Estate Planning: Marketing Your Services
29 Costly Mistakes Lawyers Make
by Trey Ryder
I have worked with at least one estate planning attorney at all times since
1984, with only brief breaks between clients. In the late 1980s, the market
was entirely different from what it is today. Much of what worked then doesn’t
work now, and vice versa. I hope the following mistakes and suggestions help
confirm when you’re on the right track -- and help you improve your marketing
Costly Mistake #1: Failing to create a complete, competent marketing message.
If lawyers don’t get the marketing results they want, they often conclude their
marketing methods don’t work. But usually the problem isn’t the marketing method,
it’s the message. In court, if your message isn’t complete, you probably won’t
win over the jury. Likewise, in the marketplace, if your message isn’t complete,
you probably won’t win over new clients. One of my estate planning clients delivered
a seminar to 84 prospective clients, yet no one came into his office for a free
consultation. After I reviewed his presentation, we added less than five minutes
of information to his program. At his next seminar, 10 of the 11 couples in
attendance requested appointments. Before you implement your marketing program,
make sure you create a competent marketing message. Without a complete message,
your marketing program is doomed.
Costly Mistake #2: Failing to invest enough time explaining your prospect’s
problem. Marketing-savvy lawyers spend up to 70% of the interview time discussing
their prospect’s problems, rather than what the lawyer will do to solve those
problems. The more your prospect understands about the gravity of his dilemma,
the more likely he is to hire you to correct it. Don’t spend time discussing
solutions until you have focused extensively on the seriousness of your prospect’s
Costly Mistake #3: Failing to establish enough credibility to charge fees
higher than other estate planners. The more your prospective clients trust you,
the less important your fees become. You’ve probably noticed that when someone
trusts you completely, the amount of your fee is far less significant. When
you take time to establish a high level of credibility, you can invest more
time with prospects -- build much stronger relationships -- and charge substantially
Costly Mistake #4: Failing to provide prospects with both logical and emotional
reasons to hire you. Often, prospects retain your services for emotional reasons,
such as whether they like you and whether they feel you truly want to help them.
Then they use logic to defend their decision to their spouses and colleagues.
When you provide both, you help your prospect justify his decision to engage
Costly Mistake #5: Failing to qualify prospects before they come into your
office. How often have you spent considerable time with a prospect only to learn
that the prospect (1) doesn’t fit the profile of the clients you want, (2) doesn’t
need the services you offer, or (3) can’t afford your fees? A good marketing
program delivers your message and qualifies prospects before they come into
your office, making much better use of your time.
Costly Mistake #6: Failing to separate yourself from other estate planners.
One primary purpose of marketing is to clearly state how you’re different from
every other lawyer on the planet. To achieve this, you must know your competitive
advantages -- the positive ways you differ from other lawyers. Usually, these
differences hinge on your knowledge, skill, judgment, experience and services.
Look at your competitive advantages from your prospective clients’ point of
view because your prospects evaluate you based on what is important to them.
Costly Mistake #7: Competing on low price. Some estate planners think they
must compete on low price to survive. This is a mistake. When you lower your
fee to attract new clients, (1) you undermine your credibility because clients
conclude your services are not worth what they previously paid, (2) you attract
clients who will leave you when competing lawyers offer fees lower than yours,
(“Clients who are loyal to the dollar are never loyal to you!”) and
(3) you’ll probably lose money because the cost of attracting a volume of new
clients is often greater than the profit you can earn from those clients. Instead
of competing on price, compete on value. You’re better off being the most expensive
lawyer in town and having prospects appreciate your knowledge than being the
cheapest lawyer and having prospects question your skill.
