One of the best tools for effective marketing may be sitting right in front of you: categorizing your contacts. You do not need an elaborate software package or web system to do this effectively. This capability probably exists in whatever you are already using.

Before focusing on the technology, it is helpful to examine the business benefit of categorizing contacts. If you are like most lawyers, you receive much of your business through referrals from contacts and clients. These referrals tend to take on certain patterns. If you review where your clients have originated, you might find large amounts of work referred by businesspeople with certain jobs, attorneys in certain practice areas, or individuals in certain places.

iStock_000015489168XSmallSorting your contacts into categories makes targeted outreach efforts more manageable. You can market your practice or describe your work in the way most interesting to that specific group of people. For example, consider a small firm that receives regular referrals from larger firms in the same practice area. By assigning large firm contacts to a category, the small firm can then send communications tailored to those large firms and reminding them it is available for referrals. As another example, consider an attorney handling family law matters. If she receives regular referrals from accountants or trusts and estates lawyers, creating categories for each type of contact makes it much easier to stay in touch consistently with tailored updates.

The technology for doing this is readily available. Outlook, for example, allows you to assign categories to contacts. You can assign more than one category to each contact. Apple’s Address Book application allows you to assign each contact to a Group. Like Outlook, it allows you to assign each contact to multiple subsets. Gmail also allows you to assign contacts to groups, and also allows you to assign each contact to multiple groups.

There is no single correct way to categorize your contacts. Try a few and see if they work for your practice. Some categories to consider might include:

  • Practice areas from which you receive regular referrals
  • Business areas from which you receive regular referrals
  • Current clients
  • Past clients
  • Contacts in a certain city or area

The key is making it manageable and useful. It is better to have a smaller number of categories you use consistently than to create too many categories. As a first step, think of five to seven categories you know will be valuable.

An important element of marketing is saying something particularly memorable to a particular kind of person. Categorizing your contacts can start with a simple approach using technology you already use every day.

Russ Korins, Esq., Russ Korins Consulting LLC, assists law firms with marketing and technology. He is based in New York City. Learn more at www.russkorinsconsulting.com.

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