The next time one of your contacts, prospects or former clients need a lawyer, who is she going to call? Will it be you?

Maybe not.

Even if you are the most skillful, experienced, knowledgeable and charismatic lawyer out there, you may not be the one who wins the business.

Why? Because you don’t have TOMA or “Top of Mind Awareness.”

What Top of Mind Awareness Means

Marketing Metrics magazine defines Top of Mind Awareness as “the first brand that comes to mind when a customer is asked an unprompted question about a category.”

If I were to ask you to name the first fast food restaurant, smartphone, or soft drink that comes to mind, you might say McDonald’s, iPhone and Coca Cola. Or perhaps for you it’s Burger King, Galaxy and Pepsi – your particular choice doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that whatever brand pops into your mind immediately has achieved Top of Mind Awareness.

Those product companies spend a lot of time and money on advertising and brand awareness because they want to be the first company that pops into your thoughts when the category is mentioned. Why? Because customers and clients make buying decisions every day based in large part on who comes to mind first.

What Top of Mind Awareness Means for Lawyers

You may be wondering what TOMA has to do with you. After all, you’re a professional providing a sophisticated service, not a big box store selling shoes or a fast food joint slinging burgers. It can’t be as simple as Top of Mind Awareness, can it?

Don’t clients and referral sources make decisions based on something a little more complex and nuanced than TOMA? Well, yes and no. They may still want further information about your capabilities and fee structures before making a decision, but the choice to make initial contact with you is far less likely to be the product of deliberate thought.

How to Achieve Top of Mind Awareness

Step 1. Achieving TOMA starts with making sure people know that you are a leading authority in your field. Clients, prospects and referral sources need to be very clear about what they will get when they hire you – in other words, what you do, whom you serve, how you help them and what kind of client service experience they will have. The only way others will be clear about your “brand” is for you to be clear about your brand. Everything you do, say, and write, whether in person or online, must be authentic and congruent with the overall branding message you want to deliver.

Step 2. Then, you need your clients, prospects and referral sources to think of you first when your services are needed. How? Stay on their radar.

Think about it – have you ever been called or hired by someone you ran into just the week before? One of the reasons the prospect called you is due to recency – because you had just been in contact, you were on the prospect’s mind and thereby considered a viable choice. Being in the client’s mind very recently is an element of TOMA.

What that means is that they need to see you, hear you (or hear about you) or have some contact with you at regular intervals. For example, meeting someone at a trade association meeting once is unlikely to produce TOMA a year later. But meeting someone at a trade association meeting and following up with a call, holiday card, newsletter and article of interest may help you become Top of Mind. Attending events and volunteering for committees may make you Top of Mind. Being on a list of top lawyers, earning a mention in a trade publication, or sending referrals to someone might do the trick as well.

Remember the old saying “Out of Sight, Out of Mind?” Don’t let it happen to you.

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