In response to several questions we've received from expert witnesses and consultants in the recent weeks, we went to the leading authority on expert witness marketing, Rosalie Hamilton. Below are ten tips to help expert witnesses market themselves in an economic downturn and stay prosperous. Some you may already know, some are more surprising, but all are very practical and can increase your visibility.
Personally Conduct Marketing Daily
Even if you have a marketing assistant or a business development director, dedicate time on a regular basis, preferably at least weekly, to pro-actively promote your practice. Handwrite a thank-you note for a referral or for a previous engagement. Call a client to find out the outcome of a case. Offer to trade referrals with an associate, or call a client to request referrals.
Maintain Your Advertising
If you advertise your expert witness practice, increase your advertising budget or, at the least, maintain the existing level – don't cut back on promotion. If you must cut costs, find something other than advertising to cut back on.
Improve Your Closing Ratio
It stands to reason that if you raise your closing rate, you'll maintain or even increase your total amount of business even if the number of inquiries you receive goes down. Create a schedule for follow-up, and do not discontinue calling at appropriate intervals until the case is dropped or settled, or another expert is chosen.
If you've cut back on networking activities since achieving your successful practice, go back to active participation. Attend meetings and conferences of your trade or professional associations and also those of your client prospects. Remember the law of reciprocity – ask others how you can be of help to them.
Contact Your Best Sources of Business
Repeat and referral business being the valuable commodity that it is, the majority of marketing effort should be in the direction of previous clients. Send professional announcements or other attention-getting communications to people who already know you. Bonus: this promotional activity is less costly than attracting new business.
For example, if you’ve been reluctant to work through a search firm or referral services, be open to them. As long as the contract you sign is not exclusive (other than in regard to the particular client obtained), and is for a limited period of time, there is no risk and no cost.
A referral service maintains a database of experts on file, while search firms launch a search for specific credentials when presented with a particular case. Many of the benefits are the same for you as an expert. With either, you'll eliminate upfront marketing costs, and with search firms, contracting, billing and collecting will all be handled by the agency. Every experienced expert knows these are some of the most tedious tasks associated with expert consulting work.
Note: When working with a search firm or referral service, if you're not the right person for the case, consider giving the representative a suggestion of someone who might be. Networking being such an integral part of the expert witness industry, your generosity will likely put you top-of-mind with the firm and will increase your chances of being called again.
Another example of flexibility has to do with accommodating your attorney client’s particular needs. Without compromising your integrity or the specific altitude of your positioning, you might consider flexibility on fees, expenses, scheduling, or other factors to meet your client’s needs.
Tweak Your Advertising
Review your directory listings for proper expression of your attributes, as well as your choices of indexes, categories and, on some sites, keywords. Look at the search results on the directory site and compare your verbiage to that of your competitors.
Call your representative at your referral service and review the keywords they're using to market you. One of my clients wasn’t getting the engagements I thought he should. When I contacted the service I discovered that the keywords the expert had provided (or the service had chosen) were off the mark.
Beware of jumping ship on a publication or venue that has worked well for a long time, but do consider shifting advertising dollars to something you haven't used before.
If you have a website, freshen it – revise content, appearance or search engine optimization.
What service could you offer that you are not currently providing? To whom? Intellectual Property can require rather artistic trial exhibits; the business services field often uses extensive charts and graphs. If you work in one of these fields, you might market your exhibit preparation services to other expert witnesses.
In our industry, we all know attorneys would benefit from bringing the expert witness into the case earlier than they usually do. Make a good case for that policy, articulating the savings in litigation costs, including fruitless “rabbit trails” of ill- or un-advised trial theory, and overtly market the concept to previous clients. At the very least, contacting your clients to offer this cost-saving suggestion provides a reason for your contacting them –- the most important point of all.
Think, Act and Speak Success
To pretend the economy or even your area of work is peachy when it’s not would portray unrealistic thinking, and by its foolishness, lull you into conducting “business as usual.” Nonetheless, the picture of success you paint to the world can have a real effect. People like to associate themselves with winners; it makes them feel better about their own situation. One of the most debilitating effects of bad times is the out-of-control feeling it engenders. When others sense that you have things under control, it lessens their uneasy feeling.
In addition, whether or not you subscribe to any of the many philosophies teaching that thoughts are self-fulfilling, it's evident that a happy person accomplishes more than a depressed one. Do all you can to keep your spirits up. Whether by a practice of acknowledging gratitude, taking walks, playing music, or deliberately placing yourself in the company of upbeat, cheerful people, take responsibility for your emotional well-being. It can have a huge effect on your actions -- and your business!
Make a Decision to Prosper
In your mind, speech and actions, decide you'll be the one who weathers the storm and comes out on the other side, not just having survived, but also having prospered. We all know stories of people who became millionaires during the Great Depression and similar tales from other tough times and, sure enough, it does happen.
When I am consulted individually on measures for an expert to take in challenging times, I sometimes see not so much a lack of appropriate measures being taken as a resigned feeling that nothing has worked, and probably nothing will. That is the moment of truth, when the expert (or anyone else facing tough times) must have a talk with himself along the following lines: This is just another year following many others; I developed this practice; I'll figure out what to do differently and creatively; and I'll be the one still standing. The person who does so and follows through with attitude as well as actions will not only be standing when the economy turns back upward but will be in better shape than before, positioned in a now winnowed out group of competitors at a new, more successful altitude.
Rosalie Hamilton, Founder and President of Expert Communications, creates customized marketing plans for expert witnesses. Formerly the Expert Witness Marketing Coordinator for Texas Lawyer (newspaper) and its parent company, American Lawyer Media, she has over twenty years of experience in sales, marketing, publishing and training, and has given numerous presentations on the marketing style appropriate for the legal field.
She is the author of “The Expert Witness Marketing Book” and writes articles for numerous expert witness newsletters and professional organization publications.