Costly Mistake #8: Failing to deliver your marketing message until prospects
come to your seminar. If you use seminars as your first point of contact with
prospects, you’re missing a tremendous marketing opportunity. You increase your
credibility and seminar attendance when you design your marketing program so
you provide your marketing message to your prospects far in advance of your
Costly Mistake #9: Allowing investment advisors and insurance professionals
to present part of your seminar. Estate planners often have close alliances
with referral sources who include financial professionals. The problem does
not come from these alliances. The problem arises when prospective clients learn
that financial professionals will present part of your seminar. As a lawyer,
you have tremendous credibility. Prospects attend seminars to hear what you
have to say. But, prospects have a long history of avoiding seminars when they
learn an investment or insurance advisor will present part of the program. If
you want to bring outside advisors into your planning process, don’t bring them
in until you establish a high level of professional credibility with your prospects,
and perhaps not until they have hired your services and become your clients.
At that point, clients will be more open to your suggestions -- and will more
favorably welcome outside advisors.
Costly Mistake #10: Serving lunch or dinner to attract prospects to seminars.
People attend seminars because they want information. When you offer to serve
dinner, you attract people who want to eat, not listen, which greatly reduces
the quality of your prospects. I’ve promoted hundreds of estate planning seminars
and I assure you that you do not need to feed people to get them to attend.
You simply need to offer the information and advice your prospects want -- and
then market your seminar so prospects understand the value and importance of
what they’ll learn.
Costly Mistake #11: Failing to deliver your marketing message until prospects
come into your office. Lawyers usually have no problem persuading prospects
to hire their services once prospects are in their office. But getting prospects
through the door is another matter. I urge you to develop marketing materials
that you can send to prospective clients. Then create a marketing program that
uses the print and broadcast media to attract inquiries from prospects who ask
to receive your information. When prospects call your office, you respond by
mailing (or e-mailing) your packet and adding their names to your mailing list.
This allows you to put your marketing message into their hands regardless of
their location, rather than waiting for them to come to your office. If your
materials are powerful and persuasive, you’ll find that prospects call you and
request appointments. One of my lawyer clients received 426 calls from prospects
after offering his materials on a radio talk show -- over 500 calls after a
mid-day television news interview -- and another 400 calls after an article
appeared in a local newspaper.
Costly Mistake #12: Failing to take full advantage of an estate planning
and asset protection web site. Today, when prospects have a problem, they often
turn to the internet for a solution. This is particularly true of affluent prospects.
If you don’t have an in-depth web site with estate planning and asset protection
articles -- plus information about you and your services -- you’re missing a
huge opportunity. In years past, simply mailing your information packet to prospects
was enough. But today, prospects want reliable information immediately. One
easy way to provide it -- 24 hours a day -- is to post it on your web site.
The more you educate your prospect, the more he trusts you and the more he values
your knowledge. In your materials, try to answer every question your prospect
might ask. The more information you provide, the more you help your prospect
qualify or disqualify himself as a candidate for your services.
Costly Mistake #13: Failing to market specifically to the prospective clients
you want. A wide variety of people need estate planning and asset protection
services. Yet, if you’re like most lawyers, you want to limit the clients you
serve to specific groups. You may target senior citizens, young couples, affluent
consumers, business executives -- or other groups. Each target audience needs
a custom marketing message. Then you need methods that are effective at delivering
your message to that group.
Costly Mistake #14: Trying to get a percentage of the estate for your planning
efforts. Even if consumers don’t say anything, most see this as your attempt
to get money they think you don’t deserve. This causes them to question whether
they can trust you -- immediately destroys your credibility -- and undermines
any relationship you have with them.
Costly Mistake #15: Failing to disclose fees or fee ranges before prospects
come into your office. Most lawyers hesitate to discuss fees until “the
right moment.” But when you fail to discuss money in advance, you greatly
increase your risk. First, prospects could assume your fees are higher than
they really are and not schedule an appointment. And, at the other end of the
spectrum, prospects who cannot afford your fees will make an appointment, not
knowing anything about what you charge.
Costly Mistake #16: Using recorded messages to deliver your marketing message
by phone. Recorded messages usually don’t give prospects reasons to call your
office and give you their names and addresses. If you don’t get this information,
you cannot identify your prospects and add them to your mailing list. A powerful
marketing program attracts inquiries from qualified prospects and captures their
names and addresses, so you can send them your newsletter and other communications.
