Not every new client is a good client

Published on: 
07/26/2010
Published 07/26/2010

New clients are the lifeblood of legal practice, and a scattershot marketing approach is counterproductive to securing them.

It is far more effective to develop a marketing plan that identifies and evaluates the kind of clients the practice wants and needs. The best way to create a marketing plan is by identifying hypothetical client targets and the work those clients can or may give you.

Start by creating a profile of your ideal client and develop a marketing strategy that focuses on that target, not on everyone. You can increase your revenue dramatically by focusing on the demographics, occupation, location, financials and other key characteristics. That is essential to ensuring that you are providing the kind of service the client wants and that you are securing the kind of work that you want.

It goes without saying, of course, that you should be technically able to address the client’s legal issue. Equally important, however, is being able to address the matter in the way that the client wants. If a potential new client wants a lawyer who comes at the opposing side with a hammer, and you prefer to operate with a scalpel, the engagement will not be satisfying to either party.

Going through the process of detailing expectations enables you to avoid a client with unrealistic or unacceptable demands. That is particularly true if you discover that you are the third or fourth lawyer that the client has approached to handle the matter. Such a client will often express irritation with delay, chronically complain about everything, demand constant or instant attention, or expect unrealistic hand-holding.

Budgets are another aspect of the process. Clients should have in mind how much money they want to spend to resolve a problem. A higher initial cost may be acceptable if the long-term return on investment justifies it.

Sometimes a legal problem is large enough that spending big sums on it is justified. Most issues, however, involve everyday costs of doing business. It makes no sense to budget spending $2 million to try a case if a $100,000 settlement will meet the client’s objectives.

Such a marketing approach defines what your practice really is (or should be) and who best can use those services. That can change over time, depending on how your skills and interests evolve, how the economy is doing, and other factors. Learn where to find your target market and think about how you can best reach them to let them know that what they need is within your scope of abilities.

Firms grow based on their clients. Lawyers must look for clients with growth potential. In other words, “commodity” work will not result in high and profitable growth. Highly focused and “high-end” work will result in higher revenue and profits.

When you choose clients who perceive the work you do as having high value, you will be able to reflect that in your fee — and you will have a far more personally satisfying practice.

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