Back in the roaring twenties, hanging a sign (or shingle) outside your law office door all but guaranteed a steady stream of clients, indefinitely. Field of dreams marketing was alive and well. Simply build it and they will come.
Fast forward to 2018 and attracting new business calls for significantly more effort.
According to the ABA, there are now over 1.3 million attorneys in the US. And unless you find a way to stand out among the rest, nobody will hire you. In fact, having one or all of the following won’t bring clients through the door:
- A license to practice law
- A website
- A listing on your firm’s website
- A social media account
- A listing on various attorney directory sites.
Building it no longer means they will come.
Bright, Shiny Object Syndrome
Attorneys have a tendency to get distracted by the latest and greatest marketing technique.
Few are impervious to this.
Let’s suppose you have problems finding and retaining clients, so you turn to the internet. In spite of the oversaturation of marketing experts and gurus, you jump in with both feet chasing the promise of new clients beating a path to your door in exchange for a generous sum.
In your search, you run into marketing pipe dreams like “build a 7-figure firm in 10 days or less” or “become the #1 search result on Google” if you purchase an expensive SEO package.
These quick fix infomercials — designed to separate you from your hard-earned cash — won’t get you the clients that you actually want.
The “Let’s Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” Marketing Method
Harkening back to chefs gauging the tensile strength of their spaghetti, this method entails testing various marketing channels as a means of getting clients and seeing which one gets the job done.
You may join every single social media site, and even post on some of them, but to no avail. So you conclude that social media doesn’t work.
Or you go to one networking event, exchange business cards with everyone you meet, and still no one calls or refers clients to you. Strike two. Networking is a bust also.
The truth is any marketing technique can be effective for getting clients as long as you find a way to actually connect with people. It’s this variable that many attorneys neglect as they work their way down the list of marketing strategies.
Rainmaking = Relationships
As attorneys you are in a person-to-person business.
You may be familiar with the oft-heard phrase: “People do business with people they know, like, and trust.” What marketing your service does is create the “know” and “like” part of this equation. By avoiding a sales-y approach to your marketing or foregoing ads, you can actually find a way to create authority; you can become a recognized expert in your chosen area of law — a go-to person.
And just because you correspond with people on social media, doesn’t mean that you’ve created a relationship. Sure it’s a way to break the ice, but as with any lasting relationship outside the digital realm, it needs to be nurtured. It takes commitment.
Just as a GPS navigates you to a location you’ve never been, a good plan provides you with the direction you want your practice — and in fact, your life — to go. But before you can concoct your plan, you need to know the three steps of becoming a rainmaker: marketing, networking, and relationship building.
The heart of your success begins with and continues through the end of your legal career with marketing. Regardless of whether you’re a solo practitioner, or in a small, medium, or large law firm, if no one knows you exist, then being the best lawyer in the world means nothing. In the context of our “know,” “like,” and “trust” equation, marketing marks the beginning of the “know.” As you start marketing yourself, your notoriety bubble begins its ascension to the surface.
Developing your brand
In the grand scheme of things, marketing helps you begin to develop your brand.
A brand can be boiled down to evocations associated with a product or service. Hence, the brand you create is what you want people to think about you. There was once an attorney who, because of her ability to be brutal and extract the truth from witnesses during cross-examinations, earned the moniker ”the killer.” Now she is known as meticulously prepared for her cases, tenacious and aggressive.
This is marketing in its purest form; it brings with it a surplus of clients.
As Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos put it: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” So you’ve got to be able to develop and nurture your own brand or one will be developed for you — and it must be authentic.
Marketing allows you to showcase your skills and knowledge without a desperate plea for attention.
But in order to distinguish yourself from 1.3 million other attorneys, you have to become business famous. Business fame is about becoming known for your expertise by potential clients
Prior to the ubiquity of the internet, it was far more difficult to become business famous – not so much anymore.
Now, anyone can create the visibility they would like among their target audience or the niche they want to work with and become known as the go-to expert. And you’ve seen them firsthand: the people about whom you think “I’m just as good as they are, why are they considered an expert?” Because they found a way to market their services.
Marketing generates enough interest to bring people to your door: your website, your social media account, or your physical office door. But it’s the relationships that you create afterwards that allow you to sign new clients — and in order to create relationships, networking is a must.
Meet People. A lot of people.
One of the most effective ways to become a rainmaker by networking is the means by which you create and nurture relationships that turn into business or referrals. And the only way to create real relationships is to meet as many people as possible who could potentially use your services or refer others to you.
Additionally, the return on investment in getting to know other people is much higher than what you may spend on advertising or marketing. And networking is not just about going to networking events; it’s about any time you get to connect with people — whether one-on-one or online. It doesn’t matter.
Try to network where most wouldn’t think to do so. For example, if you are a soccer mom or dad, do you know what the other soccer moms or dads do for a living. Do they know what you do for a living? You could potentially get clients from the people you’re seeing on the weekends when you’re going about your personal life.
Networking events (associations, conferences, etc) put you in an advantageous positions of creating relationships with a lot of people all at once. In doing so, you’re able to:
- Maintain relationships with current customers
- Meet new prospects
- Get referrals
- Interact with pre-qualified prospects
- Create word of mouth publicity
- Create ambassadors who will tell others about you
- Locate a new job if you’re looking to move to a new firm
- Find a new employee or colleague
- Get to know the right people who can help your career
- Receive more visibility as a person for your organization
- Get new ideas and new insights.
These efforts will open new doors to people you may not have been able to reach on your own. Six degrees of separation has now become three degrees with the internet. From there, you’ll be invited to the right events and the right parties where you can become a participant or speaker or co-host…. and you can make more friends.
Networking can be done on and offline
After the birth of the internet, we began to cultivate relationships online — many of which stand firm to this day. Friends who have not seen each other in person for years or even decades can maintain reciprocal friendships thanks to social media, chat, and video calling.
That’s what networking is all about: creating connections. They can be social friends, business colleagues, or a mixture of both.
The third step to becoming a rainmaker is relationship building. To reiterate: People do business with people they know, like, and trust. Creating real relationships with people is how you build “trust.” However, trust is not earned instantaneously. You have to build it — and alongside it, credibility.
So how do you build credibility and trust?
- Build your character. People with strong character stand up for what they believe in regardless of what popular opinion says.
- Be authentic. Authentic people do what they say and say what they do and there’s no mystery about their intentions. This applies both online and off.
- Have integrity. Be known as somebody who does the right things for the right reasons and keeps the promises you make. If you make a mistake, be proactive, not reactive in correcting it.
- Be transparent. Speak in plain English, not in legalese. It doesn’t make you sound more knowledgeable, it only serves to confuse and alienate people who are not versed in legal speak.
- Listen attentively. When anyone speaks to you, give them your full attention and ask questions to clarify things you don’t understand.
All of these fit under the umbrella of professionalism. Learn to respect everyone with whom you interact.
Tying it All Together
The three above steps to becoming a rainmaker are interdependent upon each other.
While you can become someone with knowledge and authority in your field (practicing law), if someone doesn’t know you personally (networking) or if they don’t trust you (relationship building), you can’t build a book of business. The moment you pull the rug out from under any of these foundational steps is the moment referrals and clients dry up. Back to square one you go.
The question remains: How are you going to do this as an attorney with an already busy schedule?
This is where your 2018 Rainmaking Plan comes into play.
Take the next step by building and executing a rainmaking plan for your law firm. Find out how.