LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Thomas Lowe Young | Aug 23, 2010

Marketing a Plaintiffs Civil Trial Practice: The Radius of Influence Approach

Marketing a Plaintiffs Civil Trial Practice: The Radius of Influence Approach If you ask most personal injury attorneys why they’ve chosen their field, they will tell you it’s because they really want to help. Because they care about people. Because they believe in fighting for what’s right. If you push a little further, they may even tell you they’ve chosen this field because they like that every day is different. Because they like that their pay is tied to how hard they work. Because they like the results they achieve on behalf of their clients. If you keep going deeper, you will find that many attorneys have chosen this field because they want to make a difference. Because they want to leave something behind. Because they want to leave the world a little better than they found it. But, mainly they’ll say they got into this business because they really want to help. Somewhere along the way for most personal injury attorneys things have changed. The business has stopped being about people and passion and purpose and somehow has become about... business. Instead of practicing law and serving others, attorneys have been forced to act as managers and marketers and pitchmen. If you’re an attorney who would rather be rewarded for your relationships and hard-earned reputation instead of for television and radio ads or billboards and the back of phonebooks, then the following information may be exactly what you’ve been looking for. Radius of Influence is a systematic approach to create word of mouth marketing for plaintiff’s civil trial lawyers who want to get back to the reason they got into this profession in the first place... People. The Basics: Three Simple Ideas that Make a Big Difference IDEA #1 - Relationships and Reputation Beat Advertising Personal injury law seems to be dominated by a handful of big advertisers. Billboards, television and radio spots, phonebooks, and even paid internet search placements all seem to point to the same few firms. On this evidence, it’s easy to assume the majority of people who need an attorney make their choices based largely on advertising. Struggling firms may even find it soothing to blame these impossible circumstances for their lack of success. But if the majority of clients really based their decisions on advertising, then those who spend the most on advertising would have a majority of clients. And they don’t. Compared to any individual firm with a more modest budget, big-spenders clearly dominate in market share. But when you compare the total number of clients they serve with the combined client base of smaller, non-advertising firms, suddenly these big-spenders are a much smaller part of a much bigger whole. In fact, they represent only a tiny percentage of the overall market. So how do the overwhelming majority of people needing an attorney actually choose one? What allows smaller firms to stand their ground against big spenders? Relationships and reputation. Most firms understand that referrals are a product of relationships and reputation. Many firms understand that the majority of their business comes from referrals. Very few firms, however, have a systematic approach to increase these referrals by growing their relationships and enhancing their reputations. Instead, too many offices spend too much time, effort and money chasing the big-spenders in the one area they’ll never be able to compete -- traditional advertising. Playing a game you can’t win is never a good strategy. Most attorneys don’t even want to be playing this game in the first place. But what is the alternative? Is there another way? Apart from traditional advertising, can a firm effectively market a plaintiffs civil trial practice? The simple answer is -- yes. The Radius of Influence approach helps you increase your relationships and reputation -- without growing your advertising budget -- to create a more successful, more sustainable and more significant legal practice. IDEA # 2 - The Opinions of Others Drive Our Decisions A social network is a social structure made of individuals (or organizations), which are connected by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige. - Wikipedia From the beginning of time, humans have come together to create various social networks. While the form may differ (ranging from families, neighborhoods, churches, schools, sports leagues, and workplaces) the function is always the same – connection. Connectedness makes us better, smarter, stronger and more able to accomplish the tasks we determine to undertake. In the past, our networks have been limited in terms of geography, point in time, and the ability of the individual to communicate to the masses. Communities were disconnected and too far apart to work together effectively. The amount of time it took to define and reach an audience was too prohibitive. An average person was limited by resource and technology to speaking to small, localized groups. In a very real sense, the world was too big for ordinary individuals to make much of a difference. Today, our world is much smaller. New tools like email, websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. have allowed us to increase our personal connections by minimizing the barrier-effects of distance, time and audience. As we rely more and more on these connections, many of our decisions, from simple things like hotel or restaurant choice to the complexities of selecting and hiring an attorney, are more likely to be influenced by advice from a diverse range of individuals in our own personal networks. This