There’s Riches in Niches: Finding New Opportunities to Differentiate Your Firm
Every firm needs a niche. But sometimes, it’s not about identifying your specialty—it’s about creating it.
There are millions of new opportunities out there if only you can find them. Seizing these opportunities may mean being brave enough to start a new practice area or explore an industry that hasn’t been fully defined. There’s no question that this is a difficult task, but firms that are willing to explore new niches are often rewarded.
This was the focus of one session at this year’s Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference. The speakers, Ioana Good, Senior Business Development and Communications Manager at Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed and Kathryn Whitaker, Director of Client Relations at Burr Forma McNair, talked about their experiences moving into niches that didn’t previously exist at their firms. While the session focused on mid-sized firms, any firm can use their techniques, which we recapped in our annual post-LMA Conference webinar. Learn about six of their strategies below.
- Do your research. Moving into a new practice area or industry is exciting, and it can be tempting to jump in head-first. But before making any commitments, you need to have the answers to a few key questions: Is this opportunity a fad or a lasting change? What is the competitive landscape like? And, most importantly, does this make sense for our firm? New industries don’t stay hot forever, and just because you have the ability to do something, doesn’t mean you should.
- Consider your audience. When expanding your practice, there are two audiences you need to think about: prospective clients in your niche and friends of the firm who are willing to try your new services and offer feedback. You’ll need to test out the viability of your niche and hone your skills before expanding your client base; your existing contacts are the best people to use as guinea pigs. Don’t get discouraged if new clients don’t come right away, either. It may take months for them to seek out your services.
- Find a fearless leader. As with any big initiative, you need someone who’s willing to lead the charge and get the buy-in necessary to make it a success. Whether this is a partner, the CMO or someone you need to hire, they have to be willing to stick it out even after the excitement dies down. Choose someone who understands that the process will take time, effort and patience.
- Figure out where you stand. Every law firm exists at a particular point in the competitive landscape. To define your niche successfully, you need to figure out where you are in relation to everyone else: Are you positioning your firm as more upscale? Are you focusing on low prices, high volume? It doesn’t matter where you are in the competitive matrix, as long as you commit to it and market yourself accordingly.
- Don’t start from scratch. There are an endless number of opportunities to explore, but for yours to be successful, it has to be built on something that already exists. You can’t make a branding promise you can’t fulfill. Instead, look at the capabilities and expertise you already have and see what you can build on. For example, it’s a logical jump for a firm that does land use and agriculture law to move into cannabis. On the other hand, it would probably be more of a challenge for an immigration lawyer to enter the same industry.
- Establish your credibility with PR. Finding a new niche is essentially repackaging: taking what you already know and do and finding a new audience for it. The key is getting that audience to hear and trust you. One of the fastest ways to build credibility is by being published and quoted in the media—something you can achieve with a robust public relations strategy. To start off strong in your new niche, it’s a good idea to devote more attention and resources to your PR efforts.