Having great clients is a true blessing. But getting those clients is not something you luck into; it’s something you work for by setting up your practice in a way that attracts your ideal client. This is how you do it:
Define a niche.
While it may not be easy to identify and fully develop a niche for your practice, it is an essential part of getting great clients. Here’s why:
You develop expertise. Becoming an expert in one narrowly defined area of the law makes it possible for you to attract good clients. Once you become recognized for excelling in this area, clients will come to you because of your expertise and the solutions you offer to solve their problems. When you accept only certain types of work, you make it easier on yourself to be able to handle the workload because you fully understand your niche.
You can “type” your clients. Narrowing in on a niche allows you to become very familiar with the types of clients who need your services. You will quickly learn what makes an ideal client for you, and what kinds of clients just don’t fit your practice. You’ll be able to weed out the bad fits much earlier in the process.
You can charge what you’re worth. Once you establish your expertise in a particular niche, you’ll be able to command higher fees. This is something a generalist can never do.
Define your ideal client.
Most lawyers would say their ideal clients are those who can afford them. And they stop there. While that is certainly one attribute of any ideal client, it doesn’t help you with your targeting so you can keep attracting more ideal clients.
Let me put it this way: you don’t fish for marlin in a bass lake. If you’re going after marlin, you learn where the best trolling spots are, the type of bait that attracts marlin, what kind of equipment you need and the right techniques to fish for and land these big billfish.
Going after your ideal client is no different. You build your practice with the right systems, processes and techniques in place to appeal to that ideal client, and so you start attracting more of them.
Reject the rejects.
Not all referrals are good ones and you need to be able to recognize and reject the rejects that other attorneys may send your way. It’s extremely rare that you will get a great client from another attorney. Not because they’re trying to sabotage you, but because most lawyers find ways to keep the good clients, even if they’re busy. They’ll send you the ones that are cast off for a good reason — they’re a pain in the butt, they can’t pay, or the case is a real loser. This may not always be true, but you should look at these rejects from other lawyers with a skeptical eye before you agree to take them on. If they don’t fit into your ideal client profile, send them on to the next lawyer who is more desperate for business.
Keep expenses in check.
What does keeping expenses in check have to do with attracting your ideal client? Plenty! Because when the bills are mounting up and the money is not coming in, it’s much too tempting to just take on any piece of business that walks in the door. Before you know it, you’ve got a bunch of clients who would never fit your ideal client profile and you have to work with them just to pay the bills.
The best way to stay off this roller coaster is to keep your expenses in check. I know you want the expensive office space, the luxury car, the extra staff to help with the workload. But taking those on first, before you’ve built your practice up with clients who fit your ideal client profile, means you will never have the practice you want.
Focus your marketing.
Back to the fishing analogy: your marketing program is your bait to attract that ideal client you’ve identified. You want to chum the waters and create a feeding frenzy so you are in a position to pick and choose the trophy fish: your ideal client. Your marketing strategies must be carefully formulated with your ideal client in mind, and then effectively deployed so that you can create sufficient demand for your services — enough demand that allows you to pick and choose clients that meet your criteria.
Build a referral base of happy clients.
The challenge of replicating ideal clients can be overcome by getting the ideal clients you are already serving to recommend you to others. Someone you’ve already identified as a good client is more likely to know others who would make good clients for you — much more likely than someone coming in from over the transom.
If you are able to deliver exceptional client service, those referrals will come. Too many times, we tend to think that delivering a positive outcome to a case is all we need to demonstrate exceptional client service, but it is more often the client’s entire experience with our firm — if we answer emails and phone calls promptly, if we keep them updated on their cases, if we make them feel we care — that has a bigger impact.
There are enough ideal clients out there to fill your practice and secure your financial future. You only need to develop the discipline necessary to attract and keep them.