increased reliance on relationships and reputation is dramatically changing how firms should approach their marketing. Once-standard tools like phonebook ads, television and radio spots, and even search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising are being preempted by personal advice from each potential client’s network of trusted sources. The Radius of Influence approach teaches you to leverage today’s tools and technology to become a trusted referral for a larger, more diverse group of people. IDEA #3 - Successful Marketing Relies on Segmentation For most of us, daily conversation means discussing different things with different people based on who they are, where they are and what types of interests we share. In marketing, however, we too often rely on a one-size-fits-all message delivered over a handful of mediums to what we hope is a homogeneous audience. This basic mistake is most apparent in online marketing where we tend to treat everyone as if they’re the same. A single website delivers one message to all the people we’re trying to reach. To “expand our impact" we simply broadcast the same material on Twittter, LinkedIn and Facebook. We would never bombard different people with the same message, over and over again, in our “real life" conversations, but we do it in our virtual conversations as a matter of practice. Much of this disconnect has to do with the size of our intended audience. In “real life" we may have only a few dozen relationships. We can check-in, share a thought or message, hear a reply and move on. We can keep track of multiple ongoing conversations instinctively, all while treating people as the individuals they are. In marketing, however, we are trying to reach far greater numbers and must take a learned systematic approach to keep our conversations organized while maintaining their authenticity. To successfully communicate with a more diverse and targeted audience and to effectively market to a larger base, we have to segment our conversations based on the people we’re tyring to reach, the message we’re trying to communicate and the medium that bests connects the two. The Radius of Influence approach gives you the strategic plan and practical steps you need to segment your relationships and reach your marketing goals. In the following sections, we’ll discover how to put these ideas into practice by exploring two key relationship categories that are critical to your firm’s success. Turning Core Relationships into a Community of Referrers What is a “client-focused culture"? It’s a culture where your partners are energized by your mission. They know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. They not only look forward to coming to work every day but seek out ways to grow your firm’s influence and impact. They serve as active leaders, fulfilling their professional missions to help those in need while creating better lives for themselves and their family. It’s a culture where your staff is engaged and aligned with your purpose and values. They are committed to offering new ideas and front-line support to provide your clients with the best service possible. They become enthusiastic evangelists of your mission and can easily share with family, friends, and colleagues why your firm is different and making a difference in your industry. It’s a culture where your clients feel connected. They understand the “big picture" of litigation and know where they are in the process. They enjoy regular communications with your firm and feel empowered when you ask for (and act on) their feedback. At every stage of the relationship, even after their cases are closed, they feel welcome at your firm and find it a place where their voices are heard, their causes considered and their friendships valued. An office with a client-focused culture may sound like a great place to work -- and it is -- but it’s more than that. It’s your single greatest marketing advantage. In this kind of workplace each one of your internal relationships -- your partners, your staff, and especially your clients -- all serve as a significant source of new business. This creates more success, greater enthusiasm, and a virtuous cycle that expands your reputation and turns your core relationships into a community of referrers.

Additional resources provided by the author

The Radius of Influence site (www.radiusofinfluence.com) provides resources and a forum to help you along your path as you implement this approach. Here, you’ll find attorneys, marketers and technologists who all share a passionate belief that relationships and reputation are the ways to success. To read informative posts, watch instructional videos, learn about upcoming webinars and live conferences and be a part of the conversation as we discover how to expand our Radius of Influence, together, please visit www.radiusofinfluence.com. For professional solutions, The Injury Board (www.injuryboard.com) is a national network of personal injury attorneys committed to a more constructive way of marketing their skills and advocating for the public. Members work with a team of experienced management and marketing professionals to develop a customized strategy to fully integrate these concepts in their firms. Membership includes personalized consultation and assessments, strategic planning, access to online technology and offline products and tools, as well as educational environments and networking opportunities all designed to put the Radius of Influence approach to work for you and your firm and help you gain an advantage on your competition. For more information or to apply for membership, please visit www.injuryboard.com.

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