The Business of Personal Injury Law Practice

 
The Most Effective, Least Expensive
Way to Market Your Practice:
Part III
 
by
William L. Speizman
 [Note: In this column, I refer to “you,” but what I say about “you” also applies to the members of your staff and your partners, if you have them.]
[Note: For samples of the marketing materials I allude to in this column, please contact me at wlspeizman@gmail.com.]
 
In my August column, I explained why word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective, least expensive way to market your law firm. I also presented a case study of the efficacy of word-of-mouth marketing in personal injury law firms. In November, I pointed out that successful word-of-mouth marketing programs incorporate intangible and tangible elements. In that column, I discussed the key intangible elements, viz., forming strong, positive relationships with your clients while you have the chance and extending your handling of a client’s case into a long-term relationship with that client. I also detailed when and how to do both.
In this column, I’ll discuss the tangible components of successful word-of-mouth marketing programs, why they play an essential role and how to employ them in your practice. By “tangibles”, I mean such things as refrigerator magnets, glove compartment pieces and wallet cards.
Why Tangibles
Are So Critical
People don’t always mean what they say. So you and I extend antennae, consciously and unconsciously, to pick up signals which reveal others’ credibility, or lack thereof.
In my previous column, I recommended that you tell your clients you appreciate their choosing you to handle their cases; that you care about them; and that you’ll be there for them in the future when they, their family members or friends get injured.
But talk is cheap. Somewhere in the recesses of your clients’ minds, they will probably be asking the credibility question, “How do I know that Attorney Jones really means what he is saying?”
To allay those doubts, Theodore Levitt, long-time marketing guru at Harvard Business School, points out that you must do more than make intangible claims and promises, you must demonstrate their veracity. In Prof. Levitt’s words, you must tangibilize your intangibles.
To illustrate, the most notable exemplar of tangibilizing intangibles is the diamond engagement ring. You may tell her you love her. You may tell her you want to marry her. But nothing says you mean it like that slowly opening little box in your hands as you drop to your knee to pop the question.
How to Use Tangibles in your
Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Program
You should employ tangibles during sign ups, when you hand checks to your clients and, as I’ll explain, after you’ve closed their cases.
1. Sign up
During your sign up and in the follow-up letter you send to your new clients (see my previous column), you should state, “I want you to think of me as your personal injury attorney. If you, a family member or friend get injured, call me.”
The way you demonstrate the sincerity of that proffer is to give your clients three things at sign up that make it easy for them to contact you.
First, my hunch is that a number of the calls your clients receive informing them that a friend or loved one has been injured are taken in the kitchen. A business card refrigerator magnet puts you front and center when such calls are received.
Second, after an accident, drivers typically exchange information. During that exchange your clients may temporarily remove their licenses from their wallets. When they do, you want your name and telephone number to jump out at them. A bright yellow plastic card containing your information and imprinted with the legend KEEP THIS CARD IN YOUR WALLET BEHIND YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE does the job.
Third, when the police arrive to investigate an accident, they will request the registration and, in most states, proof of insurance. When your clients open their glove compartments to retrieve those documents, you want your name and telephone number to greet them.
Collectively, refrigerator magnets, wallet cards, glove compartment pieces, etc., are known as “advertising specialties.” You should keep four things in mind when contemplating their use:
A. Advertising specialties are inexpensive. For example, you can purchase 1,000 refrigerator magnets for as little as $260.00 plus modest setup charges and shipping.
B. Any number of personal injury attorneys have told to me that many of their clients are so unsophisticated they could not find them in a telephone directory or on the Internet if they tried. For those clients, advertising specialties are a necessity.
C. Like so much of marketing and advertising, the use of advertising specialties is a numbers game. Not every magnet and wallet card you give your clients will make it to their refrigerators and wallets, and not all of those that do will be used. But to make a good return on your investment in advertising specialties you only need one of the hundreds you distribute to secure a good quality case.
