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This is a basic, simple, month-by-month law firm marketing plan for those lawyers who lack the time/energy/creativity/resources/whatever to build out a marketing plan for themselves. If you know you’ll need help to stay on track, or need to create a marketing message that works (not just yell your name louder in a crowded market), join me in the Marketing Accelerator 2020 program.
What’s the impact of the plan? You’ll invest one day per month and the revenues will start to flow. You’ll earn millions of dollars. You’ll fund your kid’s education, build a retirement nest-egg, and probably leave a little to your alma mater when you die–if you do as I suggest.
There’s no magic in this prescription. It’s not at all sexy or innovative. There’s some relationship-building mixed with a bit of reminding people you still exist. There’s some effort to establish yourself as an expert, so that you can gain the attention of those who need your help. It’s a practical, conservative, proven approach to building a professional practice.
This plan is particularly effective because it’s steady, consistent, and persistent. It works because you work the plan over time, which steadily increases awareness of your business.
But it won’t work overnight, and it won’t work unless you take action and do what’s set forth below. Sure, wishing for new clients might work … it just won’t work very well. Doing what I describe below works a heck of a lot better than wishing.
By the way, if you’re going to need some help making your marketing plan happen, on January 2, we’re launching our annual Marketing Accelerator program at Rosen Institute. It’s how law firm owners create marketing plans that produce consistent revenue. We built it, we refined it, and it works. Join us.
You won’t do this … you probably won’t even read it
This is the law firm marketing plan for lawyers who don’t have a marketing plan.
You don’t need this plan if you’ve already got something good going on. If you’re doing it, doing it, and doing it, then just keep doing it.
If you’re busy executing your plan, don’t mind me today. In fact, you can stop reading right now.
Of course, you won’t stop. You’re not that kind of lawyer.
You’re still reading because you want to be sure I won’t say something useful. That fear of missing out is part of what drives your success. So feel free to join me today for this journey.
In Case of Emergency Break Glass
We panic. I get it. I’ve spent time in panic mode.
Sometimes we need revenue NOW. There’s huge pressure to bring money in the door. Bill collectors are calling and the rent is past due. The stress is overwhelming. Been there, done that, felt the sweat dripping down my neck.
Thankfully, a lawyer’s life isn’t always a break-glass emergency. Thankfully, most days are pretty good and the money, while not always overflowing the cup, is enough to keep the cup full. But sometimes ….
The marketing plan I suggest below works. You’ll have a good year. But if you’re in crisis mode right now, you may need to make something happen this afternoon. That’s when I suggest you turn to online advertising. It’s rarely a good long term solution. It’s easy to begin to feel like you’re working for the online ad seller rather than yourself. They use your data to figure out how much you’ll be willing to pay, and they let their algorithms keep jacking up the price. You can easily go from being the customer, to being the hostage.
The online ad space is crowded with lawyers. It’s competitive. We often irrationally drive the advertising cost up beyond the point where the expenditure is profitable. That’s why I suggest, if you find this approach necessary, that you look beyond Google and Facebook for advertising opportunities.
Check out online advertising opportunities on Quora, Reddit, LinkedIn, Instagram stories, podcasting, Amazon, and YouTube (yep, a Google-owned property). These options are often less cluttered, less expensive, and less competitive than their bigger competitors.
Advertising might be a quick fix for your short-term revenue needs.
But remember: it’s generally more profitable to build a long-term model on less expensive, more predictable marketing. Online advertising puts you at the mercy of the large companies that facilitate the distribution of your message. Be cautious about relying on online ads as your primary source of new business. Don’t get addicted to the quick fix. It’s so incredibly tempting.
How marketing vendors become our worst enemy
We love the quick fix–at least, I do. We’re all about buying ourselves a magic solution that can instantly turn on the new client inquiries. We love the idea of the magic bullet, and we’re quick to suspend our critical thinking skills when we’re hungry for revenues.
We’re the people who joke that the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math, but we’ll turn around and buy into a marketing gimmick sold by some huckster in a slick suit or a Silicon Valley venture-funded polo shirt.
Hell, some of us buy into marketing schemes because the cookies that SEO company sent were soooo damned tasty.
I’ll be blunt: if your revenues aren’t yet what they need to be, then you need to avoid shiny object syndrome. You need to get the basics under control.
Some lawyers have their systems optimized. New clients hire the firm, the firm makes and meets its promises, and revenues overflow the bank accounts. Great.
Firms already performing at a high level:
- Bring the vision to fruition
- Make clients happy enough to spread the word, online and off
- Generate revenue of hundreds of thousands of dollars per employee
- Retain employees and turn away a steady stream of job hunters
- Finish the year with a healthy profit, enabling reinvestment in the development of the business
These firms have the basics mastered. They can afford to consider some of the shiny marketing objects that might take them to the next level.
They’re positioned to explore advanced data-based approaches to acquiring algorithmically scored prospective clients at the moment they enter the market.
They’re ready to use chatbots, experiment with artificial intelligence, and build custom CRM workflows to bring prospects into the firm’s orbit and increase engagement.
They’re able to deploy technology for tracking each prospect’s engagement with the firm’s marketing, and then use that data to customize their approach to each specific buyer.
They’re positioned to level-up their game, because they’ve got a foundation in place. But if you’re not ready for next-level tactics, don’t let yourself get distracted by the shiny new toy until after your solid foundation is in place.
It’s tempting to jump on the latest intake technology, uber-cool online marketing sales pitch, or slick sales training proposal, and get pulled down the rabbit hole. Don’t do it. Stay focused. Get the basics mastered first. Follow the plan detailed below.
Not enough revenue? Keep reading!
Today, I’ll outline a marketing plan for your law practice for the coming year.
It’s a simple plan, but it works. There are no radical ideas. The tactics are proven.
This law firm marketing plan will take a newbie from zero to three hundred thousand in the first year. It will also take a million-dollar practice to a much higher level.
