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Shrewd Marketing Moves Most Lawyers Miss

Follow these proven marketing secrets to gain a competitive edge in your effort to attract new clients and increase referrals.

Define and dominate your niche early. The first lawyer in a category usually becomes known as the authority in his field. He has a much stronger marketing position than lawyers who follow. You get no points for being an also-ran. If another lawyer already dominates the niche you want, create a new specialized niche in which you can be first. When you hold the first position in your niche, prospects seek out your services because they perceive you to be the most knowledgeable, experienced attorney in your area of law.

Don’t underestimate the importance of your marketing message. When lawyers conclude that a marketing method doesn’t work, the problem is usually not the method. The problem is almost always a poor or incomplete marketing message. Some lawyers accept that not all prospects will hire their services, so they move on to other potential clients. They deduce that these prospects are really window shopping and have no intention of buying. After reaching this conclusion, lawyers feel satisfied because now they have a plausible explanation for something they could not otherwise explain.

After attending hundreds of lawyer seminars, and reviewing stacks of lawyer marketing materials, I’ve found that lawyers routinely face three major marketing obstacles: (1) Their marketing message is not complete. (2) Prospects don’t understand what the lawyer says. And (3) the lawyer’s message does not motivate prospects to act.

Before you launch your marketing program, make sure you create a complete marketing message that prospects understand and motivates them to hire you. Without a powerful message, your marketing program will fail.

Appeal to your prospects’ self interest. Prospects will hire you only if they know how they will benefit. Prospects always ask, “What’s in it for me?” Make sure your message focuses on your ability to help prospects prevent a problem, solve a problem, or achieve a goal. The most powerful way to explain how your prospect benefits is by following this principle: The fear of loss is greater than the desire for gain. In your marketing message, explain that when your prospect hires your services, you will help him keep from losing what he has—and you will help him achieve the results he wants. Also, make sure you emphasize what your prospect loses if he doesn’t hire you.

Make sure prospects know how you differ from other attorneys. Prospects don’t hire you because you’re the same as other lawyers. They hire you because you’re different. Positive differences are your competitive advantages. Your strengths may be in your knowledge, skill, judgment, experience, reputation, speed, accessibility, responsiveness, self confidence, results, and other criteria. First, identify which competitive advantages are important to your prospects. Then emphasize to prospects how they benefit from those advantages when they hire you.

Establish the highest possible level of trust. Prospects want to trust you, yet everyone today is skeptical. You increase your credibility when you (1) explain things in plain English, (2) discuss your prospect’s problem, (3) answer your prospect’s questions, (4) offer specific solutions, (5) explain how you have helped other clients in similar situations, (6) offer testimonials from past clients (not permitted in some jurisdictions), (7) offer letters of recommendation from professional colleagues (also may not be allowed), (8) discuss the depth of your background, education, and qualifications, (9) provide copies of newspaper articles you wrote or in which you were quoted, and (10) allow your prospect to make his own decision about hiring you, without pressure from you or your staff.

To increase your credibility with prospects, review how you make decisions when you hire a professional. What do you look for? What can the professional do or say that will increase your level of trust? When you identify key steps that you find persuasive, adapt those elements to your presentation so you receive the same benefit.

Keep your message simple. Every day, your prospects suffer from information overload. As a result, they screen out complicated messages. A simple message is the only message that has any chance of getting through. Dale Carnegie said, “The best argument is that which seems merely an explanation.” You know you have created a strong marketing argument when your prospects respond by saying, “That makes sense.”

Don’t talk over your prospect’s head. (Almost everything you say is over your prospect’s head.) In most cases, when prospects understand you, they trust you. Try to address prospects at the sixth grade level using short, simple words. Many lawyers breeze through seminars and prospect meetings feeling reassured with the smiles and positive head nods they receive. They often conclude prospects understood what they said. Don’t believe it. Work hard to boil down your message to short words—vivid examples—relevant case histories—and simple analogies. If you must use a legal term, define it.

When you begin an explanation, always go back to square one. When you assume your prospect knows and understands basic facts, you’re almost always wrong. Your message may be old hat to you because you’ve repeated it many times. But this may be the first time your prospect has heard it. Don’t assume anything. Don’t skip over anything. Always start from the beginning, lay the foundation for your explanation, and speak in plain, everyday English.

Answer every question your prospect might ask. You can’t expect your prospect to hire you until he has enough information to make a hiring decision. The longer you keep your prospect’s attention—and the more information you provide—the more likely you are to earn a new client. Long marketing messages work, not because they’re long, but because they’re complete. Deliver your entire marketing message at every opportunity: In your written materials, at seminars and on your website. If you take shortcuts in the beginning, you’ll earn fewer clients in the end.

