Monday, October 2, 2017

The Ten Traits Through Which Law Firms Get in their Own Way

For the past 25 years, I have had the privilege of working with and consulting for a wide range of excellent lawyers and law firms. Yet for all of their brilliance, it always amazes me how much so many of their marketing programs might have been exponentially more successful had they taken stock of themselves. By this I mean, each might have benefitted from some self-reflection as to the nuances of either their own personalities (solos and smaller firms) and/or their firm culture (middle and larger firms.)
Allow me to explain what I mean by outlining ten characteristics of individuals and/or firms that often prevent them from reaching even greater heights.

Obsessive Compulsiveness

One of the most insightful quotations I ever heard was “Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.” When it comes to marketing, nothing could be more true. I have seen brilliant executives hold up a major marketing initiative for months as they debated whether a graphic should have a 1/16 or 1/32 border. Regardless of which alternative was “right” (if there even is such a thing), this struggle for perfection meant that a 99% completed project sat on everyone’s computers for months when it could have been out in the market drumming up business for the firm. Put another way: Don’t let 100% get in the way of 99%.”

Procrastination

This is an obvious one that afflicts many – myself included. Perhaps it is a function of the above, but regardless of its cause, it is perhaps the #1 reason why marketing comes to a complete standstill. Everyone likes to get new business, but often the challenge of doing so leads to a quasi-paralysis. Tackling a major concern can certainly be intimidating, but it is better to recognize that than to ignore it. 

Inertia

Similar to procrastination, this trait is more a function of the bureaucratic hassles that come with taking something from a concept to a fully executed ad, campaign, web site, article, etc. When the approval process becomes cumbersome, when political maneuvering gets in the way of clear decision making and when too many “cooks” reside in the kitchen, the result is often a delayed and sometimes “not very good” piece of legal marketing.

Lack of Confidence

This is a biggie and is usually an indication that someone is not comfortable with making decisions – at least not when it comes to marketing. A classic sign of this is when a decision has, in fact, been made, but then rescinded because someone’s mother-in-law mentions she does not like the color green or another marketing vendor questions why the firm decided to do it that way. 

Viewing Marketing as an Expense

This is another one that cuts across all kinds of law practices. Let me be clear. Marketing is an investment, not an expense. Executed well, there will be a positive payout. Everyone is aware of Coca-Cola, Apple or McDonalds. If marketing wasn’t an investment, why would these companies still be advertising as extensively as they do?

Old-Fashioned View of Marketing

Just because your father did business on the golf course and only printed up s single brochure one-time as he built his practice from one to 120 attorneys, does not mean that websites, advertising, public relations, etc. are irrelevant and/or not worth pursuing. “We get all of our business through ‘word-of-mouth” may be nice in theory, but it doesn’t mean you could not be getting more.

Impatience

“How come we are not #1 in the online rankings?” “We just ran an ad yesterday. Why aren’t the phones ringing?” 
Research has shown that prospects become aware of a firm, a product, a service, etc. only through multiple exposures to a specific message. Marketing takes time to build. A lack of patience can often lead to “pulling the plug” on an initiative before it really has had a chance to get going. That means you may very well be throwing money away -- not saving it.

Unrealistic Expectations

There are no magic bullets. Marketing a law practice takes time, some financial resources and the development of carefully considered strategies. Your firm will not grow from one attorney to twelve overnight, nor will your revenue triple in two weeks. Similarly, those interim metrics that indicate enthusiasm for your firm (e.g., web site traffic, number of seminar attendees, etc.) must be viewed with a realistic eye. If you spent $1,000 to promote a seminar, chances are you will not garner 1,000 attendees. If you build a web site, but do nothing to promote that site, it is unwise to expect large volumes of site traffic. Build it, does not necessarily mean they will come. 

Time Management

This is not the same as procrastination. This is simply a matter of not planning your day based on realistic expectations as to how much time each of your tasks will require. When the rubber meets the road, marketing inevitably gets the short end of the stick. This means that it gets pushed off for another day, which becomes another week and ultimately becomes a few months down the road.

