Great marketing isn’t a single action; rather it’s a series of connected actions, each one building from the other for the purpose of creating a mutually beneficial and ideally ongoing relationship. This is a difficult lesson for lawyers to get, for three main reasons.
- Most lawyers don’t like marketing. It isn’t why they joined the profession and they might even resent the need to do it. Marketing a profession seems a little unseemly to them, a bit beneath their dignity. A bit too salesy.
- Most lawyers aren’t very good at marketing, so they approach it like chore that unfortunately needs to be done. Like taking out the garbage or going to the dentist for a cleaning and check up. Took that person to lunch, check. Sent that card, check. Invited that contact to a seminar, check. Now I can get back to my real job and stop worrying about this marketing stuff for a while.
- Many lawyers secretly believe that an initial introduction to or single point of contact with a potential client is sufficient for the lawyer to be remembered forever more. Creating another point of contact is pestering and unnecessary. Surely that contact will call if they ever need legal services. “They know my number”.
Some lawyers are lucky: they don’t need to market. Their firm, or their practice group predecessors, have done all of the work attracting clients to the firm. But most of us are not in those shoes. For the rest of us, recognizing and accepting that marketing is an important part of the job will pave the way for us to learn how to do it well. Heck, we might even start to like it if we learn to do it well. And it starts with something very simple: contact management.
Make A List of All Contacts:
Start by making a list of all the people you should be staying in touch with.
- Existing clients: Yes, these are marketing targets. You should keep them updated on their current legal matter but also understand that you are preparing them to refer you work. When you are responsive to their questions; when you are proactive with your advice; when you are articulate and solutions-oriented as opposed to being verbose, difficult to understand and focussed on problems; when you are approachable and not intimidating; when you take the time to get to know them and their company, and start to build a deeper rapport…all of these things are steps in great lawyering, and also in great marketing with your existing client base.
- Past clients: Yes, you should be staying in touch with them, too. They may have more work for you or your firm. They may be able to send referrals your way. They are your best source of new work.
- Existing or possible referral sources: We tend to assume that just because people have referred work to us in the past, they will always do so. But people like me are teaching firms like your competitors how to steal referral sources all the time. Don’t assume those relationships will never waiver. Staying in touch goes a long way toward protecting them. And consider who might be convinced to become a new referral source for you. Consider the professions or industries that might serve that purpose. Build and maintain your contacts in those areas. Be sure to include other lawyers you know on that list. Back when I was in-house for a large firm, my data crunching resulted in the realization that 1/3rd of the firm’s work came from other lawyers/law firms. The bar and your friendships in the legal community can be extremely fruitful over time if you manage them well.
Rate Your Network:
Make a list of all of these contacts, then identify them as an A, B, or C.
A: These are the most important people on your list this year. This includes current clients; past clients who have referred work to you; and existing non-client referral sources.
B: These are past clients who haven’t referred work to you, occasional referral sources from your network, and any referral sources you are trying to develop.
C: These are old clients, one-off referral sources or distant acquaintances you want to stay in touch with, but are probably on a slow burn.
Create a Contact Management Plan
Now create a plan for how you will connect appropriately with each name on each list.
A’s are your most important contacts so you need to connect with them a minimum of once every 90 days. That’s because research tells us we need to connect with people that often to stay top of mind with them. If you don’t keep this positioning, then despite any history you have with them, your contact might send work to someone they touched base with more recently than you. But by connecting every 90 days, you will never leave their top of mind space.
Create or table with three or four columns for points of contact throughout the year. Then plan what you will do, when, to complete each cell for that client. For example (and I’m talking pre-Covid here), you might take them for coffee in September, send them a personally written Christmas card or gift basket in December, invite them to a Chinese New Year party at the firm in February, and take them to lunch in April.
B’s are also pretty important, but two to three points of contact will probably be the appropriate investment. This can include a phone call, an email, a greeting card, an invitation to a free seminar at the firm, etc. Just ensure that you have a personal point of contact with them at least once: don’t rely only on emails. Again, create a table for your B’s with two or three columns, and fill in the cells to describe what those points of contact will be for each person on your B list.
C’s are part of your network and so worthy of contact, but two points of contact per year will keep them alive while on a slow burn. A Christmas card and a phone call may suffice. Again, create a table but with one or two columns to note your points of contact for each person.
At any time, a C could move to a B and a B could move to an A. When this happens, move them to the appropriate list and increase your points of contact with them.
Considering the Investment
This takes more time than you probably currently spend on maintaining your network. But chances are you aren’t really working your network right now. And this is by far the easiest marketing you could possibly do, because you already know these people.
The trick is to have the discipline to complete all of your required points of contact. Let’s say that you have 15 A’s, 20 B’s and 15 C’s on your list. Assuming 4 points of contact for A’s, 3 for B’s and 2 for C’s, that a total of 150 points of contact. Everyone gets a Christmas card which takes care of 50. And chances are that other activities can handle multiple parties at once – things like sending out an article or an invitation to a firm seminar or webinar. So, let’s remove another 15. The remaining 85 need to be done over a one-year period. That’s 7 points of contact per month or roughly 1-2 per week. Very manageable.
When you have a contact management plan, you’ll find that you are looking for ways to accommodate those points of contact required. When the firm has a client event, you’ll actively contribute names to be invited. When you see an interesting article, you immediately think of three people on your list who would benefit from reading it. And this focus will make you extraordinary at working your network. Then the work will start coming in…from what you’ll have to admit is very little effort on your part. Pretty soon, you’ll feel this is the easiest marketing program you could have embraced.
Heather Gray-Grant is a business strategist, marketing expert and executive coach for law firms and lawyers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org