Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.
This past week, a colleague and I were discussing her burgeoning estate planning practice and ways to increase her client base. We talked about who her target audience is and how to best market to that audience. Thought, research and analysis is required to get the answers to these questions, but your practice will thrive if you stick with developing your ideal client profile and determining the best ways to attract those clients.
With my friend, I thought back to concepts I successfully applied in my prior life as a marketer. I found myself talking to her about USP, her Unique Selling Proposition.
This concept dates back to the 1940s but is still as valid today as it was then. According to Wikipedia, the Unique Selling Proposition, a term invented by Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company, is “a marketing concept that states that marketing campaigns make unique propositions to the customer and that this convinces them to switch brands.”
Each advertisement must say to each reader: “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.” Obviously, it would be a violation of ethics rules to say that to our prospective clients, but we can differentiate ourselves through our skill set so that the clients perceive a specific benefit in hiring us, and not another lawyer.
“Today the term is applied to other fields to refer to any aspect of an object that differentiates it from similar objects.” So, you are saying to yourself, how does this apply to my law practice? The reality is you are selling yourself and you have to differentiate yourself from other lawyers. You have to attract your clients with a specific set of abilities and characteristics.
The large firms are a brand in themselves, they are known names and attract clients simply as a result of USPs that were developed years ago. Your solo or small law practice has to develop its own USP.
I believe in a small practice, success is achieved by specialization. That is, the more specialized you are the better your chances of appealing to clients with a particular issue that you have identified as your USP.
Even though my solo practice was very new before I moved to Miami, I had a respectable flow of clients. Local attorneys referred clients to me because they knew that I was Hispanic and would relate well to Hispanic clients, (especially if they didn’t speak English well!), and that I would competently litigate real estate cases with which those attorneys were not prepared to deal. These referring attorneys related to me that clients specifically asked them if they knew of a Hispanic woman attorney they could recommend for their real estate issue.
From these referrals I realized that my USP was clear and it was working. You may think that you don’t have such a built-in USP, but you can certainly develop one. My estate planning friend has to focus her marketing efforts on a particular market segment. This could be single women, or same sex couples, or Baby Boomers, or athletes, etc. At the same time honing her expertise and attaining visible achievements in a particular facet estate planning that these types of clients will need.
Obviously, at the outset, for financial expediency you sometimes have to take cases that do not serve your particular selling proposition, but your steady focus on your particular USP plan will help you to succeed. Over the long run, this establishes a clear direction for the development of your practice.