It works for nearly anyone … if you take action
Follow this plan and you’ll get results. In fact, the only way you won’t get results is if you ignore my prescription.
But here’s where 9 out of 10 of you will fall short: reading the plan is not enough. Following the plan is the only way it works. This is the most important paragraph in this article. Go back and read it again. Seriously.
I talk to lawyers almost every day who say they love what I do, have read everything I’ve written, and are excited to be super-charging their marketing, but can’t figure out why the revenue isn’t where it needs to be.
To a person, the issue is that they simply aren’t doing the things in the plan.
Sometimes they think they are, but when they tally up the number of referral source lunches they’ve had in the past month, they’re shocked to find that it’s zero.
Sometimes, they say this part or that part of the plan isn’t practical for their practice area or their location, so they haven’t done it, and they wonder why the phone isn’t ringing.
Only you can decide whether you’re committed to your financial success. I’ll show you the way, but I can’t set the alarm, roll you out of bed, or make the coffee.
You’ve got to be the driver on this journey.
If you’re fired up and ready to go, scroll down to “January” and you’re off.
But if you want to exponentially increase the return on your investment, don’t skip ahead just yet.
You’ll go faster with vision
Marketing works. Following the plan I’ve set out below will deliver clients.
But will they be the clients you really want? Will you end up doing the work you enjoy? Will the revenue be profitable?
Most lawyers only consider these questions after they’ve started attracting new business. The new business turns out not to be the business they want (they realize this later). Usually, they figure it out because they’re busy and broke.
Wouldn’t you rather short-cut that cycle and figure out your practice before you mess it up?
On an instinctive level, we understand the need for a plan. We know it’s risky to postpone the existential decisions.
We’re aware of our own lack of clarity, as we accept different kinds of clients with different kinds of problems. We find ourselves accepting work we aren’t suited for. We know, in our gut, that we’re making questionable choices.
But we’re worried about staying busy, so we avoid thinking about our vision for the business.
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
Investing time in a vision is ultimately a time-saver. In fact, deciding where you’re going before you start moving is the best way to become more efficient and prevent waste. That’s why the free Rosen’s Rules course spends so much time on the topic.
Spend some time watching the video for rule number two and create your vision before you head down the marketing road.
The secret marketing sauce: The two stories
Your marketing message doesn’t have to be perfectly clear to work.
Even an amateur will get the basics right and see some results.
The brand new marketer quickly figures out how to communicate the most basic part of the message: “This is my name; this is what I offer.” It’s pretty easy to get that part right.
But a marketing message that resonates will travel further and cost less to deliver. Optimizing your message means you can spend less time and less money spreading the word, because the words themselves are more powerful.
A good story spreads fast. Other people start telling it on your behalf, and suddenly it’s amplified. Word of mouth is the most powerful, efficient, and effective form of marketing. A good story gets people talking.
There are two stories you should tell. First, tell your client’s story. Describe what it feels like to have their problem.
Second, tell your story. Explain how you came to be the right person, in the right place, at the right time to help.
Tell your client’s story
Articulate the problem. Show them that you understand. Tell them what it’s like to be in their shoes. Use your marketing message to demonstrate empathy.
Most importantly, explain what it feels like to be going through their problem. Use your knowledge of their story and their problem to articulate it better than they could themselves.
When prospective clients believe you fully appreciate their problem, they will automatically believe that you also know the solution.
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, we humans care more about our problem than we do about the solution.
Leave them with that ‘fly on the wall’ feeling. Make them wonder whether you’ve actually been watching their lives unravel. Make it clear that you know what happened and you know what’s next. Tell them their own story as part of your marketing message.
Tell your story, too
Prospective clients have a hard time judging your legal talents and skills. They’re not qualified to assess your expertise. But they’ll trust you because of your story, if you’re willing to tell it.
They want to know who you are, what you’re about, and why you do what you do.
They want to know what you’re made of and how that core part of you translates into the solution to their problem.
They want to know what you care about and why.
They want to know why you care about them.
They want to understand how you already know so much about their life and their problem, and why you’re on this mission to help.
They want to understand what makes you tick. They want to know what you feel, why you feel it, and how that energy translates into getting them results.
Explain to them what it feels like to be you, to live your life, to have experienced the kinds of issues that feel, to you, much like their problems feel to them. Look hard for the emotional overlap between your story and their story.
The magic happens–the connection becomes exponentially stronger–when the feelings they are having are feelings that you have also experienced. You understand because you have felt the way they feel now.
In telling your story it’s crucial to focus on the overlap. It’s not important to tell every aspect of your story. Emphasize the overlap. Find your common ground with your prospective clients. They want you to explain how your story intersects with theirs.
Once you’ve figured out what these two stories are, tell them whenever you can: in articles, in speeches, whenever you’re interacting with people. The words of these stories matter, but it’s even more important to feel their truth in your bones.
Telling both stories isn’t easy, which is why most lawyer marketing is “John Doe–Injury Law–Phoenix” repeated over and over. If you find a powerful way to tell these two stories, people will share your message.
A good story goes much further
Telling the stories I suggest–your client’s story and your story–is a force multiplier. You’ll get dramatically better marketing results when the stories are well told. You’ll be able to spend less time, money, and energy and achieve the same marketing impact.
If you invest time and energy now in developing the stories, you’ll reap the rewards for the entirety of your legal career. Getting the stories right will pay dividends year after year. Yes, you have to expend some creative energy in the development of the two stories, but once the foundational elements of the stories are in place, you’ll be able to rely on them forever.
It’s impossible to overestimate the impact of the stories. They are the engine that powers your marketing. Once you get the stories right, you’ll see them spread without you. It’s fascinating to observe their impact after you set them free in the world. Stories drive the world forward. Get yours right and they’ll drive your business growth forward, too.
