Think you can grow your law firm without making an effort? Think again...
Traditionally lawyers practised law, content that their firm would grow organically. There wasn’t a focus on business development. They didn’t search for clients, clients came to them. But today there’s a shift happening. A shift that necessitates a change in approach to how you grow your law firm.
The legal market is more competitive than ever. There are more lawyers than ever before with statistics from the American Bar Association showing an average increase of 1.1%, across all states in the U.S.A. Alternative sources of legal advice are also readily available and clients have more power to choose and change loyalty due to the internet. Clients can easily search for lawyers and make comparisons of expertise and price. They can propose alternative fee arrangements and if law firms don’t accept they simply move on to a firm that will.
Lawyers who are unable to adapt risk falling behind in an increasingly competitive marketplace. For small firms, the difficulty extends beyond these challenges: They face the stark reality of competing with large firms on small budgets and limited resources.
Are you a small law firm facing these challenges? Don’t fear! It’s more than possible to compete. Indeed, it’s also more than possible to grow your law firm for a fraction of the cost. The important thing is to use your strengths, focus on the right business development strategies and apply smart content marketing strategies.
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Grow Your Law Firm by Playing to Your Strengths
You have unique strengths as a small firm. Your strengths include agility, personalized customer service and ability to offer flexible cost structures.
You’re not tied down by large, clunky corporate structures that slow down growth. It’s such agility that will allow you to compete because you can ‘fail fast’ and easily adapt. For example, if you implement a strategy you find isn’t working, you can quickly change it.
Personalized Customer Service
Law firms are notorious for delivering poor customer service. Consider these staggering statistics:
- Fewer than 10% of potential clients get to speak to lawyers
- 42% of lawyers take more than 3 days to follow up on a lead (e.g., contact form or voicemail)
Small firms looking to compete in the new economy should update their approach to customer service. After all, you’re poised to deliver personalized service. You’re nimble and able to respond to customer needs better.
You also have fewer points of contact in your firm so prospective clients know exactly who they’ll be dealing with. Use it to your advantage to build long-term relationships based on empathy, transparency and a personal touch.
Some tactics to improve customers service are:
- Responding to clients within 24 hours of a customer query
- Explaining your policies during the first contact to set expectations
- Show that you care by wishing them happy birthday or congratulating them on their new born child. It’s the little things that count
Flexible Cost Structure
With clients able to negotiate alternative fee structures, you’re also in the best position to offer these flexible cost structures (within reason of course). While you don’t want to be working for peanuts, customers today expect options and flexibility. Give that to them and you’ll be ahead of the game… just make sure you’re still charging what you’re worth!
Grow Your Law Firm by Focusing on The Right Business Development Strategies
Limited resources and budgets require laser focus on strategies that will propel your firm forward. Focus on growing your law firm through simpler CRM systems, identifying the most profitable clients, concentrating on existing clients and always adding value in your communication.
Simpler Cost-Effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems
Modern law-firm marketing focuses on the tools and processes to land clients. According to the Ackert Advisory, 70% of law firms are using CRM systems to grow. But there’s a problem: Utilization rates are low. But why?
Many CRM systems are not tailored to busy lawyers like you. Lawyers may have limited technical knowledge and CRM systems can be cumbersome, requiring excessive data entry.
But there are alternatives on the market. These alternatives are simpler and more cost-effective. If you’re considering a simpler CRM-type system for your law firm – Practice Pipeline is a good option. It’s a simple business development software that has an adoption rate of 75%. Also, if you’re a small law firm struggling with the challenges of your older CRM system, know that you can change it quicker than a large firm can.
Regardless, you should incorporate your system into your overall business development strategy. Here’s a basic blueprint to start.
Your Business Development Strategy Blueprint
The blueprint will help you identify leads and convert your leads into clients:
Step 1: Identify Opportunities
Focus on the leads with the highest potential. Your marketing and business development strategies should work together to identify leads.
Network with referral sources like accountants and other lawyers to identify opportunities to grow. For example, reach out to larger law firms. Let them know you’d happily take on clients they don’t want. Large firms will often decline work because of lack of fit or low earning potential. I plan to use this strategy in my freelance writing business.
