Here are three areas to focus on or add to your January marketing plans. Each of these will generate new leads for your law firm or other professional services practice. The best part? All of these are free, requiring only time and talent.

Local Listings
The practice of law, or any other service, is typically a combination of a problem + a location (e.g. “divorce lawyer in Dallas”), so claim your listing on Google’s Local Business Center and on Yahoo Local.

Ratings & Reviews
Ask current clients to rate and review your practice on Yelp. This site has grown beyond just reviews on restaurants, and organizes businesses in more than 20 categories, such as Local Services, Professional Services, and Real Estate. If you’re not part of the conversation, how do you know what’s being said? Simple instructions are found on Yelp’s Business Owners Guide.

Networking
When asked, nearly all service providers like to say they get business “by referral” so put your networking on steroids and join LinkedIn. The best ways to use this site, beyond simple networking, are by joining groups and answering questions. But don’t neglect your network! Writing unsolicited recommendations is the best way to get more of your own. And if you’re a lawyer or an attorney, join Martindale-Hubbell Connected, which is a professional network is designed exclusively for legal professionals.

Build your marketing plan from these three foundational elements, and you’ll be well on your way to growing your service-based business in 2010.

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If you think about your business or practice, there are really only a handful of ways to grow – get more leads, sell more services, increase your average client value, add new services, and although not growth oriented, cutting costs. Lead generation is the most expensive of the group, but it doesn’t have to be. Make 2010 the year you refine your message and stop targeting the masses. Do this, and you’ll attract better quality inbound leads. Then, focus on improving lead conversion with a systematic method of contact, presentation, follow-up and service. You’ll likely sell more, even if lead count remains the same!

When it comes to successful marketing, most consultants tell you to put it in writing. But who has time to write 20, 30, or more pages? Instead, try this simple, yet powerful, 3 step plan, which answers these questions about you and your business:

  • Who are you?
  • Who do you help, and why?
  • What should you spend?

Who are you?
market-shareEvery business has something that makes it unique, which becomes the basis for your unique selling proposition (“USP”). Most consultants will have you examine your business, looking for ideas, but that takes away time from earning money. Here’s a trick — instead of trying to figure it out yourself, simply survey your currents clients asking them why they bought from you. You’re bound to find some gems from which to build your USP on. Once you’ve got your USP, integrate it in all your marketing efforts. You’ve got to stand for something in today’s marketplace.

Who do you help?
Begin by crafting a service description similar to this: I help (people, business owners, etc.) who have this problem (legal issues, leaky pipes, etc.) in this location (Dallas, Orange County, Utah, etc.). Show them how you serve their needs and their needs alone. The most important element of your business is your service description — not your signs, storefronts or office space. Add demographic questions to your business survey, and find out where your clients live, work, play, eat, what kind of car they drive, musical tastes — anything and everything to help you uncover patterns, which you’ll then use to laser-focus your marketing. Why do you get up each morning to help your clients? The answer to “why” helps your clients connect to you emotionally, which is on a much deeper level than price. Get the advantage and answer why!

What should you spend?
Marketing budgets are easier to express as a percentage of sales, but take the extra time and figure exactly what you should spend to acquire a new client. Three to five percent of gross annual sales is a rough starting point. Let’s say you have a law firm in Texas, and clients bringing in uncontested matters spend an average of $700 each time they see you. This client hires you twice a year for about five years. Simply put, the lifetime value of this client is $7000. If you only take 5% of this amount and apply it to your marketing efforts, you’d need to invest $350 to attract one new client. Then multiply this number times the number of clients you want to attract to create your budget.

Plan for success by drafting and documenting this simple, yet powerful, marketing plan. Writing it down forces you to think about your business and serves as a constant reminder. Refer to your plan often, and make minor course adjustments along the way. With plan in hand, set a timeline and begin implementing. As the saying goes, “most people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.”

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Every business owner knows testimonials are a powerful form of social proof. Frankly, every single one of us who shop online rely on social proof. hen was the last time you bought something on Amazon, or anywhere else, without reading what others had to say about the item? Unless you have no concerns about getting value for your dollars, you instinctively rely on social proof.

But how do you get more testimonials for your service business? Instead of shackling your best clients to a desk, locking them in a room, giving them pen and paper, and coercing them to write (and write well!), try this strategy instead.

First, come up with a short list of questions your potential clients should ask of yours or similar services (make sure the questions emphasize benefits). For example:

  • Is your service exclusive my industry or company?
  • How often will you call or visit my team with updates?
  • What type of guarantee do I get?
  • What time commitments do I need to make?

And so on. Then, present this list along with a handful of current clients for your prospect to contact.

When your current clients are contacted for information — and let’s face it, it will be via email — they’ll be compelled to write back what looks like a well-written testimonial. The glicken (*) is when your current clients copy (‘cc’) you on this message. Voila! Instant testimonial.

This approach even helps your active clients further remember why they did business with you in the first place, and may spawn more referrals.

How would this strategy work for your business?


(*) Glicken – kind of like the cherry on top of an already frosted cake, a little extra sweetness (thanks Michael Masterson!).