Smart Marketing in 2016
Generally regarded as recession-proof, the legal industry has been less affected than many others but still impacted by the recent period of economic instability affecting the U.S. economy, as well as the global economy. Marketing your law firm in 2016, you will have to market smarter and make strategic investments to meet your firm’s goals.
A survey by Avvo and LexBlog indicates whether it is online, offline, or both – attorneys are seeing more value in marketing initia¬tives with 81 percent planning to spend the same or more on marketing. This trend demonstrates that firms are searching for optimal ways to encourage practice growth. Rather than simply cutting marketing budgets and reducing spending, firms are staying the course and focusing on establishing the building blocks of practice growth success.
While marketing dollars are not the same as they were five years ago, this survey provides evidence that professional service firms’ marketing spending is on the upswing. Now that the marketing budgets for 2013 are being implemented, how can law firms make a positive impact, be competitive and actually grow their business in 2016 and beyond?
There was a time when costs were not closely monitored and available dollars seemed to be growing on trees in the back office of many firms. However, as many firms look to be smarter with their marketing spend, savvy firms are thinking strategically and developing plans that incorporate tactics to work in concert to achieve their business objectives. Completing a marketing plan to simply check the box and put it aside until it is time to dig it out, dust it off and update for the next year is not an effective way to properly manage your group or the success of the firm. You must think strategically to compete.
The first step in developing a strategic marketing plan is to review how well your past marketing efforts have performed. A marketing audit can help you evaluate your marketing activities and determine which are producing results. If you haven’t used metrics to evaluate your marketing, you’ll want to identify objectives and measurements of success for the year ahead.
Keep in mind that a marketing plan is a living, breathing document that regularly needs to be revisited and updated throughout the year. It is important to track trends, challenges and opportunities within the industry and to gage how they affect your marketing goals so that you may recalibrate your plan as needed.
Everyone in the firm should think of marketing as an investment, not only the marketing team. Marketing is one key to developing and sustaining a strong brand. Regardless of whether you are a partner, business developer or part of the IT group, marketing plays an important role and is relevant to all functions – giving us all the responsibility of being brand ambassadors.
Arming your attorneys and staff with key messages on the value the firm offers will help them when they are out of the office visiting with clients, prospects or attending industry events, and thus create a brand ambassador culture. In doing so you are conveying to everyone at the firm that they are entrusted in the firm’s success. All of your firm’s employees, regardless of their position, should be empowered and encouraged to be brand ambassadors – so they can act as effective spokespeople for your firm.
The brand ambassador approach helps raise awareness for the firm and its services, creates a culture of strategic involvement and helps to develop a strong brand image that is recognized and respected.
Professional services firms, like most businesses, are always looking for new tools that can help them market themselves. Even though the legal industry has been somewhat resistant to online marketing social media is being more widely adopted. Now firms of all sizes are utilizing platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, among others.
When evaluating social media, consider how it will fit within your current marketing strategy. You can use it to:
- leverage thought leadership and position your firm as forward thinking;
- create conversations with your audience and marketplace;
- help drive traffic to your firm’s website and increase SEO rankings;
- and build awareness of your corporate brand.
Most importantly, firms need to determine whether or not they’ll find their clients and prospects online. If your clients and prospects are using social media, you should be too. Once this strategy is launched, it is important to stay engaged, listen and contribute to conversations to provide added value.
Client Service Programs
To build strong relationships with clients, it is important to connect with them on a regular basis. The opportunity to build trust, create dialogue and foster meaningful relationships is vital to the success of your firm and your brand. Think of yourself as a business advisor or partner to your clients and deliver the message that you care about their success while you execute on those key messages.
When connecting with clients and prospects, every firm should have a formal client service program in place. This can help you measure certain intangibles such as client happiness and satisfaction, as well as gaining valuable insights that will help you gage how individual engagements are going and identify opportunities to grow business relationships. Investing time in client relationships is of vital importance as it has been widely established that it’s much easier to keep an existing client than it is to land a new one.
Remember, if you’re not continually finding new ways to reach your audience, you’re likely to be bypassed by the competition. Strategic marketing plans, brand ambassadors, social media and a strong client service program can all help your firm stay competitive while growing your practice areas and developing a strong, relevant brand for success in 2016 and beyond.