5 Common Mistakes Law Firms Make with Marketing

Many law firms talk endlessly about marketing as if it were the Holy Grail of business development, but as I said in my previous post, marketing is simply a substitute for a uremarkable product/service.

If law firms really want to get good at this, then they need to be much more thoughtful about the process.

Here is my Top 5 Mistakes to avoid:

1. Stop talking and start doing

The bumbling decision-making process you have set up nearly always conspires against you. Lawyers love to debate the semantics. In my world, he who hesitates has lost.

For some reason law firms think that what they are embarking on is novel, special or different to their competitors when in reality there are very few initiatives that have not been done before. You need to accept that the hardest part of any marketing exercise is to simply make things happen.

Start doing more stuff.

2. No Consistency

It doesn’t matter what department you work in, there is no consistency and it feels like the firm is lurching from one thing to another, without a clue where they are headed. A piece of advertorial here, a press release here, a newsletter there and another bit of sponsorship that is forced upon you by someone who really should know better than to ring up on the hoof and tell you that everyone else is doing it, so therefore you must be doing it. Nonsense.

Marketing is intrinsic to a firm’s success and priority number 1 right now is superpleasing your existing and loyal clients rather than going on a hunt for newbies all the time. How many firms I wonder have undertaken a systematic exercise in making sure they know who their best clients are, working out a remarkable way of keeping them secure and then looking back at the orphans – those clients who have been allowed to sit on a database with no contact – to see how many of those might still be willing to instruct the firm?

One of the issues for lawyers, unlike, say, the financial services sector, is that they seem to think that once the file is closed, so is the possibility of the client being marketed to. Don’t adopt this mindset. Assume all clients are lifetime clients.

3. No Marketing or Business Development Plan

If you have one, how many times a year do you review it. Once, twice or possibly once a week? Umm.

Any plan is there to assist you and not to tick a box for compliance reasons. It is a living, breathing document and is there to guide, inform and importantly to make sure you are spending time on the right things.

As a very simply exercise, I would looked at the Pareto principle – the 80/20 rule – and make sure that your efforts are initially focused on the 20% and cross-selling as many of my firm’s service lines as possible.

Business plans previously may have been forced on people from above but one tip, I would try to ensure going forward that everyone is bought into your proposal. Ideally they should have the ability to make suggestions or even rewrite it. In that way you are far more likely to find that people are committed to making things work.

4. Stop treating marketing as an afterthought

Firms don’t treat business development and marketing seriously enough. No matter what, billing and recording time takes priority. It doesn’t matter how much priority it is supposedly given with novel charging codes, when the chips are down marketing always plays second and sometimes third fiddle. But this is ludicrous. If the fee earners haven’t got time to do it, then who is supposed to do it? And this impacts on the consistency point. Stop ~ Start ~ Stop ~ Start.

5. No measurement

Any small business, which is ostensibly what most law firms are, would want to know the ROI for a media campaign etc. but law firms seem content to work on the smoke and mirrors principle. Sometimes it comes down to the fact that as the firm has always done something they should carry on with it.

But the reality is that if you were going to spend, say, £10,000 on a new website or £10,000 on paid advertising wouldn’t you want to know how much you had got in return?

If you were to employ a direct sales person, then you would give them a target and expect them to meet it. Presumably you would have worked out how much profit you would have made.

This analogy is no different to any marketing effort even if some areas are harder to measure than others.

If all this seems too much then don’t be surprised if the results are equally unrewarding.

I simply don’t believe that happenstance rules and firms don’t want to work systematically and profitably on their marketing efforts. But the truth of it is that unless you are consistent and persistent with your efforts then you will fail.

Next time you hold a meeting make sure you don’t let any of these overwhelm the process and you work on driving the results to the bottom line.

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