Don’t Start By Wasting Your Money
Most law firms today understand that marketing is a valuable and necessary part of business. The challenge is that most law firms believe it is an action that must simply happen; whereas the purpose of marketing is to accomplish a specific business goal set by the firm.
Too often, law firms believe that good marketing is the development of a new brand, creation of a new website, or launch of a new ad campaign. But how does one measure “good” unless there is something to measure it against? And the item against which it should be measured is a business goal. If your marketing is not doing this, it’s a waste of your money.
Create a Marketing Purpose Before You Act
If the purpose of marketing is to fulfill a business goal, then the first step for a firm is to create your business goals.
If you have a strategic plan, determine how far you can get toward accomplishing those longer term goals within the next year. Those mini-targets then become your business goals for the coming year.
Create an Operational Plan
Now that you know your business objectives for the firm, determine how you will accomplish them with a series of actions. Where those actions relate to business decisions and process, they become part of an operational plan. A typical law firm operational plan may have sections on financial performance (or practice areas and/or individual lawyers), financial management, legal talent management, staff management, technology, compensation, expense management, practice management, client management, premises, logistics, etc.
Create a Marketing Plan
In order to achieve your business objectives for the year, in addition to operational adjustments you will likely need to plan for and implement a series of marketing initiatives. There are outlined in an annual marketing plan.
A marketing plan might touch on services area (practice groups), clients teams, individual lawyer training and performance improvement (i.e. coaching), institutional marketing programs, website and social media, branding, marketing collateral, PR, events, charitable involvement, to name just a few. A marketing plan provides details on the various actions that will take place, who will do those actions, by when, at what cost, with what resources.
Once operational and marketing plans have been developed and vetted, it’s time for implementation. Unfortunately this is where many firms fall down. It seems as if, once the planning is done, they run out of momentum for actual implementation. Or perhaps it’s that the project seems too overwhelming, and they feel ill prepared to oversee the actual implementation now that the plan is done.
To assist in this regard, I will often stay on with firms for a period of time to assist with (and even oversee) implementation. However I will generally work closely with the firm’s administrator, to ensure there will come a time when I can safely step back and the firm’s own resources can take over with implementation and process management.
Often, the launch of a new brand or website is part of a firm’s annual marketing plan. In such instances, many firms believe that engaging a design firm or web company is sufficient, but it’s not. Specific suppliers (such as website developers, corporate image designers, and the people who develop your ads and brochures) are not marketing experts. They are experts on certain aspects of marketing or branding. Law firms generally require someone to oversee an integrated marketing strategy – ensuring that the right messages are going out to the right targets in the right ways along a range of marketing vehicles. These can include web, social media, ads and brochures, but also should include PR and media, internal communications, client service processes (such as feedback mechanisms), sponsorships, policy and procedure updates, employee training on the brand, individual lawyer business development, practice area marketing and business development, etc. Early in the launch of a new marketing strategy, law firms also generally require an expert who can determine the overall messages and marketing goals, then help to oversee and guide all aspect suppliers to ensure that everything the firm does is coordinated, on message, and works well together.