“Niche marketing” and finding the right niche cannot be overlooked by the sole practitioner. Even in small legal communities there will be significant enough competition to compel both “standing out” and targeting “good clientele” with a limited pool of interested legal service consumers. The crux of the problem lies in attracting good clientele on a frequent basis – part of the solution is in maintaining a marketing plan that focuses on a ‘niche’ or pool within the market who is most likely to seek out your particular services.
A little and not so well known fact about one of our nation’s most successful sole practitioners is that he was a master at “niche marketing” whether he knew it or not. The attorney was Abraham Lincoln. Being self-taught in the law as well as in marketing, Lincoln had the keen sense of how to relate to others and empathize with their needs, not to mention that his ability to articulate was tiers above even some of the most educated of his time. One “niche market” he was able to tap into using his early skills as an attorney was the railroad tycoons of his day that not only had the means to pay his retainer, and keep him in business, they had needs and problems that Lincoln was able to help them solve. But how did he get their business?
Determined to represent the railroad businessmen in their various legal affairs, Lincoln sent out a series of persuasive letters and was successful in luring them to his practice. The lesson here is not so much in what Lincoln wrote, which if you read the letters they would have more historic value than present day marketing value, rather, it is in what he did. Lincoln found a “niche market” and sought their business in what was an effective, targeted approach in the end; he identified a pool of individuals who needed an attorney for the railroad business and he capitalized on that need by convincing the railroad men that he was “their man for the job.” Standing taller than most men of his days, and his reputation somewhat preceding him, certainly helped Lincoln to “stand out,” but during the time he wrote these letters his legal ability was not yet of much renown. In light of his ability to gain their employ, however, demonstrates his marketing mastery.
Like Lincoln, those in solo practice today ought to follow some of the same principles that are as relevant today as they were well over 100 years ago: stand out, identify yourself with a niche, and target them in an effective fashion. Writing letters could be the best method in gaining a clientele from our desired niche. Yet, in our world of constant overload of mail and other information it takes more, whereas in Lincoln’s day a formal letter was of greater import and was less frequent, and mid-1800 media messages were incomparable.
Isolating the niche then is the easier part, getting their attention requires more sophistication and inventiveness. A good client is going to want a good attorney, and cost sometimes is not an issue. Why then will they want you? If reputation and quality of work product cannot be readily presented or one is lacking in many years of experience, word of mouth will likely be one’s greatest ally to attract the right client. Being systematized in building relationships, then, with clients giving you good word of mouth references is an example of targeting "key persons of influence" within your niche. This almost goes without saying, but it is often forgotten by many of us caught up in the oftentime intense practice of law. So, the next time you schedule a business-social, invite some good clients, or your one good client. This can go far even if it feels trite.
In the end, we attorneys went to lawschool and may have followed the "pre-law" route during our undergraduate - lawyers are not ususally educated in business and law firm marketing principles and strategies - as such it is foolish to pretend that we can master the art of marketing without some level of edification. Marketing, like law, can be a science and an art form. Therefore it is worth attending a few marketing seminars or rainmaking teach-in events. But, in the meantime, and with minimal marketing training, one can study a small target niche-group of people in a community that is worth focusing marketing time and resources as opposed to taking the less effective "shotgun" approach. The results will be rewarding!