Connection, not Competition
What makes you different from other lawyers in your practice area? Potential clients often see lawyers as fungible—one lawyer is as good (or as bad) as the next. So, how can you distinguish yourself in a way that makes you the logical choice for a potential client, so that you really have no competition?
Highlight your USP in your website and marketing materials.
USP is a marketing acronym that typically means your Unique Selling Proposition or what distinguishes one product or service from another. I prefer to define USP as Unique Service Proposition. Defined this way, your goal is to find what makes you different in a way that matters to your clients, not just what you can highlight as you’re trying to “close the sale.”
- Your USP should be something that a client can immediately appreciate. Perhaps you have experience or a substantive skill that brings particular benefit to your clients, such as a patent practitioner who has a PhD as well as years of work in her clients’ scientific art. Maybe your background makes you more relatable, as an immigration attorney who is himself an immigrant might be. Or possibly you’ve created a service, or a method of service, that educates your clients on some unfamiliar aspect of law or business relevant to the matters you handle.
- To identify your USP, you must know what matters to your clients. Ask yourself (or better yet, ask your clients) what they most appreciate about working with you. Your USP is best revealed through conversations.
Develop relationships with your potential clients.
Often, distinction comes down to something as basic and yet monumental as trust. When your potential clients have come to know you, to like you, and to trust you, you’ll be the natural choice when a legal need arises. (For more on this, read Bob Burg’s excellent book Endless Referrals.) The ideal route for building relationships that lead to business is through some kind of organization that serves your potential clients, so you’re building relationships in the context of substantive work that bears on your practice.
Develop relationships with referral sources.
Trust transfers. Think about your first step when you need a new plumber, dentist, or babysitter: you likely ask your friends and colleagues. While it isn’t a certainty that you’ll hire someone based solely on a referral, chances are that you will consider a referral before someone with whom you have no connection at all. The same is true of clients and lawyers, so it’s in your best interest to build a wide network of contacts. Because time is limited, you’ll want to begin by building a network of contacts who interact with your ideal clients. Who else serves the clients you do? Where do those referral sources gather? That’s where you need to spend time.
- One mistake that reluctant rainmakers often make is spending time networking with other lawyers and calling it business development time. While bar association and other legally-related activity is important for many reasons, unless you receive referrals from lawyers or represent them, don’t expect that activity to lead to new business.
The unifying factor in these tips is connection.
Without connections with others, you’ll find it more difficult to identify your USP, and you’ll enter into conversations with potential clients without the initial goodwill and confidence that comes by virtue of some preexisting association with you. And that’s the human side of rainmaking: building strategic and genuine relationships that lead to business.