One Marketing Plan Does Not Fit All Lawyers

I have come to the conclusion that legal marketing comes in many styles and with many strategies. Similar to my varying divorce cases, one size does not fit all. Many factors come into play when creating a marketing strategy. Among other things, you must consider whether you are a young or seasoned lawyer; if you are sole practitioner or part of a large firm; if you practice in a large metropolitan community or small town; and the area of law you concentrate your practice.

In fact, if you search on the Internet for “legal marketing tips,” there are endless pages of thoughts. One common finding is that lawyers need to treat our practices as a business. Long gone are the days when we put a sign outside our doors and the clients came. With each passing year, the competition intensifies.

In addition to our role as lawyers, we must also serve as sales people, public relations professionals and marketers. Our jobs are a never-ending cycle of locating potential clients, turning contacts into clients, servicing the client and, after finishing a case, repeating the cycle. Today, it is more important than ever for us to make sure that our clients are satisfied. If clients are unhappy, there is the possibility of damaging reviews on the Internet.

Rule #1: Use the Web/respect the Web.

Although client reviews on websites can be a powerful source for prospective clients, the legal world is different than most businesses that solicit reviews. Businesses that serve thousands of customers a year, such as restaurants, are some of the most prominent users of these types of sites. However, most law practices serve a much smaller pool of clients. One negative review for a small business is much more impactful than one for a large business.

One of my colleagues, an attorney with a successful solo practice and reputation, has always run her business the old-fashioned way, without current technology. Although always successful, fierce competition is encroaching on her practice. A few months ago she revealed that she is moving forward on her first Internet marketing activity. I was sure she was going to announce the creation of a much-needed website. Rather, she declared her first foray into marketing was to pay thousands of dollars for Internet marketing on one particular review site. On this site, client reviews are encouraged and can be easily posted. However, the lawyer will have no control over the reviews.

When incorporating review sites into your marketing strategy, I suggest developing a systematic plan in the event that you receive negative reviews. The marketing world calls this ‘reputation management’.

Rule #2: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”*

The colleague I mentioned earlier did not have a specific plan for her marketing. I would have created a mini-plan that could include the review site, but was not limited to one facet of marketing. Other potential areas are: Internet marketing, print advertising, face-to-face meetings, speaking engagements, publications, networking meetings, brochures, business cards, etc. Before jumping into any marketing activity, evaluate the following pros and cons.

· Is there a downside?

· Is there an upside?

· What are the costs?

· Is your return on investment (ROI) worth the money, time and effort?

· Will there be a flood of calls and inquiries from people that aren’t qualified clients?

Rule #3: Create an organized marketing plan with objectives, goals and time frames.

After researching and learning about marketing options, decide which areas interest you. You either need to implement the marketing campaign on your own, or if your budget permits, hire a professional. Do not bite off more than you can chew. Start in manageable increments, and as you build momentum, keep increasing and expanding your efforts. Set timetables for adding stages to your campaign.

Rule #4: Evaluate your marketing efforts, regularly.

I have a friend who is a well-known professional. He considers himself the king of networking and is a fixture at networking meetings, seminars, galas and charitable events. He attends as many events as possible — some nights attending two or more. He has a winning smile and a great personality. As a result, he has thousands of close contacts. Much to my surprise, my friend has admitted that these meetings have not resulted in many referrals to him. He complained that he attends the meetings, has made some very good friends at them, but his contacts from these networking events don’t refer him many matters.

My friend, the “king of networking”, needs to ask himself what his goal is for going to all the events and if those goals are being met. Everyone who attends a networking meeting is there for a reason, although the motivations could be different. Some are hoping to build business relationships, while others attend networking forums for educational purposes. Some go just to be social. It is important that you know why you are attending the event and make sure you are accomplishing your objectives. If your goals are not achieved, you may want to consider refining your approach, or you may decide to spend your time on something else that may be more productive.

Please remember that marketing is an art, not a science. A style or strategy that works for one attorney might not be effective for another attorney. There is a lot of trial and error. The key is to find the areas of marketing that are best suited for you and your type of practice, follow-through with your plan, and give it your all.

*Benjamin Franklin

Plan to Succeed – Why You Need a Marketing Plan

Behind every successful business there is an effective marketing plan – a road map to success.

