Thursday, March 31, 2016

What Goes Into a Law Firm Marketing Plan?

We are often asked by clients and prospects to develop a legal marketing plan on their behalf. This is always an intriguing proposition because what some view as perhaps a two-page outline of the promotional activities to be pursued, a true marketing plan offers something far greater. Such plans provide a more detailed picture of where the firm stands, its goals, and how it plans to achieve them.

A full-fledged marketing document should address the following areas:

Background
  • Firm History 
  • The Services it Provides 
  • The Geography it Serves 
  • The Types of Clients it Serves
    • Businesses vs. General Public vs. Government Entities
    • Age, Income and Gender Demographics
    • Psychographic Profiles
    • Attorney Billing Rates 
  • Firm Reputation
  • Firm Strengths
  • Firm Weaknesses
  • Results of Marketing Efforts to Date

Industry Overview
  • General Trends
  • Seasonality
  • Client Development Cycle (from awareness through initial consult and retainment)
  • Attorney Billing Rates
  • Competitive Framework 
    • Competitor Descriptions (e.g., size, number of attorneys, strengths, weaknesses, etc.)
    • Competitor Reputations and Positionings
    • Analysis of Competitive Communications (e.g., ads, web site, brochures, etc.) 

Objectives & Strategies
  • Vision/Mission Statement
  • Long-Term Goals & Rationale (e.g., increase revenue to $XXX to support partner payouts of $XXX)
  • Long-Term Strategies (e.g., generate greater awareness of the firm among a particular business or consumer segment)
  • Short-Term Goals (e.g., Obtain $XXX in revenue in the upcoming fiscal year)
  • Short-Term Strategies (e.g., Implement social media campaign, broaden geographical target, add new practice area, etc. 

2016 Strategic Plan
  • Improvements to Firm Services
  • Billing Rates
  • Promotional Program
    • Objectives
    • Budget & Rationale
    • Target Market
    • Target Audience(s)
    • Marketing Mix/Budget Allocation 
      • Activity A (e.g., development of new web site)
      • Activity B (e.g., PR campaign) 
      • Activity C (e.g., social media effort)
  • Creative Development 
    • Positioning of the Firm 
    • Benefits the firm provides (particularly vs. competitors) 
    • Substantiation for Benefits
    • Communications Hurdles 

Opportunities & Red Flags
  • Indicators of Success (i.e., milestone to be achieved/interim metrics)
  • Plan Assumptions 
  • Firm Strengths as Related to the Marketing Plan
  • Firm Weaknesses and Red Flags as Related to the Marketing Plan (i.e., firm may or may not be able to effectively implement activity A for such and such a reason)

Implementation
  • Plan Flowchart & Timetable 

While a full-fledged marketing document such as this may not be realistic or feasible to implement on an annual basis, we have seen it be an extremely worthwhile exercise for law firms undergoing a transition, requiring a new direction or seeking to tap into new growth areas.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How to Select a Marketing Firm: Some Tips From the “Other Side”

The decision to work with a marketing firm or consultant is not an easy one. Lawyers are not necessarily marketers by nature and they don’t teach practice building in most law schools. Hiring a marketing vendor requires an investment and that doesn’t even include the expenses involved in the actual purchasing of ad space, pay-per-click services, broadcast time, printing services, etc. It does not include the significant investment of time that will be required as well.

But once the decision to move forward has been made, how do and how should law firms go about the actual selection process?

Part of the answer lies in determining what the practice hopes the marketing vendor will help the firm accomplish. Generic goals such as greater exposure, more clients, more revenue, etc., are not nearly as helpful as tight, specific objectives, such as seeking a 10% increase in new client revenue over a one-year period, raising the profile of the family law department among the rest of the legal community, or raising the image of the firm so as to justify higher rates. These are more action-oriented directives. One might even call them strategies vs. objectives. And if a firm cannot, on its own, reach a consensus as to these types of guiding directives, then it is probably best served by seeking an experienced marketing vendor or professional who can look at the practice from a holistic perspective. 

An objectives-driven approach is infinitely better than one that simply suggests that the firm needs a new ad campaign, or a revitalized web site, or better signage for a trade show booth. This is because it is often a blending of several marketing tools that gets a firm to where it needs to be. A new ad campaign suggests perhaps a new image altogether, which in turn may affect not just the campaign itself, but the web site as well. A revitalized site is enhanced with a more concerted search engine optimization (SEO) program. And that new signage may be deemed necessary to attract more visitors to a trade booth, though an ad in the show guide, or a press release promoting a giveaway may do likewise.

