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Solo Practice: Garrett Worley's Blawg
Marketing Begins with Your ?Product? - PART TWO: Provide the Solution
By Garrett Worley
In the first part of this series, we discussed identifying problems as a starting point for building a marketing plan. Part Two of this series focuses on using those problems to design and market tailor-made solutions for your clients.
Too often, the public views lawyers as emergency surgeons, hired to fix an overwhelming problem after things have turned bad. Instead of reinforcing this view, lawyers should market themselves as collaborative team members who will add value to the client’s business or personal interests. One reason why clients wait for emergency situations to call a lawyer is that clients aren’t trained to spot potential legal issues. In order to offer a solution, lawyers must make prospective clients aware that there is a problem in the first place. Identifying specific common problems that your clients encounter, as we did in Part One, is only the first step to designing a marketable solution. The following pointers will take you through the rest of the solution design process.
The first step in the solution design process is to make clients comfortable using legal services. If clients are intimidated by lawyers (and their fees) and shy away from obtaining legal services in all but the most dire circumstances, the lawyer will never have the opportunity to design unique solutions for clients. Some of the best ways to create a comfortable environment for clients are:
- Offer a ‘menu’ of services and clearly state the price for those services. Clients are often afraid to call an attorney because they have no idea how much they’ll be charged when all the billable hours are finally racked up. A menu of services allows clients to plan for their legal expenses and takes a lot of mystery out of the billing process.
- Interact with clients beyond the initial consultation. Many clients feel like they get lost in a black hole when they can’t get in touch with their lawyer or have their phone calls returned promptly. Providing clients with frequent updates alleviates this concern and isn’t difficult with e-mail, extranet accounts and a number of other options.
- Position yourself as part of the client’s team. If clients view you as a collaborative team member, they will be far more likely to rely on your services frequently.
- Speak your client’s language. If you’re dealing with a business client, use the lingo of her industry. Speak in terms of competitive advantages, risk management, cost reduction and so forth. Likewise, if you’re dealing with an individual, speak in terms that enunciate his goals, like tax savings, investment strategy or liability protection. Speaking the client’s language demonstrates that you have a thorough knowledge of their industry or life goals.
- Make it clear that your goal is to cultivate an ongoing business relationship with the client, not make a one-time “sale.” If the client understands that you intend to profit by providing her with significant value over a period of time, she will be more likely to rely on your services frequently.
Once you’ve positioned yourself as your client’s team member and constant advisor, you’re ready to create solutions for the client. While designing solutions is client-specific, there is a broad marketing strategy at work here. You are now marketing yourself as a diagnostician who identifies issues before they become major problems, and perhaps more importantly, notices opportunities that offer your client a significant competitive advantage.
In essence, the most important solution you are providing is worry-free access to legal advice. The next step in the solution design process is to determine the clients’ goals. Although this cannot be done on a case-by-case basis for the purposes of marketing, there are many goals that clients will have in common. Some of these are:
- Save money.
- Spot opportunities.
- Avoid liability.
- Comply with regulations and other laws.
- Reduce tax liability.
- Protect assets.
More specific client goals will be determined by your practice area. The process does not stop here, though. Once you have identified the common goals and problems that your type of client faces, you will need to dig deeper. If you’re serving businesses, you need to have a thorough knowledge of the client’s entire supply chain, it’s customers, it’s customers’ customers and the regulations and other legal issues that cause that industry to operate less efficiently than possible.
This knowledge helps to show clients that you are not just an expert on the law, but an expert on their business or personal issues as well. Naturally, they will be more inclined to turn to you for assistance because your expertise will allow you to create tailor-made solutions.
Everything comes together here. By making clients feel comfortable using your legal services, illustrating the highly collaborative nature of your practice and demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the clients’ circumstances, you can offer them something that other lawyers do not. Instead seeing legal services as a necessary-but-costly burden, clients now look to you as a valuable asset who can steer them away from danger, save them money and spot opportunities they wouldn’t have noticed themselves.
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