What’s the dif­fer­ence between a finan­cial­ly suc­cess­ful attor­ney and an attor­ney who some­times strug­gles finan­cial­ly? It’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly their track record or knowl­edge of the law. Fair­ly often, its the attorney’s abil­i­ty to mar­ket his or her ser­vices to poten­tial clients.
But mar­ket­ing a law prac­tice isn’t always the same as mar­ket­ing oth­er types of busi­ness­es. So David M. Ward, Esq. of The Attor­ney Mar­ket­ing Cen­ter pro­vid­ed some tar­get­ed mar­ket­ing tips for lawyers in an email inter­view with Small Busi­ness Trends. Below are 20 of his top sug­ges­tions.

How to Market a Law Practice

Choose a Specific Type of Law

Instead of being a gen­er­al prac­ti­tion­er, you can auto­mat­i­cal­ly set your­self apart by choos­ing one type of law to focus on.
For instance, you could focus on tax or trade­mark issues. When a poten­tial client is look­ing for a lawyer, they nor­mal­ly already have a spe­cif­ic issue in mind. So they are more like­ly to both find and trust a lawyer who focus­es on that type of law, rather than one that spreads their atten­tion between sev­er­al spe­cial­ties.
Because of this, Ward says that lawyers who spe­cial­ize in a par­tic­u­lar type of law tend to earn more than those who don’t.

Choose a More Specific Niche

You’ve cho­sen a spe­cial­ty. Great, now go one step fur­ther. To dif­fer­en­ti­ate your ser­vices even more, choose a niche with­in your branch of the law.
For exam­ple, if you’re a busi­ness lawyer, focus on a spe­cif­ic type of busi­ness, like retail or man­u­fac­tur­ing. Or if you’re an immi­gra­tion attor­ney, you could tar­get clients from a par­tic­u­lar coun­try or region. Make sure cus­tomers know that you are focused on this niche by includ­ing it in your web­site or pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als. Then you can focus on grow­ing your client base with­in that com­mu­ni­ty of busi­ness­es or indi­vid­ual clients through refer­rals.

Build a List of Clients and Referrers Over Time

Ward says that a com­mon mar­ket­ing mis­take for lawyers is try­ing to do too much all at once.
For instance, some new attor­neys might go through an entire list of poten­tial clients and refer­rers (law firms or lawyers that might refer clients to you) in their com­mu­ni­ty right away. But not all of these peo­ple are like­ly to need legal ser­vices at the same time. So going on a mass con­tact­ing spree could just prove to be a waste of time.
Instead, he sug­gests build­ing up a list of prospec­tive clients and refer­rers. Some of that will hap­pen dur­ing the course of reg­u­lar busi­ness oper­a­tions. So instead of call­ing all of your con­tacts right away, you could sim­ply keep your con­tact list at top of mind through­out your day to day activ­i­ties. This could lead to a big­ger refer­ral list and a more healthy busi­ness over time.

Create a Helpful Website

For new prac­tices, one of the first mar­ket­ing steps should be to set up a web­site. The site should real­ly show­case what you do. Mean­ing, it should clear­ly state your spe­cial­ty and your niche. If you offer sev­er­al dif­fer­ent ser­vices with­in your type of law, out­line them very clear­ly.
But your web­site should also offer some­thing else to poten­tial clients — help­ful resources. This could mean offer­ing a free ebook or even just a list of links for peo­ple look­ing for gen­er­al infor­ma­tion with­in your area of exper­tise.
Offer­ing these resources will bring more peo­ple to your web­site. And those peo­ple are more like­ly to need your ser­vices at some point, since they are already look­ing for resources on sim­i­lar top­ics.

Give Away Free Resources in Your Community

Once you’ve cre­at­ed some free resources for peo­ple who vis­it your web­site, go one step fur­ther. Make some con­nec­tions with peo­ple and busi­ness­es in your com­mu­ni­ty who can pro­mote your infor­ma­tion and give those resources away to them for free. This can help you ampli­fy your reach.
Pro­vid­ing free infor­ma­tion and resources for peo­ple in your area can help you build use­ful con­nec­tions and trust in your brand. Ward said:
“Write a “how to” report in your area of exper­tise and give it away. Make it so good that cen­ters of influ­ence in your tar­get mar­ket or com­mu­ni­ty will­ing­ly pro­mote it to their lists and thank you for mak­ing it avail­able.”

