From the small town solo practitioner to the top national players, every law firm must get involved in marketing at some level in order to obtain and retain clients. The quality of work a firm does can maintain clients and become a source of referrals but in order to reach and garner potential clients, a certain marketing strategy must be implemented in order to achieve the firm’s goals.
Lawyers practice law. Marketers offer a service or product. Marketers and lawyers have very different backgrounds, personality types, and career expectations. Lawyers and marketers need to accommodate their differences and play to each other’s strengths in order to have a successful relationship. And so it becomes necessary for a law firm to entrust its marketing to either an outside firm or an in-house department dedicated to the promotion of their business.
Who you have marketing your services will greatly impact the success of the plan. If you entrust this task to a team with whom you do not have a relationship built on respect and clear communication, the goals will never be achieved. Broad, undefined goals will hinder the marketer’s success. An agent that is misinformed or makes assumptions about the firm’s record will sabotage the outcome of the marketing plan. This lack of clarity often results in an “us vs. them” environment, a culture that can range from tolerant to uninterested to hostile when lawyers relate to their marketing professionals.
There are key factors to consider when preparing your marketing plan. Here are just a few:
Know your business development staff and give them clear goals and expectations.
Most marketers recognize that lawyers must feel comfortable with the marketer’s style and approach to create a productive working relationship. Most marketers offer a reasonably substantial sample product and will also provide a free initial consultation. This information can help you determine whether you would like to work with a particular marketer.
Once you have chosen someone to represent you, it is the law firm’s responsibility to determine priorities, with the advice of their marketing professionals. Attorneys must learn how to delegate certain parts of the marketing plan, whether it’s sending out letters, making follow up phone calls after a seminar, sending out your monthly newsletter, or building your law firm website. Your job as an attorney is to do two things: bring in new clients and bill them for your services. Everything else should be delegated or outsourced.
It is critical you establish the priorities of your marketing plan and are willing to delegate important tasks to your key people or representative. Your relationship with a marketing executive will only be successful if they have a clear understanding of what you expect of them versus what they can reasonably deliver.
Focus on important, achievable actions that will result in satisfying clients and attracting prospects. Identify the areas of business, the specific partners, and the aspects of a marketing plan that will have the greatest impact. Recognize those practices, events, or even cities that have high potential for an expanded market.
The Right Support Can Do Wonders For Success
A well-formed and balanced team can bring about the best results in any situation. The right support may include a partner or partners whose enthusiasm and openness to the marketer’s ideas can serve as a liaison and create a nurturing relationship with the firm. Often the most senior partner is not necessarily the right person to be involved with the firm’s marketing but a partner who holds a clear understanding of the marketing goal is the best choice. A candid approach with each other will attain the right balance of experience and personnel, resulting in a common goal.
Trust & Respect Your Marketing Team!
Trust is developed and must be mutual. In order to delegate your law firm’s marketing plan you must have someone you can allocate to and you must trust them. You must believe the person entrusted with marketing has your best interests at heart and is competent. They must believe you will support their decisions and will not try to undermine their authority to make progress.
Perhaps choosing a marketing consultant who is either a practicing attorney or who formerly practiced will help gain that trust. Another possibility is to choose a consultant with considerable experience working with attorneys. Why is this important? As many of us know, most bars heavily regulate lawyer advertising, imposing all sorts of rules, so it can be essential for your marketing agent to be aware of ethics issues or at a minimum, be sensitive to them. By contrast, a marketer with no background in the law or with lawyers could recommend a marketing campaign that revolves around an ethically prohibited practice.
It is much more likely that business development staff will be respected if the expectations of the firm’s marketers are clear. If lawyers don’t know whether the marketing personnel at the firm are to perform a strategic role, a sales role, or something else, marketers may find themselves shut out of important decisions or avoided by the lawyers. Success comes when marketers and lawyers communicate clearly and with mutual respect.
Last But Certainly Not Least, Your Budget…
Ideas abound but funding is not always available for those ideas. The marketing budget is one expense that many law firms will consider reducing, or eliminating entirely, in the time of cutbacks. But studies have shown that this is the wrong move. When the economy is tight, it’s important to look at each marketing activity in terms of value and return on investment. Focus the majority of your firm’s marketing budget on investments that have low risk and high reward. If you have money left in the budget afterward, you can use it to test other marketing activities.
So whether your firm is large or small, survival rests on the basic principles of providing quality work and getting the word out there about your firm. With the assistance of a trusted, qualified marketing team the opportunities to expand your firm’s service are boundless.