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If a lawyer fell down in the forest and nobody was there to hear it, did the lawyer really fall?
What if that same lawyer hired someone to build a website, then waited for someone to visit? And waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually, the lawyer got angry with the person who built the website for him.
Unfortunately, his anger was misdirected. A website is great for helping people who are trying to find you. The problem is that nobody will find you if nobody is looking for you.
You need somebody to look for you. Most of us need a bunch of somebodies. Does a lawyer with an unvisited website really exist?
Your marketing won’t work unless you do this first
Websites, business cards, and most other marketing tactics are a waste if no one knows you exist. They have minimal impact if you throw them out into the world without doing something to get people interested, engaged, and hunting for you.
Maybe there was a time when you could get clients by hanging an ‘Attorney at Law’ sign above your courthouse-adjacent office door. But if there was such a time and place, I missed it. I started practicing law a long time ago, and even then we were beyond the hanging-out-a-shingle days of yore.
Today, you need to take action to get attention. Otherwise, you’re a lawyer falling down in the woods–alone, unnoticed, bruised, and broke.
You’ve got to pay for awareness in sweat or cash
How do you make people aware of your existence? You do something. At a minimum, you jump up and down while standing under your ‘Attorney at Law’ shingle. Standing still isn’t going to cut it.
Today, jumping up and down comes in many forms. You might get to know people in your community by joining groups, or speaking in front of associations, or getting engaged in community activities. You might try targeting other professionals with coffee invitations so you can get to know people.
You might write for publications, or create a great blog, start an educational YouTube channel, get visible on social media, or publish a podcast.
You might create some helpful technology on a website, in an app, or via a chatbot. You might publish resources designed to solve big problems for people in trouble. You might buy ads online, on the radio, or on TV; or you might print your name on the back of the T-ball team jerseys.
Creating awareness is easier than ever if you’re willing to sweat a little or spend a lot.
Do it for a small group
No matter what you do to create awareness, it’ll be more effective if you target your efforts at a small group of people. This is because it takes a while for people to notice and remember you. They need more than one interaction. You’re going to have to hammer your existence home by repeatedly interacting with the same group of humans.
Let’s say you wave and say good morning to each person who walks by your ‘Attorney at Law’ shingle on Main Street. One good morning won’t have any impact. You might as well be the homeless guy.
But good morning repeated each day for a year starts to sink in. People start to notice. They see you over and over. They realize you’re the apparently-homeless guy with the freshly shined shoes. Then, one day, it dawns on them that you’re the lawyer.
But it only works if you’re standing in the same place, saying good morning to the same people, each morning.
Standing on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway in New York is less effective, because you’re encountering different people most mornings. You need to focus your energy on a smaller group so they see you more often.
Your resources are limited, which makes it imperative that you limit the size of your group so that you can afford to reach each person. You’ve only got so much time and money. Don’t spread yourself thin. Go deep with a smaller group, rather than shallow with a bigger group. You need these people to remember you.
Eventually awareness becomes authority
Being out and about in the world, saying good morning, or publishing or speaking out on important topics and issues, gets you noticed. But it does more than that.
Being someone who has a position, reliably shows up, and persists in being present, has an impact on the way you’re perceived in the world. You become, sometimes even if you don’t deserve it, an authority (that’s why I’m here every Friday). Being the lawyer under the sign, saying good morning for 365 days in a row, transitions you from weird homeless dude to ‘great lawyer I know on Main Street.’
It’s odd, but it’s true, right? You keep reading my stuff because you think I know stuff. Do I really know stuff, or do I just keep showing up here? It’s hard to be sure, and that’s especially true when I get weirder and weirder with lawyers falling over in the forest, homeless lawyers on the street, and suggestions about advertising on T-ball jerseys. Maybe the difference between me and the other guy is that I keep waving and saying good morning?
Then they’ll call you, trust you, hire you
If you keep showing up day after day, they’ll start to trust you. That’s how the world works. Trust me–I know. I showed up.
Showing up is exhausting, expensive, and time-consuming. That’s why most lawyers show up for a short while and then disappear. They get tired and quit. The winners keep showing up. They earn their gains because they keep spending their time and money. Nothing worthwhile is easy or cheap. I hate that, but it’s true.
But–and this is key–remember that you can only show up repeatedly for a relatively small group. Once the group gets too big, you’re spreading yourself too thin. Obsess over your small group. Keep showing up for them. Be the guy on the corner who holds the umbrella when they need to jump into the taxi. Be the guy who helps them gather the apples that roll away after the sopping wet bag splits open. Be the guy who gives them directions when they’re lost.
Keep the group small enough that they’ll notice you. Don’t spread yourself thin. You can only hold so many umbrellas.
You’re better off targeting a hundred people with a hundred messages than you are sending ten messages to a thousand people. You’ll get on the radar with those hundred people. They’ll start to hear your story, believe you’re the authority, and trust you enough to turn to you when they need help.
The angry lawyer built the website, waited, and then got mad when nobody noticed. He never said good morning. He can’t blame the website builder. He can only blame himself. He fell down in the woods, nobody noticed, and he didn’t get back up, walk to a busy corner, stand under his sign, and jump up and down. Nobody was looking for him.