When I get a referral or get introduced to a lawyer, the first conversation is filled with skepticism. I have heard phrases such as “I paid $25,000 and got nothing” and “They promised to get me on first page of Google.” There is a common theme of “getting burned” in these conversations. After more conversations, it becomes clear that expectations were not aligned between the marketing company and the law firm. Here are some tips for getting the right marketing help for your law firm:
Know Your Goals
I see this problem at law firms of all sizes. Too often, law firm leaders and individual lawyers do not know their goals. They will say they want more clients and more business. Of course they do – we all do! However, what does this really mean? Before engaging a marketing company, write down your goals. These goals should include specifics including revenue goals, types of clients, types of matters, geographic reach, and so forth. These goals are probably in your head already so this should not be a complicated exercise. The right marketing company should understand these goals and be able to help you create a path to reach them.
The Legal Industry
To get the right marketing help for your law firm, the company needs to know the legal industry. There are ethical considerations and rules of professional conduct. I have personally seen marketing companies break these rules on behalf of law firms. Marketing will be awfully hard if you get disbarred or in trouble for ethical violations. Not only are there ethical considerations, it is extremely important to know the legal industry.
I suggest asking a potential marketing partner these questions:
- Have you worked with other lawyers and law firms? What have you done for them? Can you tell me what was successful for them?
- What do you know about (insert your area of law)? Who are the consumers of this area of law? Who are the drivers of business to this area of law (i.e. referral sources)?
- How will you help me reach my goals?
- Do you understand my expectations?
Both the law firm and the marketing company should have an agreement of what an engagement will look like before it starts. How will success be measured? Set up benchmarks to make sure you are on the path to reach your goals. Agree on items such as status reporting, set meetings/calls, deadlines, and tasks. Regarding tasks, the best arrangement is to have active collaboration between both parties. An example of collaboration is blog content review by the attorney. While collaboration is key, the marketing company needs to realize that lawyers need to be lawyers. They should understand the daily stresses of the practice of law. Said differently, the right marketing company will not make life more difficult for the busy lawyer. In fact, once a plan is put into place and expectations are known, the lawyer should not have to worry about the marketing function. As one client recently told me, “It’s great that for my monthly retainer, I have my own marketing department who know my business and where I want to take it, without having to hire full-time people.”
Because every attorney is different, every approach to marketing should be different. Every strategy and task should be customized to fit your goals, personality, client base, jurisdiction, and so on. For example, let’s say that it is a good strategy for your area of practice to do public speaking to meet referral sources. However, you hate it and are not good at it. The marketing company should be able to find alternative strategies to achieve the same goal. Strategies that play to your strengths. Similarly, the right marketing company should bring ideas to you. Conversations should not ALWAYS start with the attorney saying, “What do you think of…?” but rather the marketing professional saying “I think we should do this because…” These conversations will let you know that the marketer gets it.
That being said, you should be able to bring ideas to your marketing company, and you should receive a better answer than, “Go ahead and try it,” or “You’ll never know if it will work until you try.” A thoughtful response coupled with direction should be what you receive.
To sum, getting the right marketing help for your law firm is an important decision – just like it is an important decision for your clients to hire you for legal help. You will invest time and money. You should expect to get the results that you want to reach your goals. The right marketing company will know and understand your goals, know the legal industry and your practice, collaborate with you while respecting your busy life, and create a custom approach that works for you. If you have any questions about this or would like to discuss, give me a call.