This blog post was inspired by a recent roundtable conversation with some of my favorite legal marketing experts, who noted some of the most common and incredible ways in which lawyers are tripping themselves up in business and client development.
So without any particular ranking of importance or frequency, here are some of the issues we have all detected and found to be way to common:
1. Too many lawyers don’t want to list their industry-specific experience on their websites or profiles. This is odd because clients say it is THE most important thing that is commonly missing from lawyer profiles. Lawyers like to say “I don’t want to be tied down to a particular industry.” What they don’t realize is that clients will figure out if you have the industry experience anyway (one way or the other) and you just make it so much easier for them if you list it (and you give them reason to believe that you know this is important to them).
2. Too many lawyers don’t like to visit clients. They say “I don’t want to bother them.” Most business clients, on the other hand, say that they are impressed with their outside lawyers who take time to visit their place of business, off the clock, just to get better acquainted with the client’s business. They would much prefer to take you to lunch at the company cafeteria, which is quicker for them, than have you invite them to an expensive downtown lunch in your neighborhood. I have never met a client who was insulted by a lawyer who offered to visit them – when they are too busy to visit with you, they will let you know.
3. Too many lawyers say they don’t engage in non-work conversations with clients because they don’t know what to say. Literally, these lawyers need a script to open up a conversation that could lead to greater trust and a broadening relationship. My advice to these lawyers is generally to frame their questions to clients in a way that displays their genuine interest in what the client does and how they do it. For good reasons, lawyers are also worried about asking: “How can I get more of your business?” This sounds crass and self-interested, but a similar question, coming from a different motivation, can be far more productive: “So what are your biggest problems right now?” If the client poses a problem you can help with, then you can offer assistance.
4. Too many lawyers don’t know their own business by the numbers, or refuse to talk about it. Clients are very interested in knowing the number of trials or transactions in which you have participated, the average cost, the typical cost of discovery for various types of cases, the likely outcomes on liability and damages, and the number of times you have come in under or over budget projection and by how much. Clients who hire counsel through their insurance companies know that the insurers keep track of many numbers, such as average damage costs per type of injury, tendencies of particular judges or juries in particular jurisdictions. They like that. They wonder why lawyers don’t know their own numbers.
5. Too many lawyers still have no marketing strategy because they still have no idea what it is they really want to do. Essentially, they want to position themselves for “whatever walks in the door.” It is analogous to a business hanging out a sign that says “We do everything – just come in and ask.” Of course, business customers or clients do not just walk in the door and ask you what you do. You have to define it for them. To be good at marketing, you also need to figure out what your chosen or targeted clients do, where they are, how to build relationships with them over time, and how your skills fit particular needs that they are likely to have. As a highly regarded CMO once told me, “You don’t have a marketing strategy until you decide what you are NOT going to do for clients, and that is what defines what you WILL do to succeed.”