Numbers, goals, and deadlines impact results
Some marketing advisors say, “If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.”
I agree with the spirit of that advice. But if we quit doing all the things that didn’t come with solid metrics, most of us wouldn’t market our businesses at all.
It can be tough to track the origin of our clients. We ask them how they found us, but they can’t remember. Or they do remember, but they get it wrong.
One client says she found you on “the internet.” Later you discover she found your website because her cousin sent her a link to one of your articles. The cousin bookmarked your page because of his minister’s recommendation. The minister heard you speak at the Rotary Club.
Good luck tracking that.
Still, tracking is worthwhile. Collecting data gives you a general sense of what works and what doesn’t.
Double down on the tactics that generate business. Abandon the ones that fail. Over time you’ll become more efficient.
It’s possible to get very scientific about your marketing. You can create measurable funnels and track prospective clients as they gradually move toward retaining your firm.
That data can give you a powerful boost toward success. But don’t let your inability to numerically analyze the value of your effort paralyze you. Act now, then measure later, when you have the time to track your results.
But while measurement can wait, deadlines can’t.
Let’s face it: we’re deadline-driven people, and we’re programmed to meet the hard deadlines, without fail. Most of us spend our lives leaping from one deadline to the next. Your marketing plan requires a calendar with hard deadlines that reflect your commitment. Your marketing calendar is the cornerstone of your marketing success.
Your marketing calendar drives the plan
Marketing is calendar-driven. Trying to market your business in bursts isn’t as effective as spreading it out consistently, over time. Use the calendar to spread your marketing “touches” over the course of a year.
Personally, I like to calendar my marketing on a spreadsheet.
I figure out my target groups and list them across the top of the sheet. For example, I might list clergy, psychologists, social workers, lawyers, upset fathers, hair stylists, and accountants.
Then down the left side, I’ll list the months of the year.
At the intersection of dates and targets, I list the tactic I plan to use to touch the target to remind them that I exist. I find a way to reinforce the marketing stories I tell with each touch.
I plot my calendar in December of each year for the next year. The calendar gives me an organized view. I can scan it to be sure I’m touching each group at regular intervals.
For example, I might email a seminar invitation to lawyers in January, remind them in February, and send them the recording in March. Touch, touch, touch; you get the idea.
Find what works for you
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. You can’t sustain it, and you’ll be miserable. Use the marketing approaches you find most enjoyable.
Don’t rely on your assumptions about yourself, either. Test your self-assessments. See what works and what feels good.
Some of us are quick to reject networking. We assume we have the wrong personality for building relationships.
But some of the best networkers are introverts. They listen well, so people like them. The classic loud, bragging extrovert turns off a lot of people.
Success helps us enjoy tactics we might have skipped if we hadn’t tested. You won’t know until you try a variety of approaches.
After trying out some different tactics, settle into the ones you enjoy. Networking (my course) is great for some and completely wrong for others.
An information-rich, educational website or blog is the perfect tactic for certain folks. Some love public speaking. Others enjoy social media. There are lawyers who geek out about online advertising and there are other lawyers who can’t stop calling reporters, offering to comment.
Everybody is different. Everyone has different strengths and challenges. Find what works for you and then do it–lots of it.
You need one objective measure
You need something by which to keep score. You need to know, deep in your heart, whether you’re making progress or floundering.
The obvious measure of your marketing success is revenue. If it’s coming in, then you’re winning. But if it’s not, well–you’re not winning as quickly.
But revenue, in a growing practice, can be a frustrating measurement. The gurus say it takes two years to build a successful professional practice. During those two years the revenue will likely come in fits and starts. It’s an unusual firm that sees the revenue trend steadily upward without interruption.
You need an objective measure. You need something that tells you that what you’re doing is working. You need an early–pre-revenue–measurement of the success of your efforts.
Thankfully, there’s an easy yardstick by which to judge yourself.
Count your five-star reviews on websites dedicated to reviewing law firms. Google and Yelp are the obvious choices. More reviews means more happy clients. This is word-of-mouth marketing in the 21st century: when someone jumps online and says something nice about you, they are growing your practice. Get more reviews.
I can hear some lawyers already telling me why they can’t make that measurement work. They’ll blame their practice area for their failure to get the reviews posted online, or the types of folks they represent. I don’t agree.
Yes, it’s hard to get online reviews from some people in some practice areas. But I can find practices in every area getting reviews. You say your criminal law clients are too embarrassed to post reviews, but I can find reviews for other firms. You say your clients insist on privacy and won’t post, but I can find very private people posting about very personal matters.
You can get the reviews. They’ll serve as interim measurements of your success and they’ll be a long term source of new clients, because reviews are powerful in the market today.
Get more five-star reviews. Just do it.
Oh, and while we’re on the topic: should you automate the process? Should you let software handle this for you? No. Talk to your clients, explain the review process, and encourage them to post on your behalf. Don’t leave it to email; use your personal charm to get every single client to post a review.
What’s not in the plan
There are certain approaches to marketing, mostly pitched by vendors, that you won’t find in this plan.
Why? Because they are generally ineffective, frustrating, and often cost more–in either time or money–than they are worth.
Don’t bother with these:
1. Don’t buy leads (or most anything else)
You’ll get calls. “Are you taking new clients?” they ask. Just hang up. The leads will be terrible.
Speaking of hanging up: look, we all get these solicitation calls from marketing vendors. Aside from leads, they offer plaques for your walls, “award” listings on websites, ads, pens emblazoned with your name, and more. Just say no.
Once upon a time, we got solicitations from Who’s Who. Today it’s Super Lawyers. It’s all a play on your ego. The only thing you’ll get if you pay for a listing in Super Lawyers is public confirmation that you’re insecure. If these publications want to list you and use your name as bait for less secure lawyers, then let them. But don’t pay them.
