Use free online “billboards” to market your practice

By September 21, 2020October 13th, 2020Marketing, social media

What if someone gave you a bunch of free billboard space in the city that you practice in?

What if the billboard company was willing to give space in the most trafficked areas of your city?

Knock, knock…

Getting this for free would be a HUGE opportunity right? And I’m guessing you’d jump at the chance to take advantage of this opportunity.

Well, unfortunately, the billboard companies aren’t giving away physical space for free. But let me share how you can easily and quickly take advantage of even BIGGER opportunities online.

Essentially, you’ll be getting thousands of dollars worth of free online exposure. But you have to do this in the right way. So, here’s what you do…

3 Simple Steps

  1. Get a good tight headshot of yourself smiling sincerely (use your smartphone to do this)
  2. Draft a short bio (your “marketing message”)
  3. Copy and paste your picture and marketing message into as many online places (“billboards”) as possible

Now maybe you have a feeling that this is one of those “too good to be true” things.

And, believe me, I understand.

Skepticism is natural

You don’t want to waste time on something that you’re not sure will work. This is perfectly reasonable so I get it.

I’d feel the same way about something that didn’t cost any money.

Especially for online marketing.

But let’s think more about it for a second, shall we?

If someone gave you free billboard space you couldn’t be sure that would work either, right?

But you’d probably agree to do it because you know lots of lawyers who use billboards.

So, why not give it a shot? That’s what you’d probably think if someone said you could advertise on regular billboards for free.

You’re thinking billboards are such an easy way to get a bunch of people’s attention.

But, stop and think a little bit more…

Which people exactly? And how much attention?

And, even with a free billboard, you have to come up with a good message right?

How well would you be able to motivate folks to reach out and contact you (much less actually decide to hire you)?

Hint: probably not very well.

Focus on the most important thing first

The key to success with marketing isn’t just getting attention.

The key to marketing success is in having the right message.

Wherever you put that message, and however much you pay to put it there, the message has to be crisp and powerful. What makes it powerful is focusing on the most important thing, as viewed from the perspective of your ideal client.

So, what does a crisp, focused message look like? And how can you create such a message as quickly and as easily as possible?

The Good News

I’m going to tell you exactly what to say to create a simple, powerful marketing message. Best of all?

You only have to write 120 characters. Yes, I said characters—not words.

Plus, I’m going to give you concrete examples of what NOT to write to make the whole process even easier to understand and execute.

All you have to do is avoid one common problem. That will get you 80% of the way to an effective marketing message.

But, you can do even better without much effort.

So I’m going to show you how to do that also.

You’re going to be shocked how obvious the “right message” is once you see the examples I’ll share below.

And, once you’ve created your perfect 120 character message you’ll be able to use it in many online spaces just by copying and pasting. (I’ll tell you where to copy and paste also).

Now, let’s drill into the two important steps: (1) getting a good picture of yourself, and (2) creating the 120 character message.

1. Smile broadly to get broadly recognized

You need just one good picture. Once you have that, you’ll use it in every online platform that lets you create a profile (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Yelp, Slack etc.).

You can also use it if you write an article and the publication you write for wants you to send them a headshot.

The more places that your smiling face appears the more recognized you’ll become. That’s part of “branding” and you need to be strategic about your branding.

Most lawyers have different pictures of themselves all over the place. But you realize that having the exact same picture of you everywhere is better.

Also, it makes your life easier because you only have to keep track of one picture.

Which will make it easy to find and use whenever you need to use it.

Here’s what your ideal profile picture needs to have:

  • You smiling and looking straight into the smartphone’s camera as the photo is taken.
  • Natural light so that your skin tone doesn’t look orangish or yellowish (which is what happens with interior lighting).
  • Even lighting. Your face needs to be lit in a way that avoids any harsh shadows. Just take the picture outside in a place without direct sunlight.
  • Square dimension because that’s what works best in most social media platforms (e.g. LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, etc.). If you want to have a traditional portrait dimension photo also, then just take the traditional one first and duplicate it and then crop the second one into a square dimension.
  • Crop in and fill the frame with your face. Make it as easy as possible for people to remember your face. If they have to squint to make it out they’re less likely to remember it, right?

2. Create a dazzling 120 character biography

The sweet spot is 120 characters because that’s what LinkedIn allows in the area they call the “headline.” Here’s a screenshot of my profile so you can see where the headline goes (and what it looks like on a mobile device):

My headline has 101 characters in it, and don’t think adding more words would help. Therefore, I didn’t.

There are no hard rules about how many characters, other than you need to be able to squeeze into the limits imposed by each platform. Facebook has a 101 character limit, but that’s not why I stopped at 101.

I wrote enough to make the message crisp, with the key ideas being included. That’s the goal: crisp and focused.

