The law of marketing is once you become known as Wal-Mart, you can never become a Tiffany's. By not discovering - and emphasizing true competitive differences, you are relegating yourself to be just another lawyer who is casting their fishing line into the vast ocean of legal marketing.
Here are several great ways an attorney can start to set himself or herself apart from competitors:
Emphasize Your Service: I'm not referring to the services you offer, but how you serve your clients. At the Rainmaker Retreat, our two day legal marketing seminar, we use the phrase "micromanaging the client experience" to describe how law firms can create a unique and powerful experience for clients by treating them like VIPs (without spending a lot of money).
Market Like a Specialist: It's always easier to build a financially successful law firm that focuses on a specialty area. The more practice areas your firm promotes, the fewer referrals you will receive. There are several major benefits to specializing, including:
- You can command higher prices.
- More people can send you referrals because they don't view you as a competitor.
- And you can develop a deeper knowledge about your clientele and their legal issues.
By choosing to specialize, you increase opportunities to form alliances with other professionals.
Create a "Double Niche": Focusing on a particular industry is a great way to niche your firm. Jeff Matsen is a well-respected estate planning attorney and a long-time client of ours, but over the last two decades he has become a nationally recognized asset protection attorney (first niche).
Even further, he has created a niche targeting asset protection for doctors and dentists (second niche) because he knows it's easier to position himself as a true expert when he applies his first niche (a specific niche within a practice area) to a specific industry (like doctors and dentists) thus creating a "double niche."
Clearly Define Your Perfect Client: Once you have narrowed down your niche, you need to determine who your perfect client is. This puts you in a much better place to educate potential referral sources.
Here's a good example of a target market: small to mid-sized companies that are privately held with 2 to 100 employees, in the construction, high-tech, or professional services industries. They may need help establishing their company, are having challenges growing their company, looking at adding a partner, or want to acquire another company.
Be Smart About Your Office Location: You've heard the importance in real estate of "location, location, location." The city you practice law in will determine a lot of things; it can also be a factor in your success.
Targeting immigration law in San Francisco provides you with more opportunities than practicing immigration law in Fargo, North Dakota.
There are many ways you can dominate your chosen niche. Below are the top 10 ways I've seen work in the legal industry.
1. Focus your website on your primary area(s) of expertise. Whether it's a doctor or a lawyer, we all want to be treated by a specialist. Find a targeted, focused legal niche where you can specialize and ensure your website focuses on just that niche. Do not create an online presence that makes you look like a general practitioner. Most savvy consumers will check you out online before they ever pick up the phone and call you.
2. Own your niche's keywords. Select 20-30 keywords or phrases that prospects likely use to look for you online and work with a search engine optimization company to help you get to the top of Google for those keywords. Don't make the mistake of just targeting the obvious key terms.
3. Get a Blog. Subject matter experts (SMEs) are well-read in their niche and they can and do comment on what the big topics are, the major cases, and emerging trends. One of the best ways to position yourself as a SME is to blog several times per month on your niche.
4. Become a Guest Author. Target high-traffic or highly influential industry blogs that appeal to your specific target market and offer to write a guest column.
5. Create a Special Report or an E-book. Publications are viewed by many as a sign of authority and prestige. You don't need a major New York publisher to "discover" you to become an author. Write a simple 5-10 page special report, white paper or turn it into a PDF and call it an "e-book."
6. Speak at Live Events-Your Own or Others. Few things are more authoritative in the field of marketing than speaking at events, either events you offer or for other associations, whether live or online via webinars, speaking positions you as an industry expert. We have several clients who have built million dollar practices simply by speaking 2-3 times per month at local and regional events.
7. Send out a Press Release. Press releases are a great way to build your online credibility. Create a media list of target publications that reach your perfect clients and regularly send them press releases. You can do a press release on almost any topic like: Is your law firm growing/hiring (while other firms are downsizing)? Did you expand your offices to better serve your clients? Are you involved in philanthropic work? Did you recently win a big case? Is there a specific legal issue facing local people that you can comment on? Are you giving a seminar you would like to promote?
8. Create a Radio Show. With modern technology you can easily create your own "online radio show." For only a couple hundred dollars per year you can use platforms like BlogTalkRadio.com to create, host, and post your radio show. They can even help you promote your show online. There are thousands of online radio shows currently and if you don't want to create your own you can contact the owner and ask to be interviewed on his or her show. Most of them welcome professional guests.
9. Publish an Industry Survey. Surveys are powerful tools that can open doors to high profile interviews with industry leaders, media attention about the results, and inbound leads when you publicize the results. There are several good online survey tools like SurveyMonkey.com and Zoomerang.com. Target a specific topic like "The impact of the new estate tax laws on small business owners in Phoenix" or "The Top 10 Biggest Legal Issues Facing Divorced Women in Arizona."
10. Create information products. Write and distribute articles, e-books, free reports and other information products that demonstrate your authority in your niche.
I have personally used every single one of these to build The Rainmaker Institute's credibility and national presence. In addition, we have hundreds of law firm clients who have used these with great success. Just remember, there is no easy button and there is no "magic wand." You have to work at it to create a niche and it will take time and consistent effort to position yourself as a true expert.