I’m talking today about being an information resource, the best around. There are lots of ways to do that and be that.
Clients want substance. You want to develop business? Provide substance. Not hype. Substance. Clients hate legalese. They despise being the subject of a lecture by a young (or older) whippersnapper. Your clients and those who have spent years in the trenches are smart, experienced people, whether they have a legal degree or not. If you think your J.D. gives you any special advantage over them, think again.
Got that. Good. Now we can talk about information.
Wait, one other thing first. What is important to your clients and potential clients? Do you understand their business or are you guessing? Would you order a meal for your partner in a restaurant without asking? You might, but ONLY if you understand what they like and don’t like, what allergies they have, what preferences are important, what satisfies their needs.
Know what your clients want and need and then provide it in a timely and practical way. Otherwise, don’t bother.
A young lawyer who wants to market should understand this: be the lead dog or the view never changes. Help your firm become the leader in providing the industry worthwhile, timely information with counseling points that let the readers know WHY the information is important.
Provide useful, readable, understandable content to your clients and those in the industry you represent. When? NOW, not tomorrow. Do it without fluff, without bragging, without back-patting.
How many of you get your news from the daily newspaper and how many of you get your news from electronic media?
Newspapers are dying because by the time you read the hard copy, you’ve seen the story on the Internet, or heard about it on the radio. Hearing from somebody about something tomorrow, or in two months, isn’t particularly worthwhile, particularly if you heard about it already.
Back in the day (and I was practicing back in the day,) law firms produced glossy, fancy brochures, touting their history, expertise and service array. Every decent firm had one and they were expensive and fairly similar to one another. It was a fad and went the way of the pet rock when the Internet became the rage.
Firms, including ours in pre-email days, had a newsletter, sent by first-class mail to clients. Some were sent out quarterly, others when something big happened in the courts or the legislature. Cost lots of money on postage, paper and person-power to get those into the US Postal Service.
I always got a kick out of quarterly newsletters. If an insurance company didn’t know about a big case that came down three months ago, they should be in a different business. Quarterly newsletters were (and are) useless, in my less than humble opinion. Some firms still send them.
Brochures begat websites and firms invested oodles of money to make their website the fanciest around. The website designers laughed all the way to the bank as cookie-cutter websites replaced cookie-cutter brochures.
In more recent days, good, smart, thoughtful law firms and good, smart thoughtful lawyers (those who pay attention to what clients REALLY want, rather than what design companies want to sell), understand the ultimate truth (and it shouldn’t shock them). Clients and potential clients want substantive, useful, understandable, up-to-date content. What is happening out there in the courts, in the industry, in the legislatures and what can they or should they do about it.
And, they want it instantly. Not tomorrow, not next week. They want it now.
They don’t want fancy. They don’t want glossy. They don’t want yesterday’s news. They want today’s news today (or yesterday, if that’s possible).
We started our first electronic newsletter, Coverage Pointers, in the summer of 1999. We made it clear that we would not send the publication out by first class mail and that if folks wanted to be pointed to the hottest and newest insurance coverage cases that came out of New York courts, we’d send them summaries of every New York coverage case on alternating Fridays. We started with 25 subscribers and our subscriber list is now well into the thousands. The promise was, and has been for 20 years, to give folks what they needed--information they can use in plain language, with useful and practical advice and without fluff. Nothing fancy, nothing graphic, information that they can cut and paste into their claim files.
And if there is an important new decision, they are advised the same day the decision comes down, not two weeks or a month or three months later.
Our young lawyers are an active and important and relevant part of the team that publishes these newsletters and get full credit, and national name recognition, for their contributions. It keeps them focused on their niche areas of practice. It requires them to read every decision from the New York courts (or elsewhere) and summarize them by deadline. And when they travel throughout the country, these young lawyers are recognized for their columns and by-lines.
Most importantly for them, they become the thought leader in the area about which they are writing. For our coverage newsletter, they read EVERY case on their area of practice, and so they spot trends and report on them. And, when clients have a question about their practice area, the young lawyer who writes the column gets a call, or an email, and is recognized for their concentration.
It’s all about substantive content, for people who need it, without telling folks that we are the best thing since sliced cheese. Frankly, they don’t care about sliced cheese, they care about obtaining timely and useful information that they can understand and use. Let them know when to expect your email and be sure you get that out to them so they know you are a reliable source. And be honest. Be fair. Provide counsel and advice and recommendations.
You want to market? Know your clients’ business and help them thrive.