Solo/Small

How To Start a Law Firm Without a Plan or Budget: Good marketing means less selling

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Welcome to Day 11!

Let’s talk now about how you make it easy for your avatar to find you. After all, if you’re setting everything up to make that person happy, you have to be able to get together.

Marketing Strategy for a Solo Firm

You need to develop a marketing strategy. For now, I’ll reduce a marketing strategy to two elements: a content strategy and a traffic strategy.

A content strategy involves creating and delivering information products that lead prospective buyers to view you and your firm as experts. Once your avatar believes you understand his or her problem, and know how to solve it, you can expect a call.

The legal world has always delivered free content to attract clients. We create everything from seminars to books to free consults. Maintain that philosophy, but consider scale: what information can you deliver that doesn’t require you being around? That’s your content strategy.

Content Processes

How do you come up with topics to write or speak about? 

First, ask your avatar. You have already identified that person, so look through your circle of friends and see who fits. Offer a free lunch and ask that person what kind of problems come up a lot for them. If your avatar is a small business owner, ask her what kind of issues keep her up at night, or really hit the bottom line. If he’s a recently-divorced dad, ask him what problems he ran into during his divorce, and what continues to bother him now. Write their questions down and start looking for answers.

Second, pay close attention during your consults. You’ll find people asking the same questions over and over again, which means you can find the answers and put them to paper. 

One note on this process: your avatar will not always ask legal questions. That’s okay. Your job is not to limit their questions to those you could easily answer after consulting a practice guide. Instead, give your avatar what he or she wants if you expect to maintain their attention.

Procter and Gamble didn’t sponsor and produce soap operas to address concerns about a new body wash, they did it to capture the attention of their avatar. The most valuable commodity in the information age is attention, and you need to give your avatar good information if you expect to maintain that attention.

But how do you deliver the information? The content buzzword for law firms has long been “blogging.” That can be effective, but also very saturated. 

Consider other content broadcasting options like ebooks, video, and podcasting. Which avenue do you feel most comfortable with and which will you commit to doing long-term? 

Once you know what to talk about and how to broadcast it, you have a content strategy. So start producing. Use Todoist to define a time each day that you’ll produce content. I set aside two hours a day with a goal of creating 1,000 words of helpful guidance for those I serve. 

Traffic Strategy

Now that you’ve created the juicy content, how will you bring eyes, ears, and minds to it? The answer is your traffic strategy.

As with so many aspects of your firm, you have to develop your traffic strategy with your avatar in mind. Does your avatar use Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook? Does your avatar read ebooks on Amazon Kindle or go to churches for seminars? Use whatever traffic avenue will bring your ideal clients.

Once you know what to write about and how you’ll bring eyes to it, you have to stick to the plan. It probably will not work quickly. That’s okay. You’ll find that you don’t have to do much to beat other lawyers for content creation, so you’ll get to the top of the search engines soon enough.

If your traffic strategy involves paying for traffic, through Facebook advertising or Google Adwords, for example, you might speed up the process. But don’t bring people faster than you can serve them. Traffic will get you the attention; quality content will maintain it.

They say it takes seven positive contacts to make a sale, and your content in front of the right people will take care of most of those contacts. Which makes your job easier. 

When a prospect knows you, you can be confident that she’s in your office on purpose. If you’re just a number from a Google search, your prospects won’t understand your value before you ask them to make a buy decision. That means you can’t charge as much, and you have to sell the prospect on paying you anything at all. 

Bad marketing means more selling, and that’s bad news for lawyers.

[Mental Exercise of the Day]:

Take some time today to think about the client’s perspective. You know your practice area now and the basic product you’ll offer, so it’s time to get in their heads.

Specifically, think about how you will write to them.

Lawyers are generally very good writers. Many consider writing their area of expertise. We pride ourselves on our writing, but legal writing rarely translates to quality educational content.

Think about the content you consume. Do you read fiction or non-fiction? Do you watch TED talks or Family Guy? Whatever content you prefer, try to figure out why you like it. And then imagine yourself in your client’s shoes, because I’m guessing it’s more for entertainment value than educational value.

I’ve read a lot of legal blogs, mostly trying to find what doesn’t work. I’m often shocked by how much of it seems better suited to me as a lawyer than to a client.

Consider how you can become a better storyteller. Not someone who recites case facts, but who can relate the very human problems we deal with to the human reader on your site.

A quick Amazon search will give you books aplenty on storytelling in business. I’m also a big fan of podcasts, and the Social Media Marketing podcast has a few episodes on this subject. 

Take in some podcast episodes and consider how you can incorporate storytelling into your content writing. Your prospective clients will appreciate it.

[Big Little Step of the Day]:

We’ve talked quite a bit about your Minimum Viable Product. You’ve defined your MVP, learned the relevant law, mapped out a clear process, and sent your avatar a survey to see how she’d like it delivered. Nice.

I think you know enough to write about it.

To be clear, you’re about to start writing “The Ultimate Guide To [Your MVP].”

Neil Patel is a content marketing guy. He has created several companies, including Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics, and Hello Bar. He consults to large companies relating how to create content online that brings clients. He’s reached his 10,000 hours.

So when he tells you what kind of content to write, you listen. (Or read, right here)

After a whole bunch of research (not guesses, like most online gurus give you), Patel concluded that longer posts tend to bring more engagement and more traffic online. Some pages may not need that length, but I’d point out that his “about me” page is 2,000 words long. 

Bottom line: Patel says (in the middle of a 1,700 word post) that 1,500+ words are best.

Why does this matter to you? Because most lawyers aren’t doing that. Most lawyers are writing those 300-word case summaries, or short FAQ content. Although FAQ content has value, I can’t see the long-term advantage of a whole bunch of 300-word posts.

Don’t get me wrong: a whole bunch of short posts will beat most of your neighbors, but it won’t last. Your competition will figure out, as Kyle Smith did (and wrote about on a JD Blogger guest post), that longer posts work better. 

I recommend you read Smith’s post and use that wisdom. At minimum, don’t be the guy that writes “The thing about family law in Texas is that Texas family law is about the law with the family in Texas of law…” That SEO nonsense doesn’t work and it’s annoying.

Instead, write “The Ultimate Guide to [Your MVP].” Use your own voice and shoot for 1,500-2,500 words. Start writing now. And put it on your site as soon as you can.

Up Next…

Go on to the next chapter: You Can’t Do It All

Or, go back to the Table of Contents

Mike Whelan, Jr. is Managing Editor at Casetext. He spends most of his day advocating for and training solo and small firm attorneys in topics as varied as writing, marketing, design, and collaboration. He was a solo attorney himself for several years after graduating from the University of Texas School of Law. He lives in the Kansas City area with his lovely wife and four rambunctious children.