If you do one thing for your firm, do this. Your ideal client profile will guide every step you take in marketing and presenting your firm. If you’re struggling to differentiate your firm from your competition, it’s probably because you haven’t honed your target client profile enough.
Here are just a few occasions where you can use this trick to make sure that you’re always attracting the right type of clients (and warding off the wrong ones):
- When you’re trying to figure out what the heck you should write about in your next blog post
- When you’re trying to determine what to include in a fixed price package of services (and how much to charge them)
- When you’re deciding whether to attend a particular networking event
- When you’re trying to decide if a little profanity will alienate or ingratiate your prospects
- When you’re considering what law-adjacent topics are worth posting to your followers
- When you’re choosing which social media channels are worth your valuable time.
- When you’re deciding whether to take a borderline case
- When you’re figuring out who would be a good fit as a referral partner.
These decisions become easy when you have a clear idea of your ideal client persona.
Becoming a mind reader
If you’re a litigator, you’ve been learning how to persuade others through cogent legal arguments. While the arguments are based on facts, the truth of the matter is that your argument is judged by a human being.
And just like every other human, those judges (on the bench, in the jury box or otherwise) have worldviews and biases. They have good days and bad days. They have hopes and dreams, fears and insecurities. A good attorney uses those less-factual notions to their advantage, playing emotions like a musician plays an instrument.
Well your pool of potential clients are humans too, and that skill in convincing others in legal settings, applies just as well to marketing a law firm.
You can tap into those human biases, gently nudging great clients into choosing your firm. Not because you’re a legal savant, or because they have a need that only you can solve.
No. It’s much more subtle, and more powerful than that.
They might not be able to articulate it, but deep down, they’ll choose your firm because the more they read, the more they learn, the more they say, “This is the attorney for people like me.”
That’s powerful. Because you get to choose which people will get that feeling.
The power of a well crafted client profile
Don’t want to serve penny-pinchers that are only calling an attorney for free advice? You won’t have to.
Don’t want to get through rounds of arbitration, helping your client win a substantial reward only to have them ask if they can be put on a “payment plan?” You won’t have to.
Instead, do you want clients that know they need your help? Do you want clients who value your hard-earned expertise? And what’s more, clients who are eager to pay you to handle it for them?
That’s the power of crafting your ideal client. You can start attracting more and more clients you actually want to work with and actively repel the ones you don’t.
You’re the client whisperer .
No more wasting time on free consults that are clearly bad fits. It’s time to have initial meetings that are full of excitement over getting to work with you, the perfect lawyer for them.
As I’m sure you’ve seen in your own practice, the clients you love to work with get your best work. You’re more engaged. You’re more responsive. You’re more creative. In short, you’re the best attorney you can be. And clients notice.
The result is happier clients that are more likely to refer you to other great clients. The clients that go out of their way to tell others how great a job you’ve done for them.
It’s a virtuous cycle. And it starts by being explicit about which clients, and which work, you take on.
So let’s decide what that will look like.
Profiling your ideal clients
For most folks, your client base contains a range of folks, from the clients you wish you could fire to the clients you wish you could clone.
And typically, if you have clients you really like working with, it stands to reason that you want to focus on getting more clients like them.
If you don’t have a client base yet, or you’re looking to completely change your clientele, this may require some imagination, but it’s no less effective.
So just pick your favorite. Clients aren’t like your kids, you’re allowed to have a favorite. So pick your favorite and think about what makes them a great client.
Is it the type of work they do? Is it their industry? Does their personality mesh with yours? Do they bring in lots of referral business? Do they appreciate you? Do they pay on time? Do they let you do your job? Do they want to nitpick every decision? Do they call you at 7am on a Saturday? Are they by the book or are they laid back?
Even though they’re your favorite now, are there any other traits you wish they had?
Maybe your favorite is an owner of a small restaurant and you’re looking to move up market into franchise managers? Maybe they’re not as local as you’d like? Maybe you wish they were more willing to use technology like Skype, SMS or email?
