How To Use Education To Market Legal Services With Dignity
by Trey Ryder
An estate planning attorney I know was ready to begin job-hunting. He was frustrated because the ads he placed in magazines were not bringing in enough new business to pay for themselves. If something didn’t change soon, he’d be forced to close his office.
I recommended he use education to attract prospective clients. He agreed and hired me to design and carry out his marketing program. I prepared his written materials, then scheduled him to be a guest on three radio talk shows. After these interviews, he attracted calls at his office from 630 prospective clients -- and his appointment calendar hasn’t been the same since.
When both image and results are important, attorneys choose Education-Based Marketing (EBM). This powerful method attracts new clients, increases referrals, strengthens client loyalty, and builds your image as an authority.
In contrast, if you choose selling-based marketing, you take on the role of a salesperson. Prospective clients respond by growing skeptical and resisting your efforts to persuade. Choosing this method can be a costly mistake.
What is EBM?
Education-Based Marketing is “a comprehensive approach to increasing your client base by providing information and advice to consumers in order to help them solve problems.” In short, if you avoid the sales pitch and give your potential clients facts and advice, they’ll come to you (as paying clients) because they view you as a respected authority in your field.
In Education-Based Marketing, prospective clients see you as a consultant. They’re drawn to you for your knowledge, skill, judgment and experience. They accept your information and advice -- and then ask you for help in solving their legal problems.
The program is built around an educational message. Create the message by assembling facts about the subject you want to promote. Then deliver the information through any of various means: handouts (a must), newsletters, seminars, newspaper and magazine articles, cassette tapes, and radio and TV.
Although such a program may seem intimidating at first, it can be approached simply. For instance, you can start with a handout and then choose the next method based on a number of criteria. They may be, for example, (1) your comfort level with the method, and (2) the skills of your staff and other resource people. We’ll cover more about these specific avenues later.
Why Does EBM Work?
One of your biggest marketing challenges is to identify qualified prospects -- people who want and need your services. This is especially important because each of them is mixed among thousands of others. Thus, the first step is to identify them.
First, what do we know about consumers? They are:
(1) skeptical, cautious, and tired of selling and sales pressure;
(2) busy, which is why they often don’t take time to solve a problem until it becomes a priority;
(3) confused. Never before have they had so many choices, and their confusion increases if the risk is high;
(4) often unfamiliar with lawyers because their contact with them has been limited; and
(5) afraid of problems they don’t understand.
Where does the consumer call for legal advice? It’s generally an attorney’s office. But what do they often get there instead? A sales pitch. If you offer the information and advice they’re looking for, you’ll establish yourself as a concerned expert.
How Does EBM Work?
Give people as many opportunities as possible to get your advice. Handouts by mail -- in response to phone calls from potential clients -- offer your advice without commitment, pressure or hassle. This allows you to identify the callers and provides you with names and addresses for your mailing list. It also establishes your credibility and the beginning of a trusting relationship. As a result, a person has no need to contact other lawyers. Because your advice was free, you took the first step toward earning his or her loyalty.
As your Education-Based Marketing program moves forward, continue to send prospects your newsletter, invite them to seminars, and encourage them to call you with their questions. Do everything possible to keep the lines of communication open until they hire your services or until you remove them from your mailing list. Once the person becomes your client, you maintain his or her long-term loyalty by providing outstanding service and ongoing education through written materials, seminars and newsletters.
The Benefits To You
Here are several ways you benefit when you use Education-Based Marketing:
(1) you establish yourself as a credible, concerned authority and a reliable source of information;
(2) you maintain a dignified professional image because you make no effort to sell;
(3) you don’t need to seek out prospects; they call you;
(4) you save money because you don’t need expensive brochures;
(5) you save valuable time by answering commonly asked questions in your materials and seminars;
(6) you begin to develop your prospect’s long-term loyalty because he or she realizes you’ve made an effort to help; and
(7) your marketing is accountable because you usually know how many inquiries were received from each tool and how many of those people became clients.
Where To Start
Begin by compiling the important information into a written handout and offer it to anyone who telephones your office. The people who call are those who need that kind of help.