Costly Mistake #17: Marketing only elder law services. I'm not suggesting
it can’t be done, but several elder law attorneys have told me how hard it is
to earn a living when they limit their services to traditional elder law services.
You open up many more opportunities -- and greatly increase your number of prospects
-- when you broaden your services to include estate planning and asset protection
Costly Mistake #18: Relying heavily on newspaper advertising in major metro
areas. In most cases, big-city papers have high advertising costs and produce
mediocre results. I'm not entirely against newspaper advertising, but I study
each situation closely -- and then test modestly -- before committing big dollars.
Generally, smaller papers produce better results than larger papers. What’s
more, in most cases, a well-written insert greatly outperforms a display ad.
Costly Mistake #19: Relying exclusively on referrals. When you depend on
referrals as your sole source of new business, you allow middlemen to control
your flow of new clients. You may discover that whether you receive referrals
has nothing to do with your knowledge, skill or experience. Instead, it may
be based on your ability to return the referrals. You’re smart to develop sources
of referrals, but don’t use them as your only method of marketing. In addition,
make sure your marketing program attracts inquiries directly from prospects.
This allows you to manage your marketing program, rather than relying on third
parties over which you have little or no control.
Costly Mistake #20: Failing to use radio commercials to reach educated audiences.
Radio has proved to be a highly effective way of attracting inquiries for estate
planning lawyers. I wrote my first radio commercial for an estate planning attorney
in March of 1987. My client and I tested it in the Phoenix market. We ran a
total of seven radio commercials and drew phone inquiries from 540 genuine prospects.
This same lawyer filled his calendar every month for three years from airing
only four radio commercials each month. Responses in different cities vary depending
on the size of the market and degree to which estate planners have penetrated
that market. Even so, radio advertising continues to be a highly effective tool
to attract qualified inquiries. Plus, since almost no lawyers advertise on radio,
your commercials really stand out above competitors’ marketing efforts.
Costly Mistake #21: Depending on media publicity as your marketing program.
Without question, articles in the print media and interviews on radio and television
can help you attract new clients. But many lawyers rely on publicity as their
entire marketing program. True, exposure can increase your credibility. But
often, exposure by itself isn’t enough. Lawyers routinely report, “We were
very happy with the number of articles about our firm, but we didn’t get a single
new client!” Your marketing program should include a powerful, aggressive
publicity program designed to attract inquiries from genuine prospects. But
don’t think a mere publicity program constitutes a marketing program.
Costly Mistake #22: Relying on networking groups as a primary source of
new business. Networking is a time-consuming exercise in meeting prospects and
cultivating referrals. And while networking may bear fruit, lawyers often underestimate
the amount of time required. I agree that you should pursue opportunities to
meet and talk with prospects, but don’t put networking above other marketing
Costly Mistake #23: Not effectively reaching your target audience. A tax
attorney who represents doctors before the IRS advertised his services in a
weekly shopper newspaper distributed free to homes. Not surprisingly, he was
disappointed with the response. Before running the ad, the lawyer could have
saved his $2000 investment had he asked himself, “Will doctors look for
a tax attorney in a free weekly newspaper?” I don’t know about doctors,
but that’s certainly not where I would look. Choose different methods that you
believe will reach your prospects. Then test each method on a small scale before
you invest serious dollars. This way you’ll know which method most effectively
reaches your target audience and how well it attracts the clients you want.
Costly Mistake #24: Not taking the leadership position in your market. When
prospects perceive you as the leader in your field, you have a substantial advantage
over other lawyers. Yet, many marketing programs aren’t designed to seize this
powerful, profitable position. Look at your position in the marketplace. From
your prospects’ point of view, is any lawyer clearly the leader in that category?
If not, design your marketing program so you take control of your niche. If
that niche is already dominated by other lawyers, create a new category for
yourself. Then promote the category so prospects see you as first in that new
area. One of my estate planning clients created a new category and successfully
dominated his niche for five and one-half years, when he decided to pursue another
area of law. You gain an extraordinary advantage when prospects perceive you
as the leader.