Network with Local Businesses by Offering a Helping Hand

You can also sim­ply help oth­er busi­ness own­ers through­out your com­mu­ni­ty. You nev­er know who these busi­ness own­ers know.
When you help oth­ers they are more like­ly to refer poten­tial clients to you at some point in the future. To net­work in your com­mu­ni­ty, you can sim­ply ask for some busi­ness cards to keep in your office or pro­vide some refer­rals to oth­er local busi­ness­es.

Consider Building a Social Media Presence

Social media can be a pow­er­ful mar­ket­ing tool for all types of busi­ness­es.
If you like using social media, sign up for an account or accounts. Then build up net­works using your client and refer­ral lists, or lists of con­tacts with­in your com­mu­ni­ty. Then you can use these sites to pro­vide infor­ma­tion on your busi­ness and oth­er legal resources. Per­haps you could offer your free ebook or links to rel­e­vant web­sites.

But Don’t Focus Too Much on Social Media

Ward insists hav­ing a strong social media pres­ence isn’t all that nec­es­sary for law prac­tices:
“Con­trary to pop­u­lar opin­ion, social media mar­ket­ing isn’t some­thing that you must do. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. There are oth­er ways to mar­ket your ser­vices.”
So if you want to use social media, it can be a valu­able and inex­pen­sive tool. But if you don’t feel that you have the time to build up a fol­low­ing, it isn’t nec­es­sary. Your time could be bet­ter spent work­ing on refer­rals or your web­site.

Make It Easy for Others to Connect

But even if you decide social media isn’t your thing, at the very least, you should have an account or two.
Face­book espe­cial­ly has become an incred­i­bly pop­u­lar place for peo­ple to con­nect with busi­ness­es. So even if you don’t have a lot of time to ded­i­cate to social media, you could just reserve your busi­ness name on Face­book and/or Twit­ter. You don’t need to post exces­sive­ly or pro­mote the accounts. Just update with impor­tant infor­ma­tion for those who want to fol­low you.

Allow Others to Share your Content

In addi­tion, you should make it as easy as pos­si­ble for those who do use social media to share con­tent from your web­site.
Add share but­tons to your web­site that make it as easy as pos­si­ble for peo­ple to post links to your blog posts or ebooks to their social net­works. You can also encour­age peo­ple to share your con­tent. So even if you don’t have the time to post on social media, you can at least give oth­ers a chance to do it for you.

You Can Also Use Social Media to Find Resources

You can also use social media as a way to find resources and experts. You can use it to find blog­gers for guest posts, experts to inter­view for your newslet­ter, or oth­er pro­fes­sion­als you can net­work with.
To do this, you can sign up for per­son­al accounts on social media and fol­low peo­ple in your indus­try. Then con­nect with those peo­ple and ask if they might be inter­est­ed in col­lab­o­rat­ing with you.

Start Small with Advertising

Adver­tis­ing can be one of the quick­est ways to build traf­fic. How­ev­er, Ward cau­tions it can also be a cost­ly mis­take if done incor­rect­ly. For that rea­son, he sug­gests start­ing with a small bud­get.
Choose a very tar­get­ed out­let that attracts peo­ple in your spe­cif­ic mar­ket. For instance, if you’re a busi­ness attor­ney who focus­es on local retail­ers, con­sid­er using a trade pub­li­ca­tion that also focus­es on local retail­ers.
Using a small pub­li­ca­tion will allow you to keep your adver­tis­ing bud­get small at first. Then you can gauge the results of your first cam­paign before mak­ing a huge mon­e­tary com­mit­ment. Just ask new clients how they found out about your ser­vices, and you’ll be able to tell how well your adver­tis­ing efforts are work­ing.

