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Hand holding worm to symbolize how marketing can be icky

Getting Past the ‘Ick’ Factor in Legal Marketing

One of the biggest impediments to embarking on a full-throttle marketing plan is the reluctance many lawyers have about tooting their own horn.

I see this more frequently among women lawyers, but it is not exclusivelya female problem. Lawyers of both genders have trouble with marketing, especially the part where they have to assert that they’re good at something and ask for business.

Simply put, lots of people find the act of marketing themselves to be icky. But mortgage and tuition payments don’t grow on trees, so if we want to stay solvent, we have to find ways to make marketing less icky.

Texas Bar TodayBut first, let’s talk about why marketing makes some people so uncomfortable. There are a lot of nuanced and interconnected reasons that mostly boil down to this: it doesn’t align with the way lawyers want to see themselves. Lawyers didn’t go to law school to be business people or sales people. They went to school to be thinkers, advocates and counselors.Business development can sometimes feel icky for lawyers because it doesn’t align with the way they want to see themselves: as thinkers, advocates and counselors, not sales people. Click To Tweet

‘You might find this helpful’

So, if lawyers want to get comfortable with marketing, they need to do it in a way that aligns with their self-perception – and the way they want others to perceive them. That means adopting a legal marketing program that showcases thought leadership, advocacy and counseling.

This is the essence of what’s known as content marketing. There are a lot of high-tech elements to content marketing that involve search engine optimization (SEO), paid promotion on search engines, etc., but the most important elements are:

  • Demonstrating expertise
  • Making sure others see that demonstration of expertise

No matter how you bring attention to your demonstration of expertise, the first step is providing information that speaks to your clients’ and prospective clients’ concerns.

It’s less “Look at me!” and more “Here, you might find this helpful.”

Here are some tools to do that:

Writing

The written word is the most basic form of knowledge-sharing. That’s why blogging is so popular and effective. If you have information that’s relevant to your target audience, find a way to put it in writing and disseminate it. That may be an in-house newsletter, an external-facing publication from your company, or you can look for opportunities to write for business and legal publications or bar group newsletters.

One of the reasons blogging is such an attractive option is that you control it, as opposed to an external publication. You can set up a blog and determine your own publication schedule. You have to bring readers to it, of course, but the words are there for all to see.

If you’re interested in starting a legal blog, check out our comprehensive guide to keeping it humming (including how to figure out what to write about). If you’re thinking bigger than a blog, you might consider publishing an ebook or a physical book (if you can link up with a reputable publisher).

Speaking

Speaking gigs are one of the best ways to demonstrate your expertise. There are dozens of bar groups and professional associations looking for speakers. And, as you know, if you can offer continuing legal education credits (CLE), even better.

Just as with writing, you’ll need to come up with topics first. If you’re interested in providing CLE, definitely coordinate with the State Bar to make sure you’re complying with all their requirements.

Be sure to recycle your presentation. You can, of course, give it more than once. But you can also turn it into one or more blog posts or a LinkedIn Slideshare (i.e. PowerPoint on LinkedIn).

Social media

Many lawyers struggle with social media, probably because it seems to always be changing, and nobody wants to say something stupid that will get them in trouble. That concern isn’t completely misplaced, but you should be in good shape so long as you stay off social when you’re under the influence and you use some common sense.

One of the best ways to use social media is to amplify the more substantive content you’re creating. Promote your blog posts, speaking engagements, client wins, firm news, honors and awards, etc. But you can also use it to weigh in on the news of the day by, for instance, opining on a recent Supreme Court opinion.

Here are the three social channels most commonly used by lawyers:

  • LinkedIn is incredibly dull and potentially time-consuming, but it’s definitely a place where people go to go vet potential hires. So, it pays to be there. (Check out our guide to maximizing your LinkedIn profile in the least amount of time.)
  • Everybody (at least everybody over 20-something) is on Facebook, but very few people want to mix their personal social feed with their professional social feed. I realize the conundrum, but most people’s lives don’t compartmentalize that easily into “work” and “personal.” I don’t advocate consistently hawking your wares on Facebook but given how much time everyone you know spends there, it makes sense to tastefully sprinkle the occasional business nugget into your feed. At the very least, your Facebook friends should know you’re a lawyer and what kind of law you practice.
  • Twitter is the other popular social channel for lawyers, but many people are intimidated and overwhelmed by Twitter. My best recommendation is to simply open an account, follow some other lawyers, some trustworthy reporters and media outlets, and your favorite legal marketing agency, and then just lurk for a while. You’ll figure out soon enough how it works. (Note to self: write a blog post on Twitter for lawyers.)

