How to Grow Your Client Base Without Promoting Yourself, Part 1

Traditional marketing isn’t working anymore and it perhaps never worked well for professional service providers such as lawyers. Traditional marketing once involved print ads (newspapers, magazines, billboards, phone book, etc), TV ads, and radio ads. More recently, marketing advanced to mass cold emailing of advertising material (aka, spam). Now, every online video is polluted with pre-roll commercials, which are skipped by 94% of viewers within the first 5 seconds, by the way.[1] All these approaches are marketer-centric and interruptive. Even banner ads, a more targeted advertising approach, are so widely ignored that a term exists for it: “banner-blindness[2]. Consumers have lost their taste for marketing that pushes out sales pitches. Law firms should leave any such advertising efforts in the past.

The current trend in online marketing is to attract targeted, prospective clients using inbound marketing techniques that draw prospects in. The key is content. In bound marketing is perfectly suited to lawyers because it shuns blatant selling and relies on quality content. The challenge for lawyers is to understand how to use informative content to bring in the right prospects.

Inbound marketing

The basic ingredients of inbound marketing are a web site and/or landing page[3], a blog, and selective use of social media. When combined skillfully for an appropriate length of time, the combination should produce the targeted, prospective clients that you really want. But just like any recipe, execution is critical. Carelessly tossing together ingredients in some random fashion might well produce nothing more than a big waste of time.

Unlike marketer-centric traditional marketing, inbound marketing focuses on addressing the needs of your target market. It is customer-centric. Rather than promoting your own capabilities (you as centre of attention), you promote solutions (their problems as centre of attention). Clearly, you reveal your professional capability in the process of being helpful, but the focus is always on your target market. Self-promotion is not only unnecessary, but would undermine your inbound marketing effort. And that suits most lawyers just fine.

So, how would this work in practice? Using old-school advertising, you might have a display ad in a publication, or equivalent information on your website, that includes practice area, years of experience, your claim of trustworthiness, etc.:

How to grow your client base ad example

Whether the advertisement appears on a printed page or somewhere online makes little difference. It is pure self-promotion. It requires the prospective client to believe your claim of competence without any real proof. It does little, if anything, to build trust.

The inbound marketing approach begins with content, usually a blog post. Your blog might walk home-buyers through the purchase process, explain clauses of a purchase agreement, address the steps in obtaining a mortgage, or dissect differences in mortgage instruments. Any topic that is helpful to your target market of home purchasers is a good topic. Posts show that you know something and that you are generous with your knowledge. That begins to build some real faith in you as a problem solving professional.

But you need to do more than sit and hope that prospective clients will stumble upon your excellent blog. More on that in Part 2.