Successfully Marketing a Solo Practice

Successfully Marketing a Solo Practice

Introduction

You have made the decision to practice alone. Having made this decision, you have committed to building a practice through effective client development and retention practices. This article suggests steps and techniques that will enable you to successfully attract and keep clients who will pay for your services.

The Definition of Marketing

Marketing is simply defined as generating awareness and creating opportunities. The important steps in marketing are:

  1. Plan,
  2. Process,
  3. Involvement,
  4. Persistence, and
  5. Patience.
  6. Your Marketing Plan

The Keys to Successful Marketing are:

  1. Know your practice — You must know what legal services you are going to provide clients before you can successfully market them.
  2. Know whom you want as clients — Identify the type of entity or individual that you want to represent in your practice. Initial guidelines include someone who can use your services and someone who can and will pay your invoices in a timely manner.
  3. Plan your efforts — You will have limited time to devote to client development so you must organize your efforts before beginning them. Planning will enable you to effectively use your available time and maximize the use of the money you can invest in your client development efforts.
  4. Monitor your plan – Review your initial plan to ensure that you are devoting your time and money to develop and retain the client base you want to represent.

The Marketing Tools Available to You and Your Practice.

There are several different marketing tools available for marketing your practice. The tools include both promotional elements and marketing tools.

The promotional tools available to you include:

  1. Direct mail,
  2. Display ads,
  3. Directory listings,
  4. Writing for publication,
  5. Appearances at various events,
  6. Networking with other lawyers or individuals who are in a position to refer work to you, and
  7. The opportunity to teach at seminars or other educational events. The seminars may be continuing legal education sessions or they may be industry directed. Teaching and writing for non-legal groups often provides the best opportunity for gaining exposure before groups who are prospective clients or referral sources.

You have several marketing tools available to you .

All of the tools should be initially considered, then prioritized to meet your client development plan. Listed below are the most commonly used tools.

Quality service provided on a timely basis is the best single marketing tool available to you. Quality service that is delivered ahead of or on time to a client will usually convert the client into a referral source.

  • Business cards are a must. Don’t just have them, but have them with you at all times. Preparedness is essential in the presence of clients and prospects. Your business cards should contain your home telephone number if you are available 24/7.
  • Develop a modest firm brochure. This brochure should be displayed in any public area of your firm, such as the front desk. It should also be mailed to prospective clients inquiring about your legal services. The brochure should include a brief description of you and your practice, a brief statement about your fees and billing practice, office hours and a map to enable clients to find your office.
  • Sole practitioners are increasingly developing web sites. Prospective clients often use web sites to validate a lawyer and the lawyer’s practice.
  • Brief communications to clients concerning changes in the law that affect their lives or business are effective communication tools.
  • Developing an electronic or manual list of clients, then using it to call clients who you have not seen for a while is an excellent tool for staying in touch with clients.
  • Thank you cards, congratulation letters, and the like are great marketing tools. Clients like to hear from their lawyers at times other than when they are seeking a solution to a legal problem.
  • Join and be active in an organization that you enjoy. It will pay dividends.
  • Public speaking and writing articles are effective marketing tools. They involve an investment of time and effort that must be built into your time management plan.
  • Yellow page ads call attention to you and your practice, thus bolstering client development. However, they are not a substitute to one-on-one contact with prospects.

Things to Remember When Conducting Your Client Development/Retention Efforts

A Few Rules to Keep in Mind:

  1. The 80/20 Rule — 80% of your work comes from 20% of your clients.
  2. The 50/30/20 Rule — 50% of your “new” work comes from existing clients, 30% of your “new” work comes from people who are not your clients but with whom you have significant business contacts, and 20% of your “new” business comes from people who have learned of you from outside contacts.

Let clients know what services your firm can provide them.

Overcome the perceptions that you either didn’t do a type of work, you are too busy for more work, or you don’t care about their problem(s).

How to Build Good Relationships

  • Recognize that clients have a “me first” attitude.
  • Telephone calls must be returned the same day or earlier.
  • Recognize that clients are price sensitive.
  • Clients like to have their lawyers learn their business.
  • Clients like lawyers who stop talking and listen.
  • When asked a question, answer it.

Get Paid for Your Services

  • Establish the criteria that will guide you and your firm when deciding who to accept as your client.
  • Explain the timekeeping, billing and accounts receivable process you follow when working for clients.
  • Establish and maintain a billing cycle.
  • Write your time entries so they fully describe the work performed for the client in the entry. The entries should tell a “story.”

Conclusion

Getting and keeping good clients begins with a client development and retention plan. The plan focuses on the client and includes all client driven activities, which are essential to attracting and keeping them. It concludes with a timekeeping, billing and accounts receivable management program, which ensures you will be paid for your work. The lawyer that puts it all together ensures his/her future success. [1]

Notes

1. Austin G. Anderson is an attorney and principal at the AndersonBoyer Group in Ann Arbor, Michigan.