A few hundred years ago, an Italian economist by the name of Pareto made an interesting observation. He noticed that 80 percent of all land in Italy was owned by just 20 percent of the population. This observation led to what we now know of in business as the Pareto Principle, or the 80-20 rule.
Eighty percent of all new cars are bought by the same 20 percent of the population. Twenty percent of students in a lecture ask 80 percent of the questions. But we aren’t really interested in cars, real estate, or classes.
We are interested in being stars in our firm by bringing in business — by “making it rain.” This economic principle certainly applies to legal rainmakers as well. Twenty percent of law firm lawyers bring in 80 percent of the business. But why? What makes them so special?
1. Pick your poison
To be an effective rainmaker through social media, you need a digital presence. You need your own brand online. The most effective brands on TV are very clear about what they do: Snickers satisfies, Gatorade quenches thirst, and Sprite is refreshing.
The value proposition of these brands is clear. Most attorneys make the mistake of trying to be the legal version of duct tape: “You can use us for pretty much anything.” If your firm can practice any type of law, then good for you. Unfortunately, it will be impossible to get attention online if you are advertising yourself as a jack-of-all-trades.
You need to pick your poison — find one specific niche and go after it. The rule of online marketing is to market specifically but practice broadly. To this end, you need to answer two questions: “Who is your ideal client?” and “What are the three greatest opportunities you see in your industry?” Answer these, and you will have a pretty good idea of what niche you want to target through social media.
2. Join the party
Create online profiles and join the right social networking sites. Most people mistakenly start and end here. Do you have an account on LinkedIn? Is this an active account or a passive account?
A very prominent TV lawyer in town called me after I spoke at the local bar association and asked, “Can you do this social media stuff for us? Can we just pay you a retainer?” I told him I would gladly take his money, but it wouldn’t work unless he and his firm were engaged.
It is an incredibly competitive legal world out there, and people simply don’t want to hire a lawyer. Clients want to hire someone they trust and respect as their counsel and someone whom they trust and like as a person. By maintaining an active presence in the social media world, people get to know who you are, which leads to personal relationships with clients. That is such a powerful thing.
Join the party by creating active profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, and at least one other professional site, such as Martindale-Hubble Connected or Legal OnRamp.
3. Build your tribe
In the book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, marketing genius Seth Godin talks about leadership in the digital age. New technology has led to the creation of tribes of every kind — tribes of people interested in green energy, those interested in gun rights, and others that are interested in talking about bird watching. According to Godin, what those tribes need, more than anything else, are leaders.
So how do you lead? More important, how do you build a tribe? There are three proven ways to build your list or your tribe (I used these steps to build a network of more than 50,000 Twitter followers; 1,000 Facebook friends; and more than 500 LinkedIn connections.). To start, you need to follow and friend other people, then create content that will be useful to your tribe, and finally read and comment on content created by others. It does take time and energy.
Becoming a rainmaker through social media is not something that you can have somebody else do for you, because only you have what it takes to lead your tribe.
4. Friend and follow
I remember the first time I walked into a dance as a young adolescent. I reeked of too much cologne, and I had no idea what to do next. I spent a lot of time at that first dance standing against the wall and walking back and forth from the drinking fountain. Something just wasn’t quite right about the way the dance turned out. The second dance I attended was with my best friend, Chad Sieler. He taught me the secret to having fun at dances: Find the girls that are so cute that you would have no business dancing with them and ask them to dance. It was so easy. They kind of had to say yes. I met a lot of fun people that night, and even though some of the girls may have been out of my league, I had a great time because I was willing to put myself out there.
The same holds true when you are online. You need to be willing to put yourself out there by asking others to become your friends. This doesn’t mean to simply link with anybody. Identify people that you would like to “dance with” in a professional sense. Then you just need the courage to invite them to connect. To get started, first jump on LinkedIn and import your address book.
This is as simple as going to the “contacts” tab and then clicking on “import contacts.” If you have Gmail or Yahoo, it takes two seconds. If you have Microsoft Outlook, then you have to export files to a CSV (comma separated value). You may have to import this to Gmail first. Do the same using your Twitter account.
Follow at least 40 to 50 people to get started. This will help get you begin to build your tribe. Keep in mind, this may take a while. Chris Brogan, a social marketing expert and author of the best-selling book Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust, blogged for seven years before he gained 1,000 subscribers to his blog — he now has more than 25,000 subscribers and more than 100,000 Twitter followers.
