By Michael Hammond & Mark Powers
Effective time management brings better clients, more profits
“I don’t have the time. I’m swamped here at work. I’m telling you, I have no time to contact referral sources — let alone meet with one — I have to be in the office.”
Congratulations. You’re the hero, indispensable. Where’s that getting you? Are nights and weekends free? Do you have the best clients? Are profits up? Probably not.
But you can change your firm’s trajectory, have more time off, better clients and higher profits. All it takes is getting a handle on your time and making time for referral-based marketing. (You’re probably thinking, Easier said than done. But it’s not, really. We can help.)
Even if you’re the best lawyer you know, all of that technical skill and professional expertise means nothing without good clients who need your services. Keeping your practice viable depends on your ability to generate a steady stream of new business. Client development is one of the highest and best uses of your time, and to be effective at referral-based marketing, you need to practice effective time management.
Shift your mindset
Here at Atticus, we’ve heard all the excuses. You’re too busy. You’re struggling to keep the lights on. You just don’t have the energy.
When it comes to time management, the legal technician in you — the part of you that does the technical legal work that lawyers do — always controls your calendar. Compared to your technical production, marketing shrinks to an optional activity with few clear-cut goals and no urgent deadlines demanding your time and attention.
To change, you need a mindset shift. Instead of thinking like a technician, make a conscious effort to think like a marketer, like a business owner.
To make the shift, start with your calendar. The truth is, if you don’t put it on your calendar, it probably won’t get done.
A sample daily calendar might look like this: Arrive at the office and get your email inbox to zero. Meet with your team to give direction and find solutions. Don’t allow interruptions, and power through an hour or two of work. Go to lunch with a referral source. Return to the office to do a little more work. Plan the next day’s calendar, and call it a day.
To add structure and urgency to your client development efforts, we highly recommend that you schedule and make three marketing contacts a week. Three lunches are ideal and serve as the weekly goal for many Atticus clients. If you were to block out three lunches a week and dedicate them to marketing, you will make more than 100 marketing contacts per year. That’s the kind of consistent time commitment it takes to maintain rapport with existing referral sources and cultivate new ones.
Of course, we realize it can seem like there’s no way you can create three marketing contacts per week. So start with one a week and work your way up from there. The more contacts you make today, the more you’ll make tomorrow because word of mouth is a powerful tool. Do good work for a referred client and get more clients in return.
Make it work
Even attorneys who are gifted and seasoned marketers often struggle with the logistics of marketing: updating contact information or scheduling lunch appointments, for example. To make sure your marketing works, delegate scheduling to an assistant. It could be a part-time person hired to focus only on marketing or a receptionist who has extra capacity to keep your calendar full.
Identify the days you’re available for lunches, supply the assistant with existing referral sources you wish to see, and then have them fill those time slots. Meet weekly to check their progress in filling the schedule and to coach them on how to communicate with referral sources. Provide your assistant information on any new people you’ve met and want to add to your list of marketing contacts. Using an assistant helps you maximize the time you actually spend out from behind your desk marketing.
For some attorneys, a standing Friday afternoon golf game is a popular strategy. Inviting referral sources to play every week could amount to 50 or more games — and as many as 150 marketing contacts annually. When you consider the face time, this is a significant opportunity to build rapport with referral sources. It might also improve your game!
If golfing or going to lunch isn’t for you, then try adding a once or twice monthly evening event to your calendar. These might be dinners with spouses, charity events or gallery openings. Invite referral sources and their families to events like a barbeque, a boating excursion, or a sporting event. Going to a game with your son or daughter and inviting a referral source to bring their kids is a great way to spend more time with your family and even enjoy marketing.
Referral-based marketing is a numbers game. Making three marketing contacts a week with referral sources most likely to send you clients will generate business for your firm — much more good business than you could generate doing what you’re doing now.
When it comes down to it, marketing is a system for the continuing growth and vitality of your practice. When you make the time to make three weekly marketing contacts, these referral sources will send a steadily growing flow of prospective clients to your firm. This allows you to be more selective in the clients you add to your expanding client base, bringing greater revenues — and profits. And that’s why we say effective time management equals effective marketing.