Attracting Your Ideal Client Without Breaking the Bank

Ann M. Guinn, G & P Associates

Are you overwhelmed and unsure about how to generate more business? Attracting more of your ideal clients doesn’t have to be that hard, and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive.


The first step is to develop an ideal client profile to help you identify the people or businesses with whom you wish to work. Be as specific as possible. For example, if age, gender, educational level, annual income, geographic location, language, honesty, or emotional stability are important to you, write it all down. Identify the legal issues you wish to handle, and write that information down as well. Jot down the characteristics of your favorite clients from the past. Why did you enjoy working with them? Your completed profile will help you figure out the most effective ways to get your name in front of your ideal clients.


Arguably, the cheapest tool you have in your marketing arsenal is your business card, yet most attorney cards miss the mark. Make sure that your name stands out and that your contact information provides a variety of ways to reach you, such as phone, e-mail, mailing address, and website URL. Listing your practice areas is an absolute must. Make it as easy as possible for people to remember who you are and what you do. Add visual interest with a color graphic such as your photo or a logo. Use the back of the card to provide helpful tips related to your practice area. For example, a criminal defense attorney could give pointers on what to do if you are stopped for a DUI. An estate planning attorney could use a mini checklist of events that might necessitate a review of someone’s estate plan. Make it a goal to give out at least 10 cards a week. Always hand over two, with the suggestion that the recipient share one with a friend who might need your services.


People buy from those they know, like, and trust. Choose marketing strategies that provide opportunities for others to form positive feelings toward you. Get in front of folks as often as you can. Volunteer to speak to local special interest groups, such as the Audubon Society, the Lions Club, the Master Gardeners Society, Parents Without Partners, or bar associations.  Google other associations or organizations with members in your target market for more ideas. Ask your clients what groups they belong to and volunteer there. The more entertaining your talk, the more they’ll like you. One of my clients uses humor and a game show format to speak on DUIs. He even preselects the group’s officers to be game show panelists. Another good idea is to provide a handout on your letterhead with a recap of the highlights of your talk, tips on dealing with certain issues, or a coupon for a free 30-minute initial consultation. If you’re not comfortable in the spotlight, volunteer to serve on a panel. Demonstrate your skills and likability by serving on committees or volunteering for a nonprofit group, legal clinic, or your neighborhood council.


Networking is not about asking complete strangers to send you referrals. It’s about building professional friendships that are mutually beneficial to both parties. Make a list of current and potential referral sources; then invite them to coffee or lunch by saying, “I’d like to learn more about your business and how I might be able to help you grow.” That’s an offer that is hard to resist. Look for introductions you could arrange, suggest groups your guest should join, or invite him or her to attend a meeting with you. You’ll be amazed at how doing a good deed for someone else will come back to you in many interesting and rewarding ways.


“Touch” your former clients at least three times a year to help keep your name top of mind with them. Send out birthday or holiday cards, a quarterly newsletter, or an annual checklist asking them to identify the things that have changed in their life during the past year. As an example, an estate planning attorney might ask if the client has bought or sold a house or a business, lost or gained a spouse, gained a new grandchild, sold off the portfolio, or bought an airplane. A “yes” answer signals a need to call you. One of my family law clients never fails to get new business from his annual checklist. Call a former client to just check in. Invite a past client to lunch, or stop by the client’s place of business to say hello. Be sure to mention that you would welcome referrals if they know anyone who might need your services.


Your website only has about two seconds to catch a visitor’s attention before he or she moves on, so the first thing the visitor sees needs to speak directly to his or her pain. Because of this, your landing page should address the problems of your client, not your credentials. You could feature a checklist of problems, such as “Do you need more child or spousal support? Were you injured in a car accident? Are you unable to work because of an injury? Do you know what will happen to your minor children if you die without a will?” From there, show the visitor that you understand his or her pain and demonstrate how you can help. This could be accomplished beautifully with a brief video, which you can record on your cellphone. Add articles you’ve written and Top 10 Tips downloads to keep the visitor on your page as long as possible. Provide an easy way to contact you with questions. Update your website at least weekly to give  visitors a reason to come back, and Google a reason to boost your ranking.


The best referral source is a supremely happy client. Keep raising the bar on your level of customer service, and wow your clients. Make it a point to ensure that every client has an exceptional experience with you, no matter how big or small the matter.


Join a golf foursome and get to know something about your fellow golfers. If your favorite coffee shop displays stacks of business cards, add yours to the shelf. Cosponsor a wine and cheese event with a local gallery owner. Host an educational program for your clients. For example, if you practice bankruptcy law, invite a financial advisor or CPA to speak on how to manage your finances. Family law attorneys could ask a local banker to show the newly divorced how to balance a checking account and build a new credit history. If you follow a specific blog, comment on a recent post, or ask to be a guest blogger on that site. When you leave a box of chocolates at the nurses’ station in appreciation of the TLC they gave your mom, write a note of thanks on your business card and attach it to the box. Provide coasters imprinted with your information to a local bar. Send a congratulatory note to a new business with a couple of your cards. Stay in marketing mode 24/7, and you’ll spot opportunities all around you, sometimes in the least expected places. If you are alert and ready to take advantage of these opportunities, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to attract more of your ideal clients.


Ann M. Guinn, practice management consultant to solo and small law firms, teaches attorneys what they didn’t learn in law school about how to run a profitable, efficient, productive, and satisfying law practice.  She helps her clients identify what’s working and fix what’s not working in their businesses, with a focus on firm finances, business development, and growth opportunities.  Her book entitled Minding Your Own Business:  The Solo and Small Firm Lawyer’s Guide to a Profitable Practice is available through the ABA webstore.  She is available for consultations at (253) 946-1896 or [email protected].

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