Here’s what I tell them: It ALL works!
Naturally, telling a good story makes marketing work better, but seriously, it all works.
That’s true, however, only if you make a plan and stick to it.
It never works if you turn it on, turn it off, shift to something new, turn that on and off, and generally execute inconsistently.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed two estate planning lawyers take two very different approaches to building their businesses. I’m going to share their stories.
Here’s What Didn’t Work
Here’s how one small firm lawyer approached marketing.
- He tried networking, but stopped when the referrals didn’t come fast enough.
- He invested in an educational website, but stopped creating content when his traffic wasn’t as high as he wanted.
- He wrote a book, but put it on a shelf when the reception was poor.
- He gave seminars, but stopped when they didn’t immediately create sales.
- He turned his seminar into a webinar, but he stopped that too when it didn’t make him busy.
- He ran Google AdWords, but stopped when no one clicked.
- He tried Facebook ads, but stopped when they didn’t convert new business.
This lawyer was never satisfied. He’d get a little traction, see a small impact, but it was never as much or as fast as he wanted, so he abandoned each approach in favor of something new. I didn’t bother to mention his adventures with custom-printed pens, radio ads, blogs, bus benches, and posters above urinals in bars.
He toiled for years, but never built a strong reputation. His business never saw the steady, incremental growth he desired.
Here’s What Worked
This is the story of a different small firm lawyer…
He ran a small newspaper ad in the business section of the local paper, three days a week for thirty years. He got a great price because he signed year-long contracts. He spent nothing on design because he let the paper do it for him. He NEVER changed the copy. Never.
It was slow going at first. But it grew over time. Clients came, he served them, he did a good job, and they referred more business.
I once overheard a conversation where one of his clients referred a friend. “He’s the guy with the little ad in the business section,” she said.
The lawyer didn’t spend his time researching tactics. He didn’t spend much money on marketing. He spent his energy servicing the people who called because of his little ad and his growing reputation.
3 Steps to Make it Work for You
Here’s how to make consistent marketing work for you (without spending a lot of money or dealing with a lot of stress.
1. Pick your favorite place to tell stories.
The newspaper is (or in many markets was) a good place to tell a story. Today we can tell stories on websites or blogs, in ads on Google and Facebook, in podcasts, on the radio, on TV, and many other options.
It’s easier than ever in our internet-enabled world. We can target specific people (the people who might need us) and tell them stories they find interesting and useful.
It’s essential, however, that you pick your favorite place to tell your stories. Don’t force yourself to tell stories in a place, or in a way, that doesn’t work for you. Be comfortable, have fun, and enjoy explaining things to prospective clients.
Some of us love writing, some love video, and some love talking into a microphone. Some of us love teaching, some prefer answering questions, and some enjoy telling stories in person.
You will only succeed in telling your story if you do it in a place, in a manner, and at a time that makes you feel good. If it doesn’t feel good, you’ll find a way or a reason to quit.
If you plan to tell a story for thirty years, you have to pick a place that feels right – a place that lifts you up – instead of a place that wears you down.
2. Tell two good stories.
First, tell your client’s story.
Let that single person know that you understand, feel their pain, appreciate their stress, and comprehend their challenges.
That person needs to know that you know their problems. Give that person the “fly on the wall” feeling. Make them wonder how you know so much about their life by using their words and connecting with them emotionally.
Next, tell your own story.
Tell your story in a way that’s interesting, dramatic, and connects with your prospective clients’ needs. Be interesting, explain your mission and your passion, and let them know how you became the person who understands them.
Weave those two stories together in the same way that you want to come together with your clients. After all, your paths didn’t cross by accident. You need one another. Your prospect, knowing that you understand them, will see you as a solution.
3. Tell them over and over again. Don’t stop.
Telling the same stories over and over for decades gets old, even if you’re filled with passion for your mission. But it’s also comfortable to know that your approach works. It helps you achieve your goals and gives meaning to your work.
Find novelty in other aspects of your life and use it to infuse energy into telling your stories, but keep telling those stories.
Whatever you do, don’t stop.
The “don’t stop” piece is the hardest part. There are peaks and valleys in every business. Steady growth is sometimes interrupted. Businesses that never experience a lull or a downturn aren’t the rule – they are the exceptions.
Just because you encounter a hurdle or a lag doesn’t mean you should change your storytelling. Those slow periods are natural functions of how businesses evolve and grow. Keep telling those stories.
Whatever you do, don’t stop.
Frustration is normal. Persistence is Rare.
Most lawyers are frightened by the idea of marketing. So they hunt for a job. They spend their entire career avoiding the need to generate their own business by working for someone else.
Many lawyers with the guts to run their own practice attempt the try-this/try-that approach. They bounce from idea to idea without achieving the results they want.
Some lawyers stick to the plan. Sometimes they do it by accident. Sometimes they do it because they lack creativity or ambition or energy. But the lawyers who follow the steady path often end up being known, liked, and trusted by many clients. They get hired.
When you’re feeling the urge to switch tactics, change your stories, switch practice areas, or hit the reset button, remember that lawyer running his little ad, three times a week, on the business page.