Best Practices: To Create an Effective Marketing Strategy, Eliminate Choices

by Paulo Amaral on May 15, 2014

Paulo Amaral profileThe main challenge in marketing today is that there are too many options available. And this problem will only get worse as new startups are constantly creating great new ways of promoting businesses. Lawyers and legal marketers often tell me that, even though this industry is rather restrictive and does not stimulate creativity, they get overwhelmed with the amount of choices they need to make on where and how to promote their firms.

If it makes you feel any better, science now confirms that having too many options is stressful and confusing. And this confusion often leads us into not taking any action – even though we logically know that we should do something. In her bestselling book, The Art of Choosing, Columbia Business School professor and researcher
Sheena Iyengar says that the ideal number of choices that we like to have is between three to five. Beyond five we get confused and often end up making no choice at all.

It is simply impossible to limit the ways we can promote a law firm to three to five alternatives. However, we can certainly eliminate many options.

It is paramount to start any marketing planning by eliminating choices. Brainstorming should happen only after you have narrowed the possibilities of what makes sense for you to do. Otherwise, you will spend weeks, even months, going to meetings and sending emails back and forth to try and agree on what to do and what not to do. And by the time you have a final plan, new technology has emerged and your plan has become obsolete. Does it sound familiar to anyone?

To help clients in this daunting task of eliminating choices, I divided the marketing needs of law firms into six distinct stages. Once you identify where your firm is, you will be able to focus your marketing efforts on activities that make sense to do at the moment. When you move into the next stage you can market your firm according to the needs of that particular stage. I recommend that larger firms view each office and/or practice area separately, and evaluate where each one fits in this model.

Here are the six stages:

1. We need clients now
It might be because your firm is opening a new office or launching a new practice area. Or perhaps you are in a firm that specializes in contingency-based services, as is the case with personal injury. Whatever the reason is, you need clients immediately. Don’t waste much of your time on long-term activities, such as branding and search engine optimization. Not now, at least.

Rather, focus on activities that will bring business right away. For example, optimize the conversion rate of your website, so a large percentage of your visitors call you and become clients. Then launch aggressive pay-per-click advertisement campaigns.

2. We need clients soon
Your lawyers are busy. You have enough work for now. But you know that soon cases will be closed and some clients might decide to go elsewhere. This situation is common among firms that litigate individual cases for months or years, and so have enough business for the time being, but will soon need new clients.

In this case, you need to do the opposite from firms that need clients immediately; you need to focus on branding your services so that your name is immediately recognized and respected in your niche. You want to create a waitlist of clients wanting to hire you.

3. We can’t take new clients, but would like to
Your firm is growing, but it is at its limit. Your lawyers and staff are working even more than the “normal” for the industry. Yet, you are unable to hire more people to meet the demand. In order to do so, you’d need to first get more clients. But to get more clients you need more staff. This is the trickiest problem to solve, as it takes very careful planning and implementation.

To break this vicious cycle, you need to do a combination of things that will bear fruits both immediately and on the long run. Depending on your specific situation, the best way out might be to try to get more business from your current clients. This will decrease the amount of time it takes learning about new clients and negotiating initial terms, and it increases efficiency.

4. We need to cross sell

Your firm is well established. Most of its revenue comes from one or two practice areas. The other practices are struggling, as most people don’t yet know that you also offer these services, or have not felt confident enough to hire your lawyers in that area. Instead, they take these matters to different law firms. The problem here is twofold. First, you are losing a stream of revenue. Second, the other firm where your clients go might be really good at cross selling and end up taking your clients away from you completely – even in the areas in which you are known for being the best.

Rather than spending time and money trying to attract new clients, first focus on maximizing the value that you get from each current client. It is likely that you need to rebrand your firm and showcase your other services. Think about giving these other services more visibility on your website – display them proudly on the first page. Simply put, if you don’t think that your other services are that important, your clients are not likely to consider them significant either. Another good strategy is to train your business development people on how to most effectively communicate the message to your clientele.

5. Our focus is client retention

The name of your law firm is instantly recognized and it often appears on newspapers and industry publications. Your client roster is impressive – it features some of the most famous companies in the world. Sure, you always want to take on new clients, and for that you have great business development professionals. However, client retention is a primary concern of yours. Yet, very few publications, marketing agencies, and business gurus focus on it.

What to do to retain your clients depends largely on who your clients are. Nonetheless, at the core of your strategy must be a way to effectively and efficiently communicate with your clients. You want to inform them of what is going on around the planet and in Washington that can affect them – and how they can avoid problems or seize opportunities.

6. We are, well, confused…

If your firm works in many practice areas or has more than one office, doing the overall marketing planning – and then implementation – can be very confusing. There are many variables to take into account and many messages to convey.

Creating a unified firm-wide message is no easy task. You might feel like a hamster in a wheel, running round and round and not really getting anywhere. In moments like this, it is best to start by doing full audits of your marketing efforts. Assessing what is working and what is not will give the initial clarity you need to start organizing your plan. Outside consultants can be very effective in analyzing the situation, as they come in with “fresh” perspective.

In which stage is your firm? Once you identify it, you will be able to remove countless options of how to market your firm. This way you can focus your marketing budget and actions on what really matters for you right now.

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

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