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Ten Ways to Eliminate Bad Law Marketing Habits

Here are ten ways to eliminate bad habits from your marketing practices.

1. Test Your Advertising Creative
You create the perfect advertisement and just a few days after it is published the firm gets six new clients! High-fives are exchanged freely and you envision an "Employee of the Year" plaque hanging proudly behind your desk. Six months later, however, the managing partner comes in to your office wanting to know why your marketing isn't bringing leads in anymore. What went wrong? Even the best advertising campaign gets stale. Monitor the results of your campaigns closely, and if leads start to fall off, test new creative until you find a message that works.

2. Consider The Newsworthiness Of PR
After eleven weeks of press releases announcing new associates, new partners, and retirements, you learn that your firm has landed its biggest client ever - a Fortune 100 corporation. You dutifully craft a press release, send it to your media distribution list, and sit back and wait for the news clippings to come in. But nothing does. What went wrong? Sending out press releases for the sake of sending out press releases will quickly get you ignored by the media. Just like the "boy who cried wolf," when you send out PR that no news outlet would ever possibly consider running, you will dilute the importance of your firm's legitimate news.

3. Conduct Frequent Website Audits
When you launched your firm website in 1998, clients and competitors alike lauded you for your forward-thinking and cutting-edge design. Last week, however, a partner angrily chastised you after a client made fun of your "cheesy graphics" and "unprofessional website." What went wrong? Web technology is constantly changing. To stay on top, you have to constantly reevaluate your Web presence. Consider retaining an outside consultant on a regular basis to provide you with advice on the latest 'best practices.'

4. Resist Form Over Function
You hire a local graphic design firm to create your firm brochure. Tens of thousands of dollars later, you deliver an oeuvre d'art to your management team - a 32 page, full-color, gold-foil embossed, firm-name watermarked masterpiece that will surely win your design firm several awards in the near future. When the brochure is mailed to potential clients, however, you hear comments like "its too long," "I don't understand why I should choose your firm over XYZ," and "you must charge huge hourly fees to afford such a nice brochure." The partners are fuming. What went wrong? The purpose of any piece of marketing communications is to explain the benefits of your firm to potential clients. While it is well and good to create a professional and beautiful brochure, make sure you remain focused on the objective -- getting new clients -- as opposed to creating something that is suitable for framing.

5. Ask The Clients
You work 80-hour weeks putting together a seminar for potential clients. You line up great speakers, reserve a large conference room in a tony hotel, and send out brochures weeks in advance to potential clients. The seminar, however, is poorly attended, and those who did attend say that they weren't impressed. What went wrong? Regardless of how well you think you understand your clients and potential clients, the best way to really get a pulse on your customers is to ask them for their opinions. If you have a good rapport with existing clients, don't be afraid to get their advice (they may be flattered, and that's good PR for the firm). And it's OK to call a few potential clients as well (but don't become burdensome).

6. Show The Value Of Your Efforts Internally
After eight months of flawlessly executed advertising, public relations, seminars, and marketing communications, your firm is attracting new clients like bees to honey. Once again, you start to dream about that "Employee of the Year" plaque for your new, corner office. It soon dawns on you, however, that the firm partners have no idea that your marketing is the catalyst for their success. You see them high-fiving each other, and taking credit for your work! What went wrong? Never assume that people outside the marketing department realize how much you are doing for the firm. If a client tells you that he contacted your firm after seeing an advertisement, send a note to a partner with that information. If five new clients result from a seminar you organized, make sure you explicitly mention this information in your report to the management committee. Don't be afraid to take credit where credit is due.

7. Underpromise, Overdeliver
You convince the firm to allocate significant resources for a major online campaign. In a management meeting, you show a beautiful PowerPoint graph that projects ten additional clients as a result of the campaign. After the advertising has run its course, the firm retains three new clients - more than paying for the cost of the ad. Yet several partners express disappointment with the ad campaign. What went wrong? Making bold predictions of success doesn't do you much good unless you deliver. The higher you set expectations, the greater the disappointment if you don't meet your goals. Set reasonable goals and work to exceed them.

8. Treat Different Clients, Differently (Equal Protection Marketing)
You send a nice fruit basket to one of your small real estate clients for the holiday season and get a personal call back thanking you for the great gift. You send the same gift to your large corporate client with no response. The next time you see the client, you ask if she received any gifts. She raves about the box suite to the big game another law firm gave her. What went wrong? Every client has different needs, and responds to different types of marketing. While a radio campaign might work great to bring in mid-sized clients, you may need a multi-channel approach (online, seminars, collateral) to land a big fish.

9. Experiment Every Year
In your first year at the firm, you construct an outstanding marketing program. The results are superb, with new clients and satisfied existing clients. As the years progress, however, the number of new clients starts to drop off, and the management team becomes concerned. What went wrong? The same marketing campaigns year after year will gradually become stale, as will your creativity. Every year, try at least one totally new and radical marketing campaign. Put an ad on the side of a bus, try a new online campaign, run local TV spots, or sponsor a college bowl game (OK, maybe not that). Just keep trying new ideas - it will keep you energized and it may be an unexpected success for you and your firm.

10. Focus On Retention As Much As Acquisition
Your award-winning marketing campaign keeps bringing in bigger and better clients. You envision your firm moving into a swank downtown high-rise (a deluxe apartment in the sky) and becoming one of America's preeminent law firms. But as quickly as you bring in new clients, you lose current customers. Your clients tell you that they "feel ignored" and "are treated better by other firms." What went wrong? After you work so hard to attract new clients, you need to work equally hard to keep them as long-term customers. There are a lot of 'little' things you can do to keep clients satisfied. Send a clients-only newsletter; hold monthly seminars on current topics; or host a quarterly 'meet and greet' reception.

For more information, visit Law Firm Marketing Solutions from FindLaw.

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