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January 25, 2024 5 minutes to read ∙ 1200 words

Create a Better Marketing and Business Development Plan for 2024

Kimberly Rice

Every year around this time, I assess the previous year’s growth and challenges and craft a written business communications plan as a road map for next year’s growth.

There are so many simple steps you can take to expand your business—but you need to draw up a real plan and stick to it if you want to see results. Commit to making 2024 a more strategic, productive year for your firm’s business growth efforts.

Why Create a Marketing/Development Plan and Budget

Below are five thoughts on why lawyers and their firms will benefit from creating a plan and budget:

1. To Use as a Roadmap

It’s impossible to track meaningful progress if it is not written down. How can you document achievements if not by writing them down in one place, one document? News flash: Strategic business plans and budgets are never one-size-fits-all, and ideally, it is the business plan that drives the budget.

2. To Avoid Investing Unwisely

Why waste your hard-earned funds unwisely by spending on an ad hoc basis? That is a very reckless move. Every expenditure should be a part of an integrated plan.

3. To Narrow the Focus of Your Firm’s Business Growth Efforts

An integrated business marketing communications plan and budget are essential to help firms and lawyers administer an effective marketing program so that there are benchmarks, including stated goals. It is also easier to turn down the occasional attorney “pet” project if it is not included in an overall plan.

Firms should invest their marketing budget and, more importantly, time on initiatives that will result in achieving measurable goals, such as:

  • Expanding business with existing clients
  • Cultivating and nurturing a broader referrals partner network
  • Converting existing clients into “promoters” to increase referrals
  • Attracting new clients

4. To Create Measurable Objectives and Evaluate Success

How will you know for sure that 2024 has been prosperous? What will your benchmarks be? Do you measure the “right” things? Will firm leadership’s subjective memories be enough? How will a firm determine where to focus its future marketing efforts if it doesn’t know if a given initiative played out as hoped?

A well-crafted business growth plan with objective goals, a purposeful time line, and a detailed budget can help ask and answer key questions when evaluating your firm’s marketing efforts. The answers will inform your next steps.

5. To Demonstrate Commitment to the Business

As firms and lawyers continue to operate in a hyper-competitive environment, developing an integrated business plan and budget is an investment in their success. In business, it’s not enough to “wing it.” That is the surest way to let your competition eat your lunch and poach your existing clients.

This could be your most prosperous year ever. Now is the time to plan for success.

Creating an Integrated Marketing/Development Program

Financing an integrated marketing/development program need not be a deterrent for a solo or small law firm. You can bootstrap a law practice similar to the way an entrepreneur bootstraps any other start-up. The real key is bringing focus and clarity to your marketing goals, followed by precise execution over and over again. And you do not need to do this alone.

1. Elevate the Quality of Your Work

Delivering the highest quality work product is a non-negotiable requirement for building a formidable reputation and referrals. Consider CLEs in areas of law to broaden your knowledge base to serve clients better.

2. Focus on Your Natural Network

Each of us has a network of people we know, like, and trust. Get and stay in touch with everyone and let them know what you are up to, how you provide value to your clients, and that you actively seek referrals.

With the technological tools available today for maintaining contact with your network (e.g., e-blasts, social media updates, and blogs), it has never been easier or more economical to convert your network into an active sales force.

3. Leverage Technology

Having a robust LinkedIn profile is paramount to an effective online presence. LinkedIn is likely the very first place where new contacts will check you out—even before your law firm’s website.

For each LinkedIn section, there are word limits. Max them out. Create a profile that reflects who you truly are, not just an online résumé. Show some personality and reflect on what’s important and meaningful for you in your area(s) of legal focus. Engage and comment on others’ posts, especially those with whom you’d like to cultivate a relationship. Ideally, you need to carve out no more than ten to 15 minutes a day to take these impactful steps. Over time, these steps will yield surprising results with targeted contacts, new referral partners, and a library of great content.

Sidenote: Retaining the services of a marketing professional to manage your content marketing (e.g., social media posts) can be invaluable. Marketing professionals can stay up-to-date with what is being talked about in your areas of practice and what your targets want to learn about. They also can maintain a regular schedule of content creation and delivery, freeing you up for billable work. Writing and distributing marketing content is not a productive use of your time.

4. Be the “Go-To” Resource for Your Clients

Educate clients to send all their legal work your way. You want to condition your contacts to think of you first, even if you ultimately refer the work out to another firm in your growing network.

5. Get and Stay in Touch with Target Audiences

The value of building “top-of-mind” awareness among your key targets cannot be overstated. Remember, it requires seven to ten “touches” to build top-of-mind awareness, and sending out a regular e-blast on topics of interest can be a very effective way to stay in front of them.

6. Seize All Opportunities for Free Media

Familiarize yourself with those reporters who write on topics about which you have expertise and reach out to offer expert commentary. Become a reliable news source and watch how your reputation grows with no out-of-pocket expenditure.

7. Publish (via delegation if necessary)

In addition to publishing your content on your own website and social media accounts, pitch articles to publications (including blogs) that target your niche. The key is to find the targeted publications that your clients and targets are reading and be there consistently.

8. Engage in Public Speaking

One of the highest-impact initiatives is to speak to audiences of qualified prospects—those in need of your services. Increase the promotional value by including a current bio with a headshot and article reprints that demonstrate your expertise. Determine which professional associations your ideal clients belong to and which conferences they attend. That’s where you want to be.

9. Follow Up, Execute, Repeat

None of the high-impact and economical marketing tactics outlined above will grow your practice without consistent, persistent follow-up and execution. It is better to execute consistently on a few strategic initiatives than to over-commit and fall short in the execution.

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Kimberly Alford Rice

KLA Marketing Associates

Kimberly Alford Rice is president/chief strategist of KLA Marketing Associates (klamarketing.com), a business development advisory firm focusing on legal services. She may be reached at 609/458-0415 or via e-mail at [email protected].

Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 13, Number 6, January 2024. © 2024 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.

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The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.