Earl Nightingale, one of the world’s foremost experts on what makes people successful, had some good advice for lawyers 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. The majority is, at best, average.
Most lawyers struggle with the whole concept of marketing their practices. Stop reading this article right now and go and search Avvo for lawyers in your practice area. Look at the attorney display ads. What do you see? Are there any really compelling messages that would convince you to call any particular firm first? If you knew no attorneys could you pick the most qualified attorney based simply on display ads?
Most attorney advertising does little more than to try to “shout” louder than the rest. There are ads after ads of essentially the same message shouted in bigger type. For personal injury firms the messages are all basically the same:
- If you’ve been hurt, call us
- No fee if no recovery
- We care for you
- We are aggressive
Not real helpful are they? Think you can fix it with graphics? Who cares what your picture looks like? Or that of your building. Or your “mascot.” Is anyone still going to use a pit bull in their ad?
Response to advertising can be improved by doing the opposite of what most lawyers do with their marketing.
You can’t improve, though, without putting some new thought into it. Stop copying what other lawyers do because it’s not working for them, either!
I have developed a system that we are using in my small personal injury and disability insurance practice with great success. It is effective, ethical and “outside the (lawyer) box.” It takes me out of the “I can try to outspend you” battle and drives highly qualified personal injury claimants to my office who, before I have even spoken to them, have already decided to hire me.
Forget the Old Way of Marketing
The best client is a referred client. This article isn’t about referred clients. It’s also not specifically about TV, radio or internet advertising. I am going to give you general advertising tips. I promise, though, that all of the concepts are easily transferable to TV, radio and internet marketing.
What does your marketing need to do to give you a chance to be in a position to select that cases that best fit your case selection criteria?
Your marketing must achieve six very specific goals for you to produce a steady stream of new clients with the type of cases that you want. Effective legal marketing must:
- Attract their attention. Depending on where you practice, the platform could be saturated in lawyer ads. To attract their attention, you must have a different message.
- Provoke them to initiate contact with you. You can’t market to them if you don’t know who they are so you must give them a reason to give you their identifying information. What’s your “reason to call?” (Hint: How can the answer be a “free consultation” if that’s what everyone else is doing?)
- Stop their search until you have a chance to communicate with them. Give them a good reason to stop searching now that they have been provoked to initiate contact with you.
- Prove that you are the obvious choice. Once they initiate contact your response has to be to give them overwhelming proof in a highly dignified and ethical way that allows them to decide for themselves that you are the obvious choice for their case.
- Create urgency. You must create urgency by convincing them that the demand for you and your time exceeds the supply of you and your time.
- Filter out (with little or no staff time) those cases that do not meet your criteria. Your materials must create a filter that helps weed out those cases that you do not want to handle in a way that will minimize time spent on cases that don’t produce income.
Let’s talk about pizza. When Tom Monaghan started his little pizza shop, he realized that he was not the only one around selling pizza. He quickly figured out that there were a limited number of things you could talk about in marketing pizza. It either tastes better, is larger, is fresher or is cheaper. That’s how everyone else marketed pizza.
Monaghan looked around and figured that if you wanted to compete for attention on any of the above issues, he could only do it by shouting louder. Certainly he could spend more money to run more TV ads or to have more full-color glossy inserts in the newspaper or to mail an ad or coupon to every single household in the area, but all he would be doing is shouting louder.
The problem with the “shouting louder” approach to marketing is that there is always someone who can come along and shout louder then you can. There will always be someone who can sell more cheaply or advertise more often. Competing on those grounds is for the foolhardy.
Monaghan attracted attention by changing the game. He identified a void. Where was the void in pizza? Delivery.
No one could get the fresh, hot pizza delivered to the buyer’s house in time to be still fresh and hot and without the box being crushed into the cheese. Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, didn’t market the pizza. He marketed the delivery of the pizza. Remember “Fresh Hot Pizza Delivered in 30 Minutes or Less, Guaranteed?”
What does this have to do with advertising legal services?
You can change the game!
Study the Yellow Pages (or even watch lawyer ads on TV for a few days.) Don’t most of the ads look exactly alike? Having a tiger instead of a face in your ad is not my idea of looking different.
Is there a way that you can change the game? What if you bought space but didn’t market your firm or yourself at all? Wouldn’t that look different? How would you do that?
What about marketing access to quality information that would be useful before you hire a lawyer or deal with the insurance company? See anyone else in your market area doing it that way? Without looking at the Yellow Pages sitting on your desk I can tell you that not one lawyer in a thousand is devoting his advertising exclusively to marketing, not his legal services, but his information.
In the first step of marketing get their attention by marketing the availability of useful information about personal injury claims and the attorney hiring process. Just changing your marketing from about you to offering something that is of great interest to them will make you stand out in the crowd. Talking about you in your ad is all about your ego.
Provoke Them To Call You. Again, looking at the ads in your local Yellow Page directory, can you see any ad which has such a compelling message that you would call that attorney over any other attorney in the directory? Except for the possibility that there is an attorney advertising a specialty practice that no one else is advertising I’ll bet that no ad states a compelling and different reason for calling one law firm over the other.
