Once upon a time, law firms that served 60+ practice areas with dozens, or even hundreds of attorneys, were praised for their "Big Law" strength and power. These firms had all the resources and diverse expertise to tackle virtually any legal issue. Conversely, smaller and niche firms had trouble securing big clients and cases due to lack of exposure and the limited area of practice they covered.
Since 2008, however, "the market" has been brutal to the traditional "Big Law" model and the playing field has been flipped. Small and midsize specialist firms have been eating the lunch of their generalist large counterparts. By staying in their lane and trying similar cases over and over, niche law firms are becoming category killers on both national and local levels.
While competition is still fierce among specialists, the biggest advantage attorneys at niche firms have is that they have an endless supply of stories about similar cases they can share in their firm's blog. These stories will educate, answer questions, solve problems and establish the attorney, and firm, as thought leaders and experts in their specific practice area.
The Niche Firm Advantage
If You're Everything to Everyone . . .You Won't Be Hired -- Sandy Schussel, author and sales trainer
Since 1960, the U.S. Navy has been using the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) as the principle behind avoiding unnecessary complexity. That principle is totally appropriate with respect to a law firm that stays within a specific area of practice, versus one that expands its offerings as the firm grows. Additionally, if the firm doesn't overthink its content strategy and learns to blog with leadership stories, it will attract good-fit clients and make them champions of the firm.
In the FindLaw article The Advantages of Having a Niche Law Practice, the following paragraph pretty much sums up the marketing advantage that niche firms have over their more diversified competitors:
Marketing Becomes Simpler. You'll clearly see where to focus your efforts when you have a niche. Identifying the potential clients that might be interested in your services becomes much easier. You can easily determine what they read, the conferences they attend, and where they network. Also, your marketing message becomes much clearer, since you can picture the exact person to whom you are marketing and what that person's needs and situation are and tailor your message accordingly. You're no longer "marketing to the world," but rather to a defined, relevant audience. Copyright © Wed May 31, 2017, Thomson Reuters.
Become A Storyteller
Storytelling is a constant of human behavior that hasn't changed much since cavemen walked this planet. Some people are awesome storytellers. Most people could be better at it—especially lawyers.
Lawyers can come off as intimidating, due to their intense use of "legalese" when engaging in conversation. You can ask any legal question to a lawyer and, regardless of whether you're in a business or personal setting, you'll receive a weighty, detailed response, wishing you'd never asked the question.
Worse yet, when a lawyer's writing is as rigid as his/her speaking, it's often tough to slog through to the next paragraph, because—well, it's really boring.
After many years of working closely with very intelligent, but intense lawyers, I can attest that, behind the suit and tie and arsenal of legal jargon, lawyers are human. Yes, I said it— they are human. In fact, most lawyers are jovial, witty, and quite funny.
Lawyers should apply some of their wit and humor, along with their expertise, to stories that teach lessons. Your goal to educate, solve problems, and leave a lasting impact on the reader.
Two benefits that will come from writing in the form of telling a story:
- The lesson from your article will stay active in readers brains, and they will likely refer to and share it with someone in their world who shares the same problem. Expect a call.
- When your story resonates and provides value to readers, they are going to grant you their permission to share more content with them going forward.
At the 2011 TEDx conference in Utrecht, Steve Denning offers sounds advice about storytelling:
"When it comes to inspiring people to embrace some strange new change in behavior," says Denning, "Storytelling isn’t just better than the other tools. It’s the only thing that works."Additionally, Denning offers the following advice:
- The story must be true. Don't mislead with half-truths or omit details.
- To inspire action, stories must be positive in tone
- Readers want stories they can apply to their own situation, thereby making "your idea their idea." Once they've done that, they now have become champions of your story, your expertise and ultimately, your firm.
Consistency + Quality
There is no marketing "silver bullet" other than consistency. In my opinion, the number one reason businesses abandon content production is that they expect results too quickly and stop before return can be measured.
My agency reviews dozens of websites on a weekly basis. Of the companies that actually have a blog, at least 50% of them will show a 6-month to 2-year commitment to writing and sharing articles to social media and then they stop.
While I celebrate them for making an effort, they must realize that by stopping so abruptly, they're projecting a negative perception to site visitors, leaving them confused and wondering if the company is in trouble, or has run out of valuable insight to share.
Consistency must be paired with "quality" in order to produce content that cuts through the noise. In order to attract and grow an audience, creative storytelling is a great way for niche law firms to stand out and gain more champions of their brand. This is not an easy process, and often requires the partnership of a marketing agency.
Legal consultant Dustin Ruge suggests the following benchmark formula for firms looking to establish a marketing budget:
Desired Annual Billings X 4% = Your Annual Marketing Budget
Additionally, Ruge offers the following regarding consistency:
Remember: marketing is a journey and not a destination. You will have success and failures in your journey but the smart firms are the ones who learn from their mistakes, adjust, and don’t give up.
The more stories you tell and articles you publish, the more you'll get to know your audience and what kind of content they crave. This promotes continuous learning and will allow a firm to pivot should its audience move to a new social network or change from a "Baby Boomer" demographic to a younger "Millennial" audience.
The good news is that, as the economy improves, so should American business legal spending. In the meantime, niche law firms can continue to be successful by becoming awesome storytellers and never stop sharing their knowledge.
- Niche firms don't market to the world, "but rather to a defined, relevant audience"
- Marketing is simpler for niche law firms
- Stories must be true
- To inspire action, stories must be positive in tone
- Stories need to connect with the reader and connect to his/her needs
- Be consistent. Learn from mistakes, adjust, and keep blogging your stories
Related Read: Blogging For Business And Why You Should Start Today