Marketing is something that many lawyers struggle with. It can be intimidating for some lawyers, while others can feel uncomfortable “bragging” about themselves. If you’re someone who cringes at the thought of legal marketing, know that you CAN become really good at it. After all, marketing is essential to the health of your firm. So, find ways to market your firm that you enjoy. Make marketing a habit. And make time for marketing – even when you’re busy.
The lessons below are adapted from my book, 50 Lessons for Lawyers: Earn more. Stress less. Be awesome. Start living these lessons, and you’ll create a solid foundation for your marketing success.
Hate marketing? Do what you love.
If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time. – Billy Joel
We all have some things in our lives that we just hate doing. And when it comes to marketing, that usually means going to some type of event that you really don’t enjoy. There is nothing quite as painful as going to a [fill in what’s true for you] because you feel like you have to. But you go anyway. You skulk around. Well, you probably don’t feel like you’re skulking, but that’s the effect you have on the other folks there. You’re miserable. You don’t meet any new people. You don’t engage in any fun or meaningful conversations. You have a drink, chat with a few folks you know, and head for the door. Then when no referrals come, you think to yourself, “I knew that was going to be a waste of my time.”
Well you’re right. If you’re doing things you hate doing just because you think you have to in order to market your firm, here’s some advice: STOP IT! It’s like the old joke:
Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this. [Lifting arm, bending knee or some other function.]
Doctor: Then stop doing that!
If what you’re doing to market your practice is painful for you, stop it. Instead, do what you love. Focus on what you love doing and do more of it.
Here’s what I mean. If you’re a member of an organization because you think you have to be in order to market your firm, you’re wrong. In fact, if you hate attending [insert organization name here] meetings, the likelihood of your meeting great referral sources there is slim. Why? Because the moment you arrive, you’re thinking of how soon you can leave. You give off an aura of “I don’t want to be here,” and everyone around you knows it. So, making new connections and building great relationships in that kind of atmosphere is nearly impossible.
When you do what you love, you bring your whole self to the activity. You’re enthusiastic. You’re engaged. You’re more approachable, and people will gravitate toward you. It doesn’t matter if you’re shy or introverted; if you do what you love, you’ll be comfortable.
Find organizations that are meaningful to you and get involved. Is there a local nonprofit organization or cause that you care deeply about? Reach out and volunteer. You could also offer to serve on their board of trustees. Most nonprofit organizations truly appreciate having lawyers on their boards.
Is there an activity or sport that you’re passionate about? Think of ways you can turn that activity into a marketing opportunity. What could be better than doing what you love and turning it into an opportunity to market your firm?
Living the Lesson
- Make a list of your hobbies, sports you love, causes that you feel passionate about. Write everything down, even if you think you could never use your passion as a marketing activity.
- Brainstorm with your family and your team at the office to decide on an activity or event that you’d like to use for marketing the firm.
- Let your team at the office help you plan, organize, and pull off your marketing event. I guarantee you that they’ll have fun doing it.
Think of legal marketing like brushing your teeth. Do it every day.
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. – Jim Rohn
I know something about you. I know that one of the first things you do after you wake up in the morning is brush your teeth. Maybe you even floss. You brush your teeth without notes and reminders to help you remember to do it. You don’t wake up in the morning and have a conversation with yourself about the merits of good dental hygiene. You just get up, pad into the bathroom and brush your teeth. It’s part of your morning routine. Here’s another thing I know about you: After you brush your teeth, you don’t say to yourself, “Whew, that’s done! Don’t have to worry about that for another month.” Nope. You do it every single day.
I want you to start thinking of marketing like brushing your teeth. Marketing should be something you do every single day. Marketing isn’t something to be done once a month or even once a week. You don’t brush your teeth just once a month or once a week. You brush your teeth every day, twice a day, maybe three times a day. Just like brushing your teeth, you’ve got to make marketing part of your day – every day. If you want your law practice to thrive and grow, you can’t go to a luncheon or cocktail party and say to yourself, “Okay, I’ve done my marketing for the month.” Nope. You’ve got to do a little marketing every day. Make a phone call. Send an email. Post a status update on LinkedIn. Write a note. Go to lunch. Have a beer with a friend. Play a game of golf. Go shopping. Yes, these are all things you can do to market your practice. Remember, if you hate marketing, do what you love.
Here’s why I want you to think of marketing like brushing your teeth: Brushing your teeth is a habit – a good habit. You don’t think about brushing your teeth. You just do it. I want you to make marketing a habit.
