This week, Musings welcomes Mark Buckshon of the Construction Marketing Ideas blog to Guest Post Friday. Mark publishes several regional construction industry newspapers and websites. He can be reached at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The question may be simple: “How can construction lawyers succeed at marketing their services” and the initial answer is equally easy: “Be great at law, and even greater about letting your current and potential clients know.” However, in the real world, simple concepts are lost in the details and complexity of our lives and, in any case, your effective success in fulfilling the greats just described takes a whole lot more than reading a how-to book or attending a two-hour seminar.
(The “great” remark here can be transferred to any field, whether it be drywall, engineering, or general contracting, of course.)
In practice, really successful construction lawyers eagerly participate in relevant client-focused conferences and association events. A few weeks ago, for example, I attended the annual Ontario General Contractors’ Association Symposium, and several of the strongest presenters discussed (with some passion) legal issues directly relevant to their contractor audience. Conference participation allowed the lawyers present to reconnect with current and former clients and, in the informal meetings outside of their formal presentations, to forge new relationships – with their existing clients available to facilitate trust-building.
You can leverage your marketing power by publishing relevant articles in trade journals, contributing to online forums and blogs (or, even better, starting your own credible blog) and contributing and participating in community charitable and sporting events.
You will be even more effective if you define your expertise within a specific niche or specialty; one which you can serve within a large enough geographical or conceptual marketing area to be successful. Clearly, if you are a lawyer specializing in construction rather than general law, you will be more successful within the construction community; if you narrow your focus even more, say to environmental or land-use appeals, and define your expertise within these areas, you will be far more successful (assuming the market is large enough to support your services) than if you say you can do everything.
My own favorite and most effective marketing approach, taught by the late Walt Hailey from Hunt, Texas in the early 1990s, is so powerful that it will most likely land you in ethical hot water if you dare try it carelessly. Hailey told us to “follow the money” and build out our relationships within the business power flow. In other words, he asked us to seek endorsements and referrals from the clients of the businesses with which we really wish to serve. (It is really hard to reject someone introduced to you by the person who is sending you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in business every month.)
With Hailey’s highly effective marketing method, if you wish to promote your services to general contractors, you first obtain endorsement and referral from the largest developer(s) in town; and if you wish to attract business from subtrades and suppliers, you obtain referrals from general contractors.
Trouble is, of course, your role as a lawyer is often to litigate or resolve conflicts between your clients and their suppliers or customers; and you will undoubtedly run into conflict-of-interest problems if you push this concept too far. However, if you look through your current and potential client base, you may find situations where the conflicts are not a problem, and you will likely score a marketing home run (and obtain some worthy new clients) if you engage the supply chain effect effectively.
One other marketing concept you should also remember is that generosity and open sharing of ideas and services to your community of potential clients almost inevitably enhances your referral and client base. This marketing time is not billable hours, and it may seem folly to give away your advice and services, but the principal of reciprocity applies. When you are generous in your community, when you are not “networking” expecting a quid-pro-quo, almost inevitably out of your initiatives you will find new business and opportunities.
Ultimately, you will be successful through the combination of your competence and passion for your practice (or business). When you share this success freely, you’ll achieve incredible results.
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