The point is things work together in different ways and it is incumbent upon the law firm to select a vendor well-versed in the art of developing the best marketing mix…and doing so within dollar and time constraints. For example, too often we have seen a law practice suddenly cut its advertising efforts or its PR campaign in favor of some service offering quick results via SEO or pay-per-click. The truth of the matter is that each of these types of marketing tools serve different purposes and have different strengths and weaknesses. The SEO vendor, the newspaper, the direct mail house, etc., are all there to provide specific services – regardless of the unique challenges of the firm. They may well be part of the solution to a specific challenge, but each is offering that service to the firm regardless of the firm’s unique needs.

Net net, in choosing marketing vendors, it is better to select those that either a) offer a truly holistic approach or b) clearly address how their services can be a vital part of the firm’s overall marketing initiative. 

Once the firm has decided upon the type of vendor it is seeking to hire, the next step is determining the criteria on which it will base its decision. Marketing vendors come in many shapes and sizes. As stated, some offer very specific services. Others are more broad-based. But the same holds true in other areas as well. Some may focus exclusively on the legal industry, others, any industry. Some will be situated close by the firm, while others may be in remote locations. Some may be large, others small. Knowing what it is that the firm considers important will make the entire process go more smoothly.

Next, it’s critical that the firm outline very clearly to its potential vendors those pre-determined objectives and qualities which it is seeking. This is vital as it serves to move the process along more efficiently.

In evaluating each proposal, the firm’s decision makers must ask themselves whether the firm needs all of the bells and whistles the vendor is offering. How do the vendor’s services align with the stated requirements? How well did the vendor “listen” to the firm’s statement as to its needs. Does the solution offered and/or the marketing tools being suggested make sense in terms of achieving stated objectives? Is the firm’s budget for the marketing endeavor being taken into consideration? Answers to these should go a long way towards ascertaining whether the vendor represents a good fit.

Obviously, cost is also always a consideration. Suppliers that are either much higher or much lower than their competitors should always be viewed with suspicion. But even more important is the existence or lack of chemistry between the firm’s decision makers and the vendor. It is an intangible that is difficult to quantify. Firms must ask themselves whether the vendor matches them in terms of its personal style. A law practice that is by its nature more formal may do well to hire vendors that are similar minded. The same holds true for the practice that has a more casual atmosphere. Flexibility is another key variable. Will the vendor work within the parameters the firm has set and is it able to adjust on the fly when situations change? And last, the least costly, flashiest, most experienced suppliers are worth nothing if they are not serious about simply working hard on the firm’s behalf.

Ultimately, in order to get the most out of a marketing firm or consultant, there has to be a true partnership. From a business perspective, the relationship between a law firm and its marketing provider is an intimate one. Hence, it’s important that that relationship be one of honesty and true benefit. And, if everyone actually likes each other and can also have a little fun along the way…so much the better!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Not Coming Up With Ideas for Content? Five Places in Which to Look



By now, everyone knows the importance of consistently generating new content for your law firm’s website, blog and social media postings. At first, that task can be relatively easy… Just generate a list of everything you want to “talk about” and start writing!

However, if you are being disciplined and actually developing content on a regular basis, eventually this becomes more difficult. The reason is simple. We start coming up with fewer and fewer things to say.

So, how does one “find” ideas for new or “fresh” content?

Fortunately, the law practice may find fodder for such material in several areas:

Firm News
This can include anything and everything that is happening at the firm: new hires, new clients, new attorney accreditations, cases won or any other type of achievement. It might also highlight anything from the restructuring of a particular department to the opening of a new office to the fact that one of the firm’s attorneys has been asked to sit on the board of a non-profit organization.

Happenings in the Business and Legal Communities
The legislature passes or is considering a new law that will affect your clients and/or prospects… A decision has been handed down on a matter in which your firm is not directly involved, but on which you can provide expert insight and analysis… A business transaction occurs that promises to have major ramifications for the firm’s B2B clients… All of these events are potential gold mines of opportunity for the firm to develop new content, establish credibility, provide a service to its site visitors and most importantly, keep the search engine directories happy.

Specific Areas of Expertise
… And by specific, I do mean very specific. The law practice that focuses on personal injury can make some serious hay by developing content dedicated exclusively to motorcycle accidents, knee implant recalls, accidents involving pedestrians or anything else in which they’ve amassed a great deal of knowledge. Similarly, a family law firm can develop extensive content on divorces involving same sex partners or on pre-nuptial agreements. This is as true for the B2B firm as it is for those that target the public. The practice that offers services related to business transactions can generate lots of content on those transactions by focusing on specific segments of their target markets (e.g., franchisors and franchisees). And by content generation, I am not referring to the prototypical web site practice area page that gives a brief summary of what that area is all about and why the firm is so talented in this field. Rather, I am suggesting that the firm develop detailed (though inherently user-friendly) content which actually shows its understanding of that field. It is amazing when one thinks about everything one actually knows about his or her chosen profession. It’s also amazing how foreign it all is to the lay person and how much it’s appreciated when information of value is provided. Smart law firms leverage that fact.

