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 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.
60 clients seems like a lot until you break it down, and then it seems much more manageable. 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.
Determine your target market
Once you’ve set your goals and rates, determining your target market is next. Target market is a marketing-specific 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 also 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
Social media, email, advertising, sponsorships, and events—These are just a handful of marketing channels that you could use to promote your law firm when you start out. But, you don’t need to be on every marketing channel, just the ones that matter for your potential clients.
As a continuation of the example in the last section, consider your target market being young couples in long-term relationships. Now ask yourself, what marketing channels do young couples tend to spend the most time in?
Once you’ve researched your audience more in-depth, you’ll have a better sense of where you should focus your marketing efforts.
Calculate your budget
So how much should you budget for marketing? Some advise spending 7 to 8% of your annual revenue, while others say best practice is to spend 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 more than that. 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.
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 takes money, which is not true. While your website can come with costs if you hire a professional, there are many avenues where lawyers are able to promote their services for free.
But, if you do choose to advertise 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 that you’ll consider at some point 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)
Budgeting for these options depends on which marketing channels work best for your firm and practice area.
Google Ads is a popular advertising channel for lawyers, but nailing down an exact cost to budget for is hard—you pay each time someone clicks on your ad, and it’s an auction-style cost (you bid against other lawyers), so it varies 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—there is no spend cap so you can spend hundreds of dollars a day accidentally due to a couple tiny mistakes on a lawyer’s account. If you want Google Ads to work (and it does, if done right), 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 do good work. Underlying doing good work as a lawyer is providing value for your clients. Your plan to attract clients should simply be to reach clients who need your services and find value in your work.