Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.
Successful practices are built on attracting the right clients, getting them to pay the bill and inspiring them to come back to you when they again need legal services. Finding the right clients is a science — it can be a huge undertaking costing lots of money, but below is a low-tech, do-it-yourself approach for a small practice that might work for you.
Because marketing was my long-term career prior to becoming a lawyer, attorneys often ask me how to use marketing to attract clients. Many have the mistaken impression that marketing is synonymous with advertising. But advertising is just one of the tools your marketing plan may include. Advertising is what you do when you have identified your desired client. Once you know whom you are trying to reach, you use advertising, promotion and various other tools to actually communicate with potential clients and persuade them to bring their legal business to you.
When you first begin to practice, you may not have a clear idea of who you want to attract as a client, but by giving it some thought and setting up the tools to find out who your best clients are, you can eventually be very specific about who to get the message out to, what that message should be and what means you should use to communicate your message. The goal is to get your potential “best” clients to seek you out, sign that retainer agreement and then come back to you when they need a lawyer again.
Here’s a simple plan to flesh out your “ideal client” profile:
Create a simple checklist to fill out each time you work with a client.
Include in the checklist as many pieces of information about a client as you can think of: age, gender, ethnicity, profession or trade, where they live, assets, knowledge of technology and skills at using current technology, gay or straight, marital status, how they heard about you in the first place, why they sought you out.
When you have concluded the matter they hired you to handle, you can add some other information to the list: how did they come to you? Through your website, through a referral, yellow pages? Did they pay? Did they pay on time? How did they pay, check, credit card, cash? How were they to work with, did they communicate with you during your representation of them via phone, email, in person? Did they respond promptly to your calls and requests? Did they say anything during the conversations you had with them to indicate preferences or interests of any kind?
Rate each client based on a scale of whether it is a client you would want to represent again or not. You can rate clients on a 1 to 5 scale, for example. You should end up with a list of your best and worst clients. You can then take your no. 1 (assuming you used 1 to designate the best client) clients and do some analysis of their checklist characteristics. The expectation is that you will come up with some characteristics that are common to most of your no. 1 rated clients.
It will take some time, but after you fill out your checklists for a while, you should be able to see some patterns. The idea is to create a profile of the clients that you determine are the best for you to work with, and then these “types” of clients become the segments (groups) of similar people on whom you want to focus your marketing efforts.
Based on your checklist results you can determine the best way to get new business, maybe by attending meetings of whatever professional associations they belong to, or joining charitable organizations that are important to them. You may discover that paid advertising is the least effective way to attract these good new clients.