By Ashley Manz, Account Executive, R&J Public Relations
Many law firms believe that the only way to generate new business is by placing advertisements in print or on billboards. But in reality, most new business opportunities for law firms come from existing clients and referrals. So how can your firm capture new business and expand its network? The answer is through a strategic marketing effort based around a professional public relations program.
Strategic marketing efforts can replace ineffective advertising campaigns and help to distinguish your firm’s lawyers as thought leaders, positioning you for greater geographic reach as well as deeper within areas in which you have proven expertise. After all, simply being the best lawyer in town is not a true marketing advantage, especially if you don’t have the type of clients you want. A strategic marketing campaign can help set your law firm apart from the rest by building credibility; advertisements only show basic information about your firm and don’t help those in need of legal services to establish and determine who is a great lawyer and who isn’t.
The best way to begin your marketing campaign is to set strategic priorities for your law firm. The overall end goal for business is to draw in new clients. To do this, you need to establish credibility and expertise for your firm focusing on the practice areas your firm offers where you can make a difference. What type of clients do you want to work with? What does your firm specialize in? Look for opportunities for your business to get involved in those industries. After you decide priorities for your firm, begin to build relationships. Join organizations in the area like the chamber of commerce and network with political officials. Also, identify legal and business associations that your firm can join. These mutually beneficial relationships can lead to speaking opportunities on the association’s panel events. Most associations also have publications and look to their members for content. Expanding your network and building these relationships will help your business development efforts by building credibility within your community and industry as a reliable source of professional information; in short, an expert.
You can best reach these goals by working with a marketing professional or agency. As you begin to build these relationships, your marketing agency can position you as a thought leader in the media. If you are a bankruptcy attorney and have a thought about a high level case that is being covered in the New York Times, you can work with your marketing professional to contact the reporter and place your quote within the story. Marketing professionals utilize their pre-existing relationships with local, regional and trade magazine reporters to offer their clients as reliable professional sources of insight and information.
Highlighting firm news and happenings are another way to position your firm and build credibility. If you have an updated website and consistent key messages, not only showing information about your firm but also news about specific cases, thought leadership articles about an industry topic, media placements, and new hires, your public credibility will rise, as you present a consistent brand message.
People making a decision to contact and possibly to hire a lawyer are usually looking for the best, most experienced and skilled practitioner – information that they cannot get from an ad or a billboard. The best way to establish and build this credibility is by positioning yourself as an expert source. This is what PR agencies do day in and day out for their clients.