Professional Services Marketing -- Opting for the High Road
By: Les Altenberg
Marketing a law practice is difficult because it requires being “aggressive,” while still maintaining a sense of professionalism and quiet competence. Nevertheless, a successful marketing endeavor can be implemented when one opts to take the “high road.” It’s an approach that offers a long-term philosophy for gaining new clients, better clients and cross-selling existing clients on other firm services. And, it involves two basic elements - “building credibility” and “branding.”
Public Relations is the lynchpin by which firms establish their expertise in the minds of the media and their target prospects. This expertise is most easily leveraged when one understands that a successful media relations effort requires minimizing the work editors, reporters and broadcast producers will need to do in order to make that story happen.
Most shrewd marketers know that media decision makers are really no different than any other target market. Reduce their workload and the chances of their biting on a story increases greatly.
That means providing media sources with relevant story ideas along with the substantiation, facts, counter-arguments (sometimes even opposing side spokespersons) to make that story take off on its own. Offering interviewees for broadcast who can coherently speak in front of a camera takes away one more headache for a producer. An expert who can address an issue articulately takes away one from a newspaper reporter.
Pursuing a story involving the firm or practice itself is one obvious way to garner publicity. Less obvious are those situations which arise out of the day’s news or cases in which other firms are involved, but expert opinion is needed by the media.
Credibility-building works much like a train pulling out of a station - slowly at first, but then faster and faster. The media feels more comfortable utilizing those attorneys who have experience in their types of formats. Hence, the more you do, the more you get.
Branding is about building awareness for the firm in a manner in which you wish it to be perceived.
Successful branding really requires more than just being willing to spend some money. It means being willing to spend the time and energy as well. Before a logo is designed, an ad is written, television commercial produced, a law firm needs to look introspectively. It must ask difficult questions of itself: What is this firm or practice about? What is its culture? What are its strengths and weaknesses? What areas can be leveraged? Who exactly is this firm’s “ideal” type of client? What does this practice wish to be five to ten years from now?
The answers to these questions need to be translated into appropriate words and pictures which resonate with the intended target.
This is, of course, much more difficult than simply throwing an ad or commercial together. Ultimately, a carefully defined image works beyond its first pass. It takes on a life of its own, allowing a firm to evolve over time in the public’s consciousness. The result is not only a bigger business, but a better, more profitable one.
Les Altenberg is President of A.L.T. Legal Professionals Marketing Group (www.legalprofessionalsmarketing.com). The New Jersey firm provides business development support for law practices including marketing, PR, advertising and interactive services. A.L.T. works with law firms of all sizes across the U.S. Mr. Altenberg has written and lectured extensively on marketing issues. He can be reached at 856-810-0400 or firstname.lastname@example.org