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A key part of achieving marketing success is creating a marketing plan to guide your strategy. Check out this post for 6 tips to remember when creating a marketing plan for your law firm.
Picture this: you have just won a weekend trip to New York City. You have never been to The Big Apple before, but you have always wanted to make the trip. You have a list of the top sites you want to see: Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and so on.
You could wander around until you happen across each of these sites. However, you will likely only set out on your adventure with directions and a defined plan. Why? Because you know this helps you be more efficient, avoid getting lost along the way, and ultimately reach all of the sites you’d like to see before you fly home.
Just like you wouldn’t start a big trip without a plan of action, you shouldn’t approach your legal marketing strategy without direction either. You need a marketing plan to help you reach your goals and avoid losing sight of your path. Keep reading for six tips you should remember that will help you when creating your firm’s marketing plan.
1. Assess Where You Are Now
The first step in creating your law firm marketing plan is to determine your baseline or starting point. You should put a pen to paper (or your fingers to keyboard) to outline important information about where you currently stand in your legal marketing efforts.
What are your core practice areas? What services do you offer that are key to your success? These should be those things that are invaluable to your clients and that you are confident you do better than your competitors.
Define your current client base. Determine key demographics, such as age and location. If possible, consider your clients’ education levels, occupation, etc. Are your clients individuals, entities, or a mixture of both? Count the number of clients you serve each year. This will help you define your current audience and spot opportunities for growth.
Finally, evaluate your current marketing practices. What strategies do you currently use? Which strategies seem to be working or bringing you a positive ROI? In which areas are you underperforming? Are you partnering with any professional marketers or advertisers? This will help you see where you are currently spending money and can also help you identify adjustments you need to make in your new plan. You will want to keep strategies that are working well and refresh in other areas.
2. Define Your Goals
Once you understand where you are now, it is time to outline where you want to be. Think about your vision for your firm. What kind of clients do you want to reach? How many clients do you want to reach? Is your focus generating new leads, or would you rather focus on building long-term relationships with current clients? Are you hoping to expand into a new practice area or region?
Once you have outlined your general goals for your firm, you need to define specific goals for your marketing plan in both the short term and the long term. First, define your target audience. Decide whether you want to reach new clients, former clients, or both. Determine where your intended audience lives and works, what legal needs they have, and what channels they use to regularly consume media.
Once you have defined your audience, you should set SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. When creating these goals, you do not want to be overly vague. You need your goal to have something that you can measure, that can be realistically obtained, and is limited by a specific time period.
Don’t Say: I will get better reviews.
Instead Say: I will increase my number of 5-star reviews on Google My Business by 7-10% over the next 6 months.
Don’t Say: I will get more new clients with free consultations.
Instead Say: I will implement free consultations by May 1. I will increase my lead conversion by 5% before August 1.
We suggest setting SMART goals for 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months out. As you achieve your goals, be sure to follow up with new goals to keep you moving towards the ultimate vision you have for your law firm’s success.
3. Determine Your Marketing Budget
Research from the ABA suggests many law firms lack a defined marketing budget. Do not be a part of that number. You need to define your marketing budget before you start implementing new campaigns.
You should consider the audience you are trying to reach and the channels through which you can reach them. How much will it cost for you to advertise on that channel? Keep in mind the amount of competition in your practice area. Also, you need to factor in the amount of profit you expect to make off of your typical client and how this may impact the money you are willing to spend on reaching that client.
Ideally, this marketing budget should be an item in your overall law firm business plan. If you need some guidance to get you started on your business plan, you can look at this business plan framework from the New York City Bar.
4. Define Your Brand
Your brand helps guide your entire marketing strategy. It is not just a catchphrase or a logo. Instead, this is what helps you determine how you want clients to perceive you. It guides your messaging. It helps you succeed in your marketing efforts by ensuring a consistent interaction with your potential clients and with your community. Furthermore, your brand helps you communicate what makes you different from your competitors: the things that make you unique.
Consistently staying true to your firm’s brand and brand guidelines will help you build trust and loyalty with your clients. You can get more information on branding for your firm in our recent post, 6 Key Brand Assets Every Law Firm Should Consider Having.
