There are several common and costly errors lawyers and law firms make in their marketing. I will address a few of them here and comment on them before I go on to recommending a few powerful, proven strategies that you can implement right away.
Error #1: The Big Dog Syndrome
The biggest and most common error that lawyers make in building their firms is to build a “cult of personality” around themselves. One individual with great passion for the underdog and incredible doggedness and skill will build a reputation as being the “go to guy” in their area of specialty. These firms tend to be built up upon the preferences, the sensibilities and the pecadillos of that lead person.
While it is certainly you’re right to make your business the way you want – and in fact we encourage our clients to integrate their lifestyle and practice in such a way that the practice of law serves them on a very high level – it’s also important to understand the implications of your decisions on a Return On Investment (ROI) basis.
The discipline of making sound decisions tends not to develop in “cult of personality” practices. The lead dog is too busy saving the world and tends to make ego-based decisions. Such lawyers are particularly susceptible to the pitches of media sales people who know just how to butter them up right.
There is a great quote by Albert Einstein which goes, “A problem cannot be solved at the level of thinking which created it.” This applies in business especially. You cannot effectively market a law firm with “seat of the pants” marketing decisions.
The Big Dog must get good advice and follow it.
Error 2: Making decisions based on personal taste.
Even larger firms that are not built around a single “big dog” tend to make major decision based on the opinions and sensibilities of the partners and, sometimes, the staff. There is nothing more common than for an ad to be passed around and voted on, as if marketing decision-making is a democratic process. Or, as if lawyers and their staffs are savvy advertising and marketing specialists.
Any decision-making based on personal preference is a serious error. Mission critical decisions should only be made in accordance with response and testing. In other words, it doesn’t matter what YOU think. It only matter what your prospects think – and more importantly – what they actually DO.
Our perspective as inside-out marketers is that it’s all about attracting people who are just right for you. “Just right” means they are going to give you the revenue level that you want; you are going to be able to serve in a way that satisfies and fulfills their needs perfectly; they are going to refer other “just right” clients to you as well.
You can only create marketing systems to attract these perfect clients if your marketing systems are based on their feelings, sensibilities, thoughts and preferences. And, guessing doesn’t count! You must develop a keen understanding and a lexicon of words that your ideal client demonstrably responds to.
When your marketing and advertising is based on well-researched data, it is as though they are in a secret language that “only dogs can hear”. You will significantly reduce the number of intakes you must process to find a good client. And, you will notice that the people who come to you are uncannily well matched to your unique strengths. And, most importantly, these perfect clients that come to you will be ready to go, already knowing that you are
the right firm for them.
Error #3: “Me Too” Marketing
The third big error that lawyers and law firms make is being cynical and lazy in their messaging. Too many firms simply default to what they see their competitors doing. If you would simply examine the lawyer category in any Yellow Pages directory, or watch daytime television in any major market in the US, you’d realize that lawyers are unconsciously and rigidly following the “Greatest Hits of Same Old Same Old” model of advertising.
There are two contradictory thoughts that somehow live together in the minds of many lawyers. They are:
- Contradictory Thought #1: We must be unique! We want our own unique message to stand out! We want our strengths to be powerfully projected in all our advertising!
- Contradictory Thought #2: Let’s look at what everybody else is doing and saying and make sure we don’t miss anything! If every law firm lazily assumes that the other guy is smart and follows him, it won’t be long before the blind lead the blind over a cliff. This is happening in many television markets and Yellow Pages directories. Many of the ads are based on an original bad concept of a player who has since dropped out of the game!
Error #4: “Name, Rank and Serial Number” advertising
When you ask a lawyer to create a new ad for their firm, the first thing they usually say is “This is who we are, this is what we do, and here’s how to reach us!!!!”
Of course this approach flies in the face of everything that has been discovered about direct response advertising results in over a century of well-documented tests. For a profession obsessed with “precedents”, this approach to advertising is following the proven loser.
What you need to realize is that people don’t call you because your phone number is in big type, and people don’t call you because you said your name the loudest. Also, people don’t call you because your logo is gorgeous.
There are two reasons people call you. Reason one is that you are the best of the worst of a bunch of bad communicators…or you’ve made the short list of firms getting the call because the prospect can’t really tell who is good. The second reason is that they actually have a strong preference for something you have
communicated. These people call you because they perceive value.
This goes back to our basic definition of marketing—which is communicating value. An ad or brochure or website or communiqué based on the “who we are, what we do, how to reach us” paradigm is doomed to mediocrity or outright failure.
Someone once said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This is a great principle to follow—especially for lawyers. Instead of looking at an ad or marketing piece as an opportunity to drone on about yourself, try making it all about the other person. Build an ad based on your unique understanding of your perfect prospects. Speak in their words about their concerns and issues. Most importantly, educate them. You will position your firm as the leader in your market.
A great marketing expert named Jay Abraham once said, “Don’t fall in love with your product. Fall in love with your customer.” It is great advice to follow.