10 Invite prospects to call you with their questions. People often hesitate to call lawyers they don’t know because they aren’t sure whether their calls are welcome. Your prospect may not know whether you work on cases like his, whether he can afford to hire you, or whether he should act now or wait awhile. One simple, unanswered question may be all that keeps your prospect from hiring you. And if you have the opportunity to answer that question, this  new client could be yours. Make sure prospects know you welcome their calls.

11 Use a warm, friendly photograph with good eye contact. Your photograph is worth five thousand words. The larger the size of your eyes, the more your photo will attract your prospect’s attention. Notice that I didn’t say a larger photo is better. It isn’t the size of the photo that matters, it’s the size of your face—specifically, the size of your eyes. When prospects see your photograph in your written materials and on your website, they feel as if they already know you. Your photograph creates the feeling that you’re together. So, when you can’t be in the room with your prospect, rely on your photograph to take your place.

12 Restate important parts of your marketing argument. When prospects take in new information, they forget most of it. Yet, for your marketing effort to succeed, people must understand their problems and the solutions you can provide. Early in your meeting, list the important points you will make. Emphasize and explain those points during your time together. Then summarize them before your meeting ends. You help prospects remember what you said when you repeat key parts of your message. Also, you help them remember when you provide written materials that again deliver your message.

13 Use supportive, bonding words. Cold, impersonal words turn off prospects. Instead, attract clients using bonding words like “share”, “invite” and “welcome.” “I’m pleased to share this information with you.” “I welcome your call.” “You’re invited to call me at the office.” Make sure your prospect knows you’re working together to achieve a goal or solve a problem. Your prospect may already feel pressure from an adversary. Make sure he doesn’t see you as an adversary, too.

14 Write the way you talk. “Here is the material you requested” is much more friendly than “Enclosed you will find ….” When you write the way you speak, prospects hear your words as if you’re speaking to them. Your writing is warm and inviting, the way you are when you’re there in person. Cold, stilted expressions turn off prospects and give an unrealistic impression of who you are—unless you really are cold and stilted.

15 Don’t use advertising to deliver your marketing message. Instead, use ads to direct prospects to your message. For example, your ad can invite prospects to call for your free fact kit, attend your seminar, request your newsletter or visit your website. This saves you a lot of money, builds a mailing list of qualified prospects, and allows you to target your marketing efforts toward prospects who want what you offer.

16 Sign letters in blue ink. Laser printers put so much black on the page that a black-ink signature hardly gets noticed. Blue ink has been a staple in direct mail letters for decades because marketers discovered that letters with blue signatures draw a higher response than letters signed in black. When you sign letters in blue ink, you draw attention to your signature and emphasize to your prospect that you signed the letter yourself.

17 Use serif fonts to make your documents easy to read. Serif fonts, where the letters have little feet, are easier to read because serifs connect the reader’s eyes with the letters that follow. Sans serif fonts, without feet, tire your reader’s eyes because they have to manually connect the letters into words. (When your reader’s eyes get tired, he has all the reason he needs to stop reading.) Sans serif fonts work well for headlines and sub-heads where the words are large and bold, but not for paragraphs.

18 Raise your rates and attract better clients. When lawyers hire me, I usually suggest that they raise their fees, for two reasons: (1) Marketing can be expensive. You need added revenue to cover your new overhead. (2) While low fees may attract new clients, they are usually not the clients you want. Clients who pay the smallest fees often cause the largest headaches. So increase your fees and you’ll screen out (at least some) troublesome clients.

19 Make sure you get paid. All your work is pro bono until your client’s check clears the bank. Learn how to talk openly and proudly about fees. Explain that your fees are one measure of your knowledge, skill and experience. Explain that as an experienced lawyer, you can often solve a problem quicker—and negotiate a better result—than a lawyer with less experience.

After you’ve made your educational presentation, don’t hesitate to ask your prospect for his permission to move forward and, if appropriate, a check. If your prospect doesn’t intend to hire you, the sooner you find out, the better. And if he does hire you, you can move on to other matters.

Remember: If you can’t collect money, you’ll end up working for someone who can. The wise lawyer gets paid while his client is still in jail.

Trey Ryder

Trey Ryder specializes in Education-Based Marketing for lawyers. He offers three free articles by e-mail: 11 Brochure Mistakes Lawyers Make, Marketing Moves Most Lawyers Miss, and 13 Marketing Misconceptions That Cost Lawyers a Fortune. To receive these articles, send your name and e-mail address to and ask for his free packet of marketing articles.

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Filed Under: Featured StoriesMarketing

About the Author: Trey Ryder specializes in Education-Based Marketing for lawyers. He offers three free articles by e-mail: 11 Brochure Mistakes Lawyers Make, Marketing Moves Most Lawyers Miss, and 13 Marketing Misconceptions That Cost Lawyers a Fortune. To receive these articles, send your name and e-mail address to and ask for his free packet of marketing articles.

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