Re-purpose

Being busy has become a national obsession, and it certainly affects lawyers. We seem to have two speeds: frantic and fearful. We need to have a discussion about what might lie between these extremes, but an even more pressing question might be how to keep marketing going even when frantic.

You’ve no doubt heard that content is king for marketing, and there’s a simple reason: good content builds trust. Great content is easy to generate when you have plenty of spare time, but how do you keep up the flow of content when you’re frantic?

Re-purpose everything. When you do something, look for other ways to use that same content. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • An article can become multiple blog posts
  • Blog posts can be broken down into blurbs suitable for use on LinkedIn or Twitter
  • Any writing you do may yield a question suitable for opening a discussion in a LinkedIn group
  • Any presentation you make may be uploaded via SlideShare (being attentive to potential copyright questions) and you can reuse the presentation points as blog posts
  • Record a blog post, and you have a podcast (and podcasts are hot, hot, hot today—if they’re a good fit for your market)
  • Client questions can spur an article
  • Your reaction to a blog post or news story can yield a comment, which you might then expand into a blog post (as a guest, if you don’t have your own blog), an article, or a podcast 

When it comes to re-purposing, the sky is the limit. Make it your habit to ask, how else can I use this?

Even more importantly, ask where you can distribute it. Content won’t help you grow your practice unless it’s consumed by the right audience. Where it’s a fit for your practice, look for ways to appear in the relevant industry and popular media. And look for how you can use what you’ve done to build relationships as well.

What resources do you have that you can re-purpose now to extend your reach?

Legal business development: You’ve got to stand out.

All lawyers in any given practice area are a dime a dozen, right? Think about your own area. Who stands out in your mind? It’s likely (assuming you’ve been in practice for a while) that you can identify at least a few lawyers who catch attention. Maybe it’s the divorce lawyer who’s known for high-profile divorces. Perhaps it’s the patent lawyer who’s created a curriculum to educate her clients on what to expect in the patenting process and what to be doing to maximize the chances of business success. Or it could be the litigator who’s known for baiting witnesses so effectively that fireworks always erupt.

Every lawyer has some skill, experience, attribute, or approach that distinguishes him or her from others. Those distinguishing factors demonstrate to your potential clients what makes you different and why they should hire you. Equally importantly, they also pave the way for you to market yourself in fresh ways.

The points of distinction that you highlight must be those that matter to your clients. If a client wouldn’t see the value in something that sets you apart from others, you’ve merely identified a distinction, not a real difference. You might have to connect the dots in some instances (for example, some clients might not immediately appreciate the benefit of a lawyer who draws on her background in tax law to support her clients’ licensing needs) but when explained the client must understand why that aspect offers an advantage.

When it comes to marketing, identifying a point of distinction will allow you to a marketing message that answers potential clients’ questions or concerns (some of which they may not even be aware of yet) by highlighting your relevant experience or skill. You are able to speak to something valuable that other lawyers can’t, and you immediately rise above the crowd.

To identify what sets you apart, ask yourself:

  1. What past experience (professional or personal) bears on your practice?
  2. What skill, knowledge, or experience do you bring to your practice that will be helpful for clients?
  3. What kind of practice-related opportunities can you forecast, and how can you position yourself to meet them?

If you’re practicing in a large firm, consider too the advantages that flow from having numerous colleagues in widely divergent practice areas. You may have a leading authority on speed dial, or you might be able to find a resource to meet a client’s need no matter the issue he’s facing. This is especially beneficial for newer lawyers who may not yet have the experience or reputation to stand on their own for marketing but who can market their firm quite effectively.

You might also consider how can you serve your clients in new or innovative ways. In addition to your primary services, for instance, perhaps you could offer ancillary services or products to offer a fuller solution to your clients’ needs. Are there free or reduced-fee services that you might offer as a way of introducing yourself and your skills to a class of potential clients or referral sources?

You might stand apart from others by offering a quarterly free Q&A meeting (ideally in person) during which you present must-know points and respond to potential clients’ questions about topics related to your practice area. For example, if you practice elder law, you might host a monthly gathering to help adult children learn what legal issues they should plan for as they assist their aging parents.  You could offer a fee-based group in which you cover key issues in more depth, and you might have certain forms or templates for sale that the adult children could use to implement your suggestions. Although some clients will get what they need from those free and low-cost offerings, others will want or need your help and will hire you.

