How to Write a Marketing Plan for a Law Firm
I count my blessings every day that I have the luxury of working with excellent students. I emotionally feed off our Partners Club events where it takes an hour or more just to hear testimonials, stories, and much good news from members.
Discovering Entrepreneurial Attorneys
While I don’t like venturing off very often, it's part of my job to fish for new members, which takes me into strange lands. When I attend trade industry shows, I hear all sorts of stories, and I must have a trustworthy face and ask the right questions because many open up to me and tell me the truth about their business, and more importantly, their lives. It’s often that I talk with attorneys who are hurting. I mean, really hurting. Many small and solo attorneys simply cannot make the phone ring constantly, and they slowly starve on the crumbs they discover by bumbling around in the dark, groping to locate a trickle of business from a referral fountain.
Others have figured out how to make the phone ring, and they toil away in their office from dusk until dawn. With every new staff member they hire, just to stave off exhaustion, they reduce their compensation. They rarely see home in the daylight hours. Vacations happen, but with a phone tied to their ear. At one point in their careers, they always felt “needed” by their clients, and their office made them feel important, but now it’s become a nuisance. Their families look at them with pity, a solid dose of longing for their time, wondering how they could have chosen a profession that would cause such overwhelm.
Looking at Your Marketing Campaign and Conquering F.E.A.R.
A few attorneys feel they have a reasonably sized business because they’ve hit the magic million-dollar mark and do very little of the legal work any longer themselves. Still, their profit and loss statements show more loss than profit. Their spouses might ask them, with all due respect, “Maybe you should consider being the lawyer again, at least then you made a decent wage?” That conversation leaves them dejected. And on any given day, the thought of going back into battle for little compensation provides despair.
More often than not, I find one of three primary marketing sins causes pain. Either they are disabled by their fear of marketing. Likely they’ve been burned by the lowly scum of our industry who take attorneys' money but don’t provide results, or worse, their mental limitations about what marketing is preventing them from taking the leap. F.E.A.R. stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real,” and these frustrated attorneys will either determine this truth for themselves, or the sin of fear will bind them until they discover either enough scraps to survive or go back to working for a firm that conquered the fear.
Ignorance Vs. the Actual Value of Numbers
The second most common marketing sin is ignorance about what marketing is. The answer: it’s simple arithmetic—just math, not science. The trick is to use the math to determine what is working and what is not and then make the necessary course adjustments to right the ship. And this is where effective US law firm management comes into the picture. Speak to a trusted business consultant and work with a credible digital media marketing company.
It’s a shame. There’s no need for the sin of ignorance because there are countless accessible sources that can empower them. It used to be; I’d have to tell them to head to the library and invest hours hunting down the correct source. Today, they can jump online and, with a few Google searches, find free downloadable content or videos to watch that can provide them with the necessary marketing basics to maximize their marketing efforts. But, alas, they have no plan to do so, and they refuse to accept guidance, refuse to invest in their further education, and when faced with the truth, they ignore it.
Effective Marketing Vs. the Price of Not knowing Your Price
But, of all the marketing sins I witness attorneys making, marketing their services based on price is by far the greatest of them. When price becomes the primary focus of the marketing, I never see attorneys positioning their firm as the highest priced firm. I always see them positioning their firm as the lowest cost provider to their target market. The problem is, the phone starts to ring. They do the work, and their competitor sees they are busy, so they advertise at a lower price, becoming a race to the bottom.
No one ever wins the price war, not even Walmart (Do some research on what a price war with Amazon has done to Walmart), but unfortunately, many attorneys fall prey to this deadly sin. But why is it so deadly? Because if we don’t charge the appropriate fee, our marketing expenses listed on the profit and loss statement becomes inflated past the point they should. And this will not let you grow your business.
Allocating Budget for Marketing Strategies
For the record, your marketing budget in a growing law firm should land somewhere between 13 and 18 percent. Some firms are lower because they have been in business long enough to develop a reliable source of referral business. Some firms run a little high because they are either just getting started or are trying to market and test out new lead sources. But I’ve witnessed firms whose marketing expenses were above 30%. When that happens, profitability suffers.
When that happens, there will be no money left for the attorney who owns the firm to hire the support staff necessary to provide relief. Or, all the money ends up being used for support staff, and the owner is left to survive on occasional draws from the profit that comes and goes. It can also lead to a line of credit that is constantly revolving.
A business consultant can help evaluate marketing campaigns vis-a-vis your business objectives. Amidst all the new marketing strategies, you must know which ones will let you improve your credibility, connect with clients, and meet your business needs. If more and more of your target audience are messaging you and are responding to your calls to action, then your marketing efforts are paying off.
Avoiding Sinful Marketing Activities
What’s truly ridiculous to me is often, when I discover an attorney operating in the low-cost model and I ask about their life, they tell me a story of pain. When I ask if they want the solution, they naturally say yes. Then I ask them to stop committing the sin of marketing on price and charge the right fee for their services. More often than not, they will defend their current position.
I can’t think of a worse fate than the forced labor camp of law these attorneys create for themselves and their staff. We have one life, and they spend most of their time toiling away but not reaching their business goals. So, here they are, struggling to thrive, suffering, and I mean suffering. I’m standing right in front of them, having invested my direct personal time with hundreds of attorneys. I know the truth when I see it, yet they ignore my advice, assuming or maybe hoping that I’m wrong.
Avoiding Crucial Mistakes in US Law Firm Management
One of the primary arguments they make is that if their phone stops ringing they take away the price marketing. I tell them I’d instead work on anything other than a case that will create a living hell for me. It falls on deaf ears. Fortunately, Darwinism is still in full effect– like the stupid cowboys that shoot their pistols straight up in the air on the Fourth of July, not realizing the bullet must come back down. Those self-employed attorneys who refuse to learn will eventually die off. Either they give up and go back to work for another firm that has figured it out, or they take on so much business at a low price that they cannot manage the work.
These attorneys now have to cut corners and end up suspended by the bar association or develop such a poor reputation that their phone stops ringing despite being the lowest cost provider. So, why am I “preaching to the choir” per se? Because there are snake-oil salesmen out there pitching the advice of being the lowest-cost provider. The temptation is natural to “just make the phone ring.” Don’t fall for it. Don’t ever fall for it. Charge the right fee for your services.
Other Aspects of Local Online Marketing Campaigns
But with so many marketing techniques out there, how do you know which one will work? If you want to build your law firm, you first need clear marketing objectives. Look into the fastest-growing marketing trends today and opt for those that will help your firm. No single marketing tool is most effective, and other marketing plans that work for one firm may not work for you. And this is where consulting and marketing professionals can help.
Looking for the best marketing techniques is not easy, but also not impossible. Today, law firms benefit significantly from an excellent digital marketing strategy. But marketing online-and offline-require market research and knowledge on effective US law firm management. A stand-out marketing website design, for instance, must help with converting inbound traffic into potential customers. After all, this is what marketing plans are for: a measurable increase in new customers.
Contact our legal management consultant Richard James or schedule a 1-on-1 consulting to get your customized practice growth plan if you want to have your best month ever.