As with all the other tools outlined here, your social media focus should be about providing valuable, helpful content to your followers and contacts.

Videos and podcasts

Both of these options can be expensive because to do them well and to make something worth watching/listening to, you need excellent production values in addition to useful, informative content. But if you have the budget for it, both of these options are worth exploring.

Client alerts/newsletters

If you have a timely update, a client alert that lays out “here’s how it can impact you/our company” is always appreciated by those who receive the information.

Other ways to self-promote without feeling icky (or, at least, less icky):

Find an ‘Amplification Buddy’ or two

Take a cue from the women in the Obama White House who grew tired of being ignored in meetings and other people taking credit for their ideas. Several of them got together and agreed to call attention to ideas pitched by the others. The system was dubbed “amplification.”

There are opportunities to amplify all around you. Most people probably do it already by acknowledging their team at the end of a project or calling out the good work of a colleague who helped close a deal or solve a problem.

The only difference is to add some intentionality to it. Find an amplification buddy and highlight each other’s good work. It could be as simple as mentioning to your supervisor that Heidi saved your butt, or “Did everybody see the article Jeff just published?”

With amplification, you’re promoting other people who are, in turn, promoting you. So, it’s not strictly self-promotion, but it has the same effect.

While you’re at it, ask each other for recommendations on LinkedIn. And be sure to recommend others.

Pay attention to the ‘work’ part of ‘networking.’

Some people love cocktail parties and the chance to meet new people. Most of us find them uncomfortable and end up hiding in a corner or talking to the one or two people we already know. But if a networking group is truly worthwhile, don’t join it for the cocktail parties. Serve on a committee or volunteer to work the sign-in desk at the next meeting. Having a job gives you an excuse to get to know others and showcase your expertise.

Multi-task your networking

We’re all busy, and it can be difficult to put marketing on our list of priorities – no matter how much we know we need to do it. But, if you’re like me, you somehow always find a way to say “yes” to the PTA request or the charity you care about.

So, use that tendency to your marketing advantage. Chances are there are organizations that work on issues you care about and that offer you a good chance to make professional connections. Even if you can’t get on a board or volunteer with the group, there’s a good bet they have a luncheon that you can invite clients or prospective clients to attend.

The charity wins, and you get some facetime with great contacts.

It doesn’t have to be a charitable organization. Political organizations, hobbies, civic organizations, school groups and sports teams are all prospective networking groups if you play your cards right.

Follow up/stay in touch

Most networking hits a roadblock with the “stay in touch” part. There often isn’t an organic way to naturally stay in touch with someone you meet at a networking event. For those of us who struggle with networking, there’s no truly comfortable way to do it, but it’s worth pushing through and making it happen anyway.

Start with an email, follow up with a phone call. Share an article of interest. Suggest a “virtual coffee” (which a contact did with a lawyer I know and that turned into actual business).

Make the focus on building a relationship, sharing knowledge, and being of value. And schedule reminders to do it on a regular basis.

Embrace the Ick

Sometimes, we just have to embrace the ick and do something uncomfortable. Staying in our comfort zone is wonderful and safe, but, as we all know, that’s not where growth happens.

Once you’ve established your bona fides with a contact, don’t be afraid to make the ask. Let them know you’re interested in their business and ask how you can get it.When it comes to business development, sometimes we just have to embrace the ick and do something uncomfortable, because that's where growth happens. Click To Tweet

3 things you can do tomorrow

  • Think of someone whose path you’ve crossed recently and who deserves a follow up. Locate an article you think they might find interesting or helpful and send it to them. Ask them to lunch or coffee. And make reminders to stay in touch periodically.
  • Find a networking event that takes place in the next two weeks or a month, register for it, put it on your calendar, and go. If you can find a buddy, great. If not, fly solo. You’ll be all the stronger for it.
  • Make a list of the questions that you answer most frequently for your clients and the appropriate answers. You can post that to your blog, if you have one. If you don’t, you can make it a LinkedIn article or an email newsletter.

Your clients, your prospective clients, and your referral sources are always looking for someone who can help them solve their problems – or anticipate problems they don’t yet know about.

They’ll never find you annoying if you’re giving them information they need, and you shouldn’t feel icky about giving it.Your clients will never find you annoying if you’re giving them information they need, and you shouldn’t feel icky about giving it. Click To Tweet

Amy Boardman Hunt is all about helping lawyers find their voice and showcase their expertise. When she’s not doing that, she’s trying to find great hiking spots in Dallas. If you know of any – or you need a legal marketing muse – drop her a line at amy.hunt@musecommunicationsllc.com.

 

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