Hire Marketing or Advertising Professionals If Necessary

Ward also said it can be worth it to work with mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing pro­fes­sion­als when first start­ing to pro­mote your busi­ness. These pro­fes­sion­als can help you choose the right out­lets and mea­sure your suc­cess.
When you’re busy run­ning a law firm, spend­ing time on mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing might not be pos­si­ble. Espe­cial­ly when start­ing out, adver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als who under­stand your needs can take some of this respon­si­bil­i­ty off of your shoul­ders. They will also be more knowl­edge­able about how to go about pro­mot­ing your firm with­out the need for as much tri­al and error.

If It Works, Increase your Budget

If you find that your ads are get­ting pos­i­tive results, con­sid­er increas­ing your bud­get. Invest­ing in more adver­tis­ing can help you grow even more, espe­cial­ly if you already have some evi­dence it can work.
Con­sult your adver­tis­ing pro­fes­sion­al, if you use one. You can even con­sid­er branch­ing out to dif­fer­ent types of out­lets for your ads. Just be sure to con­tin­ue find­ing out which clients found you through adver­tis­ing so that you can mea­sure what is work­ing and what isn’t.

If It Doesn’t Work, Cut Your Losses and Move On

On the oth­er hand, don’t raise your bud­get if you see no pos­i­tive results. Some­times adver­tis­ing with a par­tic­u­lar out­let doesn’t work out. Don’t keep invest­ing in some­thing that doesn’t work.
Instead, look for anoth­er type of out­let for your adver­tis­ing bud­get. Keep mea­sur­ing what is bring­ing you new clients, and don’t be afraid to admit defeat and try some­thing else.

Rely on Referrals

But even though adver­tis­ing and social media can be use­ful, Ward says that refer­rals are absolute­ly inte­gral to mar­ket­ing a law prac­tice:
“Every law firm should base it’s mar­ket­ing on a foun­da­tion of refer­rals. Referred clients are less resis­tant to hir­ing you, tend to be more loy­al and more like­ly them­selves to pro­vide refer­rals. They also come to you with­out cost (time or mon­ey).”

Focus on Customer Service

In order to get refer­rals, you need to make sure your clients are sat­is­fied enough to tell oth­ers about you. Pro­vid­ing great cus­tomer ser­vice isn’t always con­sid­ered a mar­ket­ing task, but in this case it is.
To make sure your clients are sat­is­fied, make it very clear what they should expect when they hire you. Then be sure to live up to your end of the bar­gain.

Offer Referrals to Others

You can also try to get refer­rals from peo­ple who aren’t clients. To do this, you’ll still need to con­nect with them in some way.
You can con­nect with peo­ple on social media, at events, or just out in your com­mu­ni­ty. Then you can build trust with peo­ple by offer­ing them refer­rals, pro­mot­ing their web­site, or inter­view­ing them for your newslet­ter.

Ask Your Satisfied Clients for Help

But there could be a more direct way to get refer­rals to your busi­ness. Accord­ing to Ward, you get more refer­rals by sim­ply ask­ing for them.
Ask sat­is­fied clients if they know any­one else need­ing sim­i­lar legal help. Make it clear to them that you are open to tak­ing on new clients. You might even con­sid­er offer­ing a dis­count or perk for peo­ple who refer oth­ers. You could also just hand out extra busi­ness cards or sim­i­lar mate­ri­als so that clients and oth­ers can eas­i­ly pass along your infor­ma­tion.

Seek Referrals Indirectly

But if you don’t want to ask peo­ple direct­ly for refer­rals, there are oth­er ways to get your name out there.
If you pro­vide oth­er ser­vices or resources like ebooks or legal sem­i­nars, you can ask peo­ple to rec­om­mend those items to oth­ers. That way, peo­ple will still be famil­iar with your name and area of exper­tise, but you don’t have to seem like you’re beg­ging for clients.
If you’ve spent the time and ener­gy to launch a new firm or prac­tice, be sure you also take the time to let oth­ers know. Mar­ket­ing is a crit­i­cal aspect of build­ing your prac­tice. Give the process the time and ener­gy it requires.