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14 Marketing Misconceptions That Cost Lawyers A Fortune

1. You must have a huge, expensive website and blog to attract desirable cases and compete head-on with other lawyers. Wrong! If you want a formal, corporate-looking website for all the world to see, fine. But please don’t think you must compete in this arena. Every week I get calls from lawyers who are unhappy because they have spent huge dollars on their websites, search engine optimization, and ongoing maintenance hoping they can break even on their investment. And when they talk with their web company account rep, the answers are usually the same: You need to pay us more money so we can ... (insert here whatever service they think you need).

Handsome websites and search engine rankings are not the only answer. A website is only one piece of your marketing mosaic, and you can attract highly desirable cases without spending a fortune with your website company.

2. Common marketing methods don’t work in today’s competitive environment. Wrong! Common methods—such as advertising, publicity, seminars, newsletters, websites, social media—can be highly effective when used correctly. If they don’t work for you, more than likely you’re sending an incomplete marketing message or using an outdated approach. The method you choose is only as good as the message it delivers. If your message lacks any needed components, you’ll lose clients to other lawyers who deliver a complete educational message.

3. Your marketing’s most important function is to promote your services. False! The most important function of your marketing program is to establish that you can be trusted. Most of us don’t do business with people we don’t trust. While your prospect is considering whether to hire your services, he is also trying to determine whether he trusts you.

4. All you need to do is get the word out. No! You must both get the word out and get a response back. This is the meaning of “direct response marketing,” often shortened to “direct marketing.” As our media society grew in the 1950s and 60s, marketers had no need to measure direct results, so they used institutional advertising. But today, your marketing efforts must be built on proven principles that cause prospects to respond. Because if you don’t get an answer, you can’t be sure your prospect even received your message.

5. A public relations program that generates feature articles and broadcast interviews will attract new clients to your practice. Maybe not. In most cases, p.r. programs bring exposure, but exposure does not always bring new clients. Attorneys routinely report, “We were happy with the number of articles about our firm, but we didn’t get even one new client!” A good publicity program can be an important part of your marketing effort. But whether your publicity program generates only exposure or solid marketing results depends on the experience and know-how of the person carrying out your program.

6. The toughest challenge you face is to persuade your prospects. No! Your toughest challenge is to find potential clients. Your marketing program should attract qualified inquiries so you start to build a trusting relationship with genuine prospects. You could have 100 new clients tomorrow if prospects knew how you could help them and where to find you. But, in most cases, prospects don’t know you even exist. So you must assume the burden of getting your message into your prospects’ hands.

7. Word-of-mouth referrals will bring you all the new clients you want. Usually not. Every lawyer wants good, qualified referrals. But when you rely on referrals as your only source of new clients, you allow third parties (referral sources) to control your flow of new clients. In addition to attracting referrals, you should have an ongoing marketing program that generates inquiries directly from genuine prospects.

8. The most effective time to start delivering your marketing message is when your prospect is in your office. Wrong! The most effective time to deliver your marketing message is when your prospect first thinks about his problem and wants to know what solutions are available. You have a significant advantage over other attorneys when you have a packet of materials you can mail to your prospect, regardless of his location. You can offer your information packet any number of ways, such as through advertising, publicity, newsletters or direct mail. When your prospect thinks about his problem, he sees that you offer material on the subject. He calls your office and requests your information. Then you send your materials by mail or email. In many cases, this puts your marketing message into his hands before he calls other lawyers.

9. You should mail your newsletter to clients and prospects quarterly. Not even close! Every day—when your prospects are knocked over with an avalanche of advertising—you’re fortunate indeed if you can create an impression in your prospect’s mind. If you hope to make your impression stick, you should send your newsletter at least monthly. The more often you mail to prospects on your mailing list, the more new business you will likely attract. The frequency with which you deliver your newsletter is much more important than the number of pages.

10. Prospects will go out of their way to do business with you. Hardly! You must go out of your way to attract their business. Lawyers often think a small obstacle, such as having to pay for a long-distance phone call, will attract calls from more qualified prospects. And this is true when your prospect comes to you by referral. But if your prospect does not have a personal recommendation—and has not yet received your marketing message—he may have no greater interest in hiring you than in hiring any other lawyer or law firm. So the small barrier that you hope will qualify him actually causes him to call someone else. I urge you to provide an email address, toll-free number, business-reply envelopes (where you pay return postage), and other conveniences. These increase the likelihood that your prospect will contact you before he calls your competitors.

11. By lowering your fees, you gain a competitive advantage that you can make up in volume. In your dreams! When you lower your fees, (1) you undermine your credibility because prospects wonder why your services are no longer worth what you once charged, (2) you attract clients who know the price of everything and the value of nothing (people who are loyal to the dollar are never loyal to you!), and (3) you lose money because it is usually impossible to achieve the volume of cases you need to make up for the profits you lose. Instead of lowering your fees, leave them alone—because it’s easier to justify why you charge so much than to explain why you charge so little.

12. If one person can make good marketing decisions, three people can make great decisions. Wrong! Your marketing program needs one quarterback who calls the shots. The more people involved in making the decision, the longer it takes to make and the more watered down it becomes. Marketing is like football. Can you imagine how long it would take if the entire team offered their ideas and everyone had to agree before they could make the next play? If your marketing program doesn’t bring you the results you want, change methods or change quarterbacks. But don’t compound your quarterback’s problems by bringing in more people to help him make a decision.

13. You make your marketing more efficient when you cut out the bells and whistles. Usually not. Often, what lawyers think are bells and whistles are actually the essential steps that make their programs successful. Here’s what happens: After their marketing plans succeed, lawyers trim back their programs to make them more efficient. Their attempts to “streamline” their marketing—aka make it cheaper—seem like a good idea until they realize their marketing no longer works. You’re wise to test different steps in the marketing process to see if they’re necessary. When conducting a test, change only one variable at a time and track results closely. If your results start to decline, you’ll know that variable is important to producing the results you want.

14. To attract new clients, you should promote your services. No! When you promote your services, you take on the role of a salesperson, which undermines your credibility. This is called selling-based marketing. Instead, promote your knowledge using Education-Based Marketing. This allows you to attract new clients, increase referrals, strengthen client loyalty and build your image as an authority without selling. Education-Based Marketing gives your prospects what they want, information and advice—and removes what they don’t want, a sales pitch.

Trey Ryder

Trey Ryder specializes in Education-Based Marketing for lawyers. He offers three free articles by e-mail: 11 Brochure Mistakes Lawyers Make, Marketing Moves Most Lawyers Miss, and 13 Marketing Misconceptions That Cost Lawyers a Fortune. To receive these articles, send your name and e-mail address to and ask for his free packet of marketing articles.

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Filed Under: Featured StoriesMarketing

About the Author: Trey Ryder specializes in Education-Based Marketing for lawyers. He offers three free articles by e-mail: 11 Brochure Mistakes Lawyers Make, Marketing Moves Most Lawyers Miss, and 13 Marketing Misconceptions That Cost Lawyers a Fortune. To receive these articles, send your name and e-mail address to and ask for his free packet of marketing articles.

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