A killer marketing plan is essential in bringing in new clients and generating incremental billings for a law firm. Like a good defense attorney develops a deliberate plan before heading into the courtroom to defend a client, a law firm needs a deliberate, step-by-step marketing plan to succeed.
Some lawyers may think that their law firm is a practice and not a business. They may feel that branding and marketing are just a waste of time and money. They may believe that if you are the best practitioner in your field, the clients will find you. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Like any business, a law firm thrives on a growing case load that helps to fund office infrastructure, fairly compensate administrative staff, retain top legal talent and give clients the best achievable outcomes. The firm can build an evergreen case load if it has a compelling and differentiated story about the firm, a clear marketing strategy and efficient systems in place to execute the strategy. In short, an integrated game plan to win clients in the market.
Without a marketing plan, you will depend on centers of influence (e.g. accountants, consultants, brokers, etc.) and client word of mouth referrals, which may or may not help you generate much incremental revenue. You’re effectively counting on other people to tell your story and refer business, which amounts to putting a lot of eggs in someone else’s basket.
So, how do you create a killer marketing plan for a law firm?
Marketing plans for law firms can be very complicated and hard to follow, so if you’re looking for an good example to model yours after, consider Jones Whyte Law, a law firm that markets itself by embracing simplicity, clarity and alignment.
Here is a step-by-step approach that we recommend:
- Capture Your Business Goals. Like any other business, a law firm’s goals generally focus on winning more new clients, generating more revenue from those client relationships, and retaining or driving repeat business from clients over time. The best goals for any firm should be S.M.A.R.T.:Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For instance, a SMART goal would not be captured as “get more clients and increase revenue”. Sounds a little like motherhood and apple pie, don’t you think? Instead, it should be captured with greater specificity and measurability e.g.: “increase the number of new client retainers to 7 per month and the incremental billings by $2,600,000 in the next twelve months.”
- Identify Your Target Audience. After capturing your goals, documenting them and getting alignment with your partner team, the next step is to determine who are your prospective clients and where they will come from. Your marketing plan will be focused on targeting these prospects and focusing you time, resources and attention on increasing client conversion. Segmenting and targeting your prospects is a science unto itself. In the simplest terms, you are trying to determine who is the best fit for what you are offering, why they would pick your firm and how you can trigger their intent to engage you. Each target audience member can be further classified into “persona” groups or personalities based on their behaviors and how they make buying decisions. Here’s a link to an article that provide you with more detail about the Do’s and Don’ts of Persona-Based Marketing.
- Determine How to Communicate with Clients. A critical component of your plan is to determine how you will connect with your target audience. In short, you must think about how you will meet them, where they are and on their terms. As opposed to assuming that they will just come to you. This exercise focuses you on narrowing down to specific marketing channels where your target audience is already present – as opposed to trying to create your own proprietary channel to market (which can be tremendously time consuming and expensive). Developing a multi-channel marketing strategy can be challenging, but we’ve done a lot of the homework for you already. Check out this article on How to Get the Most Out of Multi-Channel Marketing. Digital marketing channels will be an important place to start and an attractive and professionally built website should be your first priority. Like most things these days, the “zero moment of truth” with your prospective client will happen online rather than in person!
- Craft Your Brand Story. Now, what exactly are you going to say to your prospective clients? From your client’s perspective only two things really matter: 1) your story and 2) how they experience your story. Getting your story right—simple, clear and compelling—is no simple task. But fear not, we’ve done a ton of research on this at TopRight over the years and we’ve written much on this subject. Check out this short article on How to Create a Captivating 6-Second Story.
- Assure You Generate a Return on your Marketing Investment. Without guidelines and relevant knowledge, formulating a marketing budget can be a daunting task. The cornerstone of a killer marketing plan is a bullet-proof marketing budget. By bullet-proof, we mean that it can withstand the full fire of your Managing Partner and the finance committee as they try to ascertain whether or not it will generate a return on their investment. Unfortunately, if you hire an inexperienced marketing consultant or agency to help, they may gloss over this critical success step. Remember that just investing a lot of money in digital advertising alone does not guarantee to bring more clients to your firm. You need an integrated plan with the expected ROI from each investment in each channel clearly mapped out.
- Formulate Strategies to Achieve Your Business Goals. Having killer plans and smart goals without the right strategies to execute and achieve them is setting yourself up for certain failure. Every objective and goal that you capture should be backed up with a clear and logical strategy to fulfill. Again, we’ve done a lot of research over the years to help you out with this. Too much to cover in this article, but this one from the archives on what happens When Story Meets Strategy, will get you pointed in the right direction!
- Measure Everything and Monitor to Improve Results Over Time. Monitoring your firm’s progress towards your goals is essential in determining if your marketing investment is yielding sufficient returns. If you do hire an advertising agency to help you, they should be able to report out regularly on how your marketing investment correlates to achieving your goals and measurable business results. It they can’t, show them the door. Furthermore, if you start to see diminishing returns on your investment, that means it may be time for a refresh and revisit of your strategies. Great firms constantly challenge themselves, raise the bar on their performance and get better returns on marketing over time.
For a more in-depth look at how to transform your law firm with an authentic and relevant firm story, a clear strategy, and fully aligned systems, follow @TopRightPartner on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn, subscribe to my blog, and order a copy of my best-selling book Marketing, Interrupted.