Most small and midsized law firms have similar marketing goals, at least in some respects, as large firms. Firms want to satisfy current clients, develop more work from those clients, seek additional clients and foster a consistent, recognized brand. What most big firms have that smaller firms do not are chief marketing officers and IT directors who develop and implement marketing plans.
Many smaller firms decide against hiring anyone to specifically engage in marketing and instead spread the duties among busy lawyers and staff who can only manage to focus on marketing between client deadlines. The result is often piecemeal marketing and a lack of coordination that frustrates those making the efforts.
COMPONENTS OF A MARKETING PLAN
All law firms should have a marketing plan. For a smaller firm, a marketing plan may actually be more essential than for a larger one. A marketing plan should consider, coordinate and incorporate individual marketing plans for each attorney and practice area, as well as any additional marketing plans based on the entire firm.
A marketing plan should cover firm branding. Because many legal consumers hire a lawyer rather than a firm, branding should consider each lawyer in the firm. To build the individual lawyers into a “firm brand,” the plan should emphasize the commonalities of the individual lawyers. For example, perhaps the firm’s lawyers all focus on being available and providing excellent client service, with each lawyer sharing a similar definition of that service. Firm materials and external communications should be coordinated to reflect the firm brand in a consistent fashion.
Other important features of a modern marketing plan are website development and social media management. Websites should be content-driven and regularly updated. They should be designed with the target audience in mind. The appropriate social media for a particular firm should be well considered. Most law firms should use LinkedIn for marketing purposes, but the value of other social media platforms varies widely based on firm services and audience.
Additional aspects of a marketing plan include database development and creation of materials that reflect firm skills and expertise. Databases should accumulate readily accessible details regarding current clients and should contain information on referral sources and prospective clients. Materials should include articles, white papers, summaries of firm successes and other materials that reflect the firm’s capabilities.
IMPLEMENTING THE PLAN
The very best marketing plan will fail if it isn’t implemented. A small firm might gather up its attorneys and hash out a marketing plan only to revisit it a year later and note that nothing has happened because no one chose to lead its implementation. A firm can resolve this by assigning someone specifically dedicated to implementing the plan.
Smaller firms often underestimate the volume of work that can be shifted to a marketing director and decide not to hire such a person. A small firm might also hesitate at the cost of hiring a full-time marketing person. For firms that decide against a marketing director, the continuing challenge is that no one person has ultimate responsibility for marketing, so it likely happens haphazardly, without coordination.
There are alternatives to hiring a full-time marketing director. Many excellent candidates are seeking part-time work. Or professional marketing firms can provide someone to coordinate marketing development and implementation on a part-time basis. Nonetheless, most firms ultimately discover that effective marketing involves having a responsible person dedicated to that specific task within the firm.
THE DUTIES OF A MARKETING DIRECTOR
If a law firm doesn’t already have a marketing plan, the marketing director can work with the firm’s lawyers to develop one. After development, the marketing director is responsible for implementing it. Implementing the plan may include:
- Developing consistent firm materials, including brochures, business cards, folders and presentation materials.
- Developing and updating the website. Updates may include announcements, posting alerts, adding articles, etc.
- Reviewing and analyzing website statistics.
- Writing and disseminating press releases.
- Handling external communications, including alerts, cards and firm mailings.
- Organizing videos for lawyer profiles.
- Developing substantive video presentations.
- Facilitating all aspects of webinars.
- Gathering competitive intelligence by monitoring other law firm marketing strategies.
- Overseeing attorney participation in bar associations, trade associations and community activities.
- Coordinating marketing events such as fundraisers, open houses and trade shows.
- Creating and maintaining firm blogs.
- Coaching and supporting attorneys in marketing efforts.
- Developing a firm database to organize information about current clients, potential clients and referral sources.
- Managing the use of social media for the firm.
- Public relations.
FINDING THE RIGHT DIRECTOR
The right person for a small law firm needn’t necessarily have a marketing degree. A firm should consider its key marketing goals. Skills that are important for most firms include an excellent command of language, a comfort level with the technical aspects of websites and blogs, and good interpersonal communication skills. Hiring someone who has an understanding of the legal business, particularly the practice areas of the firm, is helpful. Consider both nonpracticing lawyers and paralegals.
ENSURING THE DIRECTOR’S SUCCESS
The most important aspect of ensuring the marketing director’s success is providing regular access to firm leadership. The director who isn’t provided ample communication opportunities with the firm’s lawyers will not be able to implement the firm goals. Regular marketing meetings are most likely to achieve success. The
firm must define the roles and responsibilities of the director. If the position is newly created, the role will evolve. However, initial expectations should be established. The firm should discuss how to determine the success of the marketing director’s efforts so that it can effectively evaluate them. Success should be measured relative to the specific roles assigned to the director.
Finally, the firm and director should review and update the marketing plan annually, and all of the firm’s attorneys should be included, if possible.