The most successful law firms consistently place strategy and planning as a high priority task because they know it’s fundamental to long-term success. Surprisingly, 64% of businesses don’t do any planning.
Thoughtful planning can truly make or break your company, but many entrepreneurs simply say “I’ll get to that later!” Or they claim to have a plan in their head which doesn’t do any good when it’s time to evaluate your progress and make adjustments to the company.
If you’re serious about the long-term growth of your law firm, having a written strategic business plan is a must-have. Our expertise lies in creating and executing a detailed marketing plan to be included as a supplement to your business plan. The document you create after reading this article will be instrumental in meeting your business goals.
We focus on the detailed, tactical side of marketing because it’s where many business owners struggle. They have great plans for success, but get lost in the day-to-day details of how to execute a marketing campaign – things like updating the website or being active on social media. Marketing is an activity that needs your attention every day. Without a plan to make that happen, it just won’t.
Remember that planning takes time. You won’t be able to craft your plan in an hour. It will probably take several planning sessions over the course of a week or two. Go section by section until your ideas are on paper and you’ve got a plan you’re excited to implement.
Your marketing strategy
Before we dive into the tactical components of the plan you need to step back and look at the business from a high level. You need to identify your goals, your differentiator and your target market.
You need to get detailed about what you plan to accomplish. You might want to average four new cases per month. Or you might want to increase revenue each month by $7,000.
If you’re familiar with SMART goals, then you know they need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. So you might set a goal such as this:
Increase monthly revenue by $7,000 (from $15,000 to $22,000) by December 31, 2016.
You’ll notice that these examples are tied to sales, which is where the focus of these marketing goals should be. You might have a goal to hire another associate before the end of the year, which is great. But that goal fits better in your business plan because other factors are at play besides marketing.
Write or type each goal, and consider how much you’re willing to take-on at one time. Remember that these are high-level goals so you probably only need one to three of them.
Your competitive advantage
Think about how many attorneys do what you do. There’s probably quite a few just in your town or city. So how do you set yourself apart from the competition?
Here’s a hint: customer service is not a valid answer. That is everyone’s answer! You need to take a hard look at your business and really understand why you are different. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Southwest Airlines differentiator is quite simple: Bags Fly Free.
Everyone touts the benefits of legal services, but you need to consider the unique benefits of your services. Check with your clients and listen to the feedback they provide. Implementing a formal (and on-going) survey will provide valuable insight. Doing this on an on-going basis is important because your competitive advantage will certainly evolve over time as your business and the legal industry changes.
This is likely the most important component missing from your strategy. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal client based on market research and real data about your existing clients.
A buyer persona differs from a more general target market, which is NOT who you want to reach. Target markets include demographic information, but very little beyond that. Buyer personas go a level deeper, providing more insight into the client you’d prefer to work with.
A buyer persona includes the demographic information, and other psychographic information such as:
- What they want to accomplish
- Goals that influence their decisions
- Pain points that you solve
- Where they go for information and what type of media they use
- How and why they make purchases
- When they make a purchasing decision
Prior to the internet and digital marketing, target markets worked relatively well. But with more knowledge and insight on consumer behavior, we can be more focused with our marketing messages. Essentially, target markets have become too broad to be effective.
You might still have the mindset of “everyone is an ideal client.” I urge you to re-think that because you cannot be all things to everyone. You need to focus your time and energy reaching the individuals who will become profitable clients for your law firm. Create no more than three buyer personas so you stay focused on your best clients.
Your buyer persona can take the form of a few short paragraphs, or bullet points with a few sentences in each. Make sure you address the pain points you’re solving and why they will hire your firm as opposed to a competitor.
Planning your campaigns
It’s time to get into the nitty gritty of your plan. What exactly are you going to do? What’s the best way to accomplish your goals?