Anger

This is my favorite – not because it happens all that frequently. It doesn’t. But when it does, it can lead to some pretty funny marketing. When individuals cannot control their more sinister impulses, start writing scathing critiques of judges, convey a cynicism bordering on contempt – then we’ve got a situation destined for some not so pleasant results.
So there you have it -- ten ways in which the principals at law firms hurt themselves in the marketing function. How to avoid falling into these traps is a matter of looking in the mirror and having the wherewithal to remain objective. Those who lack courage need not apply.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Seven Ways to Fine Tune Your Target Marketing

It’s not nearly as difficult to be a great marketer when you are the big fish in the little pond or when in comparison to your competitors, you have unlimited resources at syour disposal.
Unfortunately, for the vast majority of law firms – that is simply not the case. Being a great marketer requires doing more with less, finding ways to extend your various initiatives cost effectively (see my last post) and determining the optimal marketing mix.
A lot of this involves knowing how to target your best prospects. Again, going back to the largest of firms, targeting can be as broad or as narrow as they wish and deem appropriate. Want to reach corporate executives? No problem. Run an ad campaign in Forbes or the Wall Street Journal. Looking for those recently injured in an accident? Easy. Blast your message away on your local broadcast airways.
The problem is that most law firms cannot really “play in this neighborhood” or at least not go toe to toe. Instead they must find alternative means for becoming a big player, though perhaps in a smaller pond. Often this means, redefining and refining the profile of the firm’s target prospects.
With this in mind, I would like to offer seven ways in which law firms can more effectively target a given geographic, demographic or psychographic group.

Pay-Per-Click & Long-Tail Keywords

Pay-Per-Click is often a great way to target a particular group – particularly if you are promoting legal services to the general public. Unfortunately however, you are not the only one who is going to be doing so and one often runs the risk of being outbid and outshouted. One way in which to get around this is through the use of long-tail keywords. These are keywords (actually phrases) that go into greater depth than their more mainstream counterparts. For example, a PI firm can use “personal injury” as a keyword. It’s a common term that will probably cost a great deal. It might also use a longer term such as “motorcycle accident injury.” But to make full use of long-tail keywords, how about going the full distance – motorcycle accident resulting in brain injury? How many impressions will such an ad generate? Probably not a lot. But for that individual who actually did suffer a brain injury as a result of a motorcycle accident, your ad may generate a higher click-through rate. And probably at a much lower cost-per-click.

Display Ads

Google Adwords gives you the option to run ads that will appear when an individual types in relevant keywords. But it also gives you a second option in which you allow the search engine to display your ad on relevant sites. For example, you’re an attorney trying to reach other attorneys? How about running ads that appear on bar association websites? Focus on adoptions? How about getting on infertility group sites? The possibilities are many. It only takes a little thought and a bit of creativity.

Social Media

Social media is more than just about developing a profile and getting people to befriend you (or whatever the vernacular is for each type of platform). It’s also about interacting with others, and depending on the practice area, can be an excellent ways for law firms to reach specific target groups. For example, you’re a family law practice in Ishbakoobee, Illinois. There are probably a number of area divorce and/or singles groups with whom you could connect (Actually, there’s not because Ishbakoobee is only a fictional place.) Many of its members would thrilled to bear witness to your particular expertise.
But you’re a law firm with a business-to-business focus? Joining Facebook groups not a viable option? Fear not. Linkedin offers the same type of benefit – but with a business focus.

Targeted Lists

Not quite as out-of-the-box, but still a viable option. I won’t go into much detail here as most of you already have some understanding of this approach. That being said, do not dismiss it out of hand. Work with a reputable list broker to segment, segment, segment. Think of the effectiveness of an email campaign targeting Lamborghini owners in your zip code!

