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Why You Should Limit Your Marketing to One Thing

There are as many marketing tactics as I have fingers on my hands. Probably a lot more than that. I could likely include all of my toes and keep going after that. We’ve got websites, referral source meetings, television advertising, radio advertising, magazine ads, newspaper ads, Twitter, Facebook, media relations, and the list goes on and on and on.

You wonder, I’m sure, how you can possibly manage all of those tactics in order to disseminate your message and grow your practice. You know there isn’t enough time in the day. In fact, I’ve talked to more than one lawyer feeling overwhelmed by the need to do it all. They wonder where they can find time to practice law if they’re doing all the marketing.

The good news, however, is that you don’t have to employ all of those tactics. In fact, it would be a mistake for you to attempt to utilize every one of the tactics available to you. In fact, it would be a mistake to take on more than one if you’re early on in your practice or new to the marketing game.

I talked to a relatively new lawyer the other day who is in the midst of tweaking her web site, worrying about her presence on Twitter and Facebook, contemplating advertising on a local radio station, and needing to hang up the phone with me so that she could rush off to have coffee with a clergy member she hoped to turn into a referral source. During the conversation, she alluded to meeting with salespeople for other media outlets and was being hounded by a representative of Yodel Law.

It was clear that she had little time for practicing law given how much time the marketing tactics were taking away from her average day.

You need to evaluate marketing tactics in the context of your goals.

My goal was always to build a substantial practice, serving lots of clients and  generating millions of dollars a year in revenue. To do that, I found it necessary to market in a variety of ways. There was only so much business at the end of any particular marketing rainbow. I couldn’t limit myself to referral source lunches because I only had so much time in the day, and there were only so many referral sources that I could take to lunch, so I expanded into other tactics.

If my goal had been to build a lifestyle practice of, let’s say, $500,000.00 a year in revenue, I could have gone about it in a very different way. I could have focused on one particular marketing tactic and generated more than that amount of revenue from exploiting that tactic to its fullest.

That’s what I would suggest you consider. You might be looking to build a practice that will take care of your needs, buy you a house, educate your children, send them to college, provide nice vacations every year, and build a retirement plan. If that’s your goal, and that’s certainly an honorable one, then you don’t need to engage in every one of these marketing tactics.

If your goal is to build a substantial practice that meets all of your needs without growing to employ lots of other lawyers and lots of non-lawyer staff, you can do it by focusing on one or maybe two marketing techniques. To use more tactics than those one or two will only dilute your effectiveness as a marketer. It will also have fallout that affects your effectiveness as a lawyer. You can’t deliver quality work if you spend all of your time focused on marketing. It’s simply not possible. Marketing is a big job, sometimes a full-time job, and it distracts you from delivering legal services, which is your primary obligation and vocation.

If I were trying to build a $500,000.00 practice and I had to limit my marketing efforts, there is no question as to what tactic I would employ. It would not be advertising on Google AdWords or in the media. I would not be involved in Twitter or Facebook (other than for my own amusement and familial connections). I would not spend months or years working on and tweaking my website.

If my goal were to build a $500,000.00 practice within a reasonable period of time, I would focus on referral source meetings. That’s all I would do.

I would spend all of my marketing time and energy locating referral sources, meeting them, getting to know them, building a relationship with them, and maintaining that relationship. I would constantly improve the quality of my network. I would grow my relationships with my most productive referral sources, and over time slowly disconnect from unproductive referral sources. Over the course of a couple of years, I would have a very high-quality network of referral sources (probably 10 to 20 good referral sources) that would send me business on a regular basis when the need arose.

Those referral sources would generate at least 70 new clients for me each year. Those clients would have, conservatively, an average fee of $7,000.00. That’s $500,000.00 a year in revenues.

If I’ve got 20 referral sources in my network and I need 70 new clients a year, each referral source needs to produce for me 3.5 new clients per year. If each client refers someone every two months, which I don’t think is a particularly high number, and I convert at slightly more than 50 percent, I’ll be sitting pretty on revenues of $500,000.00 a year.

If I’ve got those 20 referral sources, I’ll need to maintain my relationships with each of them. That means that I’ll go to lunch with each of them at least a couple of times a year and that I’ll send them notes, pertinent articles, holiday cards, etc. Over the years, my relationships with these referral sources will inevitably turn into friendships, and I won’t have to be so structured about maintaining my relationships. Instead of taking a referral source to lunch, I’ll be taking a friend to dinner. Instead of sending a relevant article, I’ll be chatting with a referral source while our children play together.

Focusing on one marketing tactic, maybe two, is all you need to do if your goal is to build a thriving practice that will sustain you throughout your life. Think about your goals and objectives before you adopt multiple marketing tactics and find yourself consumed by the marketing rather than by the practice of law. You’ve got to figure out what you want before you start running around like a crazy person trying every marketing tactic that comes along.

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  • Clayton

    That’s surprising. If you could choose only one source, I figured it would be your website.

  • Kriste

    I’ve been doing just what his article suggested since before I went to law school in 2006: I knew I was going solo in family law and told everyone I knew about it. Since I graduated in 2009 and got my license in May 2010, I have a nice referral base that sends me 2 to 4 new referrals each week. Out of those referrals, I typically get 1 or 2 new clients a week. This is perfect for my goal of “making a living.” This is the only marketing I do. I don’t have a website yet though I have the domain name: I’m so busy fielding new clients that I don’t have the time to mess with it! And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    • Lee Rosen


      Glad it’s going so well. You were very wise to start so early. I wish we could get everyone on that track.


  • Mike Whelan Jr

    This is great advice. So how do you go about identifying your best potential referral sources? I am looking to open a suburban small business/estate planning practice, while also building a virtual law firm directed at owners of small trucking companies and owner op drivers (my pre-law school life). How do I identify who in town to get to know and who in the trucking industry to get to know? Thanks.

    • Lee Rosen

      Start with whomever you think is the best starting point. Take them out and ask them who you should get to know next. Chain them together. Use one to get to the next.


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Lee Rosen

Lee Rosen has practiced family law for more than twenty years. With four offices, Rosen Law Firm serves Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rosen served as the Law Practice Management Editor of the ABA Family Advocate for more than a decade and received the ABA James Keane Award for excellence in eLawyering. He served as Chair of the Law Practice Management Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, is a frequent speaker and is often sought out by the media as a source of family law insight and commentary.