Calls from salespeople are all about helping the salesperson, not you. Caller ID is your friend. Don’t answer these calls, but if you do, don’t give them your credit card number.
2. Don’t redesign your website
Redoing your website is fun. It’s especially enjoyable if you can work in a giant photo of yourself.
But you’ll quickly discover that revenues don’t suddenly jump up when you launch the new site. Now is the wrong time to redesign your website.
Should you add educational content? Absolutely.
Should you add video, calculators, tools, and a chatbot? Yep, if you’ve got the basics covered. But don’t bother with the extras until you have the educational content written. Get the text done first. Educating your market with text works. The extras work too, but not nearly as well as providing text. Write first. Do the rest later.
But don’t redesign the site from the ground up when there are other marketing tactics that you haven’t yet employed.
And keep in mind that the website game is substantially different today than it was even a couple of years ago. Google is sending fewer and fewer clicks to organic search results, preferring to keep users on pages they control via knowledge panels, AMP, and Google My Business listings. Bidding wars on the top PPC terms in a lot of markets mean spending more per click than you will make in profit on each case. It’s not the inexpensive and abundant source of business it once was.
The marketing plan below will allow you a bit of a website refresh if necessary. You can still include that big picture of yourself. But we’ll just tweak a bit instead of starting over entirely, because we’re focused here on generating revenue first.
3. Don’t pay for search engine optimization
There must be legitimate search engine optimization people out there somewhere. But it’s hard to tell, because there are so many sleazy operators. They lie, cheat, and steal, and we don’t know enough to figure out whom to trust, if anyone.
I’ve met lawyers who are convinced that their SEO firm is doing magic for them, only to discover the statistics were faked.
One lawyer reported a dramatically reduced “bounce-rate” and then figured out that his guru had tweaked a Google Analytics setting which explained the change. There had been no change in visitor behavior.
Another lawyer was given a graph showing steadily increasing traffic only to discover that it couldn’t be confirmed by Google Analytics data.
When you find yourself busy with new clients, your SEO firm will take credit. When business is slow, they’ll blame a search engine algorithm change. Their work is invisible. They operate in a black box. They may mislead you and take your money. Clearly, I am not a fan.
But I do know a secret: search engines appreciate valuable, well-written content.
Why? Because they need to deliver answers to the questions asked by their searchers.
Search engines especially appreciate it when you create something useful that addresses search queries which previously came up empty. Can you do that without paying for help? Probably. I’ve always found excellent advice on the topic from Search Engine News (I’ve subscribed for more than a decade).
4. Don’t delegate relationships
Relationships are between you and the other person. Keep them close. Set up your own lunches. Message back and forth. Use the process to get to know one another as you build the relationship.
Don’t hand it off to your staff. Don’t outsource it. Don’t expect results from relationship-building unless you are actually engaged in the relationship.
Trust is a one-to-one kind of magic. It comes naturally when you (1) interact, (2) with frequency, and (3) mutually engage in disclosing personal details. Trust comes quickly for some, slowly for others, but it’s always about one human connecting with another. Keep the relationship between you and the other person. Don’t delegate.
5. Don’t believe the hype
There is always something new. Much of it was new to the rest of the world three years ago and now lawyers have suddenly “discovered” it today.
Snapchat, Facebook video, chat bots, etc., all get their day in the sun. They are not miracle cures for your revenue problem. Don’t jump on the new thing because of the hype unless you’ve got the old proven thing humming along already.
Personally, I love a shiny object, but I’ve learned that the “great results” we’re promised are usually a figment of someone’s imagination–either (1) a vendor who needs to sell something, or (2) an insecure lawyer who loves to talk about himself and his brilliant idea.
Shiny is fun, but not at the expense of an approach that’s proven.
Smooth the way and reduce friction
It’s pointless to generate new inquiries if the potential clients are just going to hit roadblocks at your firm and decide to go elsewhere. Get the basics under control before you amp up the marketing.
- Do we answer the phone when it rings?
- Do we promptly return calls, emails, and text messages?
- Do our website contact systems work?
- Can we get prospective clients in quickly?
- Is our office easy to find? Do we send directions?
- Do we remind prospective clients of their appointment?
- Can we accept whatever form of payment the client wishes?
- Do clients leave their initial meeting satisfied?
- Do we follow up?
- Do prospective clients retain us?
Eliminating friction in the intake process has a significant effect. Fixing these problems before the phone starts ringing is critical. Do it now, because this marketing plan works. If you follow this agenda, you’ll have new clients soon.
Here’s the monthly marketing plan
This marketing plan works.
Of course, you have to work the plan.
I’ve released annual plans before, and I always get lots of enthusiastic responses from lawyers promising to stick with it for the coming year.
I’m not sure which New Year’s resolution they drop first: the marketing plan, the diet, or the gym membership.
But if you do what I suggest, you’ll get more clients.
I encourage you to modify this plan for your particular needs. Adapt it to fit your practice.
But once you finish planning, execute and stick with it. Don’t keep tweaking it after you start. Don’t incorporate the latest scheme based on some sales pitch. Stick to the plan and keep going.
Here’s your 2020 law firm marketing plan.
1. Create a list
Lists are valuable. Create a big list of anyone who might be useful to your marketing efforts. Include their name, address, e-mail address, and social media addresses (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and LinkedIn).
You won’t have all the info for all of your contacts, but don’t stress. This list will be a lifelong work in progress. Start now and add information as you acquire it.
Whom should you include on the list?
Everyone. Include clients, former clients, former classmates, local connections, referral sources, civic group contacts, church friends, neighbors, and anyone else who has the remotest idea that you exist.
Two notes about the list:
- Don’t feel constrained by the lack of a prior relationship. It’s okay to add people to your list whom you’d like to know. Go big. It’s okay to start working on some folks who feel out of reach. Don’t limit yourself.
