Four years ago, I published an article that outlined ways to establish a successful culture of marketing inside a law firm. Assuming you followed these instructions and you now have a marketing program in place at your firm, this article will address ways to foster and further a fruitful marketing culture in a business environment that is constantly changing.
Review and Assess
In the last quarter of the year, carve out time to review the progress of the previous three quarters. Develop a list of marketing efforts and assess the return on each initiative. From advertisements to sponsorships to communications to events and business development efforts—review and assess the effectiveness of each initiative. Which effort produced a direct referral? Which effort led to a new client? How many clients were obtained? What worked really well and what flopped? Are there things that could have been done better, and if so, what could have been done? Finally, what efforts absolutely need to be repeated again and what should not be repeated?
The activities of the past year can also provide valuable information for new opportunities. Are there potential revenue streams that have been untapped and deserve exploratory opportunities? Did something fail last year but while failing, it unearthed an opportunity to reach a new target market? The analysis should help to identify the efforts worth repeating and the items that should be potentially retired. The data may help to unveil new avenues potentially worth pursuing—and perhaps previously overlooked or frowned upon. Keeping an open mind during this review process is crucial.
Identify New Initiatives
The ability to think outside the box for business development purposes is critical to bringing in new business. It is good to explore at least one new marketing initiative each year. Maintaining the same routine makes for stale marketing, which often leads to a decrease in business development. Instead, consider lost opportunities and the value they could have afforded you. Have you discussed new initiatives with members of the firm? Perhaps you have never sponsored, supported or participated in a particular event or placed an ad in an industry-specific publication, but you have been curious enough to see whether or not it is the right fit for your firm or practice. Spend some time and research whether or not these initiatives are worth the financial resources for your particular firm or practice area. If the cost outweighs the risk, jump in and give it a shot, even for just one year. Then, this time next year, review and assess your new marketing initiatives.
Review Your Data
Understanding and dissecting data that relates to your marketing program is critical in determining its effectiveness. Each year, I spend a significant amount of time reviewing the analytics of our firm website and blogs. I then share the information with attorneys to encourage participation and friendly competition. The data obtained from these reports helps to shape future marketing efforts, support marketing strategies, increase enthusiasm and participation, and helps to identify opportunities. For example, if one practice area page is not getting the web traffic you would anticipate, perhaps it is time to assess what marketing initiatives the practice is working on and the effectiveness of their efforts. A decrease in traffic is often attributed to a decrease in marketing effort, and so to combat the issue you may want to encourage the practice to publish a legal alert or article for publication. Stale pages produce little traffic. If one attorney bio has more page visits than ever before, investigate and follow the website analytics. If the family law practice group had 10,000 page views last year and only 2,000 this year, investigate the analytics to determine whether a particular event or effort impacted the traffic. The data helps to decipher trends and discrepancies, and it is the marketer’s responsibility to understand the data and address the issues accordingly.
Interview Your Subjects
As you make plans for the continued success of the internal marketing plan, be sure to interview and obtain feedback from all stakeholders. Without their feedback, you cannot determine the level of commitment or enthusiasm about an initiative resulting in inevitable failure. A great time to obtain the feedback is during a monthly marketing meeting toward the third quarter of the year. Encourage dialogue from all participants and keep an open ear to each comment. Call it a safe zone and solicit their honest feedback to help shape the following year’s marketing plan. Follow up with an email or online survey to collect feedback from anyone who may have been absent from the meeting. If they do not participate and do not provide feedback, they can’t very well criticize efforts after the fact.
Solidify Your Marketing Budget
The marketing budget plays an integral role in the marketing plan. The budget is most likely based on the previous years’ revenues so it will fluctuate annually. After assessing the marketing initiatives and identifying which efforts will proceed to execution, marketers need to figure out how the initiatives will fit within the budget. In the event that the items don’t fit the budget, a request for additional funds may be required. Prioritizing the funding is also critical. When ever developing a budget, it may become necessary to reduce or eliminate participation in one event in order to support another initiative. Unfortunately, this frequently occurs and requires further discussion and dialogue about the best use of firm resources—including marketing dollars.
As a general matter, marketing is constantly evolving—from magazine advertisements to search engine optimization tactics. For many law firms, it is a difficult concept to adopt and embrace. Once marketing and business development efforts maintain a position within the firm, it becomes essential to continuously check the effectiveness of each effort to maximize returns and eliminate unproductive endeavors.
About the Author
Nancy L. Gimbol is the director of marketing at Eastburn and Gray, P.C. in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. She can be reached at email@example.com or 215.345.7000.