Being able to successfully market to law firms is a unique and challenging proposition.
Lawyers are typically pessimistic about marketing in general and have very little time to flirt with the idea of outsourcing anything.
But it’s an endeavor that many agencies can’t ignore due to the attractive nature of this industry.
Lawyers are busy, have money to spend, don’t know much about marketing, and operate in a space that is both search-able and high margin.
This combination of factors makes for the perfect agency client. Basically, you can charge a healthy retainer for marketing services in the legal sector and still get a well-received return on investment for your clients. Plus, you won’t have your client looking over your shoulder the whole time, as long as you are delivering results.
So, yes, trying to market to law firms should be a prime target for many marketing agencies, but how do you actually get your value proposition in front of the right people?
As one of the top five industries our white label PPC clients work with, we’ve learned a thing or two about selling marketing services to law firms. In this article, we’d like to share some of that insight with you.
To effectively sell your services to law firms, you have to adapt both your mindset and approach to suit their unique needs. Let’s take a look at both of those elements in more depth.
Get in the right mindset
Your ability to sell marketing services to any industry can be largely attributed to your mindset and the way you approach each individual you engage with. Law firms are no different, and in fact, given their unique characteristics, the mindset you enter into a legal-based sales strategy with is even more important.
Here are 5 things to think about in terms of your mindset when selling your services to law firms:
Not all law firms are the same
Bundling all law firms into one big category is a common mistake we see agencies make when trying to engage with prospects in this sector.
Lawyers and their firms come in all different shapes and sizes.
To start with, your messaging and approach needs to be aligned with the niche of your target law firms. For example, a law firm could be solely focused on commercial law, employment law, criminal law, or any other number of legal disciplines. Alternatively, some bigger firms are multi-disciplinary and have service offerings across a number of categories.
A law firm that specializes in environmental law is likely going to have a very different outlook on marketing expenditure than a firm with expertise in mergers and acquisitions, for example. If you enter a sales conversation with both of these firms before understanding their differences in mindset, then you are set up to fail.
Before diving headfirst into an all-inclusive law-firm strategy for client growth at your agency, consider key factors such as firm size, structure, competencies, and typical deal acquisition channels, so that you can narrow your target prospects and adjust your messaging accordingly.
Understand the purchasing process and key decision makers
Law firms don’t have a typical hierarchical business structure. Their structure is flatter, with a centralized decision-making process for investment.
Understanding this structure is critical for determining who within the firm you need to influence in order to secure their business.
The most common business structure for law firms is the partnership model. In this model, here are the key roles to consider:
- Partners. The partners are usually those that have invested financially into the firm and receive benefits based on the business’ performance. However, some firms have non-equity partners whom they charge out at the same rate but don’t have a financial stake in the business. Depending on the size of the firm, partners will hold fairly significant decision-making power when it comes to investments for marketing and sales. These are the people you need to influence.
- Associates. Lawyers that are not Partners, usually fall into the “Associates” bucket. They report to Partners and tend to have little to no decision-making power when it comes to investment decisions.
- Paralegals. These people have some form of legal training and can perform technical tasks for Associates or Partners, but they are not qualified lawyers yet.
- Support Staff. Most firms have some form of Administrative support and larger firms may employ Human Resources specialists, as well as have small IT and marketing departments.
As you can see, the Partnership business model weights decision-making towards a few key individuals in the organization. Basically, you need to influence the Partners if you are going to convert law firms into marketing clients.
However, given the Partners at law firms are usually hard to connect with and are especially busy, you will often start a conversation with someone in the support staff first. These people are often designated “gatekeepers” who are responsible for restricting the number of time-wasters or sales calls that get through.
Be respectful of this internal process that many Partners put in place, but ensure that you are always progressing the conversation with the goal of eventually talking with a Partner directly. Hint: The gatekeepers need to be your friend, not your enemy.
Be ready for marketing “hate”
As mentioned earlier, lawyers are often pessimistic about marketing in general, let alone outsourced marketing services. This means you are starting behind the 8-ball when raising awareness for your solution.
For example, law firms can be protective of their territory and paranoid about giving their secrets away to the competition. This Legal Marketing Agency addresses this concern by partnering exclusively with one law firm per market:
You may hear other objections such as;
- “I’m a lawyer, not a marketer. My time is better spent delivering for clients.”
- “All of our work comes from relationships and referrals, we don’t need to market the firm.”
- “We’re already too busy with client work, marketing is a distraction.”
These are just a few common objections that you may hear from lawyers… and there are many many more. To overcome these challenges you should be armed with responses that are backed by data and case studies. Align your responses to these objections with the things that your prospects care about most – such as a full book of clients, consistent inquiries, and security of income.
