Defining the target market for your law firm is a non-negotiable part of law firm marketing strategy.
To get targeting it right, you must conduct market research and segmentation first.
Your target market defines where you will compete—and, most importantly, where you will not compete.
If you've done a proper segmentation, it should start to speak to you—offering you choices. Targeting is the choice to play here and not there.
Targeting is About Making an Explicit Choice Where to Compete
Standing out from the competition is necessary in the legal industry. When someone types "personal injury lawyer" into Google, they'll get pages of results and options. Without good marketing, clients can't make a distinction between various firms. That means they may default to whoever appears first in the ads or search rankings.
Hiring a lawyer is challenging for someone dealing with a complex legal issue because that client needs to place their complete trust in someone else to explain the issue, develop a plan, and execute. Your marketing must clarify that you bring something different to the table than every other law firm in your area.
However, many lawyers struggle to capture effectively what makes their law firm unique.
Because many lawyers think of every potential client as a member of their target market.
Here's an example of how that falls flat. This hero copy says, "We know what matters most." For who? When? It makes a vague statement that tries to appeal to multiple people, but a new client reading this website would have no idea whether or not this firm is right for them.
Here's another one trying to appeal to a broad audience. How does someone know if this firm specializes in any kind of personal injury accident like motorcycle crashes, car accidents, pedestrian wrecks, or something else? The copy is generic because it's trying to cast the widest net possible. Still, a potential client cannot tell how this Chicago injury firm differs from anyone else.
Your target audience is more than anyone who's ever been injured, someone filing for divorce, or needs to keep their license after getting a DUI.
Those are general segments. To define your target market, you need to segment further.
When you segment your market effectively, you can dial in your messaging for the most valuable segments you want to gain market share with by addressing their specific pain points in language they understand.
For example, you might narrow down the above examples to:
- People who suffer life-changing brain or spine injuries in motorcycle accidents caused by other drivers.
- Women who were stay-at-home mothers whose retired husbands are now seeking a gray divorce.
- Someone accused of a crime that's concerned about keeping their professional license so they don't lose their job or fall behind on child support.
With the right messaging, your firm becomes the apparent choice when someone in that segment has a problem you solve. It becomes much easier for you to find these new clients and share how you uniquely help them.
You'll know you've done things right with your target market when your firm is perceived as the best (or only) option.
The Right Criteria to Define Your Targets
You want your targeting choices to be correct. But how do you know which segments you should go after?
Evaluate each segment based on the following criteria:
- Potential Value: The total value of the segment if you convert every individual in it. When selecting your targets, you want to figure out where the most significant source of revenue you can go after right now is.
- Actual Population: How many individuals are there in the market? A segment may be worth a lot, but how big is it? Larger populations aren't always better. How concentrated are they, and how will that impact your ability to reach them with your marketing?
- Current Market Share: Once you have 60-70% of a segment's market share, it may be time to target elsewhere.
- Product Fit: Your services are a product because you produce an outcome. For each segment, ask yourself if you have the services they want and demand.
- Latent Spillover: Is there a segment you can go after and benefit from spillover and easier penetration into another segment? Most law firms have this figured out in terms of service by combining divorce and arbitration services or personal injury with workers' compensation.
You need focus. Where you spend your energy is critical here. You won't get any traction if you try targeting too many segments without sufficient resources and experience.
Using Mass Marketing & Target Marketing to Get the Best Result
To reach your clients most effectively, you need a mix of mass marketing and target marketing. Focusing too much on one or the other impedes your results.
At the turn of the 20th century, mass marketing ruled the day. It involves reaching as many people as possible who could be clients.
With a broad reach, you'll likely spend more money, and your message may dilute.
Your goal with mass marketing may be to make an impression and hope that someone remembers your name in the future since you're not clearly defining the market as someone who needs your services right now.
For example, personal injury lawyers may target anyone in their geographic region since, theoretically, anyone of any age, gender, or economic background could find themselves dealing with the fallout of a serious accident.
A non-injured person may see advertising on billboards for personal injury lawyers well before they ever need to hire an attorney for an accident case. However, if they ever are hurt, and the firm has invested well in their marketing engine, that lawyer's name may be top of mind if and when that person is injured or knows someone hurt in an accident.
On the other hand, target marketing intentionally tries to reach a defined audience. This can play very well when done right. For example, an injury lawyer trying to help train crash victims in a particular area could heavily target the region and their messaging specific to the train accident and the injuries sustained by most people.
One danger with target marketing, however, is going too narrow. For example, a family lawyer might have solid experience in child custody cases with same-sex couples. That lawyer may choose to shift their marketing specifically to people in that situation. Still, if the market size is too small, they're unlikely to see an ROI on their marketing efforts and risk losing cases with other demographics since those clients may think the firm only handles one specific thing.
An ideal outcome is to run mass marketing efforts and target marketing simultaneously. It can be difficult to figure out this blend, so the most successful lawyers discuss their strategy with an outside marketing expert.
Communication Channels Lawyers Use to Reach Their Target Markets
Once you know who you want to reach, you must figure out how to reach them.
That means figuring out which communications channels to use.
You can determine which channels are most effective for reaching your target segments using the qualitative feedback you collected from your market research.
Your market research should give insight into how your targets discover, research, and hire a law firm for a given problem.
You'll find some similarities between segments, but focus on looking for the differences. Those differences will tell you how to cater your messaging for different segments on a single channel.
We cannot stress the importance of proper market research enough. Investing your time or resources into understanding your market and its various segments will prevent you from wasting money on ineffective campaigns and channels.
For example, an immigration lawyer might discover that their target audience skews younger and spends much time on TikTok. Running organic and paid social campaigns with messaging catered to that demographic would be more effective than marketing on LinkedIn or TV.
An estate planning lawyer focused on helping higher-income individuals with trusts or business succession plans will probably get better results on platforms like LinkedIn (or even Instagram) than on TV or Radio.
SEO and Google Ads are good channels for most attorneys since many people begin their search for a lawyer using Google. 86% of potential clients turn to Google as their first source for a lawyer.
Cater Your Messaging to Your Market by Using the Language They Use
What you say has to resonate and strike a chord with your target audience to get their attention, earn their trust, and get them to remember and prefer you when they (or someone they know) eventually need your services.
Your market research will tell you their most common questions and pain points. Cater your messaging around those questions and problems using the same language they use.
Don't muddy it with legalese if you don't want to waste your time.
When you use the same language they do, they'll understand what you mean and realize you can empathize with them.
Focus your messaging on them, not you.
Do people want to hire someone smarter than them for legal matters?
But you can still make it about them without self-degradation. Here are two examples that could be improved, and one where the messaging hits home a little better.
Clients are left wondering who's behind the curtain at this law firm. There are no names or pictures of anyone, and it sounds like someone is reading an infomercial script.
This law firm has decent phrasing to kick things off, but there's nothing else here to help clients feel like the legal team puts them first. The picture in the background makes the relationship between lawyer and client feel impersonal, and the grammar error in the orange button is off-putting to clients.
Here, Goldberg Law Group instantly connects with their ideal clients because they list what's at stake and the actual proceedings someone might face in a professional license defense.
Cracking the Code to Connect with Your Target Market
Successful lawyers know how to pick which segments to target and which ones to ignore. Your target audience isn't static. It will evolve as the market landscape changes.
Don't get caught up in the tactics of things. No one channel is better than any other. The best channel is the one your targets use, and you can spend enough to get noticed.
If you're struggling to get traction, you may need to niche down further. And we have a resource that can help you with just that: Marketing a Niche Law Firm: A No-Nonsense How to Guide.