Roughly a dozen years ago, when blogs and search engine optimization began gaining real traction as tools for finding clients, I celebrated the democratization of lawyer marketing. No longer would solos and smalls be forced to compete with large mill operations that could buy up the back cover of every edition of the Yellow Pages in a given state, or large firms that could drop a couple of thousand dollars to sponsor an association lunch or place an ad in a trade press publication.  Now, any solo or small firm lawyer short on money but long on time and ambition could pen a daily blog post or run a couple of strategic Google ads and to gain a first-page placement on Google and nab customers online.

Fast forward and blogging and Google ads are victims of their own success.  Early adopters enjoyed so much success that their experience prompted others to follow, and today, the Internet is awash in a sea of keyword-infested garbage that consumers ignore. So what can you do to stand out?

The answer: create a side product.  Although this article, Side Marketing is the New King is a couple of years old, the advice still applies with equal force. Essentially, a side project is a free tool or service that draws potential clients to your website and keeps bringing them back. The article offers the example of the company, Crew , a platform for matching designers with customers (and which has as of last month been merged with Dribble. Desperate to find customers, Crew created Unsplash to give away free all the extra photos that  they’d shot for their web redesign. They hacked together a site, and soon Unsplash was attracting 11 million unique visitors a month.

A few years back, I highlighted a similar side project concept in the legal space in this post, describing how IPattorney Raj Abhyanker created Trademarkia that helps small business owners run easy trademark searches – and drives them to Abhyanker’s firm if they require more assistance. 

The most important rule for starting a side project is to “give something valuable away in order to sell something related.”  For example, while Trademarkia is a great draw for an IP firm, it would not be very effective in attracting family law clients. The second rule for a side project is consistency – you want the project to be available for the longer term instead of just as a one-hit wonder.  Unsplash made free photos available on an ongoing basis, and not just one time and as a result, people returned to the site over and over again.  Third, be sure to brand the project with your law firm information so that users make the connection. Fourth, you don’t have to take on a side project alone. This is an ideal opportunity to collaborate with other attorneys either in your practice area but who don’t complete directly or in adjacent practice areas where you can cross-refer cases. Finally, keep in mind that side projects don’t have to be directly connected to the law.  As I’ve discussed here, creating an ebook is a side project that can serve as a sharp arrow in your marketing quiver, but feel free to think outside the box and come up with projects that help your clients with other problems besides legal ones. Consider some of the following ideas:

  • Recently, Square , a tool for accepting mobile credit card payments developed contract templates  to help customers facilitate transactions and presumbly, expedite sales. Many large law firms like this one also offer free forms online. A small business lawyer might create a similar package;
  • For an estate planning lawyer, consider hosting a bi-monthly program for grandparents on writing their life story. You could invite a freelance writer to offer the presentation and create a place on your site to share the stories. A story project would attract those people who may be in need of estate planning or administration work;
  • For a family law attorney, you might host a series of sessions on mindfulness, stress reduction, financial planning or career development which might attract busy women caught up in the stress of a troubled marriage, or newly divorced women who might need assistance with modifications to a separation agreement in the future;
  • For a firm focused on workplace discrimination, you can create journals (either hardcopy, downloadable or even as an app if you’re feeling ambitious) and instructions on the types of conduct to document to bring a lawsuit.

So if you’re entering 2019 in search of new ideas, think about creating a side project that will propel you to the forefront. 

Click here to find 37 other Make Monday Mondays ideas.

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