The offer to make is an offer for information. It could be a free report, a book or a “toolkit.” I have written and published books for my practice. Our Yellow Page advertising says virtually nothing about me or my firm. Instead, we advertise and offer, in the Yellow Pages, books that we have published with these titles:
From over 70 pages of lawyer advertising in our local phone book, we are the only ones advertising access to secrets.
Potential clients trolling the Yellow Pages in search of a personal injury attorney call us, not for an appointment, but to request one or more of our books. While a prospective client is waiting to be mailed our books to read in the comfort of their own homes, “without any high-pressure tactics,” we try to stop them from even continuing their search for an attorney.
Remember that the audience that we are talking to right now is those people who have been in accidents, but who have not already hired an attorney. Part of the marketing message you use to provoke them to call you should include reasons why they should stop their search until after they have read your information.
We promise that if they will take a moment to ask for our information that they will learn:
- What document should they never sign for an insurance company
- What service provided by some attorneys can be the kiss of death to their injury case
- What big mistakes can they make in the first few days of your claim
- Why a respected local judge called a chiropractor a “hired gun”
- How to find a board certified attorney
Take another look at the Yellow Page book sitting on your desk. See anything remotely similar?
All of these tag lines or “highlights” are honest, ethical and have the effect of convincing the potential client to hold off on his search until he gets and has a chance to read the very important book and packaging information that you are going to send him.
Overwhelm Them With Proof That You Are the Obvious Choice
Nobody likes to be sold, but they do like to buy. Whether you are buying a car, an apple, or trying to figure out which attorney to hire, as a consumer you want to feel that you have made the right choice and you want to be able to justify that choice to your friends and family.
Scientists have discovered that all decisions are made on an emotional level only to be backed up by logic. While we may believe that we are making logical decisions most of the time, in fact, what we have done is use logic to backup our gut.
When someone has initiated contact with you and now giving you permission to market to them you are now at a tremendous advantage over every other attorney. Permission is very important when we are all inundated with over 3,000 marketing messages from all sources every single day. To protect itself the human mind simply ignores most of these messages. But your message gets through because they have “raised their hands” to specifically ask for it.
You do this by doing exactly the same thing that you do in court. You pile on the evidence. While there are many ethical restrictions on what you can do in your public advertising message and while there are space limitations which limit the amount of message that you can deliver in a TV ad or in the Yellow Page ad itself, there are virtually no restrictions (other than being honest and truthful) on what you can include in a package that you send to a consumer who has initiated contact with you. Our proof includes not only educational materials, but testimonials, newspaper articles, and verdict reports. If they choose you to be their attorney you want them to be able to prove to their family and friends that they made the right choice.
People want what they can’t have. If a potential client believes that you are sitting in your office twiddling your thumbs because no one else has been dumb enough to hire you, then they certainly do not want to be the guinea pigs. Would you rather be seen as the attorney who needs to chase cases or the one in town who is booked solid for a month?
There is no line forming to meet the average attorney at the bottom of the mountain. There is always a line waiting to see the wise man at the top of the mountain.
I think that the answer is obvious to you and to your potential client. One of the keys to attraction is build the image that you are highly selective about your cases and that you have a limit to the number of new cases you are willing to accept. Even the newest attorney can honestly state that there are a limited number of cases that they will accept and that those cases must meet a certain criteria.
I recognize that this can be a very hard thing to do, particularly if you are not that busy and do not have that many clients. I can only tell you from experience and from talking to attorneys all over the country that the desire for your services will increase as the perception that demand outstrips supply (for your services) increases. The longer you have been in practice the more actual data you will have and can use to justify your scarcity. Until then you must either create scarcity or create the appearance of scarcity in order to create urgency to get people to call you now.
Create A Filter That Weeds Out Those Cases You Really Have No Interest In Doing
All of us have cases that we really like doing. We thrive on these cases and we do well with them. On the other hand, we all have cases that we do not like doing, either because we have never made any money doing that particular type of case or we do not really feel secure and experienced enough to do them or we found that the type of clients that these cases bring in turn out to be more pain then pleasure.
The last thing you want to be doing is to spend real face-to-face “free-consultation” time with someone whose case you know you are not going to accept. How many times have you sat in your office after having invited someone in without qualifying them or their case at all only to learn in the first five minutes that it is a real stinker? Then, you cannot figure out a graceful way to get out of listening to the rest of the sob story (and everything else going wrong at that moment in their lives) until at the end of the hour or 90 minutes you are able to conclude this complete waste of your time.
You can vastly eliminate these unproductive free initial consultations by being very blunt and forthright in your written materials and telling people exactly what cases you will and will not accept. It is no sin to desire to decline those cases which you find most difficult in your practice. Nor is it a sin to weed out “D” clients before they become clients.
Restoring Dignity to Legal Marketing
Like it or not, one of the reasons that trial lawyers are made the butt of jokes is because of the advertising that many engage in. It can be frustrating to want be able to differentiate yourself in a very crowded market and yet not know how. Legal marketing does not need to be “loud” to be effective. By feeding a consumer’s thirst for information, we not only differentiate ourselves from the crowd, but we have an amazing opportunity to restore dignity to lawyer marketing. How would you like to walk into a courtroom and have jurors who have seen your advertising say, “There he is, the ethical lawyer.”