Making marketing a habit is as simple as doing just one thing each day. Do just one thing, every day. It’s the “every day” part that’s important. Consistency is key when you’re creating a new habit. And remember: Small, incremental changes can have a huge impact over time. Don’t worry that you’re not doing enough. Start small by doing just one thing each day. You will be amazed at how doing just one thing will begin to change how you feel about marketing.
When you make marketing a habit, you’ll create a marketing mindset. You’ll begin to look for marketing opportunities everywhere. And you’ll find them!
Living the Lesson
- Do at least one thing each day to market your practice. Send an email to a friend. Call a client just to check in. (I guarantee that they will be bowled over.) Send a note to a colleague mentioned in your local bar association newsletter or state bar news. Until your “one thing” becomes a habit, put reminders in your calendar and ask one of your colleagues to be your accountability partner.
- Develop a marketing mindset. Always be on the lookout for ways you can help other professionals market their practices. As the old saying goes, “The best way to get a referral, is to give a referral.”
- Look for situations in which you can ask yourself: “How can this benefit my practice?” “Can I turn this situation into an opportunity to connect with a new person?” “Is there some way I could be of service in this situation?” “Can I share knowledge?” “Can I make an introduction?” “How can I help?”
Make time for marketing even when you’re busy.
Build a little community of those you love and who love you. — Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
If you’re like many lawyers, your marketing efforts are dictated by how busy you are. The busier you are – the more clients or cases you have – the less you feel the need to market. Then, when things slow down because you haven’t been consistently marketing the practice, you become intensely motivated to get out there and market. Sound familiar?
The problem with this pattern of on-again, off-again marketing is that it creates a crazy cycle of ups and downs – feast or famine. If you’re not busy, you’re marketing; if you are busy, you’re not. When the work is right there in front of you, you’re focused on the work and thinking to yourself, “I’m just too busy right now to be out there marketing. I’m a lawyer. I’ve got to get my work done.” Yes, you do. But you must also make time for marketing, even when you’re busy. And the best way to make the time is to plan for it.
The type of marketing we’re focusing on in these lessons is relationship-based, referral marketing. Relationship-based marketing is all about building relationships – real relationships that fuel your business and generate clients. Building real relationships is the most powerful thing you can do to build your business. All the other marketing you do should support and enhance this most fundamental piece of your marketing plan. Don’t get me wrong: Social media, writing, speaking – all these things are important components of your overall marketing plan. But building relationships is the foundation for everything else.
Your Three-Step Legal Marketing Plan
Step One: Calendar it.
To maintain an effective relationship-based marketing program, you must schedule time in your calendar. Plan at least three marketing events each week. If that sounds overwhelming, start slow and work up to three each week. These events can be lunches, dinners, breakfast, coffee at Starbucks, drinks after work, movies, concerts, or golf, tennis, walking, running, or bike riding. The types of events are practically endless – limited only by your imagination. I know one attorney who plans regular shopping afternoons with her best referral sources.
Step Two: Look for marketing opportunities in things you’re already doing and people you already know.
I’ll bet you’re already doing any number of things that could be great marketing opportunities for you. Do you serve on the board of directors of a local organization? Have you taken the time to get to know the board members outside of the board meetings? Do you belong to your local Rotary Club or chamber of commerce or another club? If you do, you’re surrounded by people who might be great referral sources for you. The next time you attend a board meeting, invite one of your fellow board members to breakfast or lunch.
Step Three: Use technology.
Emails and texts can be great tools to help you stay connected to your network. Set aside 15 minutes, twice a week to send a few messages to your referral sources. These emails or texts can be very short: “Hi. I was just thinking about you and wondered if we could get together. Can I give you a call to set something up? Looking forward to it.” A friend, and former client of mine, will often send me a short text on holidays or a quick update about his practice or latest case outcome. I look forward to receiving his texts, and even though we don’t talk often, his texts keep us connected.
Using the right technology is also essential to keeping your network organized. You can use Outlook or a case management program, or even lists that you create yourself using a service like Evernote. Find the technology that works for you and use it!
Living the Lesson
- Schedule marketing time blocks in your calendar in three-month blocks. By doing this, you’ll have already made the time for marketing, so all you need to focus on is filling up those blocks of time. If your assistant helps you plan your marketing events, then he or she can easily look in your calendar and know what times are available to schedule events for you.
- Grow your network by reaching out to people you already know professionally and personally such as board members whom you may see regularly, but don’t know personally.
- Leverage technology to create your plan and organize your contacts. There’s no “best” program or service to use. The best program or service is the one that works for you. Nora Riva Bergman