Attorneys who believe that good work always translates into business have taken a naïve approach to marketing. The most successful rainmakers use referral-based marketing in a purposeful, consistent way.

By Michael Hammond, Practice Advisor

Referral Sources“I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.” When Tennessee Williams wrote this line in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” he had no idea that Blanche Dubois’s words would perfectly describe the marketing mantra of many attorneys.

In real life, many attorneys fervently believe that “if I do my job well and do good work, the world – and paying clients – will beat a path to my door.” While this optimism is laudable, it is a naïve and anachronistic approach to marketing. Clients don’t come to you because of the quality of your work product; they come to you because they believe you can solve their problems. But they won’t believe you can solve their problems until they know you well enough to trust you. Trust comes when you connect and communicate with clients effectively, and it is the foundation of the lawyer-client relationship. Client trust can also begin when someone they trust tells them that you can be trusted. Good works alone are not enough.

Hope Is Not a Strategy

There was a time – a golden age two or three generations ago – when the growing demand for legal services far outstripped the existing supply of lawyers. Today, the growing supply of lawyers far exceeds the demand for their services. Clearly, it is true that some business may result from doing your work well. When people are pleased, they will tell others. But this indirect, passive approach to marketing will always prove inadequate to fill your practice consistently unless your reputation is large and your niche is narrow.

A select few who are already well known for rare levels of expertise in narrowly-defined niche areas will find clients who will beat a path to their door without any direct effort on their part. Outside of this narrow exception, many of the rest of us just hope for the best. Hope is not a marketing strategy. In today’s world, the provision of legal services is a highly competitive industry with a growing number of non-lawyers as well as lawyers competing for the available business.

Can You Rely on the Kindness of Strangers?

Attorneys who believe that good work alone translates into business take a passive and reactive approach to marketing their practice. Passively waiting for clients to appear seldom produces results; carefully identifying and actively seeking out their best prospective clients will lead to a more successful and satisfying practice. Instead of merely reacting to the perceptions others already have of them, attorneys must work directly to shape the perceptions of who they are, what they do, and why in a clear, compelling, and memorable way.

Identifying, nurturing, and focusing on key referral sources – including clients – is the catalyst for proactive, professional-services marketing. Relationship-oriented attorneys who use referral-based marketing in a purposeful, consistent, and authentic way are the most successful rainmakers. They are able to convert “strangers” who need their legal services (or know others who need them) into clients and referral sources who know them, like them, and trust them because they took the time to cultivate relationships with them.

Death of a Salesman

For many attorneys, the “good work is enough” approach to marketing is born out of an aversion to doing anything that smacks of “sales”. I’ve heard countless attorneys say that one of the reasons they went to law school was so they wouldn’t have to go into sales. Many attorneys who are dubious about marketing are confusing professional-services marketing with product marketing. Product marketing focuses on presenting the features and benefits of the product in order to make a sale to the buyer: “Here’s why this is the newest and best widget; how many widgets can I sell you?” Professional-services marketing focuses on the client and their particular situation: “I’ve solved this type of problem for many people before; let me tell you how I would solve your particular problem now.”

For attorneys who confuse product sales with professional-service marketing, the thought of any marketing is repugnant to them because they believe that it requires a departure from who and what they are, when, in fact, the exact opposite is true. Professional-services marketing requires you to identify the type of client you serve; clearly articulate the legal service you provide to them, along with the benefit they derive from that service; and emphasize what differentiates you from all of the other providers of that service. In short, you must define who you are and what you do in a very clear, convincing, and compelling way.

Michael Hammond is a “founding father” of Atticus and is a Certified Practice Advisor. He has extensive experience in lawyer marketing, one-on-one business coaching, and strategic planning.


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