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Focus groups can help realign your law firm marketing and messaging for success. Whether your firm is just starting out or is a long-standing presence in your area, it is important to always have a strong pipeline of new clients. Sometimes firms have explored many marketing tactics and yet the phone is not ringing and online inquiries are not coming in.

Before business halts to a standstill, you need to see why you are not bringing in new clients and how you can refocus your strategy to create new business. Focus groups can be a way to uncover the answers and refine your marketing to be on target. Your firm can utilize a marketing or advertising company to help you conduct a focus group. This way, you remain anonymous while they gather a group that is a cross-section of the market, whether your clients are everyday people, businesses, or other attorneys. The participants will be asked to react to your website content and images, marketing collateral, TV and radio ads, billboards, and logo and tagline. Your firm can also utilize a focus group to test out new services or marketing campaigns and what would prompt a person to refer the firm. And it's essential to use their time to discuss the competition's key strengths and weaknesses.

The answers the participants give you are extremely valuable. Their opinions will show if your marketing needs a softer or more aggressive tone, your pictures elicit the right emotions, and what can be done to make your website and other forms of marketing more effective. They can show if your fees are in line with what clients expect to pay, or if there is a better fee structure for your firm to charge.

Sometimes the problem could be staring at you right in the face, but because you are too close to your work, the problem could not be so evident. This is what makes conducting a focus group a worthwhile investment. If you cannot figure out why your target market is not responding to your message, doing nothing will cost you more than what it costs to hold a focus group.

Be sure to record the focus group and keep all written feedback to reference as market research. Take the feedback the participants give and modify how you present your services and firm's message. Sometimes they will give you pointers for new or additional services that they need but your firm has not taken the time market. As you relaunch your marketing efforts with the feedback given, you will know that you have made your law firm more appealing to your target market.

Oftentimes, a focus group will show that your firm attracts numerous diverse target markets. Let's take an immigration law firm. A focus group might show that 50 percent of your marketing should be focused on businesses that attract foreign workers, another 25 percent for nonimmigrant visas for college students and short-term employment, and five percent each to foreign entrepreneurs, refugees, adoptions, related family law, and citizenship through military enrollment. Each of these client bases, otherwise known as market segment, will need tailored marketing. The clients in each of these groups can have different needs and behaviors.

When your firm can modify its marketing to speak to each segment, you will find that your firm will gain a competitive edge. You can keep the basic message of your firm's strengths in your marketing, but tailor your services, tone, and content to attract and retain each segment. Each segment will have specific viewpoints that will help you reach more like-minded clients. This then becomes critical to use in distinct press releases, blogs, ads, and other strategies to reach each segment.

After all, in the example of a business with a highly-skilled immigrant worker in contrast to helping a refugee gain citizenship, your firm will need to utilize a tailored message to gain each type of client. Using a one-size-fits all strategy will neglect both segments. So refrain from going back to old marketing habits and keep the pointers from the focus group at the top of your marketing efforts.

It is also important to take the feedback from a focus group to help your firm differentiate itself from other firms in your market. In a crowded industry, your brand and messaging must be recognizable and distinct from other firms. A focus group can help your firm zone in on what makes your firm the go-to authority for their issue or concern.

The sooner you incorporate the suggestions, the better poised you will be to get control over your market. This is not to mean that you must take every bit of feedback and place it in your marketing, but if the majority does not agree with your tone, images, or doesn't even know what your firm truly does, it is time to get real about your messaging and re-launch your firm's identity.

When you make a concerted effort to take the feedback and start to utilize it, new business opportunities will emerge. Firms have found that their clients become more receptive to their marketing, find their website easier to use, and contact their firm. Increased market share, a better public image for the firm, and an ever-growing pipeline of clients is worth all the time and money invested.

About Author

Krystina Steffen is a former contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine.

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