As New Year approaches it is time to start thinking about developing your personal marketing plan for 2007.
As a new associate the most important thing for you to do in your first few years of practice is to experiment: Explore what sort of legal practice you want to build, what kind of clients you like, and in terms of marketing, what you enjoy doing. Take control of your future by becoming actively involved in developing the habits, skills, and contacts that will help you to build the practice you design for yourself.
The following is a list of marketing tips for you to consider as you begin to plan for 2007. Starting with the most important – your personal marketing plan!
The goal of a personal marketing plan is to help you focus your attention and energy on doing the things that will best help you to turn your professional aspirations into reality.
Personal marketing plans, or indeed business plans, in general work along three simple lines:
1. They begin with a close and realistic description of where you are at currently.
2. Next they look at where you want to be.
3. Finally they describe how you are going to get there.
Below you will find some suggested activities and approaches that you might consider for your plan in 2007.
The personal touch. In this internet age, the personal touch counts more then ever. As much as possible take the time to write a thank you note, a condolence note, or a nice to meet you note. These notes should be hand written, not dictated to a secretary. In addition to being a good lawyer, the most effective marketing tools are the handshake, the unexpected, non-billable act of kindness, the follow up phone call, and the personal note. In your plan outline how you will begin to incorporate the personal touch into your practice.
Find your own style. Experiment and find out what you do best. Play on your strengths. If you are a talented speaker, seminars and conferences might work well. If you don’t enjoy public speaking try a one-on-one approach. The same goes when developing your marketing plan. Think carefully about your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, then plan accordingly.
Talk less and listen more. One of the most common errors lawyers can make is talking to much and failing to listen. In some cases, inexperienced business developers will try and talk their way to new business. Learn to listen deeply and look for the ways in which you can help people out. You will find that helping others will lead to others helping you.
Develop a meaningful introduction. Learn to introduce yourself to people in a way that emphasises how you and your firm help your clients. The unfortunate reality is that introducing yourself as a lawyer shuts conversations down. Instead open the conversation up by explaining what you do in a way that invites people to ask questions. For instance, an estate lawyer might say: I assist clients with estate planning. I help them ensure that their wishes will be followed while keeping the taxes and probate fees down at a minimum.
Marketing is a contact sport. It is important to step out of your office and start meeting people. Get to know the other people in your firm. Get active in your local business/professional community. Join the business organisations related to your practice. Join community organisations. Become actively involved, join a board, help out, meet people.
Get organised. Keep track of the people you meet with a contact management system. Find a method that works for you to organise the business cards you receive and store information about your contacts such as where you met them, and what their interests are. Write all of this down so you can instantly find it. Make sure to get everyone’s email address.
Trade associations. If you are targeting a specific business or consumer groups, look into the trade associations (or other influential organisations) with which your target prospects are most likely to be associated and become actively involved in the association. Not only will you have a chance to network, you will also have the opportunity to learn more about your prospects’ industry, and their business concerns.
Become a presenter. Volunteer to be a speaker with the business and trade organisations you are involved with.
Write articles. The same associations will be dying for articles. Write a column for a local publication. Find a newsletter or web site that is read by your clients and write articles for them. Start a blog!
Use your lunch hour for networking. Call people who can refer you business and take them out to lunch. This would include your local realtor, accountant, lawyers at larger firms, bankers, etc. Also, contact all your law school classmates, just to say hello. Find out what they’re doing and stay in touch with them. Have lunch with people you are genuinely interested in getting to know, and learn about them.
Peer network. Develop a virtual, private peer network of lawyers. A secret bunch of co-conspirators you can turn to. An associate I know started a small alumni group. She and her law school alumni have lunch once a month. Just a few years in, and this has already developed into a powerful referral network.