While modeling your ideal client off of existing clients helps make this exercise a little more tangible, don’t limit yourself either. It’s ideal client profile for a reason after all.
A rose by any other name…
Once you have an idea of what type of client you want, it’s time to make this real.
It’s time to give your ideal client a name.
You want me to name an imaginary friend?
Yup! A name gives us someone to recall when we’re making decisions down the line. A name gives us a tangible person to reference as opposed to “clients” or “prospects” or “them.”
A name carves out a space in your brain for the idea. So let’s come up with a name.
You could just use the name of that favorite client. Or, you could add a modifier just to make it clear.
In the restaurant example, you might have Franchiser Frank. For business attorneys in the startup space, it might be VC Victoria. For criminal attorneys it might be Repeat Offender Ronny.
Alliteration isn’t strictly necessary, but it does help in recall 🙂
Whatever the name, take 5 seconds and pick one now. We can always modify it later.
Investigating your clients
The next phase of this process is to learn as much as we can about that ideal client. The idea is to internalize that person so that we can step into their shoes any time we need to make a client-focused decision.
This can be a rather fuzzy process, but the first thing we want to do is to define some questions about our clients and then document the answers so that we have something concrete to look back on (and modify as we learn more.)
For this section, I’ll write out a bunch of questions we can answer, and I’ll give an example in italics for each. But these are just some basics to get you started. For a list of other super valuable questions [download the Ideal Client Profile Worksheet] which will give you a document that you can just fill in.
A Concrete Example – New Dad Nate
I’ll user the example of a trusts and estates attorney that wants to appeal to new parents to set up wills, and perhaps provide referrals to their more lucrative soon-to-retire parents.
What keeps Nate up at night?
His infant. But in terms of worries, Nate is starting to think about the long term security of his family for the first time. It’s not just him any more. He wonders what would happen to his newborn or his wife if something were to happen to him. Would they be taken care of? He doesn’t know about probate, but if he did, he’d be freaked out about the prospect of his family having to navigate the courts at a time when they should be focused on healing rebuilding.
What does Nate think of attorneys?
Aside from the smart kid from high-school, Nate doesn’t really any attorneys. He’s probably influenced by stereotypes. He’s warry of shelling out a fortune and getting taken. He might need to be sold on the idea of working with an attorney in the first place.
What does Nate do in his spare time?
Ha! Spare time. His spare time is mostly consumed by kids. On a given weekend he and his wife might take the new baby to the park, or to a consignment sale. But mostly he’ll be with his family, trying to nap as much as possible.
Where does Nick interact with others like him?
While it’s tough to find other new parents, he might see them at kids soccer games, or the park. There might be a playground nearby where he’ll chat about the little things with the other parents. But honestly, his biggest resource is probably his existing network of friends, which he interacts with on Facebook, trading photos and new parent anecdotes with the other new parents.
What is Nate’s big pain that I might be able to solve?
Nate it just starting to learn about the importance of family legal planning. It started when he was asked at the delivery room whether his wife had a signed advanced directive or living will. He had heard of those things, but it suddenly hit him that he needed to catch up quick. His first step was to print out the templates at the hospital and to start researching wills online.
When he realized he needed a notary, he thought to himself, where do I even find one of those? This seems more complicated than I thought. I’ll pick this up later as he closed his laptop and promised himself he’d revisit it when he had more time. That was 6 months ago.
Nate has realized now that it’s important in that “Yeah, that’s something I should really take care of” sense, but it’s still planted firmly in the “I’ll get to it later” pile. He needs to learn more about the downside risk of not having his affairs in order and the pain that his family will be put through if they’re not. He also needs to know the pain he’s in for as the next of kin if his parents are in a similar spot.
Now that you have this fancy ideal client profile, make it a habit to review and revise it as you go. Add a calendar reminder for once per quarter to go back in, update anything that’s incorrect, and add a question or to to refine the profile.
The clearer it gets, the more targeted your copy will be. The better your marketing decisions will be, and as long as you stick to your guns and use it to define who would be a good fit for your firm and who wouldn’t, the happier you’ll be!