Online Giveaways

On the more creative side, how about developing a white paper on a highly specific topic such as independent contractor law and offering it free on your web site? Trust me. The only people who will ever download it are those with a very real interest in this “fascinating” part of our tax code. But before they do, you’ll require a name and email address (you will, won’t you?) And a few weeks later you can start sending them that e-newsletter you’ve been working on… right? Of course, it doesn’t have to all begin with a white paper. It could be an offer to attend a free seminar or webinar – anything that gets your highly targeted prospect to interact with you and your firm.

Content Management

They say content is king… and I do believe this to be true. So, if you’re a bankruptcy practice and want to be the “go to” firm for restaurant owners who are struggling financially, well then, write articles, posts and web sites that deal with the financial problems of these kinds of people. One word of warning however. While this may seem an obvious marketing initiative to implement, the results of such an approach usually do take quite a bit of time to realize.

Cause Marketing

Finally, we come to my favorite tactic. Develop or sponsor an event that directly correlates with a specific target group. For example, if you were trying to carve out a personal injury niche amongst young families, consider developing some kind of promotion in which car seats are distributed free or at a discount. Family law? How about running a seminar in which the proceeds go to a local women’s shelter? Trying to reach corporate counsel? How about setting up a foundation, inviting your best prospects to sit on its board and then hobnobbing with all of them on a regular basis? If you think I’m kidding – I’m not.
You should note that none of these approaches really require a great outlay of financial resources though some may certainly be time intensive. But they all allow you to be “master of your own domain.” And that simply requires engaging in some good brainstorming sessions.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Four Ways to Extend the Life of Your Marketing Initiatives

Journalists used to say that a story had “legs” if the topic promised to be far reaching or warranted extensive ongoing coverage. Similarly, many kinds of marketing activities have legs that might allow law firms to extend the depth and breadth of their efforts -- often without incurring much, if any additional cost. Unfortunately, many firms engage in PR, advertising and/or online initiatives without squeezing out all of the benefits that these initiatives have to offer.
As such, I thought it might be a good idea to discuss some of the ways in which law firms can extend the life of their marketing activities.
Generate Publicity Before and After a “Happening”
Law firms often make the mistake that the marketing of an event is limited to the implementation of the event itself. This can be shortsighted. For example, consider a situation in which a family law practice decides to make a presentation on the topic of domestic violence. The firm spends a great deal of resources both promoting and implementing the program. Usually however, this is where it stops. Left on the table is all of the post- event publicity that might have been realized. Were photos or a video taken of the presentation for posting later on the firm’s web site, blog or social media pages? Were follow up communications made to the event’s attendees? Might proceeds from the event been given to a women’s shelter, thereby allowing the firm to generate more publicity when presenting that highly visible, oversized check?
Similarly, it’s great to land an interview on a major broadcast station. But have the firm’s clients and prospects been made aware of the appearance? Is there a clip of the event on the firm’s website?
I say over and over again that marketing does not happen in a vacuum. It does not end just because one particular “happening” has concluded. That check to the women’s shelter can be earmarked for the procurement of food, the obtaining of which might be the basis for yet another photo op. The video of the event you posted on your web site might also be excellent material for posting on Youtube (see #2 below.) And the cost to the firm for all of this? Very little.
Use the Same Online Content in a Multiplicity of Ways
Law firms often decide that they wish to launch a social media campaign or an e-newsletter effort or a blog without realizing that the content developed for one such initiative can be used just as well for the others. Consider for example, a personal injury practice that seeks to develop a niche in swimming pool accidents . There is no reason why that same article entitled “10 Ways to Keep Your Swimming Pool Safe This Summer” cannot be used as both an article for a blog as well as fodder for an email blast/e-newsletter. Further, snippets from such content can then be used as posts on the various social media channels. That’s an example of just one piece of content being used in three different ways!
Use Advertising and Online Media to Interact with Your Prospects
There was a time not so long ago where the interaction between a marketer and its prospects was much less dynamic than it is today. For the most part, marketers, including law firms, promoted their products or services and the targeted individuals or businesses made the decision to either purchase the offering or not.
That’s not really the way things work any more. Today, it’s the prospective client who initiates the “conversation” by seeking out particular goods or services. The ability to maintain this conversation with the prospect through online means has particular implications for law firms. One has to remember that, for the individual (or even the business client), selecting a law firm to handle a specific legal matter is one that is fraught with risk. There may be large sums of money involved and without any previous experience with a particular firm, there may be little for the prospect to go on in terms of firm credentials or even the “likeablity” of individual attorneys.
But with online media, the prospect can learn more about the firm – at their convenience; they can come to appreciate the firm’s expertise – through the downloading of firm articles, posts and white papers; and they can even “meet” the firm’s attorneys by registering and attending firm sponsored webinars. These are all ways in which the prospect can first get comfortable with the firm before making the commitment to “buy.” And usually, this takes very little expense on the part of the firm.
Leverage Opportunities with the Media in Which You Choose to Run
We live in a competitive world. This is particularly true for print, broadcast and even online media that have to fight tooth and nail for every marketing dollar that they receive. Yes, you can certainly negotiate for rates that are amenable to you, but at some point, even that will have its limits. However, this does not mean, you can’t make getting some “gimmes” a condition of your purchase. Depending on the nature of your practice area and the type of medium you employ, there is nothing wrong with seeking a free article about your practice when negotiating an ad buy, attempting to secure lists of attendees when purchasing a trade show booth or asking for links back to your site when procuring an online directory listing. There are many merchandising opportunities that may be available to you. You just need to be a) aware of them, b) creative, c) willing to ask for them and d) ready to leverage the pressure the media has to generate new revenues.
Developing a marketing plan involves more than just coming up with a litany of activities. To be successful, the smart law practice must recognize that marketing is an evolving process and should use the same content in multiple fashions, consistently interact with its prospects and seek out ways in which to leverage media opportunities.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Free Legal Marketing eBook

