The Business of Law: “Rainmaking” 101: Tips for Marketing Success
by Mary Louise C. Hopson
In my office is a woodblock art print that illustrates visually what all lawyers want when it comes to getting clients. Entitled “The Bountiful Harvest” by New Mexico artist Kris Hotvedt, it features an apple farmer with a basketful of apples on his shoulder. More apples fall down from the tree overhead, all around him, as the sun smiles merrily down in one corner—a perfect picture of abundance and happy prosperity.
It looks so easy, I think. If only catching and keeping clients could be so easy! But, in reflecting further, I realize that a lot of planning and hard work went before the farmer began to reap the rewards of the harvest.
As with an apple orchard, building a law practice takes hard work. If you are a lawyer wishing to review your marketing efforts with an eye towards increasing your chances of success, read on to find a few tips that may help, and ask yourself how you might improve your rainmaking ability.
Develop a Marketing Mindset and Have a Plan: Know what you have to offer and how you differ from the competition. Identify your best prospects and know how to position yourself to reach them.
Develop a strategic approach to business development that you will follow over your career. You are never too busy to think about marketing. Think about promoting your practice constantly and have an organized plan to back you up, one that’s consistent with your firm’s overall goals. Evaluate what’s working and what needs to be changed.
Remember the Client’s Perspective: The first rule of addressing client needs is to be a good lawyer first. Stay up to date on your practice area and become an expert. Do a great job for the client. Think about your clients’ needs and how you can fill them, not the other way around. Care about the client.
Return phone calls promptly. Look at bills to make sure they are accurate and worded properly. Lawyers are expensive, and many clients would rather not have to be paying law firm bills. Ask for feedback from your clients. Even negative feedback, while tough to hear sometimes, can be very helpful.
Prioritize Your Efforts: Be prepared to cross-sell—increase the range of services that your firm provides to an existing client by knowing your colleagues’ expertise. It takes more time and effort to find a new client than it does to cross-sell or retain an existing good client. You will probably find that about 80 percent of your business comes from about 20 percent of your clients.
Burnish Your Brand: Be able to describe your work in a short, succinct sentence or two that illustrates the value you provide to your clients in terms people can grasp and understand. Appreciate those who refer clients to you. Keep up with your network.
Use Innate Skills: You became a lawyer because you are smart, learn new things easily, are curious, can set goals and work hard, and can communicate well. You are an effective listener, and you can ask good questions. You have empathy. These qualities can be used in your client development efforts. Use the smarts and skills you already have. If you need to learn new skills, such as feeling comfortable making presentations in front of groups, find ways to practice and learn these new talents to enhance your success. Find what you are good at, learn the rest if necessary, and tap your inner resources.
The apple farmer looks happy to have the big basket full of apples on his shoulder, with the additional ones falling all around him. He’s taking care of the apples in his basket (the clients he already has) while catching the other apples (potential clients) that come his way. He’s grateful. He’s having fun, too!
What’s in your basket right now? Is it full? Could it be fuller? Are you catching the apples that come your way? Are you looking for more apples, or planting new apple trees?
Plan your orchard, plant your trees, nurture them, and be ready for the harvest. Find one thing to do this week to grow your practice. And get ready to grab those apples!
Mary Louise Hopson is a longtime member and past co-chair of the Publications Committee. She has worked with Dallas attorneys in business development and other support roles for more than 30 years in both corporate and law firm environments. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.