdog warns of Granny Snatching, which "occurs when younger family members take custody of an elder relative under false pretenses, convince a judge to declare the elder person incompetent, allowing them to then force their aged relative into a nursing home or similar institution, and strip them of their assets." Winter predicts that the growing elderly population will result in a rise of granny-snatching cases over the next few years, which may in turn trigger changes in existing elder care laws. Thus, there'll be a need for lawyers who can handle granny-snatching cases and who stay on top of potential changes in the law.

3. Elder Entrepreneurship and Small Business
We often associate entrepreneurship with;younger people - and indeed, representing Gen Y entrepreneurs is a niche law practice in its own right. But according to Second Act, baby boomers are becoming entrepreneurs faster than anyone else, with the number of new businesses launched by 55-64 year olds growing 16 percent between 2007 and 2008, faster than any other group. That's 10,00 new businesses a month. And the trend will only gain momentum as the workforce ages, predicts a report by the Kaufman Foundation. Lawyers can assist boomer entrepreneurs with legal issues related to starting and running a business (such as business entity formation and licensing, zoning and contract negotiation) as well as succession planning (estate and tax issues).

4. Long Term Care Issues
Many boomers attempted to act responsibly by purchasing long term care insurance policies. However, a 2008 GAO Report points out that concerns have been raised over denials of claims that may leave long term care insurance purchasers without coverage at a time when they being needing care. Thus, boomers may need legal representation to resolve disputes with long term care insurance providers.

5. Age Discrimination
Because boomers are entering old age reluctantly, many are not yet ready to retire. Others are unable to retire in today's economy. Consequently, and as acknowledged by the EEOC, older workers may find themselves susceptible to unlawful age-based stereotypes and discrimination by companies seeking to force them out to save money on salaries or benefits.

Marketing to Boomers

If you decide that you want to target boomers in your practice, don't assume that your only option for reaching this population is through expensive advertising on daytime television shows. As described above, like everyone else, boomers are increasingly spending more time on line, which is far more cost effective than traditional advertising. Moreover, online methods offer additional bang for the buck, because you can simultaneously market directly to boomers and to their children, who might take responsibility for hiring a lawyer for their parents. Here are a few suggestions:

Blogging
: As mentioned earlier, boomers are using the Internet for substantive purposes like reading news and finding information on health care. Thus, they're very likely to turn to the web for information on legal issues as well. Blogging is a great tool for conveying substantive information to prospective clients and in it can also help increase your SEO.

Social Media : In addition to blogs, boomers are also engaging in other forms of social media, especially Facebook. As I noted in this earlier post, Advertising on Facebook, it's still fairly inexpensive to target an older demographic on Facebook. Not only that, but my own experience with Facebook (described in that post) showed that the age 50 and above demographic also had a higher "click through" rate than the other groups. But Facebook advertising isn't your only option - you could also create a Facebook Fan Page for your law firm to share bits of relevant news of interest to boomers, or publicize free law firm seminars on legal issues.

Educational Seminars Educational seminars are a great way to target boomers, particularly those who are retired and more free time. Like webinars, seminars provide valuable information and educate consumers on the potential need for legal services. Used to be that educational seminars had to be promoted through costly radio ads or individually mailings. Now, social media tools - such as Facebook Fan pages or the events pages on Linked-In offer low cost avenues for promoting educational seminars. Don't feel like organizing an educational seminar yourself? As described in this post, you can research organizations that represent boomers' interests who might be interested in a speaker. Or, you could search for local groups on sites like Meet Up which are always in need of speakers.

Are you seeing any other trending issues in your practice that are relevant to boomers? And do you think that Boomer Law is a promising niche? We've enabled the comment section so please share your thoughts below.