Professional services firms, such as law firms, run the gamut as to how much they spend on business development and marketing initiatives. Whether you practice as a solo or with a small firm or market leader, there are several strategies you can implement to gain new clients and increase your revenue. Here are 10 of the top ways to increase your firm’s visibility and grow your practice without maxing out your marketing budget.
1) Develop a Networking Strategy
One of the most beneficial ways to grow your practice is to become a good networker. If you need some tips to get started, check out Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi or Networking Like A Pro by Ivan Misner. Set networking goals and have a specific strategy. Make sure to have a solid “elevator pitch” to describe exactly what you do for whom. Identify key individuals you would like as clients or as strategic referral partners. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for introductions from people you already know. Networking includes building relationships, not just attending “networking events.” The more targeted you are in your efforts, the more effectively your time will be spent.
2) Acquire Speaking Engagements
One way to share your expertise and get your personal and professional brand in front of many people at one time is to speak to groups. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce and the professional organizations that fit your target demographic and ask about speaking opportunities. Search online for conferences that feature topics you are an expert in, and contact the event planner or organizer.
Jenna Weber is a business development coordinator for SVA Professionals, Madison, where she creates and implements business development strategies and awareness campaigns that drive business growth.
Practice your public-speaking skills before you give any presentations, because if you are not well prepared, you might embarrass rather than help yourself. If you are interested in getting more speaking opportunities, but need additional presentation help, consider getting a coach or joining a local Toastmasters club.
3) Get Involved in Your Community
Giving back to the community in which you live and work can not only help your neighbors but also have benefits for your business. Volunteer your expertise for a committee or board. Become involved with organizations you are passionate about. Don’t spread yourself too thin; making a big impact in one or two groups is better than overextending yourself with a larger number of organizations. These new positions will help you broaden your network and potentially identify new prospects.
4) Consider In-Kind Sponsorships
If you don’t have a large budget, one avenue to consider is in-kind sponsorships. Ask an event’s coordinator to tell you what specifically is needed. Instead of paying to have your logo featured at an event or in a program, volunteer your time to help with registration, coordinate the silent auction, or in other ways. This is a great way to get the visibility perks of a paid sponsor without the expense. Look at these sponsorships as an opportunity to network and potentially showcase your expertise and firm.
5) Share Your Expertise
The new wave of marketing is content driven. Instead of merely running ads with their logos, firms are taking the opportunity to showcase their expertise. Contribute an article to a publication, write a guest blog, or do an interview for a local television or radio station. Many professional associations also have their own publications; contact them to offer to share knowledge that might interest their members. Starting a company blog or electronic newsletter to send to clients, prospects, and referral sources is yet another way to highlight your expertise and position you as a thought leader. Bringing attention to timely issues may also lead to additional business.
Build Your Reputation: Write for State Bar Publications
Publishing articles in respected publications is an effective way to establish your reputation as an expert in a particular area of law and grow your professional network. Explore the many ways to contribute to State Bar publications. Visit the News & Publications area on WisBar and click on “Contribute” for writing guidelines and contact information for Wisconsin Lawyer, WisBar Inside Track, section and division newsletters, and PINNACLE® books. Your article may qualify you for CLE credit.
6) Use Social Media
Social media are not going away anytime soon. Having a presence on the big sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter is becoming a necessity. There is no cost (except in time) for basic profiles, which can get your brand out in front of a very large audience. Make sure the profiles are fully filled out and are consistent with each other. Use the same logo, contact information, and additional company information on each. Regularly post relevant information that clients or prospects might be interested in. Doing so demonstrates your firm is staying current with market trends and provides useful information.
7) Define Your Target Market
Attorneys eager to grow their practices sometimes take any prospect that walks into the office. But doing so can have hazards. Instead, create a detailed description of your ideal client. What kind of work do you do for the client? What industry is the client in? Where is the client located? What is the client willing to pay?
Don’t be afraid to refer to another attorney clients or prospects that are not a good fit for your practice. Letting go of clients who create more work and don’t fit your ideal-client profile will help you perform better work for your best clients and free up time for you to add profitable clients. The more focus you develop, the easier it is to become known as the expert in particular areas, which leads to more ideal-client referrals.
8) Ask for Referrals from Current Clients
If you are confident in the work you have performed for a client, don’t be shy about asking for referrals. Include asking for referrals as one of the standard talking points in client meetings. Set a goal and keep track of the number of referrals you ask for each week. The more you ask and make it part of your routine, the easier it will become, and more referrals will flow in.
Make sure you are specific about who you are looking for as a referral. Is it someone who has recently gone through a divorce? Someone who has adult children and is in need of estate planning? A mid-sized company that needs help negotiating a new lease? If you don’t tell your clients who your ideal prospect is, you could wind up wasting time pursuing bad leads.
After you receive a referral, send a handwritten thank-you note to show your appreciation. Keep the person who referred the business informed about the progress and perhaps treat the person to a nice lunch or dinner.
9) Build Your Center-of-Influence Network
Another great source for referrals are centers of influence or COIs. These are professionals who provide complementary services and often work with the same type of client as you do. For attorneys, these professionals often are financial advisors, accountants, bankers, insurance agents, or business consultants.
Make a list of the top five or 10 firms or individuals you would like to have a strategic partnership with and set up a meeting. Start by articulating why working with you would be beneficial for the referral source and their clients. Be specific about what you are looking for and expecting out of the relationship. It is best to make sure both parties are on the same page when it comes to referral expectations.
10) Make Time for Marketing
The most cost-effective strategies for growing your business take time. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on glossy print advertisements, television commercials, or radio ads, sometimes the best way to gain clients is by sharing your expertise, building a strong network, and having solid client service. Although these items don’t have a huge price tag, they do take time.
Every Monday, list your top five marketing goals for the week. Are you going to write a blog post? Set up a lunch with an accountant who could be a possible referral source? Speak to an association? To ensure they are completed, it helps to put these marketing “appointments” on your calendar, even if just as reminders for a short phone call or email to help move your business forward. Make sure your goals are reasonable for a one-week period. Keep this list in a visible area on your desk to remind you that growing your practice is as important as maintaining and serving your current client base.
If you are implementing these 10 strategies effectively, you will notice gradual growth of your practice. But remember, building a successful business doesn’t happen overnight. A good reputation, a strong network, word of mouth, and solid client relationships take time to acquire. Make sure to stay consistent with your marketing efforts, and you will see your calendar begin to fill up with new client appointments.