How to Create a Marketing Strategy for Your Law Firm

by Paulo Amaral on December 30, 2013

Paulo Amaral profileOne of the most common questions I am asked is: what is the best way to market a law firm? The answer is a lawyer’s favorite – “it depends. Give me more details.” Having a thorough marketing strategy in place is fundamental to help the firm grow in an efficient manner. However, creating such strategy can be daunting task. In this article I will guide you through the creation of an effective strategy.

Goals

Setting up clear and realistic goals is the first and most important part of the process. Only when we are clear on exactly what we want to accomplish can we create a path to get there. The more precise, the better. For example, acquiring fifty new clients per month is very precise and easy to measure. Then comes the question of what is achievable. To some firms, such as those which work primarily with personal injury cases, fifty clients per month is a very low number, while to other firms, especially solos and boutiques, that number is too high and not even desirable. Though it should go without saying that your goal must make sense to you, I talk to many lawyers who base their goals on how much their competitors can take. To avoid this pitfall, look at how many clients you currently have and how many billable hours are not being used. This will give you an idea of how many more clients you can have. Also, create goals for short-term (six months), mid-term (seven to two years), and long term (two to five years).

Status quo

Once the goals are clear we look into the status quo, analyzing what you and your competitors are currently doing. Let’s start with your firm. What are you currently doing to market your firm? Is it working? What do you think and feel is missing? Though I am not a fan of clichés, this one is appropriate here: “don’t reinvent the wheel”. Rather than trying to create a brand new strategy, look at what you are currently doing that is working and keep doing it. You know your firm and clients best. If you know something works for you, keep doing it, regardless of what an “expert” marketing consultant might tell you. Next look what at your competition is doing, but be careful to avoid common pitfalls. The fact that your competitors are engaging in a marketing campaign, does not mean that such campaign is good – even if the competitor doing it is very successful. I always caution clients to not copy their competitors; rather, understand what and why they are doing something and then think if it would make sense for you to adapt it to your own needs. Rather than imitating, the most important reason to know what competitors are doing is so that you are able to do something different – to standout. For example, when I started my career in marketing, the yellow pages was a great way to get clients. But you had very little time to convince prospective clients to call you. My system was simple. If my competitors had full-color ads, I’d buy black-and-white ads; if they used many photos, I’d use just a few, but very powerful pictures. Know your competition so you can outperform them.

What makes you special?

This is probably the most common flaw in law firm marketing. Too often I see firms (from solos to global firms) marketing all of their services in the exactly same way and to the same group of people – everyone. The message is the same: “hire us because we are bigger/smaller, meaner, smarter, we’ve won a gazillion dollars for our clients (prior results do not guarantee similar outcome, of course).” But that doesn’t mean anything to the public. When everyone makes the same claims, these claims are no longer special; they are the least a consumer expects from the business. Think about hotels that advertise TVs in the rooms (yes, some still do). Until the 1970s that must have been a great line to have in the ad or the outside sign, but it no longer sets hotels apart. It only makes these hotels seem outdated and plain – if they had anything else exciting they would have mentioned it instead. So focus on what sets you apart. Is it the number of partners who work in the case? Did your lawyers contribute to writing certain legislation? Maybe you have “field experience” in addition to legal knowledge (e.g. real estate lawyers who were agents or brokers for many years prior to taking the LSAT).

Target market

The reason why most firms’ marketing message is so uniform (read plain and boring) is that these firms are unsure about their target market. All too often, lawyers tell me that their ideal clientele is “entrepreneurs, investors, and bankers”. In other words, people who have money to pay the bill. That is way too broad. To start, entrepreneurs, investors, and bankers have different legal needs. And within each of the three groups there is huge diversity – clearly not all entrepreneurs have the same needs. When you are able to pinpoint the needs of a particular group, then you can market directly to them. If your firm is large and offers different types of services (i.e. family, immigration, and real estate), each service should have its own target market, but there must be commonalities between these target markets.

Budget

Creating a budget for marketing is the best thing that you can to your firm, and it is essential to a successful strategy. Think of your budget as your certainty that this is the most that you will spend – period. I often meet people who overspend in marketing (well, to be fair, in every aspect of the business) due to lack of having a budget in place. A budget will limit your spending, but you don’t need to spend that budget every month – I have clients who often don’t. In this case, you keep the leftover for a future campaign, but with no pressure to spend that money.

Who will get involved?

As the late David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, put it, “[m]arketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” Who, in your firm, will get involved in the marketing efforts? Is it one person? A department? Are partners helping? This is extremely important and, most often, overlooked. Once you know how many brains and bodies you have in your favor you will be better able to design a strategy for your firm.

Where will you promote your business?

Now it is time to decide where to invest your time and money. Many businesses (not only law firms) skip the above steps and come straight here. By doing so, they end up trying different tactics, without a clear understanding of where they want to get, or who they want to serve. The result – they waste money on unnecessary campaigns and ignore what could help them the most.

Ideally, you will engage in a mix of internet and “traditional” activities. Here’s a list of some of the options you have. Internet marketing: your firm’s website (i.e. blogging), search engine optimization (SEO), ads – pay-per-click (PPC) and display ads – social media – LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook – webinars, and email campaigns. “Traditional” marketing: events sponsorship, networking events, ads – outdoor (i.e. billboard, subway, bus), radio, television, trade publication, newspaper magazine, and good ol’ gift-giving.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are too many choices available, which make it impossible to create a strategy that fits all firms. However, if you do all the work above, you will know exactly who your target market is, how much money you can spend, what makes you special, what worked and didn’t work for you in the past, and what your competitors are doing. This will make it much easier to decide what will be the most effective way to achieve your goals. If you are still unsure, call a marketing agency to help decide which options are best suited for you.

Paulo Amaral, M.S. is the founder and CEO of Treasurefy Marketing.

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