What’s the difference between a financially successful attorney and an attorney who sometimes struggles financially? It’s not necessarily their track record or knowledge of the law. Fairly often, its the attorney’s ability to market his or her services to potential clients.
But marketing a law practice isn’t always the same as marketing other types of businesses. So David M. Ward, Esq. of The Attorney Marketing Center  provided some targeted marketing tips for lawyers in an email interview with Small Business Trends. Below are 20 of his top suggestions.
How to Market a Law Practice
Choose a Specific Type of Law
Instead of being a general practitioner, you can automatically set yourself apart by choosing one type of law to focus on.
For instance, you could focus on tax or trademark issues. When a potential client is looking for a lawyer, they normally already have a specific issue in mind. So they are more likely to both find and trust a lawyer who focuses on that type of law, rather than one that spreads their attention between several specialties.
Because of this, Ward says that lawyers who specialize in a particular type of law tend to earn more than those who don’t.
Choose a More Specific Niche
You’ve chosen a specialty. Great, now go one step further. To differentiate your services even more, choose a niche within your branch of the law.
For example, if you’re a business lawyer, focus on a specific type of business, like retail or manufacturing. Or if you’re an immigration attorney, you could target clients from a particular country or region. Make sure customers know that you are focused on this niche by including it in your website or promotional materials. Then you can focus on growing your client base within that community of businesses or individual clients through referrals.
Build a List of Clients and Referrers Over Time
Ward says that a common marketing mistake for lawyers is trying to do too much all at once.
For instance, some new attorneys might go through an entire list of potential clients and referrers (law firms or lawyers that might refer clients to you) in their community right away. But not all of these people are likely to need legal services at the same time. So going on a mass contacting spree could just prove to be a waste of time.
Instead, he suggests building up a list of prospective clients and referrers. Some of that will happen during the course of regular business operations. So instead of calling all of your contacts right away, you could simply keep your contact list at top of mind throughout your day to day activities. This could lead to a bigger referral list and a more healthy business over time.
Create a Helpful Website
For new practices, one of the first marketing steps should be to set up a website. The site should really showcase what you do. Meaning, it should clearly state your specialty and your niche. If you offer several different services within your type of law, outline them very clearly.
But your website should also offer something else to potential clients — helpful resources. This could mean offering a free ebook or even just a list of links for people looking for general information within your area of expertise.
Offering these resources will bring more people to your website. And those people are more likely to need your services at some point, since they are already looking for resources on similar topics.
Give Away Free Resources in Your Community
Once you’ve created some free resources for people who visit your website, go one step further. Make some connections with people and businesses in your community who can promote your information and give those resources away to them for free. This can help you amplify your reach.
Providing free information and resources for people in your area can help you build useful connections and trust in your brand. Ward said:
“Write a “how to” report in your area of expertise and give it away. Make it so good that centers of influence in your target market or community willingly promote it to their lists and thank you for making it available.”
Network with Local Businesses by Offering a Helping Hand
You can also simply help other business owners throughout your community. You never know who these business owners know.
When you help others they are more likely to refer potential clients to you at some point in the future. To network in your community, you can simply ask for some business cards to keep in your office or provide some referrals to other local businesses.
Consider Building a Social Media Presence
Social media can be a powerful marketing tool for all types of businesses.
If you like using social media, sign up for an account or accounts. Then build up networks using your client and referral lists, or lists of contacts within your community. Then you can use these sites to provide information on your business and other legal resources. Perhaps you could offer your free ebook or links to relevant websites.
But Don’t Focus Too Much on Social Media
Ward insists having a strong social media presence isn’t all that necessary for law practices:
“Contrary to popular opinion, social media marketing isn’t something that you must do. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. There are other ways to market your services.”
So if you want to use social media, it can be a valuable and inexpensive tool. But if you don’t feel that you have the time to build up a following, it isn’t necessary. Your time could be better spent working on referrals or your website.
Make It Easy for Others to Connect
But even if you decide social media isn’t your thing, at the very least, you should have an account or two.
Facebook especially has become an incredibly popular place for people to connect with businesses. So even if you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to social media, you could just reserve your business name on Facebook and/or Twitter. You don’t need to post excessively or promote the accounts. Just update with important information for those who want to follow you.
