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MARKETING

Simple ways to kill every tried and true legal marketing effort

The most sophisticated marketing can fall flat from the simplest attorney mistakes.

Here are five of them.

They are outlined by Deb Scaringi, a Boston marketing and business development consultant to professional service firms.

1. When the follow-up becomes stalking

The first mistake is too much zeal, or killing a prospect with too much follow-up.

Follow-up is essential. Business cards collected at a meeting warrant a note of “it was good to meet you” or “I’d like to continue our conversation on X.”

But from there, be careful. Wait a week “before you ping them again.” Send an e-mail of “I’m not sure this got to you. I hope you have a great day.”

Leave it at that. If there’s no response, drop it.

Too often an attorney makes a contact, sends a follow-up e-mail, and yikes! doesn’t hear back!

Two days later, another e-mail. Two days more, another. The client feels stalked and goes into go-away-I’m-not-at-home mode.

A prospect who doesn’t respond to the second try is not interested. Drop the effort. Do more and the attorney starts to look like a hungry pest.

2. The website surprise

Next is the mistake of mentioning clients on the website without permission.

Some firms see no problem with doing that after a matter is over, reasoning it’s public record.

But the client may resent the mention, particularly if the matter is sensitive such as bankruptcy.

Or some new element may have arisen since the matter was settled. Maybe the matter involved a business acquisition that has since gone sour with internal tension and is falling apart.

A good time to get permission is at the end of a matter. If the client shows satisfaction with the services, ask “we post the names of representative clients on our website. May we include yours?” The client is likely to say yes, because the good service still has the new-car smell.

Or make it a statement instead of a question. Bring in something complimentary and then “we’d like to use your company name on our website as a representative client.”

If the client does not want the mention, the firm can still give a generic description such as “we represented a Fortune 500 Company in a business acquisition transaction.”

3. Twitter trash

Good marketing also goes awry with overuse of social media.

Social media is a free and quick way for an attorney to get publicity. And that’s why it’s dangerous, Scaringi says. It’s easy to overuse.

Every posting should be important or newsworthy or educational.

Anything less is an annoyance. Throw in some triviality such as “going to the courthouse” or “just drank my first cup of coffee” and people have every reason to unsubscribe or unfriend on Facebook or hide the posts on LinkedIn.

Another caution: no matter how respected the source, don’t re-post an item without reading it through to make sure it too is useful and accurate.

4. The blind referral

And then there is the issue of recommending other professionals to clients.

Telling a client about a financial consultant or an attorney in another specialty can please the client and bring in return referrals – as long as the services from that other professional are up to par.

Where attorneys damage themselves is in recommending people they don’t know well, Scaringi cautions. A client asks for a referral, the lawyer remembers meeting someone several months ago, still has the card, and gives it to the client.

The attorney’s reputation is tied to the referral. If that other person does a poor job, the firm gets blamed. Worse, the client may think the firm gives equally poor service.

Limit referrals to people the attorney knows personally and has worked with or who have good professional reputations. And explain the limits of the connection such as “I’ve never worked with this person, but one of my other clients recommends him highly.”

5. Buttonholing for business

A final marketing killer: latching on to people.

That’s common at trade association conferences, Scaringi says. The attorney corners somebody who looks like a good prospect “and sticks like glue.”

The poor trapped target gets more and more uncomfortable and only wants to escape.

Watch for the cues that it’s time to end a conversation. Those are the good-bye signs – the other person starts looking around, folds the arms, says “it’s nice meeting you,” or lets the conversation drop. When they appear, offer a business card and move on.

What if it’s the attorney who wants to escape?

Take advantage of any lull in the conversation and say “We are both here meet new people. Let me get your card and we can talk later.” Or introduce the other person to somebody and quietly move on. Or if things get really rough, be blunt with “I have to make a call. It’s been really nice meeting you.”


Editor’s picks:

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Is your website violating ABA’s ethical guidelines?

Marketing your practice: How to attract more clients by positioning your attorneys as “thought leaders”


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