A law firm is a business entity formed by one or more lawyers. In effect, law firms have to deal with some of the same realities across the business development spectrum from startup company headaches in the morning to multinational company sleeplessness at night. There are numerous ways that a law firm can choose to do business but they all start with one question: Who is my ideal client?
To do this, a law firm has to put pen to paper on the qualifying characteristics of an ideal client. The characteristics should be defined in a way that tells you (and your partners and even the janitor) which potential clients are actually good prospects and which ones are not. With this information, you can design marketing materials that are relevant to only your best types of clients, and learn to go after and sell to these clients.
Creating an ideal client profile (or a couple) will help you to attract, qualify, and sell to only these clients. This is how you can truly get your prospective clients to take action and, in turn, stand out from your competition (which goes beyond other law firms; competition can also mean that your client “does nothing”… inaction and indecisiveness are vicious competitors).
5 Benefits for Defining an Ideal Client Profile
Once you complete your ideal client profile(s), you’ll be able to use these marketing activities in a more informed and relevant way:
If you specialize in different practice areas or industries, you can use personalization based on client profiles to customize your website to that group’s specific needs.
A report from Venture Beat found that 70% to 94% of marketers have seen increases in key site performance indicators such as sales by employing personalization.
2) Content Creation & Mapping
Once you know your ideal client profiles, you can create content that will engage those prospects and clients — whether this is a blog post, ebook, or enablement tool.
You can then align your content by ideal client profile and lifecycle stage or where in the “decision journey” the prospect is. You’ll want to write and package content differently depending on if the potential client is simply getting to know you, has been in contact with your business development team, or has a request sitting on your voicemail.
Sometimes, as a lawyer, you may not have the benefit of planning out your schedule of cases or client requests in detail. That said, a segmentation exercise will give you a better sense of how to allocate your time, delegate tasks, and focus on higher value add activities with revenue impact.
4) Keyword Research
Once you know how your ideal clients are searching and the language they use, you can create targeted articles that will be indexed by search engines and found by prospects during their search process. This could also help you to identify a target list of publications you want to pitch and potential partners and referral resources that you could engage.
5) Client Acquisition Process
By understanding how your ideal client makes decisions, what sources they ask for recommendations, how they find lawyers, and the average decision cycle and retention process, you can mold your pitch to your prospects. This will help you to better understand when a proposal is actually necessary, what type of nurturing campaigns you should set up, what information the prospect needs and when, and how often you should communicate with the potential client.
How to Create an Ideal Client Profile
An ideal client profile should be based on interviews and research from your current and past clients, prospects, and your staff. The end result is that you create a fictional character who embodies your best client, but the information and data needs to be based in reality.
To create your profile(s), start by following these steps:
1) Make a List of Your Best Clients
To find your five or 10 best clients, consider these questions:
- What are your most profitable engagements?
- Which clients have been with your firm within the range of or past your average client lifespan?
- What is your average client lifespan?
- Which clients signed on with your firm within or below the normal acquisition cycle range?
- Does the client delay projects or requests, or do they provide feedback promptly and clearly?
- Does the client pay within your acceptable collection period?
- Do you like working with the client?
- Is the work fulfilling?
- Does the client provide positive and constructive feedback?
- Do you provide a high ROI delivering the services requested by the client?
2) Conduct Client Interviews
These interviews should help you gather both qualitative and quantitative information that will balance out your information and help you create useful client profiles. Ideally, doing these in-person will provide you with the best information, but you could also use a survey tool to gather this data.
Here’s an extensive list of questions you can ask to extract the information you need for the eight main categories. Feel free to remove or add additional questions based on what is most important to your firm.
Decision Maker Information
- What is your role?
- How long have you been at the company? How long were you employed at your previous role?
- What skills are required to do your job?
- What tools do you use in your job?
- Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
- What does a typical day look like?
- What people in your company make decisions about selecting a marketing agency or technology vendor?
- In which industry or industries does your company work?
- What is the size of your company (revenue, employees)?
- Where are you located?
- What is your “legal” budget per year?
- What percentage of this is used on outside resources?
- How many in-house staff members do you employ?
- What does your company’s sales cycle look like?
Goals & Challenges
- What are your job responsibilities and priorities?
- How is your job measured?
- What does it mean to be successful in your role?
- What are your biggest challenges? important successes?
Information Search Process
- What sites and publications do you frequently visit to learn new information for your job?
- What associations or groups do you belong to? What conferences do you attend?
- What social networks do you use and how do you use them?
- How do you begin the search for a new firm? Do you use search engines? If so, what keywords do you use?
- How do you handle conflict?
- Do you like to work independently or in a group?
- What style of communication works best for you?
- Why is it difficult to work with a new law firm? Why would you want to bring the work in-house?
- During the pitch process, what points about our firm made you hesitant to work with us?
- Where did you turn to find out information about our firm from other sources?
- Why did you decide to work with our firm?
- Why have you stayed with us for X years?
- What did the decision process look like for your team?
- How are we unique from other firms you have worked with?
- What are three important qualities you look for in a firm?
3) Compile the Information & Create Your Profiles
When you’re done, you will take this information and create a profile that outlines the ideal client’s:
- Personality/Communication Style
- Challenges and how the firm can address these challenges
- Purchasing process
- Firm’s value statement or elevator pitch to this specific segment of clients.
You should create both a detailed, in-depth profile for review, as well as a shorter, more visual version to make it easy to remember and identify your ideal client. Oh yea… and don’t forget why you decided to become a lawyer.