5. Create targeted content
Let’s face it, you are a professional. You know important things, and you write about things that are valuable to other people. Most law firms make the mistake of creating alerts and sending them out online to past and current clients. Social media allows you to spread your content virally — not because of relationships but because of the quality of your content. If content is created with the consumer in mind, it will be passed on over and over.
What type of article could you create that would provide practical advice to your target market? I usually recommend lists — “Five Things to Consider When Choosing an Estate Lawyer” or “Seven Ways to Budget for Litigation.” People like lists because they are organized and there is a perceived take-away. What type of lists could you write that would resonate? If you want to take some time and create a white paper or e-book, then you can ask people to leave their name and email address in exchange. This is a great way to continue building your list.
6. Feed the funnel
If you build it, the people will not come. Not unless you are Malcolm Gladwell or some other famous writer. You need to promote your content and feed the funnel that is your blog or website. Social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter provide great platforms to do this. Start by using these three online tools:
- TweetDeck — This tool will let you manage multiple Twitter accounts, search in real time for multiple terms, and organize the seemingly noisy Twittersphere.
- Bit.ly — This tool will let you create shortened links to your content. Once you have created the links and blasted them out to the various social media platforms, bit.ly will measure how many people click on your newly created links — and where they are coming from.
- Ping.fm — Too busy to login to each individual site? Use ping.fm to post your new content to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and dozens of other sites in a single click.
These tools will help you track your return on investment. How many people are reading your articles? Where are they coming from? It is easier than ever to measure your results using these free tools.
7. Comment and share good content created by others
There is always that one person online who is constantly pushing their blog posts, Twitter account, or Facebook posts. He or she probably sends you an email about the new content and messages you every time he or she has a new product offering. Don’t be that person. That person is doing it wrong.
To have real success online, you need to be part of the community. Read the posts written by other people, pass on good content — even if it comes from you competitors. If the content is really good, you need to comment on it. Jump in on the discussion. This can often lead to great contacts and increased exposure to your site or blog. Remember, you can’t lead the tribe until you are part of the tribe.
8. Move the conversations offline
Just about a year ago, when I was first getting my new business off the ground, I attended my first major conference, the Superconference put on by InsideCounsel magazine. A few weeks before the event, I started searching Twitter for mentions of the conference. One day I started to pick up a lot of chatter and conversations from attendees. I invited all of them to a “Tweetup,” which is basically an informal offline meeting of various Twitter users.
The response was amazing. Armed with newly printed business cards, and thanks to Twitter, I hosted a number of highly influential people in the blog world. Not only did the Tweetup lead to my first client, it also helped me gain some serious media exposure. A Tweetup may not be your style, but the purpose of this section is to convince you that the power of online tools lies in creating relationships that can be taken offline.
If I engage with somebody interesting online, my next step is to set up a phone call, breakfast, or lunch to get to know them better. Online connections are fun, but offline connections lead to business. If you want a measurable ROI from the use of social media, you need to constantly meet face-to-face with the contacts you make online.
9. Fortune is in the follow-up
Do you have a newsletter? If not, then start one. Use a system like Aweber or Constant Contact to send out monthly information to your connections.
The rule of sales is that it takes, on average, seven points of contact before somebody will buy your product or service. A blog post is not enough; you need repeated contacts. Social media makes it easier than ever to pass along articles, comment on activities your potential clients are doing, and maintain friendships. Just remember that social media needs to fit into your overall marketing plan. Maintain contact and you are guaranteed to have a higher close rate.
10. Build others up
Pay it forward when you are online. Ego and arrogance spread online just as easily as charity and kindness. If you are
willing to take the time to help others and offer advice to those in need, your reputation will spread just as easily. By praising the good work of others, you are likely to get praise back. The golden rule is alive and well online, which is part of what makes using social media so much fun.
These are powerful tools, but they take time to learn. If the 10 steps seem intimidating, just get started with the first few. The goal is to make participation in social media part of your regular schedule.
Try to take 10 to 15 minutes each day to “check in.” Social media will not work for you if you log in once a month. Social media has the potential to be distracting, but like anything else of value, you need to schedule time, set measurable goals, and follow up.
Becoming a rainmaker through social media is a process. By using these 10 steps, you can soon become part of the 20 percent of lawyers that bring in almost all of the business.
(photo: Ed Yourdon)