Finally, focus on existing clients. It costs more to find new clients than it does to capture business from existing clients. Ask yourself: “What work have I done for them in the past? Is there room for more work?”
Step 2: Add Opportunities
Add those opportunities to your business development system, build profiles and assign dollar values.
Step 3: Contact Prospects At The Right Time
You need to reach out to those prospects when they’re in the market to buy. For example, if someone completed a customer form on your site, contact them immediately. Make sure there’s an alert notifying you of the initial contact e.g. an email. If you wait too long, your potential client will move on.
Step 4: Always Add Value
No matter what industry you’re in, people are only interested in what’s in it for them. They’re not interested in features like the size of your firm or when you established it. Many firms make the mistake of not communicating value, something Sally J. Schmidt, a member of the American Bar Association highlights.
Many law firms make the mistake of not communicating value. Marketing materials are often ineffective because they’re not targeted to the client.
She mentions how law firm marketing materials are often ineffective because they’re not targeted to the client. She suggests, among other things, that firms do the following when communicating to clients:
- Highlight competencies
- Explain why features are important (if you’re including them)
- Stress credentials
- Showcase results that have been achieved with similar clients.
Also, make sure your communications are friendly, accessible, jargon-free and customer-centric.
Step 5: Follow-up
After making initial contact, whether the potential client has responded or not, follow-up. But follow-up with step 4 in mind.
Grow Your Law Firm with Content Marketing
Content marketing has proliferated with law firms surprisingly being among the fastest adopters. According to Brian Hughes, Huffington Post contributor, “They’re bringing a well-thought out strategy to the game and hiring in-house talent or outsourcing their needs to ensure quality content that’s timely, compelling, and relevant.”
Content marketing encompasses everything from whitepapers, blogs, eBooks, website copy, social media posts etc, with the goal of stimulating interest in a company’s products or services.
The beauty of content marketing is that it will help you grow your law firm despite a small budget. It’s all about adopting the right marketing strategies. Blogging and Linkedin are amongst the best ways to grow your law firm on a budget.
Use Linkedin to write posts about your law industry. With this strategy, you can:
- Educate your audience on current legal market trends
- Show your expertise and insights
- Become a thought leader
Indeed many lawyers are already flocking to Linkedin. It’s no surprise that it’s regarded as the lawyer’s best friend.
Better yet, start blogging.
Larry Bodine, Attorney and Senior Marketing Content Strategist of LawLytics, swears by the value of blogging to generate new clients. In his article “Does Blogging Really Bring New Clients?”, he describes how he generated 1.2 million visits to his website. Crazy right?
But, keep the following in mind:
- You need to blog consistently to stay top of mind amongst referral sources. Larry recommends 2-3 times a week
- Blog posts need to be at least 300 words which is a guideline for SEO
- Inject your personality into your writing. People relate to people
- Avoid using overcomplicated legal terminology that your audience cannot understand
- Be patient – you won’t get results overnight
- Conduct keyword research to understand what potential client are searching for in Google
- Keyword research isn’t as complicated as you may think. As a small business owner myself, I’ve figured it out by using Google’s Keyword Planner. If you want to learn more about the topic read “Conquer Research With These 10 Tools”, by digital marketing guru, Neil Patel.
- Optimize blog posts with long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are keywords of 3–4 words, specific to what you’re selling. For example, a person searching for a family lawyer in Houston is more likely to search for “best family lawyer in Houston”, than “family lawyer.”
If you’re struggling to generate content ideas, here are questions/suggestions to get the creative juices flowing:
- What burning questions do clients currently have?
- What are the current trends in the industry? For example, the article you’re reading now touches on business development and CRM in law firms, 2 big topical discussions right now. What perspective can you bring?
- Follow your competition to see what they’re writing about. Use tools like BuzzSumo to see what content has the most social media shares. Chances are that you’ll achieve similar traction, if not better, by taking those articles and providing a different perspective.
Indeed, it’s approaching things from different perspectives that will help you grow your law firm. After all the legal market is more competitive than ever, and as a small law firm you face the extra challenges of having to compete with a limited budget and resources. But, if you play to your strengths, focus on business development strategies that work, and use content marketing to provide genuine value, you’ll be set to grow your law firm for only a fraction of the cost.
This is an archived post from the FreshBooks Blog and was originally published in April 2017.