D. Advertising specialties are appropriate for the bulk of your clients, those from middle and lower socio-economic statuses. On the other hand, you should not distribute them to upscale clients. Those clients would find them insulting and your esteem in their eyes could be badly degraded.
2. Handing checks to your clients
During the sign up and in your follow-up letter, you’ve thanked your clients for choosing your law firm to handle their cases. You should tangibilize your appreciation at the close by giving them a Thank You gift (unless prohibited by the canon in your jurisdiction).
After all of the papers have been signed and you’ve conveyed the check, you should reach into a desk drawer and retrieve a wrapped Thank You gift. As you hand it to your client, thank him or her again for having chosen your law firm to handle their case.
As closing gifts, I’ve recommended wrist watches, clocks and calculators. Whichever you choose, you should have it imprinted with your name, telephone number and, if you have one, your logo
Your Thank You gift may evoke noteworthy responses from your clients. For example, one of the first personal injury attorneys with whom I worked was extremely skeptical about the value of giving Thank You gifts. So much so that he refused to approve their purchase. But his partner overrode his decision and ordered stylish calculators imprinted with the law firm logo and telephone number. Once the calculators had been purchased, the dubious partner, who handed checks to most of their clients, agreed to use them.
Several months after I had finished my engagement helping the partners improve the productivity of their staff and initiating a word-of-mouth marketing program, I paid a follow-up visit to the firm. When the skeptical partner spotted me, he hurried over and gushed “You should see their faces when I give them those calculators. They really light up!”
The $11.95 calculators meant a lot to his clients. They demonstrated that the law firm respected and cared about them and symbolized its appreciation for their business.
(This firm, by the way, signed up an average of 46 personal injury cases per month in the six months before implementing their word-of-mouth marketing program. A year later during the same six months, they signed up an average of 75 personal injury cases per month. The only difference between their marketing during the former six months and the latter was the implementation of their word-of-mouth marketing program.)
3. After clients’ cases have closed
The final proffer you need to tangibilize is your extension of handling your clients' cases into long-term relationships with them. As I recommended in my previous column, you should state at sign up and in your follow-up letter, “I’m in your corner from now on.”
To tangibilize that invitation, you should keep in touch with your clients in two ways. First, you should mail a newsletter to them three or four times a year. Second, you should send them a holiday card each December and enclose a calendar refrigerator magnet for the coming year.
This long-term follow up is an essential element in your word-of-mouth marketing program. It is critical to ensuring that you maximize your referrals and repeat business from former clients.
Over the years, I’ve heard personal injury attorneys say, referring to their clients, “These people aren’t loyal. If they have another accident six month from now, they’re just as likely to go to another lawyer as call me.” Remember, making certain clients remain loyal to you isn’t their job, it’s your responsibility. If you want your clients to keep in touch with you, you must keep in touch with them. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on the cases that will be the dividend paid on the help you’ve provided to your clients and the respect you’ve shown them.
Conclusion
In this and my two preceding columns, I have discussed word-of-mouth marketing for personal injury law firms. I’ve dwelt on this topic because it is the most overlooked path to increased revenues in personal injury practices.
Furthermore, many attorneys have told me that in the highly competitive environments in which they do business most of their best cases aren’t the first cases they handle for their clients. Rather, the source of those higher quality cases is their clients’ subsequent causes of action and referrals.
The greatest benefit word-of-mouth marketing provides may be not having to pay a referral fee. As I pointed out my the first column, the partners in my case study generated more than $5,000,000.00 in fees from the seven, million dollar cases they signed up in their first nine years in business. Because all seven cases were secured by the firm’s client word-of-mouth marketing program, the partners saved more than $1,000,000.00 in referral fees.
I hope these three columns on word-of-mouth marketing, August’s, November’s and December’s, have wetted your appetite. If they have and you would like my assistance implementing a word-of-mouth marketing program in your law firm, please contact me at wlspeizman@gmail.com or 800-695-4091.
 
Copyright 2008 William L. Speizman
All Rights Reserved