Two Burning Questions About Marketing an ADR Practice

Thank you to everyone who's contributed so far to my one-question ADR marketing survey! If you haven't done so already, please visit the page and let me know what your one burning question is about marketing and building an ADR practice — and please share this link with anyone else you think might be interested! Your feedback will help me provide the most thorough and helpful information possible in my upcoming ADR marketing webinar.

Right now, I want to answer a couple of the burning questions that people have shared with me so far...

Question 1: How can I get people aware of the benefits of ADR?

This is a great question that cuts right to the heart of what I want to share in my webinar. First, please understand is that marketing is not advertising — although advertising is one form of marketing! It's better to think of marketing as the whole range of activities we pursue to build awareness of the services we offer. That might include taking out ads or putting up a billboard, but there are so many other options available to you — including various forms of public education!

Step one is to define your brand. What is your unique value proposition? You may be a general practitioner with "years of experience in a broad range of practice areas," but that message isn't going to resonate with people looking to solve a specific problem. I submit that calling yourself a "family lawyer" or "commercial lawyer" probably isn't narrow enough, either. I keep divorces private and respectful, without litigation. That's my brand in just 8 words. You should be able to define your brand in 15 words or less. It should be concise and give people a clear reason to choose to hire you.

Once you know your brand, step two is to start marketing it — getting it in front of the people who matter. Those people might be clients or referral sources. Either one is fine, and you don't have to choose just one, as long as you have a clear audience in mind for each marketing effort. And there are lots of options available to you. Here's a quick list (which I explore in much more depth in my webinar):

  • Website
  • Local listings
  • Blogs and other free content
  • Social media
  • Networking
  • Journal articles
  • Public outreach
  • Ratings websites
  • Video
  • Podcasts

Some of these should be considered mandatory, but you don't have to use all of them — I sure don't. I know people who make informational videos a core part of their marketing, while others (like myself) haven't ever made a single video. Same with podcasting, which is huge for some people. The key is to find the marketing approach that feels "right" to you and then deliberately, systematically follow through.

It takes time, but it really pays off when you start getting those calls asking for specifically what you're offering!

Question 2. How can I get consistent income from mediating?

Obviously it's possible. We all know at least one person who's making a living as a mediator. So how can you make it happen for you?

First, you need to hold yourself out as a mediator. Don't bury mediation at the bottom of a list of services you offer. If you want to be a full-time mediator, make sure the world knows that you're serious about mediation. Make it central to your brand (see question 1).

Second, define what you mean by "consistent income." What we're really talking about is having the right combination of billing rate and caseload to reach the income you want. I'll use some nice round numbers to show you a couple of ways to get there. These aren't my actual numbers, but they make the math easy...

Option 1: Target Caseload

Here, the idea is to determine your target caseload based on how many hours you predict each case will take and how much you can reasonably charge per hour. Here are some inputs you might use:

  • $200,000 target gross income (or whatever your personal goal is)
  • 10 hours per case (or whatever estimate seems reasonable to you)
  • $200 per hour (or whatever you actually charge)

Putting it all together, $200,000/$200 = 1,000 hours per year. At 10 hours per case, that's 100 cases per year, or about 2 new cases per week. That's your target caseload.

Option 2: Target Billing Rate

Another option is to set your billing rate based on your target income and how many hours you expect to work each year. Here are some potential inputs for this option:

  • $200,000 target gross income (or whatever your personal goal is)
  • 261 workdays in 2016, excluding holidays
  • 21 additional workdays of vacation and sick days, for a net of 240 workdays
  • 3 hours of billable work per day (assuming you allow one third of your time for marketing and another third for administration and other non-billable tasks)

$200,000/240 workdays = $833 per day. If you expect to bill 3 hours per day on average, you should charge $833/3 = $278/hour. If that's more than you're comfortable charging, prepare to work more days per year or more hours per day — or adjust your income expectations accordingly.

Option 3: Complementary Services

Did I say there were two options? There's a third option you should consider! Here it is...

Most of us have complementary services we can offer beyond mediation. If you're a lawyer, you can be a collaborative law attorney, settlement counsel (i.e., with a limited scope engagement letter), consulting attorney for parties in mediation, etc. If you're a mental health professional, you can offer counseling or divorce coaching to parties going through divorce, no matter what process they've chosen. If you're a financial professional, of course there is a whole host of additional financial services you can provide. Consider becoming a CDFA, to start.

If you're not meeting your target mediation caseload, offering these kinds of services can help you meet your target income, while remaining true to your brand. Eventually, as your marketing pays off and your mediation caseload grows, you can drop those additional services. Or you might decide that you enjoy them and keep them on. Up to you.

Do you have more questions?

These are great questions and I enjoy answering them. If you have more questions, please visit the survey page and submit your question there — or use the comment section below, where your feedback is always welcome! And again, please share this link with anyone else you think might be interested!