What exactly is marketing? It’s not wholly what was taught in Marketing 101. It’s more than mastering the “4 P’s” (Product, Price, Place, Promotion).
It’s about finding a way to best match your legal services with the needs of your clients, establishing relationships and building loyalty.
By developing a marketing plan you are able to capitalize on the core strengths and values of your firm, maximize your work with the client mix you desire most, increase your income and profit margins, and help protect your firm from outside factors.
The reality is, whether or not you have decided to control the marketing process, while you’re interacting with clients and prospective clients you are marketing.
The marketing process begins with a plan, and the plan begins with questions. The answers to these questions will help create a profile of the firm you want to become:
About your current firm:
About your regional marketing environment:
And ultimately, ask yourself what opportunities do you believe exist for the growth of your firm?
Once you’ve determined the firm that you want to become, develop a mission statement that reflects your firm’s unique direction, delivery of services and attitude.
Evaluate your current firm in terms of your marketing direction, and determine any changes you’ll have to implement. You may need to consider changes that effect facilities, processes or personnel.
Create a Position Statement that helps identify your firm and its place in the marketplace.
Develop your Position
Once developed you need to integrate your Position Statement into everything your firm says and does. Your Statement should be an integral part of your logo, your letterhead, your office design, your voicemail and, of course, your advertising.
Create a one-year and three-year revenue and profit target for your firm. Use this to help determine a budget for marketing. Law firms should allocate about 4-5% of their annual revenue target to their marketing initiatives.
Much of your budget will be invested in designing and managing your marketing program. You most likely will need to hire a freelance artist and copy writer – or perhaps a small ad agency – to create any brochures or advertisements to convey your message. You will need to hire a marketing manager to coordinate and implement the marketing process. The rest of your budget will be spent on the media and special events you decide to use through your marketing plan.
Create a calendar and schedule all your marketing activities: the ads you'll run, the events you'll attend, the people you'll meet. You and your Marketing Manager should be able to use this schedule as a planning device, to help guide you through an active and ongoing process.
Knowing who you want to reach will help you determine how you’ll need to reach them. Find out what interests your target market; learn what activities your market spends time with, what they read and watch; then select the way that reaches them best.
If you’re trying to reach narrow audiences, like corporations, nonprofit organizations or hospitals, then you’ll want to use a targeted media like direct mail, regional trade journals and seminars. If your group is the general public, you’ll want to select mass media like newspapers, billboards and television.
The best strategy is to select the mix that puts you in front of your target market in the most cost-effective way.
Here are some choices:
Some media like newspapers and regional trade publications will include articles or news releases that you prepare, if they are relevant to the publications’ readership. Some local companies and nonprofit groups may have their own newsletter, and are often looking for relevant articles.
Special events offer a valuable way for you to interact with your prospective target market in a way that is unique and appreciated. Consider becoming a guest speaker at a seminar, hosting or sponsoring a seminar.
The most critical point of time is the moment you have your prospect’s attention. They may be opening a package sent by you, reading a brochure while in your waiting room, listening to you at a seminar, speaking with your marketing coordinator, or meeting with you in their office.
At this magical moment, they are listening. They are also judging, evaluating and categorizing.
During this moment you need to be establishing your credibility, promoting your services, distinguishing yourself from others, and in the best case scenario, suggesting a course of action so that your prospect can become a client, all the while being consistent with everything that you say and do (remember your Position Statement?).
And it’s not just the facts in your message that are being considered. They are basing much on the comfort and trust that they feel.
When you’re in this personal phase of your marketing, you’re building a relationship with a client or prospect. A law firm based on weak relationships will be forever churning clients, always searching for new clients. A firm with strong relationships will have a bond with clients, a strong sense of loyalty that will lead to steady growth and increased opportunities. Establishing a strong bond with your clients is more valuable than any single asset that resides on your balance sheet. It should be the ultimate goal of your marketing effort.
To maximize your relationship-building effort, you need to ensure that you communicate using four human elements, based on our emotional and social systems, to ensure your message is conveyed in the strongest, most positive way. Yes, you could communicate strictly with the recipient’s intellectual side, but then, you’d only be interacting with a small part of that person. If you expect to build bonds with your client, you need to consider these four elements.
Invest in developing the best message and presentation possible. Consider hiring outside creative help to develop your finished presentation. Here are some tips:
Effective ads make prospects do something. Your objective is to change the behavior of your prospect. You want them to change their pattern of thinking, mail back a reply card, make a phone call, or otherwise, do something. Ultimately, you want them to consider becoming your client, or refer a client to you.
For years, paint manufacturers have understood that most people aren’t too interested in the ingredients of paint. Instead, people want clean, fresh walls to coordinate with their design plans. So that’s how paint manufactures market themselves. Highlight the benefits of your services, over the specialties, procedures and resources you can provide.
Your prospective clients would rather be assured of a successful outcome with minimal anxiety, rather than a list of the resources you can employ to reach your objective.
list the benefits...
It’s tempting to promote all that you can do, every time you present yourself. Don’t be tempted. People who are reading your ad or listening to your presentation can only process a few ideas at once. Provide too much information and you will risk losing all of it.
When developing your marketing plan's schedule, keep in mind that persistence pays. Even the most creative, well-developed ads would flop if they were run only once. Research shows that, although a few readers will read your ad the first time they see it, ad readership multiplies after readers have noticed the ad three or four times. Many readers will not read your ad until they feel it’s relevant – so basically you’re on their schedule, they’re not on yours. So it makes sense to run an ad (without changes) at least four times before judging its performance. Sales people, too, have long realized that few sales are made with the first sales call; it usually takes at least four presentations to achieve results.
Be sure you account for them in your plan:
Now take a deep breath, step back for a moment,
and take a look at your marketing plan overall:
Once your marketing effort is off the ground, you'll want to find out if it’s working. To do this accurately, you'll need to determine the primary referral source for every new client you receive. You should break this down by specialty, to help ensure how your marketing is impacting your client mix.
Analyze your new client activity and potential revenue to the firm, against the cost of that lead source to determine the pay-back for each lead source.
You may want to consider tracking secondary lead sources as well. For example, you may find that the Yellow Pages is the primary lead source, but a long running ad in the local paper is a strong secondary lead source. Both sources should be attributed when considering the pay-back of lead sources, and their impact on client mix.
Another useful marketing tool is the Client Satisfaction Survey. With a well-designed survey, you can collect useful information about your practice's performance and receive suggestions for improvements, all through the eyes of your clients. Further, you can solicit suggestions for marketing to people similar to the recipient ("How would you suggest that we promote ourselves to others like yourself, who may be in need of similar services?') Invite clients to provide you a name and address of friends and family who may be interested in receiving a complimentary newsletter.
On a quarterly basis,
review your progress:
Once enough time has passed to test various aspects of your marketing program, consider modifying small aspects and tracking its impact on leads, comparing the results to previous results. This is the ongoing, ever-developing process of marketing.
Implementing a marketing plan is a lot like mastering a sailboat. Reading the wind; navigating with charts, tide tables and a compass; and being skillful with the tiller, you’ll be able to steer the boat on a course that you choose. Without a plan, the journey will likely be more perilous and who knows where will end up.
Best of all is the small initial investment that writing a marketing plan requires. With a notepad and pencil, your journey can start today.
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