The Approach (strategy)

Now, let me show you how to craft your own version of a LinkedIn headline (i.e. “bio”) that will serve as the copy-and-paste template for all other online platforms.

But before we talk about nuts-and-bolts writing tactics, let’s talk strategy.

The strategy behind your message is to get more of your ideal clients to see your message and think “gee that’s the attorney I want to hire.” And if your strategy is to focus on your most ideal client (which it should be) then you need to craft your message with that strategy in mind.

The Recipe (tactics)

If you get the attention of someone who is a potential client they need to know just two things:

  1. What kind of law do you practice? (i.e. who is it that you primarily help?)
  2. Do you truly care about helping people, or are you mostly just interested in getting paid?

If you can work both of those elements into your biography in a way that’s crisp and focused then you’ve got a solid gold hit. The first part of the recipe is pretty easy to write, but what about the second part?

Well, that’s where you have to get creative. And, as you might recall from when you were a young child, being creative is fun. As long as you don’t ruin it by acting like a perfectionistic adult.

(I’m joking around, of course. But you know what I’m talking about, right?)

Let’s get creative

And most importantly, let’s not put any pressure on ourselves. You can create a damned good bio in about two minutes.

I mean if all you wrote for your bio was something like “I help [type of people you help described in terms of their legal problem]” you’d have a solid silver hit. Of course, you want to go for the gold, right?

Great. Because it’s not that much more challenging. You just need to get the gist of how to create a solid gold hit and then play around with the words to make your bio crisp and focused.

The best way to do that is to see some examples of lawyer bios. I’ll show you some bad ones first. That way you’ll know what to avoid, which is easy.

What NOT to do

So look at the following three LinkedIn bios and examine what’s in the “headline” area.

Most lawyers have online biographies like these. And that’s why most of us are conditioned to think this is what we should put in our biography.

But let me ask you a question…

We’re you able to figure out what kind of law these three lawyers practice? Scroll back up and look closely.

You can’t figure it out, can you?

So imagine if these folks were given free billboard space and this is the message they chose to put on the billboard. How effective do you think the billboard would be?

Not very effective, obviously.

All they’d have to do to create a more effective message is to explain what kind of clients they serve.

How to do it better

Some lawyers refuse to follow the herd and are able to come up with effective biographies. Here are five examples of how to do it well.

Study these five profiles closely and then go back and compare them to the less-than-optimal ones. And pay attention to the profile pictures also.

Do you see how much more effective the second group of pictures is?

And did you notice the call-to-action in Olivia Sandberg’s bio? She invites interested prospects to set up “a free consult.” That’s uncommon but undoubtedly effective.

Many of her ideal prospects wouldn’t guess that she offers free consults. But if they read her LinkedIn bio they’ll know.

The one big thing

So what’s the one big question that your ideal prospects have? What’s the one big fear, or desire?

For an immigration lawyer like Jim Hacking most clients want to “stay, work and live the American dream.” So that’s what he worked into his bio.

For a trademark lawyer who helps online entrepreneurs, like Joey Vitale, they want to protect their brand (i.e. “call dibs” on it, as he puts it).

For a lawyer like Elise Buie who wants to help divorcing couples whose focus is on the long term health of their family, her 43 character phrase is solid gold: “Your Family’s Future is Our First Priority.”

Marty Sullivan’s ideal clients are property developers who have zoning issues, and he knows all too well how frustrated they feel when they have to deal with those issues. So he nails it when he writes: “I help property developers cut through the often bewildering DC zoning bureaucracy.”

The verb “cut” is crisp and biting. The word “bewildering” is powerful. And the net effect is to signal to property developers that he understands their frustration.

But he doesn’t say that explicitly. Because if he did it would be less effective. And so therein lies the creative element in crafting the ideal biography.

You want to inject the empathy component into the bio in a way that’s natural-sounding, crisp, and also powerful. That takes a bit of brainstorming and patience as you try different word combinations.

You’ve got this

Now you know how to take advantage of all the free online publicity out there.

Just reflect on the ideal client that you most want to attract (strategy).

And follow the simple steps I showed you (tactics) to create a crisp 120 character message.

Finally, copy and paste your 120 character message into as many online platforms as possible (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Yelp, Slack, etc.).

Use the exact same profile photo for every platform (so that your branding is consistent everywhere).

Then sit back and see how many more of your ideal clients start reaching out to you based on your much-improved online marketing system.


P.S. If you’re tired of chasing “shiny objects,” (and are ready to make some key changes so your practice becomes much easier to manage), download my Solo & Small Firm Lawyers’ Guide to Working Smarter. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you’re willing to be thoughtful and patient as you work on your practice, it might be right for you.

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