Monday, November 23, 2009

Big Firm Marketing Strategies for Small Firms

Every firm wants the biggest bang for their buck when it comes to marketing dollars. So why not copy how the big boys do it without having to pay for all the research they put it to figure out if the strategies actually work?

Today from the Legal Marketing Reader we examine three strategies every small firm should employ immediately.

1. Know Your Products.

Marketing professionals will tell you that “product development” and “product knowledge” compose the first of the four Ps of marketing (products, price, promotion and placement). In this regard, it is important not only to know what you want to sell, but what you don’t want to sell. As a marketing pro once told me, “You don’t have a marketing strategy until you decide what it is that you don’t want to do.”

For small firm lawyers, this might mean taking a hard look at who your core clients are and knowing what products they want. If you really want to focus your practice on high-end clients, then maybe you should abandon the distractions of commoditized work, such as simple wills or closing work for residential real estate matters. Focus your energy instead on producing charitable trusts, real estate trusts, or sale-leaseback instruments suited to complex needs of sophisticated clients. On the other hand, if you want to represent a broader clientele - some with fewer resources - you might want to develop an entire tier of “no frills” low-cost, fixed fee products that can be mass-produced to fit more pedestrian needs and budgets.

Whatever products you decide to sell and promote, you need to understand how those products are viewed from the client’s perspective. They want to know: Why should I buy this product? What value does the product offer to me? How does that value stack up against the cost? How long will the product likely last before it needs revision due to changing laws or family circumstances? How much will it cost me to update the product and how often should that be done?

Think about the client’s frame of reference and you will understand your products better and be able to explain them better and sell them better. This costs you nothing but it can make a world of difference in your practice.

2. Set the Right Price.

The business clients of the largest law firms in the world invest a great deal of time and effort in finding the optimal pricing for their products. They survey competitor pricing, they survey customers and they run mathematical models to predict the revenue, profits and customer counts from various pricing strategies.

Small firm lawyers can hire people to call around for competitors’ pricing, they can survey their own customers about pricing attitudes, and they can at least run Excel spreadsheet projections based on reasonable assumptions about how pricing will affect volume of work.

Of course, pricing affects perceptions of quality as well. You might need one set of products aimed at premium clients and one for regular clients. Those differing products might be offered with different levels of attention from senior partners, junior partners or associates. Some products might be custom-tailored for those who can afford them, or “off the rack” for those who need simple wills or basic contracts.

You might also consider volume discounts for those who purchase a certain number of products or seek a certain amount of counseling. People who are regular customers in any other business are rewarded for their loyalty, and large firms know that legal clients are similarly pleased when they are so rewarded.
But whatever you do, don’t get caught in the trap of offering a discount for one client who drives a hard bargain and not for another client that you really treasure most. There is no surer way to lose your premium client than to have him or her find out that you offered a better price on the same product to someone else.

3. Promote Your Products.

Every large law firm has a marketing plan for promotion, and every small firm should have one too, even if it is scratched on a napkin over lunch. Having good products at good prices will not make you a profit if nobody knows about it.

So think about how you can promote your products without the spending of a big firm budget. If you have extra hours when the phone doesn’t ring, you might invest that time in enhancing the descriptions of your products and pricing on your Website. You can also create solid descriptions and post them on free professional networking sites, such as Linked-In.

With just a little more investment of time, you can link your own law firm site to your own Blog. There are free blogging sites (like Blogger and Wordpress) that are intuitive to operate, and will allow you to set up a site containing your daily comments and opinions regarding elder law issues, news, planning and services. Such sites will come up much higher in search engine queries because of your fresh content, and you can then use your blog site to drive traffic to your firm Website by linking the two. (See e.g.:

You might also consider pitching your skills as a commentator to the press because you really are the product as a professional service provider. If there is a hot news story on a major will contest and you handle estate litigation, then you might be the ideal person to explain it to a reporter at a daily or trade publication. Send them an e-mail and indicate your willingness to consult and comment as necessary. You could also try to contact producers at local radio stations, who are often receptive to one-minute spots on practical advice or news commentary from experts.

If you can identify your target audience, you might also pitch yourself as a lunch-time speaker for an organization made up of members who are targets. For example, it could be helpful for you to speak to organizations of medical providers, accountants or other advisers who might come into contact with those in need of elder planning.

There are methods of low-cost advertising that you can utilize as well. It is now pretty easy to find providers who can use technology to inexpensively generate pens, hats, shirts, golf balls or other items with your name, logo and/or marketing message elegantly inscribed on them.

So just map out what you can do within your budget, and set a plan for those promotional activities every month or at least every quarter.

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