- Lawyers are great additions to your list. Realistically, lawyers get asked for referrals to other lawyers more than anyone else and thus are incredibly valuable relationships. A great list tends to be lawyer-heavy.
You’ll use the list regularly for the next year (and forever), so now is the time to get it organized.
What software should you use to create the list?
Anything that encourages you to get it done. A legal pad and pen are fine. The contact manager in whatever applications you use is better. A specialized software product is great if it’s simple to use, but not if it means you’re going to spend 2 weeks researching instead of making the list.
Action before efficiency.
Add details about each contact. You’ll add more notes over time, but for now record where the contact originated. Was this person from the church directory? Is she a former client? Is she both? Use some sort of simple notation to help you recall how you know each person on the list.
2. Send out invitations to a party
The people you identified right away for your list are the folks who interest you the most. That’s why they came up first.
Plan a party for them. Do it right now. Don’t overthink it.
Hold the party in your office if you have one, or any conference room you can access. Do it in the back of a restaurant. Or do it at your home. It doesn’t matter where the party happens. Worry about the food and drinks later.
Send the invitations before you think too much about it, so your anxiety doesn’t have time to stop you. Invite too many people. If they all decide to come, you’ll figure out where to put them and how to buy that much liquor later. Send those invites.
Hesitant? I hear you. Parties aren’t my thing either. But I’ve had many of them. As much as I’d prefer to do all of my marketing from behind a computer keyboard, parties work. Things happen when people stand up, get moving, and show up. Your act of bringing people together will stimulate activity, and good things will come of it. Just do it–no matter how much you hate the idea.
3. Snail mail some letters
Send letters to one-tenth of your existing clients. Use snail mail, not email. (Yep, people still open paper letters from lawyers. Maybe use fancy notecards because buying stuff feels like progress, right?)
Thank them for allowing you to perform their work and ask whether they’d like to talk to you, at no charge, about any issue. Have them call and schedule a phone conference if they want to talk.
4. Eat some lunch
Call two lawyers from your master list who might refer business to you at some point. Invite each of them to lunch. As usual, don’t overthink it. Just do it.
Enjoy lunch, talk, and get to know one another better. Ask lots of questions. Learn about their lives and businesses. These lawyers are the beginning of your soon-to-be thriving network of referral sources. It all starts over pasta and salad.
Why two lawyers instead of ten, or twenty? Because I’m trying to get you moving without scaring you off. I know lawyers who can do ten coffees and lunches per week. How are they doing with growing their business? Phenomenally well. This is a game of “the one who dies with the most friends wins.” Make more friends. Lunch is the gateway drug of friendships.
5. Spend a few minutes on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn
It’s trendy to unplug, disconnect, and go off the grid. That’s for other people. You need to get yourself wired up, plugged in, and accessible online. For our purposes, Facebook or Instagram will do the trick.
Make sure everyone who refers business to you is in your email contacts list. Give Facebook access to your list. (It’s automated, so if you’re worried about client confidentiality, segregate your client list from your referral source list.)
Friend all of those people. Don’t get all wound up about crazy internet stuff like who might see pictures of your kids. (Trust me, nobody wants your kids. We’ve got enough of our own, and they’re driving us nuts.)
Once a month, at a minimum, update your status on Facebook. Just post something simple to remind people that you’re alive.
If social media feels awkward to you, keep it short and sweet. Just say, “Still alive and well, in case you were wondering.” As usual, don’t overthink it.
Should you do the same on LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever else comes along? Sure, if it floats your boat. But if you’re not already doing this stuff, then it’s probably not your idea of fun, so don’t sweat it. A quick Facebook update is sufficient to remind others that you exist.
1. Send more snail mail
Send the same letter to the next tenth of your clients. Repeat every month until you finish in October. We’re building a system here, so make sure this happens. You’ll see how the pieces of this system come together each month. Don’t skip steps.
2. Have lunch again
Schedule two more lunches. You’re going to continue taking new people to lunch each month until November. (See the system?)
Tip: consider prioritizing your contact list, so that you reach out to the most promising referral sources earlier in the year. For some lawyers, those highest-priority lunches will be with lawyers. Why lawyers? Because they are a great source of referrals. But some of you will want to focus on non-lawyers, depending on your area of practice. Maybe you should be having lunch with doctors, or community leaders.
What should you talk about at lunch? Ask questions and use this list of conversation starters to keep things going. Be sure to add notes to your list after each lunch so you’ll remember these people. You’re going to see them again.
If you’re feeling like a fish out of water at lunch (and are willing to keep trying) then you might appreciate my networking course. We charge for the course; if you can’t afford it please contact me, and I’ll make arrangements for you.
3. Throw the party
Remember the invitations you sent? Now it’s time to have the party.
Whether you’ve got three people, 30 people, or 300 people, be sure to greet everyone and keep up with the attendees. Add notes to your list to track who showed and who wasn’t able to attend.
Let me just interject, before you ask, about what you serve. It doesn’t matter. Beer and pretzels are fine. Wine and cheese are also fine. Lobster and fancy cocktails are fine, too. Your party is about the people, not the snacks. Make people feel special by inviting them, listening to them, and caring about them. They won’t remember the peanuts.
4. Don’t forget about Facebook
Go ahead and post your monthly social media status update. This time go big and include a picture. Pictures of you with your family will get noticed, so go for it, even if you have an ugly family.
1. Keep sending letters
Continue with the client letters, covering another 10 percent of your list.
I suspect you’re getting bored with sending letters. Nobody said marketing is exciting. This might be the right time to outsource or delegate the letter-sending. We’ve had good luck with virtual assistants for projects like this one. You’re looking for someone who will enable you to set it and forget it.
2. Eat more lunch
Take two new people to lunch.
I know, you’re gaining weight from all the lunches you’ve already had this year. Life is difficult. Join a gym, okay? The gym is a great place to meet more people, anyway.
