Stacey E. Burke: 20-year lawyer, legal marketing expert and consulting business owner.
While many lawyers are good at business development, that skill set is very different from being a successful marketer. Marketing is its own discipline, and even though lawyers are educated and often intelligent, most do not possess a marketing background. In order to succeed in the modern legal market, law firms must have a defined marketing strategy — and most attorneys know this. What many law firms fail to realize, however, is that in addition to a strategic plan, the business must determine which marketing tactics will be utilized to implement it.
What is a marketing strategy?
A marketing strategy is a researched, thought-out and well-planned document that details everything from historical data and business values to goals and metrics by which to measure success. A digital marketing strategy, for example, should contemplate baseline metrics for the firm’s assets in order to define the starting point. Reviewing, analyzing and understanding exactly where you are at the inception of formulating a marketing strategy is the only way to truly and accurately track whether or not your strategy and its implementation are successful. Once history is recorded, baselines are established and any defined business values are noted, strategic development can begin.
Law firms first and foremost need to know who they are trying to reach. Defining the target audience or target audiences is critical to developing the correct strategic approach. If you don’t know who you are trying to speak to and what action you want them to take, you are going to waste a lot of time and money. For example, a law firm that only works with businesses should focus its strategy on reaching decision makers within businesses in its service areas and not just trying to reach everyone within a certain age group or with a certain educational background in a geographically defined area.
Marketing strategies will vary by business from this point forward, as the target audience and the services each law firm provides vary. Be sure to stay niche and narrow so as not to waste time, money, resources and effort, but avoid being excessively myopic to the point of excluding too large a segment of your potential client pool. Once your strategy is defined, you will then need to determine which of the multitude of marketing tactics your law firm will employ to execute the marketing plan.
What are marketing tactics?
Marketing tactics are the vehicles or methods by which a law firm implements its marketing plan. Tactics can include everything from direct mail and branded note cards to high-level paid search engine marketing campaigns and social media. Many firms want to be “everywhere,” which generally makes them meaningfully present nowhere. It is crucial to be selective about which tactics your firm can both afford to use and will adhere to using in order to be efficient and effective with strategic implementation. For example, many law firms get distracted by “the next hot option,” whether it be Clubhouse or LinkedIn Stories, only to learn that they have no idea what they are doing and/or that some of these shiny new things will wind up being eliminated shortly after launch.
Starting off by selecting tried and true tactics is the smartest approach. Those tactics include email marketing to stay in contact with and remain top of mind with former clients, current clients and those who have otherwise opted in to receive your law firm’s electronic communications. In addition, being meaningfully present on social media does not mean joining every single channel available; it means selecting those channels that reach your desired target audience, branding them in accordance with your law firm’s brand standards, building them out fully and using them weekly (if not more often) with best practices as dictated on a channel-by-channel basis.
Consistency is a common problem for solo and small firm practitioners without a full-time, dedicated in-house marketer, and this is where vendors and consultants can be brought in to support a small business without adding to overhead. The best and more important use of a lawyer’s time is practicing law, and second to that is running the business — two of the most important factors that drive revenue. Especially in a solo practitioner firm, the marketing might be best left to an outside professional because each internal employee, if there are any, needs to be focused on the actual client work.
The skill set needed to define a marketing strategy and determine how to best implement it with the appropriate tactics is generally not something a lawyer possesses and not something a lawyer should want their support staff learning at the expense of casework. Knowing what I’m good at and where I need support, and acknowledging it, is a skill that has served me well both personally and professionally. I encourage law firm owners and decision makers to do the same. If you are an amazing insurance coverage litigator, don’t mire yourself down by trying to learn how to use Twitter. Hire and work with an experienced contractor, consultant, vendor or — if your budget permits — an in-house marketer to handle these tactical aspects of your marketing plan development and implementation for you.