Play to their professional ego
The point of this tip is not to label all lawyers as egotistical. However, there is a certain aura and perceived power associated with the legal fraternity that you need to appreciate.
Lawyers have been through close to a decade of rigorous study by the time they enter the workforce. Add to that the years and years of late nights they have put in as an Associate before being given the privilege to become a Partner at their firm – they subsequently have a certain degree of expected recognition. They wear the blood, sweat, and tears they have put into reaching the level of Partner as a badge of honor. In fact, some reports suggest that legal professionals work 60-70 hours a week, but only bill clients for 40-50!
This is something that you should recognize during your sales conversation.
Avoid being a time waster
There is nothing that irritates busy business professionals more than time wasters – lawyers are no different. Sure, if the Partner of a prospective law firm wants to offer small chat and tell you about their kid’s latest sporting endeavors, listen and respond accordingly. But resist talking too much about yourself or telling insignificant stories that waste their time – they simply don’t care.
Take the time to listen to their problems and objectives by asking open-ended questions such as “what business goals have you set for this year?” or “what type of challenges do you face when it comes to getting new clients?” Then, respond accordingly in language that shows empathy for their situation, recognizes that they have a lack of time, and succinctly presents a tailored solution.
Adapt your approach
As well as having the right mindset for selling your services to law firms, your approach needs to align with their buying behavior.
Here are 5 ways you can adapt your approach to selling marketing services in order to better serve law firms:
Sell low-effort tactics
The decision-makers at law firms, the Partners, are busy people. But more importantly, they also think they are busy – which means if something takes up too much of their time they won’t be interested. On the flip side, “busy-ness” is a problem they are regularly trying to solve for. They want greater outcomes with less effort.
With this in mind, your best entry point for marketing services at a law firm are services that require little input and effort from the client. For example, email marketing automation is a service that can be set up once and generate multiple touchpoints with potential clients for law firms, without any further input from the lawyer. Alternatively, content marketing will likely require ongoing expert input from the internal team.
So, in your sales conversation, lead with the low-effort/high-outcome service offerings and look to up-sell in the future.
Tweak your copy and social proof
Law firm partners have studied and worked for over a decade in an institutionalized system that requires extremely high standards for the use of language and references. This means that marketing jargon and exaggerated copy is lost on them – they see it as sales-y and inaccurate.
Your marketing message to lawyers should be both factual and somewhat serious in tone. You need to speak in their language.
Most lawyers are looking for familiar reinforcement of your credibility, too. For example, this Legal Marketing Agency features three testimonials from law firms on their home page:
Don’t discount direct mail
Digital marketing agencies tend to discount the power of offline marketing tactics. But, when you’re trying to get in contact with hard-to-reach individuals such as lawyers, sometimes the left-of-field approaches can cut through the noise.
When we say “direct mail”, however, we’re not talking about flyers or discount coupons. We’re talking about a personally written letter that is addressed to the Partner of a law firm, written on company letterhead, and talking directly to their pains and desires with a succinct and highly-personalized message.
Think about it for a second, imagine if you sent out personalized letters to a few hundred lawyers in your city. Do you think this would be more effective than running a Facebook ad?
You’ve got to play to your audience.
Be present with networking
You’ll often hear lawyers talk about “relationships and referrals” as their primary driver of new clients. This approach to business development is a longstanding tactic that is handed down from Partner to Partner as law firms mature and grow. It’s their go-to strategy for winning new business.
Lawyers respect this kind of connection with other salespeople or business owners. The face-to-face meeting, handshake, and small talk that comes with conferences, events, and corporate networking, is something they value. By actively networking with lawyers at these events you elevate their perception of you and help you stand out from other marketing agencies. It’s also a more proven way of getting in front of prospects rather than relying on cold calls, emails, and other tactics that can be easily ignored.
Tap into their cell phone obsession
Lawyers are always on call. If their clients need them, they are expected to respond swiftly. This 24/7 availability is what enables big firms to charge crazy hourly rates for their time. However, it means that the average law firm Partner is constantly attached to their phone – reading and answering emails every few minutes.
For the added security features, lawyers often use Blackberry’s, where they view and read emails in plain text. You can tap into this cell phone obsession by delivering targeted and relevant email messages to potential clients in plain text format.
Whilst cold email may not get a response rate as high as direct mail, networking, and other hyper-personalized tactics, it is a great way to reinforce your brand and messaging in conjunction with these other methods.
If law firms are a prime target for your marketing agency, be sure to go into the sales process with the right mindset and sales techniques to get the results you desire.
Start by narrowing down the type of law firm you want to work with, get to know what makes their decision-makers tick, and appreciate and prepare for skepticism.
Once you have a foot in the door, consider pitching low-effort marketing services first, and adapt your selling approach to the lifestyle and preferences of a typical lawyer.