If you’re enjoying the lunches, take it up a notch and do more than two a month. I know a lawyer who scheduled eight lunches per week. She ate far too much lunch, but got so busy with work she often didn’t have time for breakfast or dinner.
These are good problems to have, right?
3. Write an article
Write an article for a publication. Local business publications are usually good targets, but a blog or other online publication in your market or practice area might be better.
Limit yourself to 750 words and submit it. Tell a story about something interesting (pro tip: remember those two stories you worked on telling above, back in December? This is an important place to use them). If the publication rejects your submission, submit it elsewhere until you get it published.
4. Get going on Google My Business
Spend a little energy getting set up on Google My Business. This program helps Google list you on Google Maps and in the search engine results. This month do what’s required to get yourself listed and verified. It’s quick and easy. If you’re already listed, then check your listing and make sure everything is up-to-date and working.
5. Check your 5-star reviews
How many reviews have you garnered so far? Keep an eye on the total number of 5-star reviews. Remember, this is our measure of success. It’s a leading indicator. A growing total of 5-star reviews will lead to growing revenues. Track this leading indicator because it gives you the feedback you need to stay on course before the revenues start flowing.
6. The usual: Keep it up
Post anther Facebook update. Make sure you’re “friends” with all of your contacts. Start “liking” their updates so they notice you’re paying attention. Hitting the “like” button is the easiest marketing you’ll ever do. Like, like, like everything you can find.
1. Update the website
Lawyers have, for more than two decades, focused on their websites as a critical piece of their image. Our marketing presence has become a blend of (1) us as human beings, and (2) us on the internet. Some lawyers make their first impression in-person, others do it on the web.
Websites are critically important to marketing now because they are the first introduction to the law firm that many potential clients have. They’ve been sent to the site by Google, and they’ll quickly hit the back button on their browser if they don’t like what they see.
But the importance of your website is diminishing. The fact is that most law firm website traffic comes from Google. Google is sending less and less traffic to websites via the search engine results pages. They’re working hard to keep the traffic on their site.
You need to continue to make a positive impression, and educational content on your website is and will continue to be a great source of new clients for many firms for years to come. But there was a time when launching a new site each year made economic sense. After a year, a site looked stale and lacked the latest technology.
Today, the pace has slowed. You don’t need to focus nearly as much marketing energy on your website as was once required. That energy can be allocated to other marketing projects.
But feel free to engage with your need to refresh your site periodically, so that all the educational content you’re adding makes a positive impression. It’s only a little refresh, though–keep it basic and inexpensive.
Don’t jump into this project like it’s a brief for the U.S. Supreme Court. Think of it more like a motion to dismiss on a $10,000 breach of contract case that’s way beyond the statute of limitations.
This is not rocket science, so keep it simple. Think of it as a business card with more space for text and pictures.
You need a site with a few pages (contact info, bio, and list of services) and a sleek look. Hire a developer on Upwork for $500 and let him build you something new on WordPress.
We’re entering an era where your website will act more like a warehouse for the content you’re producing and distributing elsewhere, rather than being the first place people will interact with you.
Don’t overdo it. If you’ve already got a decent site, April is the time for a refresh and update.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. No video, no blog, and nothing expensive or complicated. Keep it simple, clean, and easy. Incorporate a spot on the site where you can add pages as you create articles, like the one you did last month.
2. Amp up the lunches
It’s time to escalate your lunch game. You’ll be doing four lunches this month. That number will continue to grow.
But the good news is that it’s also time to circle back to the folks you had lunch with in January. You can take the same two people to lunch again. A second lunch is always easier than the first. Now you’re old buddies, and you don’t have to go through the “getting to know you” awkwardness.
Take those two people to lunch, and add two new ones to the mix. You get bonus points for doing a quick coffee with someone new this month as well. These coffees will serve as the teaser for a full-blown lunch down the road.
3. Update Google My Business
Take a few minutes and pop back to your Google My Business dashboard. This would be a good time to install their app on your phone so you can keep up with what’s happening during downtime away from the office.
Go and do a quick post about the article you had published last month. Write a quick summary and mention where it was published. You can do lots of different types of updates on Google My Business. You can alert clients to new educational material on your site, programs where you’re speaking and other events you think are important, new services you offer, and more. My Business posts generally expire after 7 days.
4. The usual: don’t stop
You’ve now got a bunch of systems in place that keep you top of mind with a growing number of professionals. You’re doing (1) the Facebook updates, (2) the snail mail letters, and (3) the lunches. Keep it going. Don’t take a break.
What should you put in the Facebook update? It really doesn’t matter. The goal is to remind others that you’re alive and kicking. A reference to something that you’re not particularly good at doing (for me, it’s bowling) accompanied by a picture will hit the bullseye. A picture of your kid or your dog will work too. Again, keep “liking” your friends’ updates.
5. Go further with your list (if you have time)
I hesitate to push further. You’re busy and this plan is starting to deliver. But I’ll make a suggestion, if you’re looking for more and want to amp it up a bit. This idea isn’t for everyone. If you’re struggling to keep up then don’t take this on.
I’m a big fan of email marketing. In fact, Rosen Institute is an entire business built around email. It works.
You made that big list of contacts back in January. My guess is that your list is getting longer now. Good for you.
Staying top of mind with those folks is what we’re doing with the letters, the social media posts, the articles, and the parties. What if you could do more without adding much more effort?
Email can help. If you’re ready for more, you can use a product like ConvertKit (I use it myself) to send out periodic emails. It’s an easy way to stay in touch. We use it to send our weekly Friday File broadcast emails. It’s also useful for adding sequences of automated emails to educate prospective clients as well as referral sources. With automated sequences, you put the effort in once to get the emails written, and then you recycle them for years. It’s a smart investment if you can find the time.