Published Articles
Once they’re written, post them on your site. This ties in to that mentioned above, but it’s even better when the material’s been published. It is important to note that so many times the same content can be used in a multiplicity of ways. An article can be posted on the firm website, used as a blog piece, or even used as content for an email blast or e-newsletter and promoted through social media.

Announcements & Offerings
By these, I mean the kinds of announcements that prompt inquiries, telephone calls, leads, etc. These can be the promotion of a seminar, the offer of a free informational booklet or anything else that might sway interest in the firm. In most cases, I wouldn’t suggest inundating the firm site with such content, but at times they do make sense…and once again they can only help your firm’s SEO efforts.

In summary, the excuse that there is nothing to add to the firm website or that no good ideas can be generated just doesn’t hold water. In a world where economic conditions make some promotional activities cost-prohibitive, energies directed towards the content development are a good way to market efficiently.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Generating Goodwill AND New Clients by Affiliating with Worthwhile Causes

In this day of digital marketing, one of the most underused and unappreciated marketing tools available to law firms is cause marketing – those efforts in which the law firm affiliates itself with a worthwhile cause, event or other type of endeavor.

Reasons for implementing such a program are several-fold. Affiliating with a cause or special event can:
  • Generate a great level of visibility
  • Facilitate interface between firm attorneys and prospective clients
  • Provide a means for building a contact database
  • Underscore the branding of the firm
  • Elevate the firm’s overall credibility in the eyes of the community and amongst its prospect groups.
Law practices must get creative in developing marketing programs that dovetail with what they are all about. For example, our agency worked with one PI firm (that was unable to compete on TV with more financially well-heeled competitors), to create a campaign directed toward high school juniors and seniors, encouraging them not to text while driving. Another marketing initiative for a full service firm involved promoting the arts among young people. In most cases, cause marketing programs are multi-faceted, with overall costs that are considerably lower than what a full-blown advertising campaign might entail.

In most such marketing initiatives, awareness is generated through a multiplicity of online, traditional and grassroots vehicles. This means looking for ways in which the same promotional material can be used in a multiplicity of ways (e.g., posted on the firm web site, on social media, via press release, as fodder for a feature article, on flyers distributed to the appropriate target audience) before, during and after a particular event. The key lies in looking for those opportunities that can extend the life of the effort.

In short, when it comes to cause marketing, a little creativity can often pay huge dividends for everyone – prospective clients, the community and the firm itself.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016 is Here! How to Budget For Legal Marketing in the New Year

Now that the holidays have passed, it’s time to tackle the inevitable task of determining how much should be allocated to this effort. Unfortunately, all too often, law firms make the decision to make no decision at all. While this can be a reasonable approach to a degree, it also runs the risk of missing some potential opportunities, or conversely, of overspending on initiatives that do not bear much fruit

The traditional approach has been to look at the industry benchmarks in which 2-5% of the firm’s revenue is allocated towards marketing and business development. However, much more effective is to take a task approach. Here, the firm’s marketing budget becomes a function of its objectives (i.e., the more ambitious its goals, the greater its budget).

In taking such an approach, it is important that several difficult questions be addressed, among these:

  1. Will marketing activities be designed to generate new clients over the short term only or should some of the funds be allocated towards the long haul. This will dictate the types of activities utilized and the relative costs involved. For example, a new firm brochure or web site may not get the phones to ring immediately, but can set the stage for significant success down the road. 
  1. How are “resources” being defined? If it only includes dollar outlays, then certain marketing vehicles that are labor intensive, such as search engine optimization and social media may make good sense. If the term “resources” is broadened to include “time,” then the drain on manpower of some activities may make them cost-prohibitive. (Of course, such services can be contracted out, but this then turns the cost of time into hard, out of-pocket expenses). 
  1. Is the concept of frequency being taken into account? Generating awareness and new business requires that prospects be continuously exposed to the firm, and often through a multiplicity of channels. In fact, it has been estimated that the average prospects must be exposed to a  message between 7 to 10 times before being spurred to action. 
  1. Will you consider a “better” year to be one that only involves obtaining new clients or must it also be a function of higher rates and/or the cross-promotion of firm services? Both initiatives may require investments of time and/or money. 

Ultimately, once the determination is made as to a) the firm’s objectives and b) the strategies it will employ to reach these goals, only then can the specific dollar amount (and/or internal costs) required to achieving them be determined. The budget allocation of 2-5% of firm revenue is really only a guideline – and one that may or may not make sense for you (particularly as you navigate through the brave new worlds of SEO and social media). Actual budgets must look at a wide range of variables, including the current image of the firm and the level of awareness it enjoys among its target group.




