As we enter the throws of an election year and become bored, immune and maybe a little disgusted by all the campaigning, a few things are interesting to note. There are striking comparisons between how a candidate works to get elected and how a law firm or lawyer can develop new business. So, if you get overly sensitized by all the campaigning, refocus your attention on the process and you might find a few good ideas to try for yourself.
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, a discipline within the marketing programs at colleges and universities began to emerge. That discipline involved an approach to marketing a political candidate. After all, once television, radio, and most recently online and digital media became available to reach voters, the process of road trips and stumping for votes became only part of the game.
Understand your market
Politicians spend a great deal of time determining what voters want. They delve deep into what their issues are, what they deem to be desirable solutions, what will make them happy, and thus result in a vote cast in their favor. Once these issues are clearly understood, their teams craft messages to address these needs and explain to potential voters why they should vote for them.
Lawyers and law firms should embrace this same process. Who will hire you? What is it that they want? What problems can you solve for them and how will you describe what you do? Are you spending the time to understand your potential customers so you know what they want?
Nothing beats personal appearances
Politicians can be seen on TV, in print, and on social media. They can also be heard on the radio. But, they still spend time on the campaign trail meeting their supporters. They know that personal interaction can be a game changer. Nothing is the same as seeing someone in person, getting a sense of their real personality, and seeing how they treat other people, both their friends and foes.
When was the last time you personally got in front of your target audience? Went to a conference? Gave a talk? Just worked the room? Getting out there and making it personal goes a long way toward forming a relationship.
Skip the credentials
Politicians hardly ever mention where they went to school, the degrees they have, if they graduated cum laude or other distinctions they have achieved. They realize that this information is superfluous to what really matters: Can you get the job done? They focus on conviction, reliability, trustworthiness, and other characteristics that give them credibility and instill confidence in voters. Lawyers should definitely take note of this page in the song book. Your credentials are a given. Potential clients are not comparing prospective attorneys or law firms based upon schools attended and GPAs. They want someone they can trust, rely upon, and feel confident about knowing that their issues will be resolved based upon experience. Your website bio, your LinkedIn profile, and what you say about yourself when someone asks you what you do should start with what problems you solve and how you help, not where you went to school or other accomplishments that don’t highlight what you do for your clients.
Politicians know that influential people are one of their biggest assets. They nurture these relationships and constantly stay in touch both in person and by other means such as phone and email. They always say thank you for the support they get and they constantly acknowledge the appreciation and endorsements they receive from key influencers. They know without these particular individuals their success will be significantly diminished. As lawyers, you should think of your clients and referral sources in this same way. Stay in touch. Keep them informed. Let them know you are thinking of them. Thank them if they send work your way. Most people find lawyers and law firms through referrals. You need to make sure that the people you work with and those who are viewed as leaders in their industries or communities know what you do and understand how you help.
It is unlikely that a political candidate pours over his or her website or reviews the placement of directional signs for the next venue on their schedule. They have teams of individuals whom they trust to understand the big objectives, and through that understanding can manage the details for them to make the necessary arrangements. Candidates spend their time on the things that they need to be doing and leave the rest of the work to others who are skilled and capable in a variety of areas where they are not. In other words, they know their job is communicating and building relationships, and that is where they focus their time. Lawyers should do the same. Spend your time engaging with clients and prospective clients and doing the legal work. Delegate what you can, stay out of it, and focus your efforts on where you can add the most value and have the most impact.
There are probably many more similarities you can discover as you watch the political campaigns unfold. Keeping a keen eye out for tips that might help you in your practice can bring a whole new dimension and level of interest to the ads and marketing processes that will kick into high gear in the coming months. After all, isn’t getting elected or staying in office pretty similar to getting a new client or keeping an existing one?•
Dona Stohler of S2 Law Firm Strategies provides consulting services on business development and marketing for law firms. Stohler has more than a decade of experience in the legal services industry and is the past chair of the U.S. Law Firm Group marketing committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.S2lawfirmstrategies.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.