If your practice spans geographic areas in such a way that you don’t often have an opportunity to meet face-to-face with your clients, look to technology to bridge the distance. Videoconferencing is one common approach that isn’t used as often as it probably should be. You could craft a marketing message around the personal service you offer and the importance of tailoring legal solutions to each individual (or business); weaving in your enhanced communication opportunities will set you apart from others who merely use the words but don’t actually deliver the value.

How might you create a different approach to client service? Consider these questions:

  1. How can I meet both legal and non-legal needs that my clients frequently present?
  2. How can I build innovative services that will benefit my clients?
  3. What might I do to answer potential client questions, introduce my clients to beneficial resources, or otherwise extend my services in unexpected ways?

Identifying your points of differentiation and using them to craft a marketing message requires analysis, insight, and sometimes even an intuitive leap. Hold a brainstorming session with the proviso that no answer is too wacky to be considered.  Sometimes impractical or unpalatable ideas provide the leap to a truly unique marketing message and practice. And don’t hesitate to seek help with this: sometimes outsider vision reveals what an insider will never see.

Tend relationships to grow your practice.

I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of business development coaching recently, and I often tell my clients that rainmaking is all about relationships.  I also tell clients that good relationships, personal or professional, should be nurtured – even that low-level employee of a corporate client may prove to be a valuable contact one day.  This past weekend confirmed that for me.

Clients sometimes question why I suggest maintaining friendships from college and law school, and the weekend offers the explanation.  I hosted a reunion for six of my closest friends from college last weekend.  Although we stay in touch by email and conference calls, we rarely see each other face-to-face.  I was struck by a realization as I looked around at my friends: we’ve come a long way since college.

Of the 6 of us, I’m the only lawyer.  Two are in high-level corporate positions, working with multiple law firms and (coincidentally) dealing with issues that were at the core of my interest when I was in practice.  And three of the women’s husbands (who are invited for co-ed get-togethers) are in corporate positions as well, responsible for hiring or coordinating efforts with lawyers for some aspects of the business.

The other three women are teachers, and each is also active in the community in some way.  One is a community actor and director who serves on several theatre boards in her city, another holds offices in various groups that her sons have joined, and the third is a leader in more community groups than I can count.  These women are well-connected.

In the years since college, we have all advanced in responsibility.  Through long history together, these friends (and their husbands) know, like, and trust me, as I do each of them.  If I were still in practice, these connections would be ripe for business development – not because I would “use” my friends to bring in clients, but because my friends would feel confident in hiring me (or others I recommend) and referring others to me.  (And here’s proof: a special “welcome” to the lawyers who have recently subscribed to this newsletter at the suggestion of one of my college friends – you know who you are!)  The reverse is, of course, true as well.

Multiple referrals have passed among us over the years, and anytime one of us needs to meet someone for business purposes, working through this extended network almost always gets results.  If any of us had judged whether these would be professionally fruitful relationships twenty years ago, the answer would probably have been no.  We were either poor graduate students or eager but hungry young teachers, hardly ready to refer business to anyone except perhaps a great restaurant.  Circumstances have certainly changed over time.  But my friends’ basic attributes have not: they’re sharp, nice, trustworthy, and service-oriented.  Those attributes have led them to success in a variety of businesses and relationships, and our connections are now fruitful professionally as well as personally.

This is only one example of how contacts grow.  The same is true of former colleagues, junior employees of corporate clients, and so on.  Regardless of where or how you meet, maintain connections with people you like and trust.  You cannot possibly know where life will take you and your contacts or how (or whether) connections will shift over time, but solid relationships often yield business or other useful resources.

A client recently told me that he wished he’d learned years ago to keep in touch with clients and friends at his peer level.  As you advance in experience and responsibility, so will your contacts.  In our mobile society, today’s low-level employee at one company may be tomorrow’s vice president at a competitor.

Coaching challenge: Think about good contacts (those whom you know, like, and trust) with whom you have not talked recently.  Pick up the phone today and reconnect with a few, or perhaps issue an invitation for lunch or coffee.  Nurture these relationships and you will likely find that they pay dividends over time.