Originally posted in The National Law Journal on November 5, 2012
“We have peaches, apricots, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, bananas, tangerines, brambleberries and pretty much any other fruit you can imagine. Would you like to buy a basket?”
This is how most law firms market their lawyers — as a basket of fruit. There’s a problem with that.
“Think about this from the perspective of a Google search,” said Adrian Lursen of JD Supra, which distributes online information and content for businesses and law firms. “Nobody is searching for a basket of fruit; they are all searching for different types of fruit.”
From a practical perspective, potential clients aren’t searching for a firm that can do it all; they want experts who can solve their unique problems. Unfortunately, when they go searching for a solution to their problems, they find firms trying to be good at everything.
How do law firms avoid this problem? They need to identify their areas of strength — areas where they can demonstrate exceptional achievement.
The online bio for corporate lawyer I worked with listed every type of corporate transaction he had worked on in his career. This scatter-shot approach is not a strategy. It is an ineffective tactic born of fear: “What if someone is looking for a specific type of transaction, and it isn’t in my list?” “What if one of my real estate clients is turned off by my focus on health care?”
It isn’t that these fears aren’t rational, but that they keep lawyers from seeing the big picture. The online legal landscape has become so incredibly competitive that to stand out you must have a laser focus in your marketing efforts. You can’t afford to be seen as just a list.
How do you develop this focus? Start with your bio, both on LinkedIn and firm website. Lead with your greatest strengths, pinpointing where you are exceptional. After that, include recent and relevant experience. What looks better to a potential client, a list of mergers and acquisitions or that in 2011 you closed the largest merger in the state? (Of course, if you mention client names, make sure you have written permission, as required by your states’ ethics rules.)
You don’t have to throw away the list, but that can come later in the bio. Thousands of lawyers have the exact same list you do. Where do you really stand out? Prospective clients have become far more discriminating. They aren’t looking for a corporate generalist any more; they want to find the lawyer with outstanding abilities.
Marketing firms and advertising agencies make their living helping firms understand their identities and solidify their brands. This is a mistake, because firms aren’t one unified team, as unfortunate as that sounds; they are a combination of unique and talented professionals. The exceptional ability and reputation of these individuals creates the brand. Where are you exceptional? How can you stand out? Figure it out and start marketing yourself with specificity. Leave the fruit baskets for the holidays.