To market successfully, you need to speak the language of your target audience. To do that, you first need to identify who you’re targeting. Many lawyers make the mistake of trying to target too broad an audience. The result is a watered down message that doesn’t really speak to anyone.
The first step in creating a marketing strategy is to explore your current client base and identify the clients with whom you work best and bring the most value to your firm. Next, you’ll identify those clients with whom you do not enjoy working, and ascertain the characteristics of ‘undesirable’ clients.
After examining your existing clients, you will consider the clients you really want to work with, and create the profile of the ‘most wanted’ or ‘ideal’ clients. It is only when you have a good picture of who those clients are that you can move forward to determine how to attract those clients, how best to serve them, what processes and procedures need to be in place, what employees will work best with those clients, and how to properly position your firm.
Clients are a reflection of YOU
People do business with people they know, like and trust. Clients are attracted to people who, at least in some ways, resemble them. In order to trust someone, you must feel comfortable that the person you’re working with shares some of your values and goals. Identifying your individual values and what you stand for can help clarify the kinds of clients that you will work best with.
If your clients are a reflection of you, you must be clear about who you are and what you stand for. If you can’t articulate what your core values are, how will your clients be able to recognize them?
Who are you and what do you stand for?
- What are your core values and principles?
- What can clients count on you for?
- Can your clients rally around your cause?
- Is there a common cause/passion between you and your clients?
Creating a client profile
One of the biggest mistakes lawyers make when trying to develop business or market themselves is in trying to be all things to all people. This is especially true in a difficult economy. But by not specifically targeting a particular audience, the marketing message gets watered down and loses its impact. The message becomes far too generic. Potential clients fail to respond and lawyers become frustrated.
Although many lawyers are beginning to catch on to the idea of developing a niche practice or focusing on a niche, they fail to take the additional step of getting into the minds of their potential clients and doing some serious thinking about what the potential client wants or needs most. Doing this before embarking on a marketing initiative can save you significant time, money and frustration.
Once you have a clear picture of your ideal client in mind, it’s easier to focus on what is important to them, where to find them, how to attract them, and how to serve them well.
Defining high value clients
Remember that value isn’t measured solely by the size of the case or the size of your fee. Valuable clients can be those who have realistic expectations, respect your advice or want the best service. Perhaps your ideal client is one who works with you on a case – or perhaps it’s just the opposite. Maybe you work best with clients who leave you alone to work your magic. Maybe your best clients are simply those who will be ‘raving fans’ and generate lots of referrals for your practice.
Once you have a preliminary idea of what a ‘high value’ client means to you, they will be easier to spot. This takes some in-depth work, but it is well worth it. When you become skilled at defining and identifying high value clients, you waste less time and energy on lower value clients that sap your energy or cost you money and time.
It is difficult to identify ‘high value clients’ or a ‘target market’ in a vacuum. It is much easier to think about creating a profile of the ideal client by considering clients you have worked with in the past – even if those former clients were when you were in a different firm or practice area than you are currently working in. I recommend that my clients choose three good existing or former clients and three bad ones and examine patterns. What made those clients good or bad? What behaviors did they exhibit? What words did they use to describe their situation? How were they referred to you? How did they act at the initial consultation? Were there any ‘red flags’ that were ignored?
Calling your clients by name
Think of your marketing message as a way of calling the name of your potential clients. Rather than making a general statement (“Hey, you!”), identifying someone by name (“Hey, Bob!”) will get their attention much easier. You’re tuned in to that information because it’s very specific to you. You want your marketing to do the same for your clients. You want them to think you’re talking directly to them – because you are.
In order to call your clients by name, you need to be intimately familiar with who those clients are. The better you know the clients you’re seeking to attract, the better your marketing efforts will be. Creating a client profile is a good way to develop that knowledge.
When creating your ideal client profile, remember that your answers may be different for different practice areas. Also, don’t just focus on the surface information, such as demographic information. Dig deeper. Three areas to explore are the three Ps: Psychographics, Patterns of choosing legal services and client Problems.
Psychographics are one of the most powerful ways to connect with your clients, and also one of the most frequently overlooked. You may find that your clients are actually very different demographically, but psychographically, they have a very similar profile.
Psychographics, while less tangible, are much more accurate in predicting which people or businesses will relate best to your particular message, method or solution. Psychographics include things like your client’s mission, philosophy or values, their reputation in the industry or community, their management or communication style, integrity or litigation history. For example, do you prefer clients who are more collaborative and settlement oriented, or those who want to fight or pursue litigation regardless of the cost?
An important part of profiling your ideal client is determining how they choose legal services. Knowing that your clients are more likely to make the decision to hire a lawyer at certain times of the year, as the result of specific triggering events, or upon receipt of specific types of information can help you plan your services and your marketing strategy. Learn why your clients hire you, what kids of service providers they prefer and what similar services they have used, among other issues.
Finally, one of the most effective ways to connect with clients is by identifying what problems they face. Everyone wants their problems to be solved, and if you can identify what the client perceives their problem to be (as opposed to what you think their problem is), you’ll get the potential client’s attention quickly – and start gaining their trust. Think about not only the problems themselves, but also about the symptoms of the problems that your clients commonly experience, and how clients typically describe them.
The client profile will help you to focus your marketing efforts, plan effective means of reaching your ideal clients, and develop methods to serve them better. The insight it provides can be invaluable for the future of your practice.