Getting a steady flow of clients when you first start your law firm will be key to your success. But while you’re busy juggling your legal and administrative tasks, seeking out new potential clients also needs to be a priority. That’s why having a detailed plan for how to get clients for your law firm is important.
Online marketing isn’t just an if-you-build-it-they-will-come scenario. Marketing through a great website and strong content is a winning marketing strategy, but it’s also a long game. Being patient, consistent, and having realistic expectations will help inform your plan.
Set goals and work backwards
You should have some idea of what you want to achieve when creating your law firm’s business plan. Now it’s time to take that and turn it into achievable goals and actionable tasks.
For example, if you want to make a certain amount of money in one year, you’ll have to figure out how many clients you need for that time period and work backwards. Perhaps you need 60 clients to be successful, which means you need to get five clients a month. You’ll then need to consider what actions to take in order to hit your five-client-a-month goal.
Five clients per month sounds a lot more manageable than 60 in a year. While it’s wise not to lose sight of the bigger picture, breaking lofty goals into smaller tasks will motivate you to move forward and properly pace yourself.
Be sure to take a look at how to create a law firm business plan for more on the topic of revenue.
Determine your target market
Once you’ve set your goals and rates, determining your target market is next. Target market, or target audience, is a term that refers to the type of clients you want to attract. If you find that specific types of clients and matters are high-effort, low-reward then you might want to steer clear of promoting your services to that audience.
However that doesn’t mean you should turn down work from clients not within your target market. A target market is the ideal client you should spend the most time and greatest amount of effort promoting your law firm to.
Determining your target market starts by understanding what your clients are looking for.
For example, if you practice family law, perhaps you want to build out a steady foundation of marriage-related contract work that is easy, quick, and high-reward for your firm. Your target market would then fall into young couples in long-term relationships.
Pick your marketing channels
There are many marketing channels you can use to get clients for your law firm, including:
- Social media
- Digital, print or out-of-home ads
Promoting yourself on every channel can get time-consuming and expensive, so focus your efforts on a few channels.
As a continuation of the example in the last section, consider your target market of young couples in long-term relationships. Now ask yourself, what marketing channels will young couples see the most?
Once you’ve researched your audience more in-depth, you’ll have a better sense of which channels will be best.
We cover this topic even more in our Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing for Lawyers.
Calculate your budget
So, how much should you budget for marketing? Many firms spend 2 to 10% of your annual revenue, and others spend even more.
For a law firm that is just starting out, or wishes to jumpstart growth or add a practice area, you’ll need to spend on the higher end. But referencing a percentage of revenue you don’t have yet isn’t very helpful.
A good rule of thumb is to set aside 10 percent of your revenue goal for marketing and try to find room in your overall business budget. This 10 percent should include costs for your website, any hiring you plan on doing, advertising costs, and so on.
We cover budgeting and more in our guide to starting a law firm.
Document your marketing plan
Now that you’ve thought about your goals, audience, and channels, it’s time to put pen to paper. It’s wise to start working on your marketing plan before you make the jump into opening up a solo practice.
Reputation management—seeking happy reviews and responding to the negative ones—is also vital, as most consumers say they already use online reviews when researching professional service providers.
A few questions to ask yourself when building out your marketing plan should include the following:
- How much am I willing to spend on marketing?
- Is spending money on advertising a worthwhile investment?
- Is it worthwhile to hire somebody to manage my marketing?
- What will my website look like?
- What do I want my website to say?
- How will I build my website?
- Social media
- What content should I be creating for social media (if chosen as a marketing channel)?
- Who will be managing and responding to messages on my social media?
- When and how often will I be posting?
- How will I know if my marketing efforts are successful?
Spending money to make money: Is advertising right for you?
It’s a common misconception that marketing costs money, which is not always true. While you’ll need a budget to buy ads or hire a professional to set up your website, there are many avenues where lawyers are able to promote their services for free.
But, if you do choose paid advertisements for your law firm, you need to understand the options that are available to you. Keep in mind that depending on your practice area and jurisdiction, you may need to dig more into specific advertising rules and regulations, but this list should be a good starting point.
Advertising on third party sites
A few websites to consider advertising through include:
- Avvo (Free, Pro, Premium Directory Listings and Banner Ads)
- FindLaw Directory (Premium Directory Listings)
- Facebook Ads (Costs vary, as there are lots of different ads and ways to pay—per ad click, per video view, etc.—but it’s generally cheaper than Adwords)
- Award Sites (Expensive: Choose carefully, and choose reputable sites)
Budget For these options based on which marketing channels work best for your firm and practice area. A combination of research and trial and error will help you figure out what’s best.
Google Ads is a popular advertising channel for lawyers, but nailing down an exact budget is hard.You pay each time someone clicks on your ad, and it’s an auction-style fee for each click (you bid against other lawyers), so costs vary greatly. You tell Google the maximum amount you’re willing to spend per day and per click on certain keywords (“divorce lawyer”), and it runs the ads for you.
It’s important to be very careful handling ads yourself as there is no spend cap. You can accidentally spend hundreds of dollars in a day due to a couple tiny mistakes on your account.
That said, Google Ads is very effective if executed well. To get the most out of your ads, hire a professional, discuss a budget you’re comfortable with, then leave it to the expert.
For lawyers starting their own law firm, referrals should have a separate section in your marketing plan. While marketing through your own efforts is important when you’re first getting started, referrals remain a cornerstone of how clients find lawyers. According to successful law firm owner, Stephen C. Paul;
Solo law firm owners should never lose sight of the importance of their clients. Always put your clients first as that is what will help lawyers succeed in the long run.
Every lawyer starting their own law firm needs to have a marketing plan—it’s a non-negotiable task that is essential to attracting clients. Keep an eye on how much business you’re generating from your marketing spend, and in which areas of your practice. Understand the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing efforts, and don’t keep chasing a losing bet.
At the end of the day, you’re running a business. And, to run a successful law firm you need to provide value to your clients. Your marketing should attract clients you’re best suited to help, but your work and client experience carry you the rest of the way. .
Providing a good client experience includes everything from intake to outcome. Legal technology, like Clio Grow, helps you create an efficient client intake process for both you and your clients, so you can spend more time focused on case work.