High schoolers know everything, don’t they? That’s why they drag their feet every morning on the way out to school, and why they procrastinate and call homework stupid. In the end, though, they still end up rushing to get their assignments done 15 minutes before the start of their class period because they need the credit to pass the course. I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of similarities between that anecdote and the way that hundreds of attorneys approach marketing for their practice.
Excuses for avoiding marketing may trick your brain into putting it off for now, but when it comes down to it, you’re going to need to put the work in if you want to succeed.
The problem is that many of the excuses attorneys make are so common and so believable that they actually seem like insurmountable obstacles. We’ve listed six of the most frequent ones here - along with the reasons why they’re totally invalid.
1) I’m paying the bills
Counter-argument: How do you expect to keep paying them?
Lawyers will put in hours (and hours) of work, and when we ask them what it’s achieving, they say, “I’ve got to keep the lights on.” Really? That’s all you were hoping to achieve when you started your practice? And here we were thinking that attorneys wanted to find new and greater levels of success and profitability.
Settling for crappy client work and the junk fees (or worse, uncollectable ones) that come with that work isn’t necessary. Most lawyers end up setting a low bar for themselves simply because that’s seemingly how they can be competitive in the space. The trick to setting an appropriate rate for clients, however, is to look exclusively at the value your firm offers, consider the way you position your expertise, and use those combined factors as leverage to back up a premium fee.
“You’re talking about billing, not marketing.” Okay, you caught us. There’s an order to some of this stuff, and step one here would be to set the appropriate rates for yourself. But that’s really just how you’re going to take your practice to the next level. In order to keep your practice going, you’ll still need to draw clients in and effectively communicate why working with your practice necessitates premium pricing. That’s where you’ll need to rely on marketing; otherwise, you’re sitting with an unsustainable business model - and there’s no reason to keep the lights on if you’re going to get kicked out of the building, anyway.
2) I don’t have time to strategize
Counter-argument: Completing day-to-day tasks is more important than your growth?
Time is always working against you. Really, it’s working against everyone. But there are lawyers out there who have mastered their firm’s growth, and they’ve only done that by putting strategic time at the top of their list. Is it so wild to think you can’t do the same?
The trick is to cut back on the junk tasks. If you haven’t recorded your time at all, do it for a month with a free tracking app like Toggl or TopTracker. You may be surprised how little things like sorting through your voicemail or email quickly racks up time and cuts into your day. Now, we’re not saying that you should cut out communication altogether (you may not even want to delegate that, either), but you can at least reorder your day. Dedicate your first block of time in the day to planning out your marketing messaging, or searching for solid connections on LinkedIn.
Related Post: How to Refocus Your Practice for Maximum Impact (VIDEO)
3) I see other firms doing it like this
Counter-argument: They’re chasing their goals - why are YOU chasing THEIR goals?
There’s this concept in psychology called “cognitive dissonance,” which is more less when an individual follows along with a group or buys into a concept that is contrary to their actual beliefs. It creates a tremendous amount of stress for that person. While organizations aren’t people, the concept still applies to a law firm. When your firm’s strategy is based on the strategy of another firm, you’re stuck trying to achieve the same goals and win the same clients even though your value offer is different. It’s a volatile mix that usually gets you nowhere (and definitely not to your ideal end point).
Instead of looking to other firms, you can ask a couple of simple (but important) questions that will help you formulate a solid and appropriate business model that is well-aligned with both the value you offer and the goals you want to reach. With clarity around your core values, you are more prepared to build marketing material that resonates with your ideal clients and potential referral partners.
4) I can’t afford to make more work for myself
Counter-argument: Doing the right work is more profitable
The time argument is still at the core of most attorneys’ excuses, but there’s also that element of whether the work being done is yielding a profit. When answering emails and reacting to client needs, it’s logical to connect that activity back to whatever you’re charging them. In other words, that’s the activity that makes you money. Shifting your attention to something else, then, would result in a loss… right?
Well, that depends on how you value your time.
Some of the work you’re performing for your client is repeatable busy work that anyone can complete, like documentation. On the other hand, there are some activities, like developing true-to-brand messaging and valuable advice via blog content, that can’t be replicated by anyone else. Not even by a competitor. Your perspective and knowledge is worth a whole lot more than simple paperwork completion. Additionally, if you test and track which marketing methods convert the most prospects, you can put a dollar value on that work and justify spending your time on it. That’s what we refer to as working smarter.
5) My market is flooded anyway
Counter-argument: Your services may be similar, but your value is not
Okay, so you work in personal injury (for example). You have four other close colleagues that work in personal injury. You’re all personal injury lawyers. Great, you have that in common. Do you have the same clients, too? Oh, you don’t? Maybe for a couple of clients you could write this off as the client just coming to you first, but more often than not it doesn’t have anything to do with convenience. It has to do with the quality, care, and diligence with which you deliver your services. That’s where your value lies.
The same is true regardless of your practice area.
Humility is a virtue, but it isn’t one that will win you clients. Sometimes we need a little self-issued pep talk to remind ourselves that we’re good practitioners. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t have any clients at all. Think on what sets you apart from those other firms, and why you have the clients you do. Maybe you could even do better, if you advocated for yourself or positioned your practice in a different way. Competition can’t stop you because the other guys aren’t you. Once you have those value characteristics nailed down, fold them into your marketing content so they’ll serve as a regular reminder to your prospects why your firm would be the right choice for them.
6) My clients won’t budge on price
Counter-argument: The right clients will pay for the right value
Along the same lines of differentiating yourself in your market, knowing and demonstrating your firm’s value goes a long way toward attracting a unique type of client. These are the folks who:
- Appreciate what you do
- Are a pleasure to work with
- Will pay what you’re worth
As long as you serve up the client with quality work and reminders of why your relationship is mutually beneficial, they’ll be comfortable with your set rates - even if those rates are higher than you’ve ever listed before. One important piece to remember, however, is that the client is paying the rate for your normal services (because you always deliver excellent service). Increasing your rate does not require you to work harder, or be at your client’s every beck and call. You just need to follow through on whatever expectations you set through your brand positioning.
Take some cues from one of the members of Practice Alchemy, who learned how to leverage his firm’s value and, as a result, began successfully charging at 11.66 times his previous rate.
You know what excuses really are? Action items. Every supposed reason that is preventing you from growing your practice is actually just a consideration for you to make when building out your firm’s strategy. Make note of these, since there is some up-front work needed in order to develop a solid plan for action. If you get stuck coming up with steps on your own, however, we offer a free downloadable Guide to Building a Marketing Strategy at Your Law Firm - click here to get it for yourself.