I launched my solo practice in personal injury law six years ago and, looking back, I realize now that I was very fortunate to possess one key interest: marketing. I love it! But I suppose that was preordained because my father owned a car dealership and, from a very young age, I learned the importance of keeping your name fresh to your target audience and your customer experiences positive.
Dad was lucky, though. Marketing was much simpler back then… before the internet, search engines, spiders, optimization, keywords, blogs, vlogs. It’s enough to leave a solo practitioner weak in the knees.
Yet, I have had great success with marketing and have learned that it’s all about maintaining a good mix of efforts and keeping your foot on the gas.
Before I go into some nuts and bolts, here is a story for you about search engine optimization (SEO).
Five years ago, I hired a company to manage my SEO for me and I saw immediate results. Thanks to their efforts, I was signing four to five cases each month based purely on client internet searches. I was also receiving two to three referrals a month thanks to happy former clients.
Then, last November things seemed to change overnight. Suddenly, I wasn’t at the top of page one on Google searches; I was pages and pages down. My internet referrals completely dried up.
Simultaneously, however, my referrals from former clients went up, helping to balance the loss.
This told me three things from a marketing perspective:
- Something needed to change with my SEO efforts.
- I needed to keep doing great work for the clients I had (which I would never stop doing!) because they would continue to be my best source of long-term success.
- I should look at adding more outreach/collateral to my marketing mix.
Now, we get into the nuts and bolts…
1. Something needed to change with my SEO efforts.
I do believe that SEO marketing is critical to marketing efforts today, particularly for solo practices in which you, the practitioner, are doing everything from case management to technology updates to bookkeeping. Your hours available for marketing are limited and SEO can yield strong results.
I also believe it is critical to find an SEO company to manage this process for you. (Again, your hours are limited.) But that does not mean you simply find a company, hire them and hand over the reins. You do have to educate yourself on the process and stay on top of trends.
Consider my experience: I had a fantastic SEO company and their results provided an excellent return on my investment for months and years. Throughout our relationship, I researched and studied SEO trends so that I could always “talk the talk” and monitor their work efficiently.
But then they started coasting and, as my story earlier describes, my numbers dropped. Precipitously. In retrospect, I think they had started neglecting me five months prior to my November “referral crash” and we had many months of catch-up ahead of us.
They apologized and they are doing everything they can now to keep my business, but I am also looking at other companies. (Hint: If an SEO company wants more than a month-to-month retainer, keep looking. They should be forced to prove their value every month.)
But again, you must stay informed personally on how SEO works and how Google is working. Otherwise, anything your SEO company does sounds like magical fairy dust and you’ll think it’s awesome.
Essentially, you must be informed and savvy on SEO strategies, but hire someone else to do the implementation.
2. I needed to keep doing great work for my clients.
Another thing I learned from this experience was that there is absolutely nothing more important than doing a good job for the clients I do have. When my internet referrals dried up, my referrals from happy clients increased. I don’t know what to call that phenomenon except good karma.
Do a good job and treat your clients with respect. You will reap rewards… and referrals.
3. I needed to look at adding more outreach/collateral to my marketing mix.
If Dad were still running his car dealership today, he’d be shocked at all the ways business owners are expected to market themselves. Today, we could literally go bankrupt through marketing alone. But you do need a good marketing mix to continuously reach new audiences.
Here are some of the efforts that I find most valuable:
- Grassroots outreach: I have established fantastic relationships with motorcycle dealerships and motorcycle clubs, allowing me to speak to their clients and members about the types of insurance they should buy, the safest gear on the market and all sorts of other legal issues associated with motorcycles. Note: I never sell myself. I am there to start a relationship and, therefore, I am just a resource. I have found this to be both personally and professionally rewarding.
- Public Relations: I was recently featured on a television news story about how to avoid motorcycle accidents. The press release that led to this opportunity was written and pitched months and months ago, and it finally paid off.
- Blogs: I write a regular blog for my own website. An SEO company can help make this effort very impactful.
- Guest blogs for relevant websites (you’re reading one now!): Again, this goes back to good SEO efforts and I teach.
- Just get out there! I believe it’s important to always reach out to the community in which you work and live. Serve on a nonprofit board, volunteer and speak at community events.
Knowing I needed to add more to the mix, I decided to conduct direct marketing to former clients. I launched a monthly newsletter that I write, print and mail to all of my former clients. Also, after my firm recently moved to a new location, I sent a postcard out to past clients and immediately received a referral. There is no magic to this (unlike the fairy dust required for internet marketing)… it’s about keeping relationships open and positive.
As a solo practitioner, you cannot create more hours in your day for all of the different tasks that you must manage. Making a simple, turnkey marketing plan with a good mix of efforts can pay off in the short- and long-term, but you’ve got to keep the pedal to the metal all the time.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.