If you want to ensure your marketing efforts provide a good return on investment, you must start with a marketing plan — a step often skipped in small or solo firms. You can avoid making emotional and often expensive decisions if you have a great marketing plan that identifies problems you may encounter in the future.
This series of posts will break down the five steps of building a useful marketing plan. By focusing on these five aspects, you can create a well-balanced marketing plan for your law firm that will help drive clients to your firm. Step one is below and covers identifying and defining your ideal client and niche. Over the next few months the other four steps will be covered, so stay tuned!
Spoiler alert: Advertising strategies will not be reviewed until step four, so don’t put the cart before the horse.
Know Your Ideal Client and Your Niche
Too many people skip the first — and possibly most important — step when they create a marketing plan: identifying the demographics of an ideal client. The easy answer is that anyone is an ideal client, but clients want you to appeal to their uniqueness. Someone who has a unique need is going to look for a law firm that focuses on that specific area — not one that claims to be right for everyone. People like to hire experts. And while it may seem like you do not want to limit your options, trying to please everyone is not the best way to stimulate long-term success.
Drill Down to Your Ideal Client
Identify your ideal client by getting specific. Ask yourself some questions about your ideal client and get specific as possible:
- Consider the age, sex, occupation, etc. of the people you can best help, and who can best make your firm grow.
- Consider what kinds of problems you want to solve. Maybe you don’t want to be involved with violent cases.
- Where does your client spend time both online and in the real world?
- What kind of car, home, and lifestyle does your perfect client have?
- Consider who can afford your services and who will be likely to give you repeat business.
- What sort of job does your ideal client have?
- Which organizations and groups does your ideal client belong to?
- Draw a picture in your head (or clip a picture from a magazine) of your ideal client. Ideally this can be based on a past client who was great to work with in the past.
You can use this image to practice your pitch — how you grab this person’s attention. What is important to this person? Also take some time to identify the sort of clients you do not want to work with. This small step will help you avoid agreeing to take a case that you’ll regret.
Identifying your target market is the first step in developing a marketing plan because it will help you to focus your efforts in all of the following steps. Start identifying your market by finding your niche.
Find a Niche
Instead of trying to please everyone, let people know what you do. Do you specialize in bankruptcies, accidents, or work-related claims? Smart clients don’t want a just a lawyer. They want a lawyer who is also an expert. Choose your niche and present yourself as a specialist in that area. Not sure how to declare yourself an expert? Start a law blog or publish articles posted on websites about your niche. You could also write helpful articles for a local paper, speak at a local legal event, or make other presentations to your target audience.
Define Your Niche
Defining your niche is more than just having a fuzzy idea of it. Get a high-definition picture of your niche. Then work on crafting your answer to the question: What’s your specialty? Put into words what you do, and don’t use boring terms to describe it. Explain your niche in a way that even a-non-lawyer will understand and remember. For example; “I help families through especially difficult divorces.” or “I work to make bankruptcies as painless as possible for middle-class families.”
Identify Your Aspirational Niche
While it may seem to go against the idea of a niche, it is possible for you to have more than one.
Your second niche should be “aspirational,” or a practice area you hope to focus one day. You should simultaneously keep your “practical” niche, an area that is profitable and pays the bills while you work towards attracting more clients in your pre-determined aspirational niche.
In this case, it can be a challenge to decide how to present more than one practice area. To do this effectively, slightly broaden your overall message to include both your aspirational and practical niche.
For instance, marketing your firm as “aggressively seeking justice for the underdog” or “providing personal attention to your needs” can easily cover more than one practice area.
The Importance of Identifying Your Niche and Target Market
Once you define your niche and ideal client, build the rest of your marketing plan around that information. The first step is to identify what you are selling (or what services you are providing) and who you are selling it to. Research other firms and organizations that also target your market and ask these questions:
- What colors, designs, imagery, and graphics are used on their websites?
- Do they seem to target younger, tech-savvy clients or an older more established group?
- Where do these clients spend time online, and what publications do they read?
Knowing the answers to these questions can help you determine whether and where to place ads and what they should look like. Additionally, pay attention to what your competition is doing that seems to be ineffective or unappealing. It is helpful to know what you do not want to do, too.
Keep in mind that you are not cruising your competitors’ sites so that you can steal their look and image. Once you get an idea of who you are going after, you will want to consider your Unique Selling Proposition — now that you know what you’re up against, what makes you better than your competition? In the practice area you chose, surely other lawyers are specializing — why should a client choose you over your competition?
Defining a niche makes it easier for you to focus your time and be efficient and productive. Working on the same types of cases, each with its own challenges and unique differences, makes you an expert. If you suddenly switch to trying a different type of case, you may need to relearn some steps. Working on similar cases over time will leave you with a cache of templates and boilerplate text that you can use again and again. Constantly moving between vastly different cases will make you a jack of all trades, master of none, and each time you sit down to work on a case, you’ll be starting from scratch.
Next month’s post will focus on how to perform your own SWOT analysis, and the process consultants use to help lawyers identify their strengths and weaknesses (so they can transform them into strengths).
Featured image: “business man walking step by step of business to success ” from Shutterstock.
Read the next post in this series: "Podcast #15: Karin Conroy’s 5-Step Basic Law Firm Marketing Plan."