Les Altenberg is President of A.L.T. Legal Professionals Marketing Group , a full-service marketing firm dedicated to the business development efforts of law firms and those who serve the legal industry. He can be reached at 856-810-0400 or via email at laltenberg@legalprofessionalsmarketing.com

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Word-of-Mouth Revenue and the Value of a Client

Toothpaste marketers have it easy. 

It’s not hard for them to figure out the value of a client… or in their case, of a customer.  They know the margin they make on the product, how many tubes that customer will buy and how often that customer will come back to buy it. Moreover, the word-of-mouth phenomenon is not prevalent.  After all, how often do you give or receive referrals on which toothpaste to buy?

But what about the marketer of legal services?

For most practice areas, there is no “typical” client.  And there is absolutely no way of knowing or even estimating how many times that client will come back for more services. But most important, the value of a client is determined not just by the revenue that client brings in, but also by the revenue that client generates through word-of-mouth and referrals.  Unfortunately, most law firms fail to track that information and thus fail to get a fuller understanding of what each client represents to the firm.

This lack of information can have a direct impact on the firm’s fortunes. For example, the revenue obtained from a particular client may be “appreciated” to a greater extent than the smaller client whose contribution to overall firm income is significantly less. Yet, that smaller client may be of greater value to the firm simply through its connections to other potential sources (i.e. prospects) of new revenue.

When data concerning from where referrals are coming is not collected, law firms miss the opportunity to not only understand the value of each client, but also the opportunity to nurture those sources of “down the road” revenue. They may not see that that client who used to send lots of business their way is no longer doing so, and thus they may not recognize that his or her perception as to the quality of their services is no longer what it was. They may not see that Mrs. Smith merits a lunch invitation, Mr. Jones has earned a larger gift basket come the holidays, or that the XYZ Company is in danger of becoming an ex-client.

To be able to act on this information, law firms must first be able to capture it.  Yet this need not be a daunting task, By simply asking the question (as one would regarding through what medium a client heard about the firm), and tracking the revenue generated through these sources, a great deal of actionable data is obtained.

You can find more information regarding the tracking of word-of-mouth revenue and the value of a client at etiometrix.com.

In the meantime, I look forward to the day your firm’s success in business development can be quantifiably tracked to perceptions of its work quality.


Les Altenberg is President of A.L.T. Legal Professionals Marketing Group ( LegalProfessionalsMarketing.com ), a full-service marketing firm dedicated to the business development efforts of law firms and those who serve the legal industry. He can be reached at 856-810-0400 or via email at laltenberg@legalprofessionalsmarketing.com


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Changing the Way Law Firms Measure Return on Marketing Investment

Every time a business person decides to run an ad, develop a web site, launch a social media initiative, take prospects out to lunch or start a public relations campaign, the obvious question that hangs implicitly over his or her head is, “How do I know this will work?”

This is especially true for the more than 47,000 law firms and 1.2 million attorneys whose access to hard data is virtually non-existent; where supermarket scanners serve no purpose and there are no audit or rating resources (e.g., Nielsen) that can provide management with answers to very complex questions. 

Searching for the answers to these very same questions in regard to their own respective businesses, entrepreneurs Les Altenberg and Tom Mazanec developed a methodology they call Etiometrix. According to the two, the Etiometix approach crunches lead generation and sales data in a manner that’s never been done before, offering legal marketers the opportunity to assess their marketing and business development activities at the organizational, practice group and even individual attorney level. The result is a service that allows marketers to know:

  • Which activities offer the best returns-on-investment 
  • Who among the firm’s attorneys is best –suited for business development and through which types of activities
  • Which practice areas should be supported and to what degree
  • The role that “word-of-mouth” is playing in the growth of the business
  • How well the business is perceived by the firm’s clients
  • The degree to which marketing (e.g., advertising, online, PR) vs. personal networking is working for the firm.

Their proprietary program can quantitatively track the effects of previously immeasurable dynamics such as branding initiatives and the role “softer” marketing tools (e.g.,  brochures, web sites) play in generating business.

According to Altenberg, who currently heads A.L.T. Legal Professionals Marketing Group, a marketing consulting agency based in Marlton, NJ, “The program traces how individuals became customers of a particular business. In most cases, it is because of exposure to several types of individuals (e.g., professionals, referral sources) media, and/or online interactions. Furthermore, the resulting reports forego so many of the interim metrics that we hear so much about these days. Its great that we can know how many people read an ad, attend a seminar, visit or click through to a web site, but those numbers do not really mean anything unless they are tied to the revenue they bring in.”

Altenberg continues, “We were always making marketing recommendations to our clients who then inevitably ask, ‘How will we know if this is working?’ Until now, we never had a good quantifiable means for addressing that question.  Now we do.”

More information on Etiometrix can be obtained by visiting etiometrix.com , emailing jarlene@etiometrix.com or calling 856-810-2127.