1. Do the usual: letters, lunches/coffee, and Facebook
Letters, lunches, coffee, and Facebook are your foundation now. Don’t slack off. If you’ve delegated the letters, make sure your assistant keeps the project on track.
Continue adding two new potential referral sources to the lunch/coffee plan each month. Also, it’s critical that you follow up with the people you went to lunch with back at the beginning of the year. In May, it’s important to have a second lunch with the folks from February.
2. It’s time for some reviews
We’re going to add something new this month.
Ask your happiest clients and former clients to post reviews on Google, Yelp, and Avvo (if permitted by your state’s rules).
These people will be pleased to help. Give them a role in growing the business. Ask them to write the review and be sure to thank them. Shoot for one satisfied client review each week.
Keep an eye on your Google My Business dashboard and respond to your reviews. There’s only upside to responding to positive reviews with a simple “thank you.” Responding to negative reviews is more complicated, so let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
3. Tweak the list
Remember our list of contacts from January? By now you probably have ideas for more contacts, plus additional information about your current contacts. Update the list and keep using it to inspire new additions to your lunch program.
This would be a good time to add some aspirational contacts. There are folks who likely have a steady stream of business they could refer. These are the “I wish I knew” people you’ve heard about and admire from afar. Now is the time to add them to the list.
1. Do more of the usual
Letters, lunches, coffee, and Facebook need to happen in June as usual.
Let’s add the reviews we started last month. Shoot for one client review per week going forward. Now your regular tasks include snail mail letters, lunches/coffees, Facebook updates with a picture, and four client reviews per month.
2. Lock down the lunch system
I’ll say less and less about your lunches in future months because you’ve mastered the lunch program.
You’re adding two new people to the list each month, and you’re following up with another lunch with each one during each quarter of the year.
By the end of June, you’ve had lunch–twice–with all the potential referral sources from January to March. Now you’ve got six more folks to add to the follow-up list from April, May, and June. These folks, along with the January to March group, will join you for lunch during the next three months.
Yes, the group is growing fast. And they’ll all remember you, because you’re following up.
3. Check those 5-star reviews
Keep an eye on the total number of positive reviews coming in. Be sure every happy client has the opportunity to review your work. Clients don’t need to be finished with their case to write a review. A review can be posted at any time. Some prospective clients might even post a review after a positive experience with your intake process. Keep the reviews coming.
4. Take a vacation
You’re doing really well if you’re sticking to this plan. Now, take a week off.
Go somewhere good and enjoy your time away. While you’re traveling, find a nice gift for all of your contacts. Bring them something related to your vacation spot–something you know they’ll appreciate. Gifts are powerful.
1. Continue with the marketing system
You can see what’s happening with the usual stuff we do each month. It’s a system now. It’s happening month after month.
It’s how we build a sustainable business. This is an important piece of your evolution.
Each month, you’re sending letters, having lunches and coffee, updating Facebook, and getting client reviews. These monthly activities are your foundation.
2. Add follow-up notes to the system
Your lunch dates have fallen into a pattern. You’ve got a cycle happening. You’re going to see each person four times a year, once every three months.
In between lunches, it’s important to remind them of your name and practice area. Your Facebook posts are helping, but there’s more we can do.
Once a month, during their off months, send them each a personalized e-mail. Send a clipping about something they mentioned at lunch or something they might find useful. If nothing useful comes to mind, send something funny. Keep in touch so they’ll remember you.
3. Join a club
It’s time to level up just a bit. This time you’re going to join a civic group. Something like the Rotary Club.
I know, I know, this isn’t your thing. Well, guess what? You’re going to do it, and it’s going to be better than you think.
By now, you’ve likely been approached about a group by one of your lunch contacts. It’s time to accept the invitation. If you haven’t been invited, it’s time to go looking for one.
4. Update Google My Business
If generating business from Google matters to you, then the Google My Business dashboard should become your home away from home. Start adding a short post each week. Keep an eye on reviews and respond. Add some photos and even video if you’re so inclined (maybe a quick walk-through of your office).
1. Keep up with the marketing system
Don’t neglect your foundation: letters, lunches, coffee, Facebook, and client reviews. Write follow-up notes to everyone on your lunch list just to check in. Maintain the cycle: each quarter, every individual on your list should hear from you at least twice–once for lunch/coffee and once when they receive your follow-up email.
2. It’s time for some media attention
Local media coverage is good. It doesn’t always result in a deluge of new clients, but it builds credibility with referral sources, judges, and others.
Rack your brain for a connection to a local media outlet: TV, radio, or newspaper. You’re bound to know someone who knows someone. For now, just think it through. Ask your contacts. We’ll work on this more next month.
3. It’s time to write another article
Crank out another 750-word article. Get it published in your community, and then put it on your website. Be sure to send a link to your network so everyone knows you’re a rock star.
Now, I’m going to suggest something extra if you’ve got surplus marketing energy welling up inside of you. How about a podcast?
You’re writing articles anyway. What about repurposing the articles as a podcast or even as a video on YouTube. This is an extra credit assignment. It’s not essential. But with the technology built into your phone, it’s easier than ever to turn written material into audio or video. The apps from Anchor (for podcasts) and YouTube (for video) make it simple to publish audio and video content. If you’ve got the time, consider repurposing the material you’re creating. You can promote the content via email and social media.
4. Get a key position in your club
Volunteer in the club and take on some responsibility.
Two positions have a big impact. Either (1) direct your energy toward communications (the newsletter, emails, or website) so you become visible or (2) get involved in programming so you can meet and communicate with the speakers coming to each meeting. Either role will increase your visibility with club members and/or in the community.
1. The usual tasks
Your usual tasks have become quite a system. By now you are:
- Sending snail mail letters to existing clients
- Having lunches and coffee dates
- Sending lunch follow-ups via email
- Posting Facebook updates
- Collecting client reviews online
- Periodically updating your contact list
- Attending club meetings
2. It’s TV time
Approach that media contact we identified earlier and offer your help. Place a quick call and mention that you’re an expert in your practice area.