We recommend approaching this phase in the form of campaigns – a coordinated series of steps to promote your services. For each campaign, you’ll need to include:
- A campaign title
- A campaign goal
- The buyer persona this campaign targets
We pick smaller, more “bite-size” goals for a campaign so we can ensure progress toward those big picture goals. We also select a buyer persona so we know exactly who we’re going to reach with the messaging and the content. The buyer persona you select is going to dictate the specific tools and tactics you use.
Our expertise lies with digital campaigns, so that is the example we’ll outline here:
- Campaign title: Operation Internet Improvement
- Campaign goals: Increase the number of leads from the website each month from five to 15; increase the number of customers from the website each month from one to three.
- Buyer persona: Baby Boomer Kathy
Since you’ve done your homework on this specific buyer persona, you know baby boomers actively use the internet to find a service provider like an attorney. Now you need to decide what tasks you’re going to commit to in order to achieve these goals.
Your very, very basic action plan could look like this:
- Develop two white papers on elder law that will be available for download on your website.
- Develop a follow-up workflow (a series of emails) to keep in contact with the individuals who download your white paper
- Update your company blog twice per week with educational content and targeted keywords
- Update your social media accounts consistently; Facebook updates 4 to 5 times per week; LinkedIn 3 to 4 times during the business week; Twitter 4 to 6 times per day during the business week.
Some of these tasks will include sub-actions, additional research and perhaps assistance from a marketing consultant.
For example, you should be blogging with keywords and phrases that your buyer persona would search for. So you’ll need to include keyword research as an action item as well. And before you dive into your social media updates, you want to develop a content calendar with social posts that have been pre-selected ahead of time.
As you can see, creating a campaign is not going to happen in one sitting. It’s going to take time to develop all the pieces and parts. But carving out time to do this is what’s going to ensure you achieve those short-term and long-term goals.
It’s also a smart idea to have more than one campaign running because one source of leads won’t be enough for your firm – it’s typically not enough for any business to thrive on just one marketing campaign. Your other campaigns could be for your additional buyer personas, or they could incorporate some non-digital forms of marketing like networking.
Timeline and delegation
The length of your campaigns will vary. Some might be a short six to nine months, while other will be ongoing as they continue to generate leads and customers for your business. Obviously the goals you set will also dictate how long you need to pursue your actions because a big goal like doubling your sales is going to take time.
Your timeline will also be influenced by how much time each day you have available to execute the plan. If you have an hour or two each day, then that’s great!
But if you’re like most attorneys, it can be difficult to set aside that much time. You’ll need to explore other options such as delegating these tasks to staff member, or hiring a marketing consultant to help. Remember that marketing is all about consistency. It’s not a task you can do once or twice a month and expect to get results.
Documenting your plan
We mentioned earlier that many business owners have their plan in their head. But this is a plan you need to write out in detail and share with your team for execution. You’ll refer to this plan on a regular basis, so keep a printed copy handy.
Measuring the results
As you execute your campaigns, you’re going to measure ongoing progress toward your goals. There are numerous free tools available for blogging, social media and email. Here are a few of them:
- WordPress for websites and blogs
- Google Analytics for measuring web traffic and traffic sources
- MailChimp for email marketing
- Buffer or HootSuite for social media
While these tools can provide awesome insight into how your campaigns are performing, you’ll end up spending a lot of time piecing together data and trying to connect the dots. That’s why we prefer to use an all-in-one marketing automation tool that ties everything together in one dashboard. It eliminates the guesswork and helps track return on investment (ROI) in much more detail.
Our preferred tool is called HubSpot. It’s what we use for both our campaigns, and for client campaigns.
As your campaigns run and you track the results, you’ll understand what is working and what needs to be adjusted. The information you collect is valuable because it can shape future campaigns. Marketing decisions should always be data driven, so pay close attention to the numbers and go from there.
Final thoughts on creating your marketing plan
What’s outlined here might overwhelm you at first, but don’t be intimidated. If you’re serious about building a successful law practice, then you need to take your marketing and planning to the next level.
The first attempt at your plan may not be perfect, and that’s OK. Marketing is about testing, re-testing and finding what works best for your firm and your buyer personas.