Costly Mistake #25: Not sending a custom newsletter to your mailing list
at least monthly. Your mailing list is your own personal area of influence.
It should contain the names of all your past clients, current clients, prospective
clients and referral sources. Make sure you mail your newsletter at least monthly.
And don’t think that you must make your newsletter an 8- or 16-page treatise.
A simple educational letter of even one or two pages works fine. Your newsletter’s
size is not nearly as important as how often you mail it and the value of the
information you present. Custom newsletters you create are more effective than
generic newsletters you buy and mail to your list.
Costly Mistake #26: Taking marketing shortcuts. Lawyers who achieve success
often trim back their marketing programs hoping to save money by eliminating
the bells and whistles. What they often don’t realize is that many of the so-called
“bells and whistles” are not bells and whistles at all. They are the
essential components that make their programs work. An estate planning attorney
hired me to refresh his marketing message, which had grown stale. When we kicked
off his new program, he attracted 247 prospects to five seminars, an average
of 49 people at each program. His calendar filled up almost overnight. After
six months, he thanked me -- took his marketing in house -- and started cutting
corners. Within 90 days, his results were as dismal as they had been before
he called me. When you shortcut your marketing on the front end, you slash the
number of new clients on the back end. If you want to streamline your marketing
and see if you can eliminate any steps, start slowly and track results. Be careful
not to cut away steps responsible for your success.
Costly Mistake #27: Not making marketing a priority. For most lawyers, practicing
law is their highest priority. When they get busy, they often reduce their marketing
efforts because they need that time to work on their clients’ behalf. They operate
under the false hope that their momentum will attract new business long into
the future. But when they cut their marketing efforts, they actually shift their
marketing into neutral. As a result, inertia takes over and things slowly coast
to a standstill. Make marketing a priority for you or someone in your office.
Or hire an outside consultant so you make sure the work gets done. Don’t turn
your marketing on and off like a light switch. Keep your program in gear so
you always attract an ongoing flow of new clients.
Costly Mistake #28: Carrying out a marketing program that does not achieve
the five essential steps for success. Your marketing program must (1) establish
your credibility, (2) identify how you’re different from other lawyers, (3)
generate interactions between you and your prospects, (4) gain your prospect’s
commitment, and (5) maintain your client’s loyalty. Programs that don’t achieve
all five steps will fail. Any time you evaluate a marketing opportunity, consider
how well that method will accomplish these steps.
Costly Mistake #29: Promoting your services. When you promote your services,
you take on the role of a salesperson hawking his wares. This method, called
selling-based marketing, undermines your credibility and causes prospects to
question whether they can trust you. Instead of promoting your services, promote
your knowledge. When you educate prospects, they come to you because of the
depth of your knowledge, skill, judgment and experience. Education-Based Marketing
gives prospects what they want, information and advice -- and removes what they
don’t want, a sales pitch.
DEAR ATTORNEY: I hope you don’t make these
costly mistakes. And I hope you don’t make the many more mistakes I didn’t list
To win at marketing, you don’t have to be the biggest player or have
the biggest budget. All you need is a simple, proven marketing method that gives
prospective clients what they want, information and advice -- and removes what
they don’t want, a sales pitch. That’s precisely what my method of Education-Based
Marketing does because I designed it that way. That’s why the American Marketing
Association featured my method on the front page of its national publication,
Over the past 32 years, I’ve developed my marketing method into
a finely tuned system that avoids costly mistakes and helps my clients achieve
If you’d like to profit from this method -- and avoid costly
mistakes -- I invite you to call me at 1-928-468-1000. Or, send
your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I promise I’ll do everything I can to help you.
TREY RYDER MARKETING
A Limited Liability Company
Internet Web Site www.treyryder.com
P.O. Box 2115 Payson, AZ
Telephone 928-468-1000 Facsimile
“7 Secrets of Dignified Marketing”
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