Allow Others to Share your Content
In addition, you should make it as easy as possible for those who do use social media to share content from your website.
Add share buttons to your website that make it as easy as possible for people to post links to your blog posts or ebooks to their social networks. You can also encourage people to share your content. So even if you don’t have the time to post on social media, you can at least give others a chance to do it for you.
You Can Also Use Social Media to Find Resources
You can also use social media as a way to find resources and experts. You can use it to find bloggers for guest posts, experts to interview for your newsletter, or other professionals you can network with.
To do this, you can sign up for personal accounts on social media and follow people in your industry. Then connect with those people and ask if they might be interested in collaborating with you.
Start Small with Advertising
Advertising can be one of the quickest ways to build traffic. However, Ward cautions it can also be a costly mistake if done incorrectly. For that reason, he suggests starting with a small budget.
Choose a very targeted outlet that attracts people in your specific market. For instance, if you’re a business attorney who focuses on local retailers, consider using a trade publication that also focuses on local retailers.
Using a small publication will allow you to keep your advertising budget small at first. Then you can gauge the results of your first campaign before making a huge monetary commitment. Just ask new clients how they found out about your services, and you’ll be able to tell how well your advertising efforts are working.
Hire Marketing or Advertising Professionals If Necessary
Ward also said it can be worth it to work with marketing and advertising professionals when first starting to promote your business. These professionals can help you choose the right outlets and measure your success.
When you’re busy running a law firm, spending time on marketing and advertising might not be possible. Especially when starting out, advertising and marketing professionals who understand your needs can take some of this responsibility off of your shoulders. They will also be more knowledgeable about how to go about promoting your firm without the need for as much trial and error.
If It Works, Increase your Budget
If you find that your ads are getting positive results, consider increasing your budget. Investing in more advertising can help you grow even more, especially if you already have some evidence it can work.
Consult your advertising professional, if you use one. You can even consider branching out to different types of outlets for your ads. Just be sure to continue finding out which clients found you through advertising so that you can measure what is working and what isn’t.
If It Doesn’t Work, Cut Your Losses and Move On
On the other hand, don’t raise your budget if you see no positive results. Sometimes advertising with a particular outlet doesn’t work out. Don’t keep investing in something that doesn’t work.
Instead, look for another type of outlet for your advertising budget. Keep measuring what is bringing you new clients, and don’t be afraid to admit defeat and try something else.
Rely on Referrals
But even though advertising and social media can be useful, Ward says that referrals are absolutely integral to marketing a law practice:
“Every law firm should base it’s marketing on a foundation of referrals. Referred clients are less resistant to hiring you, tend to be more loyal and more likely themselves to provide referrals. They also come to you without cost (time or money).”
Focus on Customer Service
In order to get referrals, you need to make sure your clients are satisfied enough to tell others about you. Providing great customer service isn’t always considered a marketing task, but in this case it is.
To make sure your clients are satisfied, make it very clear what they should expect when they hire you. Then be sure to live up to your end of the bargain.
Offer Referrals to Others
You can also try to get referrals from people who aren’t clients. To do this, you’ll still need to connect with them in some way.
You can connect with people on social media, at events, or just out in your community. Then you can build trust with people by offering them referrals, promoting their website, or interviewing them for your newsletter.
Ask Your Satisfied Clients for Help
But there could be a more direct way to get referrals to your business. According to Ward, you get more referrals by simply asking for them.
Ask satisfied clients if they know anyone else needing similar legal help. Make it clear to them that you are open to taking on new clients. You might even consider offering a discount or perk for people who refer others. You could also just hand out extra business cards or similar materials so that clients and others can easily pass along your information.
Seek Referrals Indirectly
But if you don’t want to ask people directly for referrals, there are other ways to get your name out there.
If you provide other services or resources like ebooks or legal seminars, you can ask people to recommend those items to others. That way, people will still be familiar with your name and area of expertise, but you don’t have to seem like you’re begging for clients.
If you’ve spent the time and energy to launch a new firm or practice, be sure you also take the time to let others know. Marketing is a critical aspect of building your practice. Give the process the time and energy it requires.
Attorney  Photo via Shutterstock