The fundamental legal marketing task for lawyers is to identify potential clients who need the services they provide, then to educate the clients that the firm exists and can help.
One of the most effective tools for doing this is a basic skill that every lawyer ought to have: writing. That can be anything from a full-length book to articles in industry or trade publications to blog posts and 140-character tweets.
Ostensibly, writing is a low-cost marketing strategy; after all, your ideas and knowledge are your intellectual property to use as you wish. Yet writing involves definite expenses.
The first is your own time, which otherwise could be billed to client work. You need to think of ideas, do research, draft text and go through the process of getting it to your targets (whether working with a publisher, posting it to a blog or using an editor to help you with the process).
Let's say you devote just two hours a workweek for writing. If we assume 50 workweeks a year for ease of calculation, and two hours a week at $200 per-hour billable value, the calculation is $20,000 of billable time.
To get the most return on the writing process, focus on what you're trying to achieve. Create a profile of your ideal client who will give you the kind of work you want and develop a writing strategy that focuses on that specific target, not on everyone.
If you are targeting companies in a certain business sector (say construction or community banking), write for the trade publications those people read. If your target market is consumers, do Google or other search-engine research to learn what topics they are looking for and blog or tweet about just those issues.
Visualize and address your market so that recipients will learn what the firm's value is and why they need you.
The flip side of the cost/expense equation is the revenue you get from writing. Sometimes it can be clear and direct. If you write a book or legal treatise that is sold through a publisher, you can earn royalties from it. You can also sell it through your own website and publicize it through blog posts and tweets. Some magazines and trade publications (in law and other business sectors) may also pay you for your articles, much as they pay any freelance writer.
The real revenue producer, however, is when you become a thought leader: someone who has evidenced his capabilities and knowledge of the subject involved through what he writes.
A thought leader has "marketing gravity": having enough written material in varying media that you come to mind first when a potential client or a reporter needs input on an issue and discovers you through an Internet search. The more you write, the more you enhance this process.
A final idea on writing: Thought leadership and marketing gravity enhance the value of your practice. They become part of goodwill, the reputation and loyalty that you create over time.
Goodwill is an intangible commodity that will increase the price of your practice, should you decide to sell it - and that can be the biggest writing payday of all. We'll touch more on that in next week's article.
Ed Poll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC, is a recognized expert in law practice management. He partners with attorneys and law firms to increase profitability, coaching them on issues of internal operations, practice development, & financial matters. Ed enables lawyers to be more effective with their clients with less stress for both the lawyer and the client. He practiced law for 25 years, has coached lawyers for 20 years, and is the author of 13 leading books. His latest book, Growing Your Law Practice Through Tough Times, was released in April 2010. Ed is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, State Bar of California (LPMT Section).
Ed is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, a board-certified Coach to the Legal Profession and a charter member of the Million Dollar Consulting® Hall of Fame. He can be reached at (800) 837-5880, www.lawbiz.com, www.lawbizblog.com and www.lawbizforum.com.