This Solo de Facto guest is an expert communicator and PR guru. Brad Swezey is the president of Just Small Biz Marketing and vice president of PR4Lawyers. Brad shared his wealth of knowledge about marketing as a solo practitioner, from common challenges to basic steps to start building a winning marketing process for your business.
Why Small Law Firms Need Marketing
We asked Brad to tell us one thing that he wished attorneys knew about running a successful law firm. His answer: that marketing is a key to success.
Unfortunately, your skill as an attorney doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get clients. This can be a tough pill to swallow for attorneys just starting out, as well as seasoned practitioners! As Brad points out, attorneys aren’t taught how to market themselves in law school. So when you set out to start a small or solo firm, many times you don’t have the basic skills to stand out in a sea of other qualified attorneys. It’s even harder when you are competing against bigger law firms with established reputations and a dedicated marketing budget.
Without the right marketing skills, a solo attorney is going to struggle to get the right clientele. When they struggle to get clientele, they won’t know how to pay the bills.
The marketing knowledge gap was made even more apparent by COVID. When attorneys could no longer rely on face-to-face networking, they began to realize that relying on one channel to get business comes with risks. As more attorneys delve into marketing for their practices, they’re faced with a big learning curve.
Common Marketing Challenges for Attorneys
Brad has pinpointed a few common challenges that attorneys run into when they start marketing. Which of these challenges resonate with your small firm?
Face-to-face network opportunities are more limited. When attorneys can’t go out and talk to people in person, they need new strategies to get people to come to them. Attorneys don’t always know what opportunities are out there for them, or how to get started.
Attorneys are not familiar with the concept of a marketing funnel—i.e. attracting leads and nurturing them through stages of awareness, consideration, and decision-making. Many people view lawyers like they do auto repair shops. You don’t think about finding one until you need it. Clever solo practitioners can use marketing to establish themselves as the obvious choice before their audience even needs them.
Solo firms feel like they’re competing with big firms. This can lead attorneys to use generic messaging that mimics what the big firms are doing when instead they should be leaning into being solo practitioners. Instead of looking at being a solo firm as a disadvantage in a crowded market, use it as a tool for unique positioning.
Practitioners don’t view marketing as a long-term investment. An investment in marketing isn’t too different from an investment in law school, according to Brad. If you trust in the process and don’t expect magic results, it will eventually pay off…just like spending money on law school is an investment in a well-paying career. On average, most businesses should devote about 10% of target revenue to marketing.
How to Start the Marketing Process as a Small Firm
It’s not uncommon to be intimidated by the marketing process, especially if you’re running a solo firm. Brad recommends a few foundational places where busy practitioners can start to build out their marketing without spending a ton.
- Connect with referral sources. Making connections is free! Establish relationships with other attorneys who fill in gaps of expertise. If you get a lead or have a current client who could use their help, send them along. You will surely get referrals in turn!
- Partner with organizations and associations to present webinars and seminars. For example, an estate planning lawyer can set up a free seminar in partnership with a funeral home to educate their clients and bring in new leads.
- Network on social media. Use popular channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to reach audiences and network with other attorneys. One note of caution: don’t feel like you need to use all social networks at once. It’s okay to stick to one channel that works for your business!
- Reach out to local reporters. Offer to be a source or subject matter expert for relevant articles and TV spots. This gives you an opportunity for free publicity and to make connections within your community.
- Create content that educates your ideal customer. This might be podcasts, blog posts, or videos that provide valuable information to people who are seeking services like yours.
- Niche down! You can’t do everything or serve everyone. It might be tempting to offer a large spectrum of services to increase your chances of bringing on more clients, but this can result in bad marketing and burnout. Narrow down to your clearest, most direct messaging to find your perfect audience.
Attract the Right Clients
As a solo practitioner, you’re already doing your own thing. You might as well focus on finding the types of clients who will pay you for what you bring to the table. It’s time to use your marketing efforts to attract the right clients at the right price point to build a successful solo firm.
To hear more from Brad in his episode of Solo de Facto, listen here.