Marketing: how to do it properly

A marketing plan is essential for retaining and winning business. But as Rod Sloane writes, focus is the key to making it successful

What constitutes effective marketing for your law firm? By law firm marketing, I mean planned and regular activities that generate profitable new clients and increase revenue.

The majority of these marketing activities can be used with existing clients, although firms can also use them to focus on new clients.
What processes will most business clients go through before hiring you?

There is the ‘VCR model’, which stands for visibility, credibility and rapport. In other words, potential new clients have to become aware of you and your firm. If they do not, they will simply hire one of your competitors.

Many solicitors marketing their legal services are ‘winging it’, with a seminar here, a new logo there, and every now and then a new brochure. Oh, and occasionally along come networking events, and let’s bash out a free electronic newsletter.

There is a problem with all these disparate activities in that they will give a law firm guaranteed results, which will be occasional, short-term, erratic and most likely unprofitable.

There also appears to be some confusion between the function of a marketing plan and a business plan. A business plan is a roadmap for the whole firm for the next three to five years. Often used in times of start-up or merger, it outlines markets and revenue plans. The desired outcome of this type of document is often to secure funds from potential investors.

A marketing plan is rarely shared with anyone outside the practice. This plan will normally have a timescale of one year and is simply new business-based. It may or may not include revenue targets.

You may have asked yourself how long, big, detailed and comprehensive a marketing plan should be. The shocking truth may upset you, particularly if you come from an MBA background. A marketing plan for a law firm should be one page long and only one page long. And the outcome of your marketing plan should be one simple goal: focus.

Every activity in your marketing plan should be focused on first building visibility, then credibility and finally rapport. If this is not the purpose of your marketing, then you are maybe pursuing a fruitless and wasted activity.

Once you have established credibility, you can then work on what will pay you in the long term, ie establishing rapport and building a relationship. Can you build a relationship that is unique to you and your firm?

Now, you may be thinking, how am I going to include all our marketing plans? Well, you don’t. The plan is for your partners. If it is longer it will not be read, will not be believed and certainly will not be implemented.

Rod Sloane is director of law firm marketing consultancy The Solicitors Institute