Why Lawyers Need a Marketing Niche
Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.
One might think that the topic of niche marketing has been covered ad nauseum, but I regularly coach lawyers who resist the concept. So I know that most lawyers don’t understand what they are missing, and why they should seriously consider establishing a niche. The first thing I point out is that each client wants an attorney who knows how to handle their specific problem. Who has enough time, money or energy to successfully market in several diverse practice areas?
The Power of a Niche
I first recognized the power of niche marketing for professional services on a trip to San Francisco well over 10 years ago. While wandering from Ghirardelli Square to the Embarcadero, I stumbled upon a dentist’s office with a storefront shingle. That was unusual enough, but it had a slogan about “dentistry with a woman’s touch” and a logo with a pink heart. Through the window I caught a glimpse of a tastefully decorated entry. I had an instant picture of what “a woman’s touch” in dentistry would feel like, and I wanted to change dentists right then, despite living 2,000 miles away.
I imagined having a dentist who really understood and catered to my wants. Soothing music and potpourri would waft through the waiting room. The staff would make sure that I got attention and felt comfortable. I would not be left lying back in a dentist’s chair in a freezing exam room, fatiguing my arms by holding a magazine above my face, trying to amuse myself while I waited forever for the dentist to show up. (That was way before iPhones and iPads.) If I did have to wait, staff would ask me what would make my wait more comfortable, and the dentist would apologize. She would probably send me home with chocolate (being near Ghirardelli Square), unless that’s just verboten with dentists. If I had any kind of procedure that required pain medication, one of her staff members would call me later to make sure I was doing OK. On top of all that, as a consumer, I would have the opportunity to support a fellow professional woman in a predominantly male profession.
Of course, I don’t know what that dentist’s office was really like, but as this example illustrates, establishing a niche-based target market can make it a lot easier to identify what your potential clients want. It allows you to offer service that your clients perceive as head and shoulders above your competitors, without necessarily having decades of experience.
The Narrower, the Better
Niche marketing helps you isolate Google search terms that don’t lead to a jillion competing website destinations. The more narrow the niche, the easier it is to market. The niche clarifies which trade shows or conferences to attend, which publications to write for, and which organizations to speak to. In short, marketing a law practice niche is efficient and cost-effective.
If you still don’t quite understand the power of niche marketing, I commend you to the book Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort by Steven Van Yoder. Although this book does not focus on lawyers, one of its first success stories describes a struggling lawyer who sky-rocketed her business when she honed in on a target market of clients who needed a lawyer’s help in credit report repair. (That might be a good focus in today’s market, too.) She found that speaking at conferences for mortgage brokers generated enough referral to fill her practice.
A compelling law practice niche marketing example appeared in a Texas Lawyer article years ago. Kimberlee Norris developed a niche of representing sexually abused Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can’t get much more narrow than that. After falling into that niche, she enhanced her Internet presence on the topic and joined a related listserv. The article reports that cases came pouring in, and she spoke to over 1500 potential clients in less than one year. The firm gained a national reputation in sexual abuse cases.
A Marketing Strategy, Not a Practice Limitation
Especially in a depressed economy, lawyers fear that niche marketing will limit their ability to get other business. I assure them that this is a marketing strategy, not necessarily a practice limitation. You don’t have to turn away other work. Although the website for the Love & Norris firm highlights their sexual abuse practice, their practice area page references other personal injury and commercial litigation matters they have handled. As Carolyn Elefant described in a post about niche marketing, establishing a reputation in the narrow subject of offshore renewable energy gave her exposure that also led to other work in related fields.
Social Media and Niche Marketing
Harnessing social media makes niche marketing even more powerful. You can join a related LinkedIn or Facebook group and build relationships with potential clients or referral sources there. Tweeting on the topic may attract the attention of journalists and conference planners. The publicity from interviews and speaking opportunities can broaden your client base. Blogging on your topic will showcase your knowledge and improve the SEO (search engine optimization) of your website. Read this blogpost of my client, Thomas Fox, for a detailed description of how he capitalized on the visibility of social media to build a solo practice in a well-defined niche.
If you are a new lawyer, look at Susan and Carolyn’s posts for ideas on identifying a niche that can give you an edge over more experienced lawyers, or email me for a little help. Experienced lawyers: look at your previous clients to see what they may have in common. One of my clients discovered that in his litigation practice he had represented a number of Pakistani convenience store operators. Can you see how much easier it is to reach out to a well-defined audience like that than to market a general commercial litigation practice?
Have a little fun with it. Please do share your creative ideas, and feel free to ask me for a little brainstorming help.