Happy New Year! 2014 is going to be your practice’s best year yet … with a little bit of planning and commitment. Most of these ideas won’t be earthshaking revelations for your firm. Instead they are reminders about different business development areas on which to refocus that can result in gaining new clients and becoming the go-to resource for legal services in your area.
Make a Plan
Without a plan, you are setting yourself up to fail. It is easy to get engrossed in daily client work and your firm’s operations and administration. Take a step back and look at the big picture. What do you want your firm to accomplish this year? If business development isn’t a focus area, what is? Be intentional about planning, and you can start to carve out marketing activities to complete throughout the year. Starting with a macro view of your firm will make it easier to drill down to the details and to-dos.
Set Annual SMART Goals
Take your planning a step further, and get specific. To be successful in growing your practice or ramping up your firm’s marketing efforts in 2014, you must first define what “success” means to you. Is it higher overall revenue? More clients? More brand awareness? Once you have these goals in mind, make sure they are “SMART.” They should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound. An example of a SMART goal with all these components is the following: To grow gross revenue by 15 percent by December 31, 2014.
The more specific you are, the easier it will be to create actionable steps and measurable results.
Establish a Budget
There is wide variation in the percentage of revenue that professional services firms dedicate to marketing budgets. Studies have shown that most firms spend between two and five percent of gross revenue.
14 Tips to Grow Your Business
- Make a plan
- Set annual SMART goals
- Establish a budget
- Review past successes and failures
- Obtain necessary resources
- Make training a priority
- Embrace technology
- Focus on content
- Get your name out
- Develop and use strategic relationships
- Create a clear message
- Give back to your community
- Limit yourself
- Stick to the plan
Once you determine an overall marketing budget, you can begin to break the number down into more specific categories. These allocations should reflect your goals and avenues for promoting and growing your firm. Some areas to consider include traditional print or media advertising, trade associations, collateral materials (such as brochures, pitch books, and other print marketing pieces), client events and gifts, educational events and seminars, mailings, marketing-related training and staff development, memberships, community sponsorships, and website design and upkeep.
Review Past Successes and Failures
One of the best ways to prepare for the future is to identify what has been successful in the past. Take a step back and review your marketing activities from 2013. Which initiatives worked well? Which initiatives had little or no return on investment? Is there a way to adjust the programs that didn’t go as planned to make them more successful? Continue or grow programs and processes that worked well, adjust or terminate programs that were not successful, and look for areas that were not addressed that could be new initiatives.
Obtain Necessary Resources
There are several different ways a firm can jumpstart marketing efforts, depending on the firm’s size and goals. Each option has pros and cons, so consider what makes the most sense for your specific situation. Do you have an internal marketing director or department? Could you use the help of an outside consultant or agency? Will partners be in charge of their own business development and if so, how will they be trained? Will there be some combination of marketing responsibility? Whatever your solution is, make sure to equip your firm with the proper resources for successful business growth.
Make Training a Priority
The effectiveness of a law firm’s brand is largely affected by the individual actions of those employees who interact with clients every day. Make sure they are putting their best selves forward when it comes to showcasing your brand. Ensure they have access to training on the sales process, personal branding, public speaking, networking, and anything else that could affect how well they are able to represent your firm. Investing in your professionals is always money well spent.
Consumers are increasingly using the Internet to find services they need. Make sure your website, often the first impression a prospect will get of your firm, is up to date and is a good representation of your firm. Your website should be both a marketing tool and an educational resource.
com weberj sva Jenna Weber is a business development professional for SVA Certified Public Accountants S.C., Madison, where she creates and implements business development strategies and awareness campaigns that drive business growth.
Also consider upgrades such as video conferencing equipment and more advanced client relationship management software or “CRM” systems. The more efficiently you can serve current clients, the happier they will be and the more capacity you will have to take on new clients.
Focus on Content
The marketing landscape has drastically changed over the past several years. Consumers are more educated than ever before and are making better informed decisions on where and from whom to buy goods and services. This is particularly evident in professional-services industries such as law. Although awareness campaigns can still be an important part of your marketing mix, an increasingly important aspect is content marketing. Produce timely, informative marketing materials that showcase your expertise in your field. Consider creating and sending a monthly electronic newsletter, starting a blog, or at the very least updating your website content regularly.
Get Your Name Out
After you create valuable content, there are many ways it can be repurposed to help showcase your expertise and expose your firm to a wider range of potential clients and strategic partners. Write articles for a trade publication or business journal, give talks to local organizations or associations, or act as a resource for a reporter researching a topic within your expertise. Narrow your focus and try to become known as the go-to subject-matter expert for that specific niche.
Develop and Use Strategic Relationships
Continue to nurture important professional relationships; if you haven’t already made any, begin to cultivate relationships that can be mutually beneficial. Which individuals and business that provide complementary services could you partner with and provide mutual referrals? Who might be able to get you an exclusive opportunity to share with a top client? Create a center of influence (COI) program to help you grow your business and build your brand. Never be afraid to ask someone for something he or she could help you with. Keep in mind the best strategic partnerships are mutually beneficial, so be willing to give as well as receive. [For more on COI, see “Centers of Influence: Six Steps to Structuring a Referral Program” in the December 2013 Wisconsin Lawyer.]
Create a Clear Message
Revisit your marketing materials and make sure that the message and look are consistent. What do you want your clients to think of when they see your logo? What do you want prospects to think when they receive a letter or see one of your advertisements? Keep it simple and showcase your special facets.
Give Back to Your Community
Part of developing a positive brand is showing that you care about the community in which you and your clients work or reside. You can give back in a variety of ways, from monetary donations and sponsorships to skills-based volunteering. Consider joining local boards of directors or committees. These are great networking opportunities and also a way to shine a good light on your company and its professionals.
One of the most important qualities of a good leader is knowing when to say “no.” The same thing rings true with a strong company. Make sure your firm does not take on more than it can handle. It is better to do a few things very well than a lot of things poorly. Determine which service areas are your most profitable niches. Consider getting rid of clients that require a lot of work but generate a small amount of revenue. Focus on only a few important strategic areas, and monitor your efforts throughout the year. If a project does not help you achieve one of your main goals, it might be worth dropping it or shelving it until a later date.
Stick to the Plan
There is a saying that “Greatness is a lot of small things done well day after day.” After you put time and effort into creating a plan, goals, and budget for the year, make sure to keep them top of mind. Focus your daily efforts on taking small steps to reaching your firm’s larger goals. Unforeseen circumstances can and will arise, but your time will be well spent if you continue to focus on the rule and not the exceptions.