Everything I think I know about marketing flows from a simple idea: figure out who is your ideal client, and then figure out how to connect with your ideal client before they need a lawyer. This is pretty much the opposite of how I see many lawyers going about marketing.

Many lawyers ask whether they ought to use Twitter or write a blog or join a networking group. This is like asking whether you should use Word or Photoshop for your next project before you know what it is. What if your next project is a spreadsheet? The only appropriate answer is “I don’t know.” Anyone who gives a different answer is probably selling something.

But if you already have a clear picture of your ideal client — your laser-targeted demographic — your marketing strategy will probably be pretty obvious. (Just like once you know your project is to create a spreadsheet, it should be pretty obvious that you ought to use Excel.)

So before try to figure out whether a particular marketing activity (LinkedIn, blogging, a networking group) will work for you, you must have a clear picture of your ideal client.

Your Ideal Client

If you have never gone through this exercise, do it now.

Who is your ideal client? Don’t be lazy and respond with “people accused of a crime who can pay me” or “people who want to file bankruptcy.” Those are just the minimum qualifications, and they aren’t particularly helpful. You need to get more specific.

In fact, get as specific as possible. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How old is your ideal client?
  • Is your ideal client a man or woman (if it doesn’t matter, flip a coin)?
  • Does your ideal client have a job?
  • What sorts of things does your ideal client like to do after work? On the weekends? (Make a list.)
  • Does your ideal client have a smartphone?
  • Does your ideal client have a car? What kind?
  • Where does your ideal client live, and what sort of housing does he or she live in?
  • Is your ideal client married? Happily?
  • Does your ideal client have children? How many? How old?
  • What are your ideal client’s politics, if any? Does he or she vote or contribute money to candidates?
  • Does your ideal client have a computer? PC or Mac?
  • How does your ideal client get the news?
  • Does your ideal client have a landline? Cable?
  • Does your ideal client live in your town?
  • What sorts of organizations is your client a member of, if any?

Hopefully you get the idea. You may even want to give your ideal client a name. If you want, you can flip through a magazine or a stock photo website to give your ideal client a face.

If you have been practicing for a while, you probably have a pretty clear picture of your ideal client already based on your conversations with your clients. Answering the questions above should be pretty easy, and will just help you clarify the picture you already have.

If you have not been practicing for a while, show your description to your friends and colleagues to make sure you have created a plausible profile.

Your Marketing Strategy

Now, it should be much easier to come up with a marketing strategy. With everything you now know about your ideal client, it should be relatively simple to decide whether pinning business cards to coffee shop bulletin boards is likely to get her attention. Or whether a Facebook fan page is likely to get your ideal client’s attention before or at the time he needs your services.

So, should you use Twitter? Well, does your ideal client use Twitter? If she does, can you even find and follow her (and more like her)? What sorts of things does she like to post? What sorts of people does she follow? Is there a way for you to contribute to the conversation she is already having on Twitter in a meaningful (and memorable) way? Or target her with ads she might pay attention to? Is any of this likely to be effective, or is there a more likely way for you to connect with your ideal client?

Since you know your ideal client pretty well by now, what other opportunities exist? As another exercise, go down the list you made of your ideal client’s characteristics and come up with a way you could adjust your marketing strategy to each one. For example, if your ideal client has a smartphone, could you make your website more mobile-friendly? If he likes scotch, would he come to a scotch tasting if you hosted one?

How can you connect with him days, weeks, or months before he knows he has a problem that a lawyer can help with? What groups could you join that tend to have a high percentage of your ideal clients in them? Would your ideal client see you if you were interviewed for the evening news? Would your client visit your blog regularly, if you had one?

When you have a clear picture of your ideal client, it should be pretty easy to answer these questions and increase the number and quality of the clients who contact you.

Featured image: “This is the best place we can choose” from Shutterstock.