One of the greatest reasons that companies fail is that they react to urgent things, and rarely invest in important things.

Making a commitment to write a marketing plan is the first step in your business goal setting. Integrate your objectives, rationale, time lines and budget, and the marketing plan becomes an instrument for continued improvement and increased profitability.

Without a marketing plan you will have dreams and aspirations – valuable as they may be – floating around unable to take root; to grow and flourish; and to contribute to your success.

Before you can write your marketing plan you need to address some key components. If you have a team involve them in the process, and have some fun doing it.

The key components you should include look at: -

1. Your Executive Summary – write it, and then rewrite it when you have finished your marketing plan.

2. Your Goals and principal marketing objectives – which should be clear and measurable.

3. Your Business – Define important characteristics about your business, your strengths and weaknesses both corporately and individually. Evaluate where there is waste in terms of time and resources.

4. Your Customers, both potential and existing – especially what qualities do your customers value most about your product or service?

5. Your Competitors – how do you differ, and what makes you better.

6. Your Product or Service

7. Your Location – with its advantages and disadvantages

8. Decide on which marketing activities suite your business profile and requirements – be prepared to step outside your comfort zone. Take advice if you need to, and outsource what you can’t do effectively.

9. Your Budget – Your overall budget, and then your budget for the different marketing activities.

10. Your Pricing Strategy

Without the need to prepare a marketing plan you would not necessarily address these different components from a constructive point of view.

This information is key for your growth and development. This is why you need a marketing plan, without it you could be losing potential and profitability. You will have a benchmark for future growth.

Once you have the basis of a realistic marketing plan break your time lines down into short-term goals, medium term goals and long term goals. Medium and long-term goals can be changed if and when it becomes appropriate.

Now take your short-term goals and further break them down into achievable bite sized tasks. Then allocate time for them on a frequent basis.

If it helps put the days / weeks short-term task where it can be seen as a constant reminder. As you see the task-in-hand, your subconscious mind notices and starts converting your plan into action.

Without your time lines broken down the whole marketing plan can seem to daunting and “put off for another day” as other demands become more pressing. Remember without it you will tend to react to urgent things and not invest in your future.

Having a marketing plan, or road map, will give you a sense of purpose and direction; make you feel so much more positive, and give you a sense of self worth because you are investing in your future.

Without a marketing plan you will lose out on so much positive feelings about yourself and what you are doing – you may even wonder how you are ever going to get of the treadmill of mediocrity.

Over the course of the short and mid term goals you will probably trip over opportunities that did not initially present themselves. With the back drop of a sound marketing plan you will be able to sift through these ideas and see if they “fit” your objectives and can and should be integrated into your marketing plan.

Without a marketing plan you may dismiss perfect opportunities for you, or clutch at any passing fancy as being the right “fix”.

When we are run off our feet with urgent work we long for a quiet moment to take a deep breath – and yet when it happens we panic because there’s no business!

These moments of quiet can now be welcomed as a positive time to review the marketing plan, catch up and bring things back on track.

Be honest with yourself and ask yourselves the following types of questions: -

“Are the assumptions we made about the market still valid?

Do our strategies still make sense?

Which tactics do we need to implement?”

Without a marketing plan we tend to act like a “rabbit in the headlights” running for safety under all the wrong bushes – and would not use the time to invest in our future.

Keep faith in yourself, keep faith in what you do and have the confidence to invest in your future by creating a marketing plan, your road map to success. Remember to proudly sign it and date it – and own it.

Remember

1. A marketing plan makes ideas a reality
Without it your dreams can stay as dreams

2. A marketing plan forces you to address key factors that affect you and your success.
Without it you do not have the knowledge that can make the difference between success and failure

3. A marketing plan gives you sign posts
Without it you can get lost along the way

4. A marketing plan makes each step along the way achievable
Without it you can become overwhelmed and not know where to start

5. A marketing plan gives you hope and self worth
Without it you can feel rudderless and a sense of despair

6. A marketing plan sifts ideas
Without it you can dismiss golden opportunities or throw energy at activities not on-strategy for you

7. A plan gives you something to go back to in slow times
Without it you could panic and not use the time creatively

A Strategic Marketing Plan? Can’t We Just Throw Money At It?