To be successful in generating new business and attracting new clients, it's essential to speak the language of your target clients. Furthermore, lawyers should actually use the words that clients want to hear.
It's true that there are “magic words” you should use in your marketing and business development initiatives. Like speaking the language of a native in a foreign land, your message will suddenly resonate with the people you're trying to reach. No translation will be necessary. You'll have cut through the clutter.
You can tell when the magic words are missing. As the following law firm slogans show, the enchantment is not there.
- Building Solutions.
- Aligned for Excellence.
- Our Independence Makes the Difference.
These statements don't even mean anything. These actual law firm taglines are pedestrian collections of words picked out of a management consultant's thesaurus. These were apparently written by a committee that wanted to go home. Isn't there a law firm that has a better command of words? How about:
- Not just any law firm.
- Lawyers you'll swear by. Not at.
- Law, less ordinary.
Now we can tell that the law firm hired an advertising agency with people who were smoking pot or taking Adderall. Maybe both. They're clever, but like Seinfeld, they're about nothing. There is still no magic. What about these
- Knowing your business and understanding your industry.
- Our Mission is Your Success.
- Your Future is Our Business.
Feel free to check out “124 Catchy Law Firm Slogans and Attorney Taglines” at http://bit.ly/1hkS4jK. You will feel like Sisyphus, the ancient King who was punished by being compelled forever to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. I weep for all the wordsmiths who bled across their keyboards trying to find the password to enter the minds of potential clients.
Hey, what about “value”
Yes, we all know that clients want “value.” We have been clubbed senseless by the Association of Corporate Counsel that this is what in-house counsel crave, like the flowers need the rain, like a vampire needs blood.
But we all know they're really talking about discounts and low-price legal fees. As much as they try to dress it up and put lipstick on a pig, it's all about the money. Corporations have budgets and law firms are forbidden to exceed them. Every client loves a bargain. But a law practice can't market itself as the cheapest firm in town. Promoting your business as the budget option starts a quick race to the bottom.
There's got to be a better way. It must be possible to articulate a unique selling proposition that matches what clients want to hear. The truth is that there are magic words – three of them in fact – that telegraph the good deal that clients want without giving away the store.
I first learned about them in the previous century when I was officially on staff in law firm marketing in Chicago. I would attend marketing conferences where the general counsel panel was the highlight. The in-house lawyers would whine to the audience about having to fire lawyers who were arrogant, who charged for photocopies and who failed to return calls. But learning how not to be the worst didn't advance my quest for the magic words.
Research became my friend. I studied the findings based on those secret telephone interviews with corporate counsel. I downloaded PDFs of studies by consultants who seemed smarter than me, searching for the glimmer of insight that would show me what to say. In the withering blizzard of information one report stood out.
I found what I was looking for in the 2014 Report on the State of the Legal Market by the Georgetown Law Center for the Study of the Legal Profession and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor. See http://tmsnrt.rs/1kSyYqt. It's 17 pages of deep thought. But you don't need to read it because I'll give it to you in three words.
- Cost effectiveness
Trust me, if you use any other words, it will just sound like static to a client. My advice is to use these words on your website, Facebook page and LinkedIn firm page. Put it in all your RFP proposals and print it on lawyer business cards. Use it in all your speeches and webinars. Create a QR code that links to these exact words.
Notice that the words omit any reference to law schools, firm history, practices areas or office locations. That's because clients are not hooked by these things. Those are “features” of law firms. But efficiency, predictability and cost effectiveness speak volumes about what clients want to hear. They want to be told about “benefits.”
The three magic words convey that you offer a good deal without saying it in so many words. They spell out the bottom line value in the very terms clients use themselves.
So if those are the magic words, how do you support it in your marketing message? I interviewed the litigators of a business law firm and here is how they articulated it:
Efficiency: accomplishing a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort.
- “We save the client money.”
- “Our services is as good as big firms and we're 1/3 of the price.”
- “We staff cases lean instead of having 6-8 lawyers on a case.”
- “We have years of experience to get to the heart of a matter.”
- “Knowing what the client wants creates an efficient relationship.”
Predictability: knowing in advance what to expect – no surprises.
- “We are up front about costs. Clients don't get caught off guard.”
- “Our clients know how a case will play out.”
- “We know litigation well and tell clients what's coming up next.”
Cost effectiveness: providing a good result in relation to cost.
- “We keep an eye on bills.”
- “We don't have fancy office trappings or a fleet of associates to run up bills.”
- “We have a lot of experience and don't have to do a bucket of research.”
Finding the magic in your firmIn my opinion, it is not necessary for a law firm to tear itself down and re-build itself around these three benefits. That would be great, but no one is going to live that long. Besides, if you search thoroughly, you'll find that there are ways the firm is already providing these benefits. There is no need to call in Harry Potter.
Perhaps your firm starts a matter by explored the shortest path to a result, whether it's early settlement or mediation. That's efficient. Perhaps your firm has a staffing model to include part-time or contract lawyers and outsourcing for non-legal functions. That's being cost-effective. Perhaps your firm holds regular, in-person status updates where clients are briefed about a matter and interviewed about their business. That's predictability.
Begin by visiting the “About Us” page on your website, highlighting everything, and pressing “delete.” I guarantee that your clients and prospects will suddenly start to hear you when you use the magic words.