For example, if you want to attract business clients, you might offer “How to Avoid Seven Common Lawsuits by Employees and Customers.” If you want to attract divorce cases, you might offer “Nine Ways to Reduce the Pain and Expense of Divorce.” For people who have been injured in accidents, you might offer “Five Steps to Getting a Fair Settlement for Your Injuries.”
Offer your handout through newspaper articles, advertising, and referral sources. You might also send it to present and past clients, asking them to pass it along to their friends and colleagues.
After prospects receive your materials, they may call you immediately to schedule an appointment Don’t be discouraged, however, if they don’t. Many people take time making important decisions, and you want to allow them to grow to trust you at their own pace.
Newsletters are another valuable tool because they allow you to (1) communicate directly with your readers, (2) alert prospects to other areas of your practice, (3) introduce members of your firm, (4) publicize seminars, and (5) offer additional educational materials.
A custom newsletter is more effective than the canned type because it can be written to address your readers’ specific needs. Articles in generic newsletters are written for broad-based audiences and often lack the focus needed to persuade. This fatal flaw can result in an ineffective publication.
A newsletter also works well as a referral tool. In it, offer to mail a copy to others. This generates new names from current clients and expands your mailing list.
One of the most powerful tools is seminars because they bring you face-to-face with those most interested in what you have to say. At a seminar, prospects can ask questions about their specific situations. In many cases, those who are interested in hiring your services will stay afterwards to speak with you one on one.
Articles in newspapers can reach thousands of readers. Approach an editor with an offer to write a “how-to” story, for instance. You’ll probably receive a by-line, and a short clip about your law practice may be included. After an article in a newspaper for seniors, one lawyer received calls from over 400 prospects wanting his free materials.
Newspaper advertisements can be used to support seminar attendance. Recently, an elder law attorney watched as 54 people tried to fit into a room accommodating only 20. His afternoon seminar attracted over 70.
After a lawyer’s feature in a home and garden magazine, many prospects came directly into his office and hired his services, choosing not to wait to receive free materials by mail. That article drew inquiries for over a year.
If you want to reach busy executives and professionals, offer your information on audio cassette tape. This allows them to obtain the information while driving to and from the office. Audio tapes are a highly effective way of reaching prospective clients.
Broadcast media have proven to be a powerful way to attract calls. After one interview on a radio talk show, an estate planning attorney received 426 calls at his office.
Radio commercials offering free information can also draw large numbers of responses. Some estate planning attorneys offering free materials this way typically receive 30 to 50 calls per commercial.
TV is effective because of its significant coverage area. After a KTVK Channel 3 (Phoenix, AZ) news interview on the subject of wills and trusts, a lawyer attracted calls from over 200 prospective clients within three hours.
Does EBM Always Work?
Not all lawyers who use Education-Based Marketing get large numbers of inquiries. The response depends on the type of law you practice and how well you reach your target audience. But the real test of this method isn’t how many calls you receive; it’s the quality of those inquiries.
One personal injury attorney offered a seminar that attracted only three people, two of whom already had lawyers. But the third person had been in a coma for 12 days after a motorcycle accident. At the end of the seminar, he made an appointment to discuss his case further with the attorney. Another injury attorney presented six seminars, and 40% of the people who attended became his clients.
I have used Education-Based Marketing with attorneys for 18 years, with highly profitable results. On April 11, 1988, the American Marketing Association featured this innovative method on the front page of its national publication, Marketing News. EBM is the marketing of today -- and the future.
The key isn’t a clever slogan, fancy logo or cute jingle. Instead, it’s the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
What a novel idea.
And it works!
© Trey Ryder Copyright 2004-2007 by Trey Ryder LLC. All rights reserved.
Trey Ryder is a law firm consultant who specializes in Education-Based Marketing for attorneys. Trey Ryder offers lawyers three free articles by e-mail: 9 Smart Ways to Cut Marketing Costs and Improve Results, 11 Brochure Mistakes Lawyers Make, and Marketing Moves Most Lawyers Miss. Send your name and e-mail address to email@example.com and ask for his free e-mail packet of articles.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.