You Need a Core Story for Successful Legal Marketing

Alex Nottingham, PILMMA, law firm marketing, legal marketingTo win new clients and build your clientele, you need a "core story," according to Alex Nottingham, a business consultant, executive coach, lawyer and author. He spoke at the PILMMA national marketing summit in Las Vegas today.

The three most dangerous trends facing personal injury lawyers.

Marketplace Clutter: in 1992 consumers received an average of 3,000 commercial messages per day. Today it's 30,000. Therefore, differentiation is a must.

Competition: 18% of attorneys are in plaintiff personal injury practices - some 240,000 lawyers -- and it's a $51 billion industry.  Media choices have skyrocketed: in the 1960s people watched on three networks but today viewers can choose from hundreds of channels. In 2004, lawyers spent $250 million on TV advertising. In 2008 it jumped to $500 million. It will soon be $1 billion, according to Nottingham.

Consolidation: 89% of law firms have fewer than 20 employees. Smaller firms are terminating employees to reduce their cost costs. With fewer hands on deck, law firms need to find a new form of marketing that involves a systematic approach.

Four Reasons why clients don't hire you.

  1. Clients don't have access to you. They can't find you on the web, their friends haven't heard of you and they haven't seen your marketing.
  2. They need to be educated about you. Potential clients are scared and need information to before making a buying decision.
  3. Negative buying criteria. Clients have a negative perception as plaintiff PI lawyers as ambulance chasers. The more lawyers can educate potential clients about the results you bring them, the more confidence they have in you.
  4. Clients don't see you as special. They see you the same as any other lawyer.

Nottingham said lawyers need a core story, which an education-based marketing system designed to systemically accelerate business growth. You will attract more buyers if you teach them something. Only about 3% of your audience is ready to buy now, and you're competing for them against the entire phone book.

A core builds trust and includes:

A stadium pitch to capture their attention. Imagine you could make a presentation in a stadium filled with every potential client you could have. "What would you say to grab people's attention and make them hire you? The typical person's attention span is only 8 seconds," he said. A bad pitch would be, "Let us tell you about how our law firm has been around for 30 years." This is self-focused and 90% of listeners will walk out. A good pitch would be, "Here are the four tricks creditors use to keep you in debt."

Wow data. Include a gripping statistic about a client problem in your story. Problems are 5 times more persuasive than pleasure, according to Nottingham. For example, the headline for your core story can be "54 million Americas are unable to work from a disability that changed their lives" or "The average person will get into 6 car accidents in their lifetime." Present the data on your website and in your ads. Get the data from the US Census Bureau, and

Solutions. Give them a way to solve their problem -- something practical they can put to use right away. For example, give potential clients an accident notebook to put in their car's glove box. Advise them to see a doctor even though you don't feel hurt.

Differentiation. Talk about how you are different -- for example, that you have a client hotline or that you return phone calls the same day. Set forth a case study that shows how you took a person from a terrible situation and improved their lives.

Then lawyers should deploy their core story, using newsletters, referrals, radio, TV, partnerships and the Internet. "By putting a client's pain points on your web site, you can overcome the reasons that potential clients don't buy," he said.


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