10 Ways To Compete In Today’s Legal Marketing Landscape

Harlan Schillinger

Harlan Schillinger has 38 years of experience in legal marketing.

© Harlan Schillinger.

Don’t let the 900-pound gorilla attorney scare you away. As a 38-year legal marketing veteran, I’m convinced that there’s no market in American that your law firm can’t go into and get good business from. But to get more—and better—cases, lawyers must step away from the every day and look at something as big as that monkey’s shadow: the law practice as a whole.

  • Do you have a brand and strategic plan for how marketing pieces fit together?
  • Do you really understand intake? Listen to a call from a potential client and you will quickly see how you could be doing it better.
  • Are you being accountable for your marketing actions by tracking, testing and tweaking?

Go long where the Gorilla falls short

Sometimes knowing where other lawyers consistently fall short can give you a huge advantage in the marketplace. Drawing on decades of developing relationships with lawyers at some of the largest firms in the country, I have found that law practices, small and large, fail at more than half of the best ways to stay competitive. If you can execute on all 10 (or close), I promise you will start to succeed in gaining new business.

1 | Start with a strategic plan. This may be the No. 1 downfall in marketing for lawyers. Law firms want to jump in right where they are and incite change going forward. But it rarely works that way. At some point all entrepreneurs must slow down, step back and look at how all parts of the machine churn together to create a more cohesive, universal plan for developing new business.

2 | Line up your resources. Don’t pretend you can do it alone. Pull a team together that’s made up of experts in each element of the strategic plan who will actually help you execute the plan, not just talk about it.

  • Who will oversee TV messaging and implementation?
  • Is there a plan for the intake department?
  • What about database updates, social media, software, etc.?

3 | Shop your competition. You can’t beat ‘em if you don’t know ‘em. And don’t just say you know your biggest competitor—really dig in. Secret shop top lawyers in your community or practice areas. Study, record and analyze all of their marketing efforts, or find someone to help you understand how to do it effectively.

4 | Exploit the gorilla’s weak points. In sports, you find your edge in the places where others are weak. When you shop the competition you will quickly find what they are not doing. Then do that!

  • If they’re bad at intake, refine your inbound call and follow-up strategies.
  • If their message is the same as everyone else’s, find a way to say it differently.
  • If their internet presence is poor, pump up your digital strategy now.

5 | Pinpoint your differentiators. One of the simplest ways to stand out among the competition is to uncover the clear difference between you and every one else—your true 1% variance. Go back to your brand. Have you ever discovered or documented your core brand attributes, the ones that will help you tell and leverage your message unlike any firm in the marketplace?

6| Understand your target client. Are you trying to have one message that appeals to all? Are you even talking to your demographic? If you are an older white guy talking to a younger generation of Millennials, there’s going to be  a disconnect. Dive into the psychographics of your target audiences. You must communicate in a way that’s truely relevant to the people you want to attract.

7| Match up your messages. Content is still king, and if you’re putting 18 different messages into the marketplace hoping that one will stick, you might just be killing the kingdom. Make sure that all of your message outlets, including broadcast TV, internet, eCRM and social, are working synergistically, complementing not just mimicking one another.

8 | Track every effort. The greatest benefit of digital marketing is you can track, test and tweak any marketing campaign you are run through the internet. This is that accountability piece I mentioned. You cannot measure the effectiveness of your marketing strategy if you don’t track and monitor your online efforts.

9 | Solidify your CRM. All your legal marketing efforts will be for not if you don’t have an internal system for organizing client communications. Every attorney should have effective, easy-to-use customer relationship management software in place to manage the marketing associated with each and every client.

10 | Map the client experience. Being a good lawyer and working hard on your clients’ cases have nothing to do with how you treat your clients or how your clients feel they are treated. Know exactly what happens from the moment a prospect calls your law firm to the months following the closure their case. How are you talking to them, following up, re-marketing, etc.? You must understand the full scope of the client experience—it outweighs everything.

What matters is the value of the cases you are asking for and getting. It costs the same to ask for a low-end case as it does for a high-valued case. What would you ask a jury for? You get what you ask for!


Harlan Schillinger can be reached at HarlanSchillinger@gmail.com and 303-817-7313.

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