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I received a message via LinkedIn the other day from a reader.  She is a stay-at-home attorney caring for an elderly parent and asked, “I just wanted to find out how you are marketing your office and getting clients.”

This is a great question, and I thought it might be helpful to share my answer with all of my readers.

Getting clients is all about sowing seeds.  

What kind of seeds?  The seeds of “friendship”.  I’m not talking about BFFs here.  I’m talking about establishing relationships with the right people that will get you business.

Who are the right people?  They fall into 2 categories: people who will become your clients (Prospective Clients) and people who can help you get clients (Referrals).

In order for people to become the right people, they have to know you exist.  So you need to start meeting people.  If they don’t know you, they won’t become your clients or send you business.

Makes sense right?

I’m not going to lie.  Sowing seeds is hard work.  It’s not enough to simply introduce yourself.  You need to make a real connection.  That takes time and effort.

Word of warning: the results of all that hard work won’t show up immediately.  The truth is sometimes it takes years for those seeds to bear fruit.  Sometimes they never will, but the key is to start making connections today, because the faster you start, the quicker you’ll get clients!

Why does this work?  People hire (and refer) lawyers they know, like, and trust.  Believe it or not what you know is a secondary consideration.

So how do you start meeting and connecting with people?

1. In-Person.

a.  Network.  Hang out where you are likely to meet the right people.  I go to networking events that appeal to small technology companies as they are my ideal client.  When I started networking, I attended a lot of women-focused events and I never got any business.  Why?  Wrong audience.

b.  Volunteer.  Strategically volunteer at events where you know you are likely to meet the right people.  The best thing you could do is to volunteer to speak at events.  You automatically are the focus of the room.  You are the expert.  People seek you out.

I also volunteered to be a mentor and answer questions about intellectual property at an event last March.  I was contacted last week by a prospective client. (Yup, 6 months later!)

2.  Go on-Line.  Think about where the right people hang out on-line.  You need to be on LinkedIn and you need to know how to use the platform.  It is built to make business connections.  Also consider if you need to be on facebook or twitter.

3.  Connect with people who offer complimentary services.  They’re the best referral sources.  As an intellectual property lawyer, I’m looking to connect with anyone who deals with small technology companies on a regular basis, i.e., general business attorneys, consultants, CPAs, VCs and investors, startup incubators, etc.  (You will find people who offer complimentary services in abundance at networking events where your ideal clients hang out.)

4. Follow-up.  This is where so many people fall down, me included.  Meeting someone is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  You have to stay in touch.  In fact, it could take up to 7 touches before they even think about hiring or referring business to you.

When following up, be helpful.  Offer the person some solutions to a problem they might have mentioned during your conversation. “You know I was thinking about what you said, and you might want to try A, B, and C. I think one of these will really work for you.”

Giving them something gets your foot in the door.  Then you can offer your services to help them out.

5. The most important thing I could tell you to do is use the network you already have. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for more business, what type of work you do, and what type of clients you are looking for.  Be specific. Those who ask, receive.

And remember to always abide by your state’s legal ethics and marketing rules for attorneys when approaching prospective clients!

I hope this helps.

If you have any suggestions and useful tips on how to get clients, please let us all know in the comments below.  If you think this could help a colleague or friend, please share it.