A recent report into some of the trends in law firm marketing, amongst other things, highlights that firms need to investigate narrowing down their marketing focus if they are to be more successful in achieving their growth plans. A ‘broad-brush’ approach to marketing simply doesn’t work in a law firm context. And yet, I’m constantly reminded when out and about of how difficult it can be to really put this laser-sharp focus into practice on a day-to-day basis. In addition, there is the looming deadline for the GDPR which will put firms under increasing pressure to not just throw mud at the wall and hope some of it sticks.
I think some of the barriers to a more targeted strategy could be or relate to the following:
1 – A specific attitude towards marketing in general – perhaps law firm marketing is just a numbers game? In other words, there is the simplistic expectation that the more people you ‘tell’ about a service or expertise set, the more work will come flooding in.
“Telling is not selling” or “just because you’ve told, doesn’t mean you’ve sold” – said customers/clients everywhere, all the time.
2 – A lack of training or coaching – this may be linked to the above, of course. Why do I need marketing or business development coaching/training? I’m doing ok for myself, thanks.
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” – Mohammed Ali
3 – A lack of time (I think this might be the big one?) – a largely reactionary workforce tends to lack the opportunity for strategic planning and then more specifically, action-taking that reflects the agreed plan.
“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do” – Prof. Michael Porter
Practically speaking, there will be ‘moments of truth’ that occur repeatedly in law firm practice and can create great opportunities for Business Development and Marketing teams to influence, ‘nudge’ and start to alter thinking and behaviours towards a more focused mindset.
EXAMPLE 1: A Partner returns from a business trip with a stash of business cards from contacts he/she met on the trip – the instruction to the secretary or marketing/BD representative is to “add all of these cards to our systems please”
EXAMPLE 2: When presented with an opportunity to invite contacts to an event, the marketing team very kindly add the contacts that came last year to get the ball rolling and the numbers up.
EXAMPLE 3: Measuring the success of an event only/mainly by the number of attendees.
All firms agree on one thing – supporting/driving growth in the current economic climate is essential. The prediction of revenue is becoming more critical as corporate law firm clients in particular look for cheaper alternatives to the billable hour model – the loyalty of clients sits on the knife edge between long term, established trusted advisor relationships and cost management and control.
Marketing to a smaller but more focused set of clients and prospects will certainly help developing the nature of the client relationship – the messaging becomes more specific and relevant and demonstrates in a much better way a firm’s deep understanding of their business challenges. This, in turn, leads to more loyalty, trust and should go some way towards reducing the ‘finger in the air’ element of revenue figure estimates.