5. Choose Your Strategies
Without a doubt, your digital presence will be the key to your future success. Our society is becoming increasingly digital-first and is driven by search engines. Thus, if you aren’t already thinking digital-first for your future marketing efforts, then you need to update your plan rapidly.
For your digital presence, start with your website. You need a high-quality, professional website with high-quality, relevant, and original content for search engine optimization (SEO), improved client experiences, and increased credibility. This does not only mean developing good content for landing pages, but also for each practice area-specific page, your blog posts, and your FAQs. You should also make sure your website responds well on mobile devices and is AMP-enabled. Include engaging visuals, incorporate video, and feature client testimonials. Finally, make sure it is easy for your potential clients to contact you.
Next, pay attention to your online reputation. You should be sure to claim your profiles in all of the lawyer directories. There are numerous directories but we suggest starting with fully updating your free profile on the Justia Lawyer Directory, as well as on Avvo, FindLaw, LawLink, Lawyers.com, and Martindale. You should also monitor and manage your reviews on these lawyer directories, as well as on sites like Google and Yelp, and curate a social media presence. Once you venture into social media, be sure to always post wisely and avoid getting into social media battles. For more information on managing your online reputation, check out our posts Strategies for Effectively Managing Your Firm’s Reputation in Google Search Results and Protect Your Referrals: Reputation Management for Lawyers and Law Firms.
You must also be aware of how to reach your target audience now and not just your audience of the future. You want to be sure you are implementing strategies that will reach your current target audience. For example, if you work in elder law or estate planning and find that most of your clients are advanced in age (such that they are more likely to read the paper than spend time on Google), then you may want to consider traditional print advertisements in addition to digital advertising. If you are a disability attorney or frequently work with individuals that require accommodations for disabilities, then you will want to take extra care to make sure your website is ADA compliant (though everyone else should pay attention to this too). If you are an immigration attorney, then you want to be mindful of your clients’ first language and make sure you are effectively reaching them in ways they will readily understand. Similarly, if you only serve young clients (such as young adults or even juveniles), it may not be as fruitful for you to invest in sponsored Facebook ads, but TikTok could be a great place to market.
Remember, when you are spending time and money on any marketing strategy, be sure to monitor the return on your investment and make adjustments accordingly. For instance, if you start running print ads, but notice that they do not result in many leads then you will want to reevaluate that approach.
Finally, don’t forget to incorporate regular, periodic communication and outreach into your marketing strategy. You know you always need to stay in touch with current clients about the status of their matters. However, you should also leverage email marketing to keep past, present, and potential clients in the loop through a newsletter. This could be about legal updates, firm updates, or both.
When selecting your strategies, it is always important to remember that you do not have to do everything all at once. Instead, you can prioritize the areas that need the most attention now and later continue to add additional strategies or adjust your plan for the future. For example, if you do not have a well-developed website, then you should focus on building out your web content before you start writing a blog. Similarly, if you do not have a website yet, you should certainly start the process, but while you wait for your website to go live you can still start building your digital presence by claiming your free profiles on the various lawyer directories. You might also find this previous Justia Onward post helpful when determining how to prioritize your marketing efforts.
6. Monitor and Reevaluate
A crucial part of every effective marketing strategy is monitoring and evaluating your performance. As such, regular monitoring should be a part of your law firm marketing plan and you need to periodically assess the effectiveness of your efforts.
Take advantage of the analytics data available to you through the various marketing platforms that you may use. Pay attention to your website and SEO performance. Track the sources of your leads and conversions.
After you gather and analyze the data, you need to be honest with yourself about areas of opportunity for improvement. For instance, if you developed an ad campaign that you love but just isn’t performing well, then you need to be open to reevaluating that strategy and adjusting accordingly. Tracking and monitoring the data is the best way to hold yourself accountable for the time and money you spend on your efforts, as well as to determine whether you are on target to meet or exceed your SMART goals.
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
You wouldn’t go to a new city for the first time without a map. It just wouldn’t set you up for success. Likewise, you cannot reach your firm’s goals without something to guide you.
As an attorney, you undoubtedly want to set your law firm up for success. Your law firm marketing plan is the map for reaching your marketing goals and will play a key part in helping you achieve the long-term vision you have for your practice.