Don’t ask about being on the news or in the paper. Just let the contact know that you’re available and willing to help.
Be ready when the contact calls and asks for some help. Be generous and see where it leads.
3. It’s party planning time again
Pull out your contact list and send out invitations again. It’s time to repeat the party from earlier in the year. Invite some of the folks from the first list, plus some new people. Be sure to invite everyone from your lunch and coffee dates. This party should be much easier to pull off, and will be dramatically less stressful now that you’re nine months into this plan.
4. Back to Google My Business
Drop by the dashboard and do a quick post on that article you wrote last month. Go ahead and turn that article into some short questions and answers. You, and any other Google user, can post questions on your page. You can answer your own questions. Be sure to keep an eye on the Google My Business dashboard (the mobile app makes it easy) so that you’re answering other people’s questions as well.
5. How are you doing on 5-star reviews?
Have you ever heard the old adage what gets measured gets done? Keeping an eye on the 5-star reviews, making them a big part of your focus, is win-win. The clients win because they’re happy with your work. You win because a 5-star review is word-of-mouth marketing on steroids. People trust other people who’ve been through what they’re going through.
How many reviews have you gotten so far? Stay focused on doing what’s required to make your clients happy. Then be sure they have the opportunity to post some great word-of-mouth for the world to hear.
1. Keep pushing the marketing system
Now it’s about fighting decay. Don’t let anything slip. The list is growing and the lunches are becoming more frequent as the numbers grow larger. Entropy is the enemy now. Don’t fall into the we got too busy to market trap.
2. Shop for gifts
Get ahead of everybody else and start thinking about holiday gifts for key players in your life.
Recognize the people who send you business. Recognize those who contribute to keeping the system healthy and strong. Plan to send something to each important referral source and client.
Some lawyers send mail-order cookies or pears. Those are great gifts, but they’re generic and your gift is likely to be identical to what others send. The gift thing must be done right or you’re wasting time and money.
Spend some time and energy reflecting on the perfect holiday gift for each individual. October is the time to start thinking because getting this right can take a while. It’s not about how much you spend–it really is the thought that counts. An inexpensive gift, perfectly calibrated, has much more bang for the buck than something flashy. These people matter to you, so make sure the gift demonstrates your understanding of the recipient.
3. Let’s party
You’ve already sent the invites, so it’s time to throw the party. It’s critical to host yours before the holiday season heats up.
Schedule the event for mid-October or you’ll miss your window. If your year was profitable, go big and hire a caterer.
Why not give these folks a party they won’t forget?
1. Work the marketing system
Take a break from client letters. You’ve made it through the client list by doing 10 percent each month for the first 10 months of the year.
Now send holiday cards to everyone–clients as well as contacts. Keep everything else rolling as well. Things are busy in November, but you’re running a system now. Don’t stop.
2. Double down on lunches
November is a key time, before the holidays, to get ahead on lunches with your network. Assume you need to do all of your November/December lunches before November 15.
Realistically, that’s four lunches with new lawyers, plus 13 follow-ups. That means you need to do two a day, more or less, for the first half of the month, so you can take some time off over the holidays without falling behind.
If you’re worried about your waistline, get creative. Breakfast works, for your early-rising contacts, or maybe afternoon tea is an option.
Remember: entropy is the enemy. This is where you’ll see the system start to break down if you don’t push yourself. Keep it up.
1. The marketing system never sleeps
Keep everything pumping along. December is the stress test for your system. Don’t let it decay, even in the face of holiday season distractions. Pay careful attention to each element.
2. It’s time to party
Go to the parties. Attend your club holiday party, your bar association party, and your firm party if you have one. Parties give you a chance to efficiently touch base with a lot of people.
Attend, but don’t drink, and don’t get trapped in a corner. Talk to everyone briefly. Work the room like you’re winning, because if you’ve been following this plan, you are winning.
3. Reap the rewards
By the end of the year, you’ve sent all of your clients a letter reminding them that you exist and can help.
You’ve met a bunch of new referral sources and had a chance to get to know them.
You’ve met a ton of new people in your club.
You’ve been recommended numerous times on Google, Yelp, and Avvo.
You’ve likely been published in several places, and you’ve probably been quoted in the local media.
If you followed this plan, you had a good marketing year.
4. How’s it working out?
Measurement has value. Keep measuring. Obviously, revenues are the ultimate marketing measurement. Bringing in good, profitable work keeps the lights on and helps you bring the vision to fruition. Keep a close eye on the overall revenue and the direction of the trend.
But also stay focused on the 5-star reviews. Here at the end of the year, it’s valuable to assess the total number of reviews you’ve gotten and consider strategies for bringing that number up next year.
These reviews let the world know that you’re trusted, you’re reliable, and you deliver on your promises. Keep them coming. Celebrate the number if it’s good. Focus on improving it, if it’s not what you’d hoped. There’s always next year.
5. Make a new plan
Spend some time in December thinking about next year. Come up with your new marketing plan and take it to the next level. Use this plan as the basis, but tweak the new plan to suit your personal talents, skills, and abilities.
Your next plan will be even better, and will take you to an even higher level of success.
Now You’ve Got a Plan
That’s the law practice marketing plan for 2020. If you execute on this plan, you’ll have a good year. If you don’t, you’ll probably have a bad year.
If you do what I suggest, clients will call and the revenue will flow. I promise.
But for marketing to work, you have to actually do the work. Nothing I outlined above is complicated or difficult. It simply requires diligence and adherence to the system.
At the end of the 12 months, you’ll have a mature business and a functioning marketing machine. This year will feed into the next. Growth from this year will promote even more growth in subsequent years (like compound interest).
This is how you build a thriving practice.
Now that you have the plan, all that’s missing is your commitment and execution. Are you in?
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