Marketing your law practice is one of the most frustrating aspects of running a small law firm. No one ever taught you how to market in law school and the typical lawyer marketing article in your state bar journal tells you all the things you can’t do.
Here are eleven major mistakes that personal injury lawyers make with their advertising.
1. Failing to make a decision as to what the perfect business and perfect customer look like. You can’t develop a marketing plan (or purchase advertising media such as Yellow Page ads, TV commercials or websites) without understanding where you are going. What does your perfect client look like? What do you want your law practice to look like? The correct answer to the question “why do you want to spend any money on marketing?” should not necessarily be, “more cases.” Not drawing at least a mental picture of what it is you are after with your practice is like getting on an airplane and saying “take me anywhere.”
2. Failing to accept that marketing and practice building is the most important thing you can do in your law firm – look around. Is it only the best lawyers, real estate agents, doctors in your town who get the best business? Just being a good trial lawyer, (even the best) doesn’t cut it anymore. Isn’t it frustrating to see a lawyer whose has never tried a case get better clients than you do and then brag about it later? By understanding how to market effectively you put yourself into a position to see more cases from which you can choose the ones that match your “perfect customer” profile.
3. Thinking That Copying What Other Lawyers Are Doing With Their Marketing Will Get You A Better Result. Earl Nightingale, one of the world’s foremost experts on what makes people successful, had some good advice for lawyers and other business owners who want to market their practices. He said, (and yes, I am paraphrasing) that if you wanted to learn a new skill in business, and you had no mentor or guide you could trust, that the best thing you could do was figure out what everyone else was doing and then do the opposite. What the majority does is, at best, average. So it is with marketing.
4. Ignoring the Gold In Your Files Right Now. It costs at least ten times a much to obtain new customers as to keep in contact with old clients and indeed, everyone who contacts you. Your files are filled with names of folks who know you. Those folks generally have at least 50 other friends in their “circle of influence.” (Read How to Close Every Sale, by Joe Girard.) Personal injury lawyers are happy to spend thousands on Yellow Page and TV marketing while ignoring completely those who they already have some relationship with.
5. Failing to capture the name of every new person who indicates that he/she is interested in what you have to say. Lawyers spend thousands on generating new leads (potential client inquiries) yet never market back to the cases they don’t accept. In most offices that’s MOST of the new inquiries. Yet this is a goldmine of people that you can directly market to in the future. You can’t rely on the fact that if they or someone they know needs your services or products that they will remember you tomorrow because they called you once in the past.
6. Failing to get ahead of the marketing curve. How many lawyers spend any time trying to start a relationship with a potential client BEFORE that person has a problem? Most personal injury lawyers view marketing as reactionary. That is, the relationship starts once a person is injured and they start trying to find a lawyer. How about if you offered a good reason for people to call you BEFORE they get hurt (good quality information on how to buy car insurance comes to immediate mind), BEFORE they need you. Once they tell you who they are they are inviting a conversation and giving you their permission to market to them directly and as frequently as you can afford to. If you can develop a “herd” of people that listen to you before they have need you, they won’t be looking in the Yellow Pages after they have an accident or need your product.
7. Being an advertising “victim”-most business owners think about their advertising and marketing plan the 30 minutes or so before the Yellow Page rep comes walking through the door. They don’t do any independent research or study. They follow the crowd because “it must be working or else everyone else wouldn’t be doing it.” If it doesn’t work they then take the Yellow Page rep’s advice to “buy more, and use color.” A real sign that you are an “advertising victim” is that you allow the Yellow Page rep to design your ad. This is usually a huge mistake. Think about it–the goal of the Yellow Page rep is not to make your ad beat all the other ads in the book.
8. Failure to accurately measure resultsdo this test. Ask anyone who spends a lot money on advertising exactly how much revenue is returned (ROI-return on investment) they get from a particular TV spot. Better yet, ask the folks running double truck (huge, 2 page) ads inside the Yellow Pages how much revenue those pages generate vs. the outside back cover they are also buying. They won’t be able to answer that question. Would you buy mutual fund without demanding a specific accounting of actual results? 9. Failure to develop a terrific referral system–we all know that the best clients with the best cases come from referrals and are pre-sold on you. Strange as it may seem, clients don’t always know how to refer. The lawyers who really understand marketing have figured out ways to have current friends and customers refer new consumers to them BEFORE they need an attorney. Developing good consumer information products and backing it up with an interesting firm newsletter that it consistently mailed is a terrific way to greatly expand your referral base without using high priced TV marketing.
10. Failure to Diversify Your Marketing-“one” is a very dangerous number. Don’t forget to see what other industries are doing. There are lots of media out there, for example, media not traditionally used by lawyers. While most lawyers think in terms of Yellow Pages, TV and websites, sophisticated lawyer marketers understand and also use low cost coupon media, postcards and free standing inserts. The key is to choose media that is relatively easy to test and then to measure results.
11. Trying to Win the Advertising Game by “Shouting Louder”Most injury lawyers try to differentiate themselves in print and TV media by simply spending more money to “shout louder.” This is accomplished by buying more color, more space, or more TV as spots. The two fold problem of this approach is that (1) it’s an expensive way to run a business and (2) there will always be someone who can spend more than you can.
Personal injury lawyers need to learn to “make a different kind of noise” with their marketing.