This post is part of the MyShingle Solos summer series which will run between June 17 and July 3, 2014.
This post is written by MyShingle Guest Blogger Dr. Sandra Thompson
Short of putting your firm name on the side of a high-rise building for everyone on the freeway to see, what can small firms and solos do to market their practice, develop buzz and get new clients? It may seem like a good idea to get golf balls with your firm name on them, and it is if your clients are professional golfers. Otherwise, your marketing attempt is likely going to end up in the water or never found again. Keep in mind that the clients that we have are often our best sources of new work and referrals. Don’t let this good thing get away from you, and don’t think that it is something you can’t start today.
Mind Your Manners
Your mother really was right when she said that you should always send a thank you note. As busy professionals, we tend to rely on E-mail, template letters, and assistants to reach out to clients, send invoices or send updates on client matters. There are some things you can do to make an impression on your current clients, especially the small and mid-size companies or individuals.
Add a simple sentence to your billing letter: “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to handle your legal work. If you need anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact me.” Which leads me to another point – send a letter with your bills. I make it a point to talk to contacts and clients about what they like and don’t like about attorneys. It makes me the life of any party, but I digress. People want more of a personal connection with their attorneys and not just a bill at the end of each month stuck in an envelope with a plastic window, similar to the one you get from the gas company. A letter with the bills gives you a chance to thank them for putting their legal matters in your hands, send them a status update and remind them that if they like your work to refer you to a friend or a colleague. If you recently wrote an article, launched a blog or have some good news to share, consider including that with your bills as well. You are spending the time and money to send those invoices out to your client, include something they may enjoy reading as well.
Then comes personal contact, and the attorneys who are good at this are good at developing business. Personal contact doesn’t mean spending a lot of money or time either. It means that you need to get to know your clients beyond their legal work, which now is easier than ever with social media. It also means that you listen to your clients when they talk about what is important to them – their jobs, their family, their travels or their hobbies. As part of this, keep a notebook or notepad near the phone or in your briefcase dedicated to capturing this information for later.
The first thing to do is to organize your time to think about your clients. What I mean by that is to set aside time every week to review new business cards, your client list, your client notes and then review your marketing opportunities for the week or month ahead. Monday morning, Friday afternoon, Sunday night – make it a regular part of your week. Then, do you get coffee each morning or go to lunch during the week? Do you run, play golf, go to sporting events? Are there any networking events coming up? Are your clients’ birthdays in the next month or did they have any moments in their lives where they would welcome congratulations from you? These are all opportunities to contact or invite clients or potential clients.
After setting up a day each week for personal client contact and review, set up a reminder schedule to go through the client list of those clients who you haven’t worked with or heard from in the last 3-4 months. A simple note to these clients or an invitation to get coffee, could result in new work. In many instances, clients have work they need done, but may be putting it off or have simply forgotten to send it to you – such as a new trademark application or a question about a license agreement. This client may have just been contacted by a friend looking for an attorney. The client may not remember who gave her the water bottle she is using, but she will remember the attorney who sent her a personal note wishing her a happy birthday or congratulating her on the promotion.
An activity that provides the maximum impact for the least amount of time and resources is focused networking activities. By way of example, I used to work with an in-house counsel for a local sports team who invited all of his outside counsel together (all from different areas of the law) for a networking event every six months. It may have been a baseball game, happy hour or a “lunch and learn” event, where one of us gave a presentation on a current topic in the law. Given that each of us had different practice focuses, it expanded our reach and provided terrific referral sources.
Another simple idea is to organize a quarterly networking activity for those attorneys within a five-mile radius of your office or home. Get to know those attorneys in your neighborhood and focus on more local sources of work or referrals, because these are the attorneys you are going to see when you are out at lunch, shopping or watching little league games. And don’t limit this group to just those with private practices, but also identify local in-house counsel and loop them in to the group as well. If you keep it to a small geographic radius, there’s a good chance that attendance will be higher.
Articles, Alerts, Social Media and Blogging
Articles, blog posts and alerts on recent developments in the law that are related to your practice are good for two reasons: 1) they increase your exposure and improve your branding online, and 2) they provide easy content to forward to your clients in the envelope with their bills or with a follow-up E-mail, if you haven’t heard from them in a few months. If you don’t regularly write articles, consider starting with something that you know well and can discuss in layman’s terms. Consider the audience you are trying to reach and frame it accordingly. Ensure that it is published somewhere that makes sense for the desired audience. Finally, if you are publishing on a site that isn’t yours, ask whether you can forward the article to clients and/or copy for focused distribution.
Next week, I will be posting two articles on social media and how to use it for your practice, but for the time being, I will say not to be afraid of it. It does work, if used properly – much like E-mail.
If You Must Give Gifts or Chotchkies
Sometimes, it makes sense to have something on hand to send to a client as a “thank you” or during the holidays. For those times, consider looking at non-profits in your area and partnering with them. Many non-profits have items that they sell, where they can co-brand it with your firm name or contact information, such as cookbooks, shirts, reusable grocery bags, etc. Partnering with a local non-profit not only gives you branded items you can send to clients, but also gives something back to your local community. It may also give you the additional opportunity to be listed on their website, give a presentation on your area of the law (such as forming a trust or estate planning) to their members, or attend some of their events.
There are so many things out there that we can do to market to our clients and to prospective clients; however, much of it is directed at our desire for convenience in our work day. However, we have so many opportunities that are already there to market efficiently and effectively, by leveraging the good work we have already done for our clients. I’m still amazed that when I stick to this strategy and use it every week, I always get new work.
Sandra Thompson is an intellectual property attorney in Orange County, California. She represents patent, trademark and new media clients in the areas of energy, nutraceuticals, entertainment, biofuels, chemicals and chemical intermediates, green technologies, telecommunications, vehicle design and software.