The stats are staggering. Law firms are imploding, partners splitting off to start their own ventures and in doing so, smaller law firms are seeing more competitors than ever before. Big law partners are becoming small firms’ dreaded nightmare.
Not only did legal services undergo a paradigm shift during the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and now we witness the “great split” of law firms nationwide. Never before have the stakes been higher for smaller law firms to “step up their game,” strengthen existing client relationships and, at the same time, grow their footprint in their respective marketplaces.
Outlined below are the most critical steps small law firms must take to distinguish themselves and command market share.
Invest heavily in relationship building to supercharge your network. Each of us has a network of people we know, like and trust (to varying degrees). Leverage this network in all ways possible. Get and stay in touch with everyone -- your friends, relatives, business associates and professional contacts -- past and present. Let them know what you are up to, how you provide value to your clients, and effectively articulate that you actively seek referrals.
Ideally, you want to strengthen the network you presently have and focus on expanding it aggressively to include a broad range of individuals who can ultimately refer business to you. It has never been easier (and more economical) than it is today to convert your network to an active sales force for your practice with all the technological tools (e-blasts, social media updates and blogs) available to maintain contact with a mass email distribution list.
The value of building “top-of-mind” awareness among your key target audiences -- existing clients, referral sources and qualified prospects -- cannot be overstated. There are many ways to accomplish this but one very effective way is to create an email marketing program. Aligning with the axiom that it takes seven to 10 “touches” per year to build top-of-mind awareness, sending out regular e-blasts on topics of interest to your constituents can be a very effective way to stay in front of them. This is an art, not a science and requires a strategic approach which can pay impressive dividends.
Become the “go-to” resource. Educate clients to send any legal work your way whether or not you ultimately handle it for them. With your growing network, you are more than happy to make a referral but want to condition your contacts to think of you first. Turn your clients into fans by not charging for incidentals, short phone calls or quick emails.
Develop the marketing mindset. To leverage every possible opportunity to reach out to prospective clients, lawyers must develop a marketing mindset in that they see the opportunities which are right in front of them. Yes, it is a discipline to be developed but attorneys can master this (often with the help of a professional coach to point out the opportunities). Serious rainmakers’ worlds will never be the same. I promise.
The secret sauce to marketing success is the consistent, persistent and massive amounts of action over a prolonged period of time.