Unfortunately for estate planning attorneys, drafting a will, executing a durable power of attorney, and designating a guardian for minor children fall under the category of “shoulds.” “Shoulds” are those things in life that you know you have to get around to because they are important, but they are never urgent enough to make it to the top of the list. For months, and then years, estate planning lives on the back burner.
Often, estate planning attorneys combat this laid back client attitude by utilizing fear as their primary marketing technique. They will write articles with titles threatening lost fortunes and publish ads intended to terrify parents. While this kind of fear-baiting works with some clients, the majority of people will react by simply pushing “what ifs” even further from their minds. According to a 2017 study conducted by Caring.com, only 42% of Americans have any kind of estate planning documents. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as the “Ostrich Technique” because families prefer to bury their heads in the sand rather than contemplate their own mortality or discuss worst-case scenarios.
A good estate planning attorney needs to recognize these challenges and incorporate them into a good branding and marketing strategy. Yes, getting to a place with clients where you are able to ask uncomfortable questions and address their fears is necessary, but there may be a better way than terrifying them from the first communication.
Start with the Positive
One of the best techniques for attracting clients to your estate planning practice is to start with the positive. While a big part of a comprehensive estate plan is thinking through what would happen if the worst occurs, there are other parts that can be more fun. Rather than using fear as a motivator, you can begin a conversation with potential clients by talking about wealth building and creating a legacy for future generations. By starting positive, you can begin to build a rapport with potential clients and allow trust to grow. The scary stuff -- guardianship, asset protection, and advance healthcare directives -- will be easier to handle when presented as a part of a comprehensive estate plan.
Finding Your Niche
Attorneys, especially if they are just starting their solo practice, often think that they have to take any client who walks through the door. However, you will find that you are better able to serve your clients, and you will enjoy your work far more, if you find a niche. Every single person needs estate planning, but lots of people think they only need to think about it if they are very wealthy. As an attorney, you can choose to brand your practice so that you can serve the clients that you enjoy working with the most.
Within estate planning, niches might include
Young and growing families
High net worth individuals
Small business owners
Individuals with special needs
Once you decide on your niche, you will be able to tailor your firm’s brand and marketing strategy to serve this group. Your target clientele, in turn, will be more attracted to your firm if they are able to relate with your website, social media profiles, blog articles, and newsletters.
Creating a Profile for Your Ideal Client
Settling on a niche then allows you to get even more specific. Within your niche, potential clients will still have incredibly varied lives and goals. A useful way to ensure that your firm addresses these client needs is to create profiles for your different ideal clients. Taking the time to think through what a client might aspire to or be afraid of, and to identify how your firm might be able to address those circumstances, is an incredibly valuable exercise.
We have created a worksheet that you can download and use as a template for this exercise (It’s free! The link is at the bottom of this article). Creating a profile for your ideal client not only helps you think through any legal concerns they may have, but it also can help you identify which estate planning services will best suit their needs.
Content Marketing: It’s all about consistency
When you are clear both on who your law practice is serving and what estate planning services they require, you can create a content-based marketing plan that is customized to suit their needs. Content marketing is a way of using both online and print marketing to provide valuable information to potential clients. By publishing useful, free information that actually serves your ideal client, you can begin building trust and a reputation for expertise before you even get on a phone call.
Content marketing works best when it is consistent. Your firm should be producing high-quality, useful content that is tailored to the needs of your ideal client weekly or even daily. The importance of consistency runs across the board: content should be published consistently over time, the quality and value should remain consistent, and your firm’s content and branding should consistently serve your target audience.
Unlike attorneys who represent clients in litigation or family law, there is not generally a big triggering event that catalyzes a client to call an estate planning attorney. More often, that back burner simmering can go on for years until one day, for some reason, a person will decide today is the day to call an attorney. This is where consistent content marketing really shines. By providing new and relevant information to clients on a regular basis, you are able to keep pushing estate planning forward in potential clients’ minds. It may still take a long time for them to decide to make that first call and set up an appointment, but when they do, they will already trust your expertise and your firm will be the first they call.
Once a potential client commits to a first meeting, the next step is to turn that phone call into a signed client agreement. Depending on the quality of the leads coming in from referrals and marketing, we have seen attorneys with anywhere from a 20% to a 95% engagement rate. Attorneys with the greatest success rates have a system in place that ensures that the client’s first communications with the firm are clear, professional, and organized. Some other suggestions that we have seen dramatically improve client engagement rates include
Requiring a commitment from the potential client prior to the first meeting (whether this is a consultation fee, an estate planning questionnaire, or both, it is useful to have the potential client demonstrate that they are ready to begin their estate planning process)
Connecting with the potential client by showing how your services suit their particular niche
Being authentic -- potential clients can tell if you are not telling the truth or invested in their estate plan
Showing compassion and sincerity when discussing the more difficult topics
Clearly demonstrating why your services are different than a DIY or Online Form
Being firm on your fees or services provided, but making sure that the client understands what they will be getting
For a more detailed look at client conversion, take a look at our article about internal workflow. Creating a workflow is a great way to systematize client engagement and improve conversion rates.
Need Some Extra Help?
If you are having trouble marketing or selling your estate planning services, we would love to help! At Juris Diction, we can help you develop a marketing strategy that attracts your ideal client and create a client engagement system that converts calls into signed contracts. Contact us here if you have any questions or would like to learn more.
For help getting started, fill out the form below to receive our FREE DOWNLOAD, Ideal Client Profile Worksheet!