Weekly e-alerts and quarterly updates together with strong relationships bring employers and educators to this firm.
This case study explains how two Massachusetts attorneys successfully gain new business for their firm by forming strong relationships with their clients, and educating them as well. Sara Goldsmith Schwartz, William Hannum III, and their team have found a way to successfully balance practicing law with gaining new business.
It can be difficult for a busy attorney to remain consistent in their marketing efforts when there is a lot of billable work that needs to be completed. Schwartz and Hannum overcome this obstacle by focusing their marketing on practical solutions for clients, and making marketing a habit.
Will: “The biggest challenge is maintaining a consistent effort over the long haul. When billable work piles up, it is easy to neglect marketing.”
How do you keep it simple when writing articles and giving seminars?
Sara: “Focus on the busy client’s practical perspective.”
Will: “And then write just that, in the fewest, simplest words possible.”
How do you make sure that you always make time for marketing?
Sara: “I spend time on it every day. It is part of our routine. I want an E-alert every week or so, and an Update every quarter. We schedule a full slate of seminars and webinars every six months. The team makes all of that happen.”
Will: “Sometimes we have to rein it in, to make sure we don’t do too much.”
Sara: “Another challenge is spending marketing time and dollars in the most productive areas. (This conference (or association or magazine ad) or that one?) Also, Requests for Proposals (or RFPs) often seem to be a waste of time.”
Sara: “Sometimes you won’t know for months or years whether the effort will pay off. So, we try to gauge our clients’ interest in a topic, without necessarily concluding that the effort was or was not a success based on how many new projects resulted from the effort the following day. But, many efforts do have that kind of immediate impact.”
Will: “We focus on what seems most relevant and important. We listen for the greatest volume of positive feedback. If a seminar has low sign up, we don’t offer it again.”
Successes and Failures
There can be many ups and downs in successfully marketing a legal practice. Schwartz and Hannum have found that building strong, meaningful relationships with clients and going above and beyond the call of duty in their work, in addition to creating regular, relevant web content, has made their practice very successful.
Sara: “I think that if a client wants to hire you, they will hire you. So generally I think that submitting an RFP is a mistake. It is generally not a good use of time.”
Will: “I do a better job maintaining a steady level of marketing activity when I have the necessary support, such as when my assistant helps schedule appropriate meetings and trips.”
What was the most successful marketing technique you have used to date, and why?
Sara: “Maintaining a strong connection and personal relationship with our clients, and making them thrilled with the work we do, in turn leads to more work and referrals.”
Will: “Beyond that, our website, quarterly Updates and E-alerts get an enormous amount of positive comments, and have in fact led to significant clients.”
Can you give a specific example of when a quarterly update, E-alert, or website page worked extremely well?
Sara: “This week, we just had a new client come to us because of an article published a year ago. They specifically mentioned the article, and our website in general, as their reason for coming to us.”
Will: “Many years ago, a quarterly Update was sitting on the desk of a potential client, to whom we had been talking for several years. A new case came in that day, the president of the company glanced at the Update and then called me. They’ve been a great client ever since, for more than 10 years.”
Do you have any specific empirical evidence you can share on the results of the most effective strategy that you have used?
Sara: “We have clients who have been with the firm for 18 years, and we have dozens and dozens of clients who have referred us new work and new clients. Clients who stay with us after the primary contact leaves, and who then brings us in at his or her new company.”
Will: “One fabulous client called one day, years after I had started courting them, because the primary contact had a copy of our Labor & Employment Update on his desk, waiting to be read. In another example, our website led to one of the biggest clients in the history of the firm, and to one of my best friends in the past 10 years.”
Best Marketing Advice
It’s important to test out different marketing techniques, find out what works, and stick with it. Educate your clients, understand what they need, and give it to them.
Sara: “There are many different ways to market. Find the one that works best for you. There is no one right way.”
Will: “If you don’t want to do it, you probably won’t. Also, for me, it helps to think of marketing as an offer to help, and not just a request for business.”
What does a lawyer specifically need to know about using this marketing technique that people in other industries might not think about?
Sara: “The education-oriented marketing efforts need to be relevant and practical.”
How can someone make sure that their marketing efforts are relevant and practical for their target client?
Sara: “Understand their clients, stay on top of changes in the law, and focus on helping clients reach their goals.”
Will: “Do so even when it might not offer you the greatest amount of work in the short term and do it all while speaking in plain English.”
What steps do you take to maintain a strong personal relationship with your clients and what do you do in your work that really impresses clients leading to referrals?
Sara: “We ask clients what their goal is and help them get there. We communicate with clients in whatever way works for them. In person, by telephone, and/or via email. We offer candid assessments, practical options, and realistic budgets. And we strive to meet or exceed the expectations we set.”
A Step-By-Step Approach
Old fashioned networking is still very effective. Put in the appropriate face time and opportunities will arise. Also, educating people on one’s contact list about appropriate, relevant issues can lead to new business as well.
Is there a simple step-by-step approach you can give that would help someone jump start using this marketing method that has been so successful for you?
Sara: “Get out there, every day or week, and be in touch with someone on your contact list. Go to conferences or bar association meetings, where you have a real interest. Meet people. Build relationships. Stay in touch. Good things will happen, sometimes from unexpected places.”
Will: “Find a relevant, topical legal issue, and write a practical article, in plain English. Get it published, or publish it yourself, if need be. Circulate the article to everyone on your contact list. Then find an opportunity to speak on the topic.”