STOP SEARCHING FOR NEEDLES and
START LOOKING AT THE HAYSTACK
INTEGRATED STRATEGIES FOR MARKETING YOUR LAW FIRM


I usually use this blog to provide some thoughts on today's most critical legal marketing issues. But today, I thought I'd do something different.

Instead of offering suggestions on one legal marketing topic, today I’m going to offer my thoughts on a whole slew of them.

free legal marketing ebookAnd I am going to do it through my new ebook, Stop Searching for Needles and Start Looking at the Haystack: Integrated Strategies for Marketing Your Law Firm.

It’s not just any legal marketing ebook, mind you. It’s a comprehensive, (though also easy-to-read, lighthearted, irreverent, self-deprecating) look at how all of the many marketing elements work together to create a marketing “footprint” that goes a long way in determining success or failure.

Among other things, you’ll learn about:

  • Firm positioning and branding
  • The effects of firm “culture”
  • What makes for a good piece of communication
  • How to really measure results, the role of IT in marketing
  • The benefits and drawbacks of each marketing “tool”
  • How to get the most out of marketing vendors – you know, people like me! 
By the way, did I mention that the ebook is FREE?

And, as they say in any “How To” promotion…If you learn just one thing, it will have more than paid for itself!

So stop looking for needles and start looking at the haystack. More important, start growing your law practice. Really growing your practice.
Order the FREE eBook!

And be sure to do all those important things:  Retweet this offer or forward the book to any lawyers and other legal marketers looking to grow their practice; “Like” us on Facebook, “Follow” us on Twitter, and “Connect” with us on LinkedIn. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

6 Ways to Cross-Sell Your Firm’s Services

Many law firms that offer a multiplicity of practice areas often have difficulty cross-selling these disparate services to their roster of clients. Unfortunately, while getting a client whom you’ve provided legal services in one area to now utilize your firm for another may not be as “exciting” as obtaining a new client altogether, it nonetheless represents a viable means for increasing overall revenue. Moreover, it is usually less expensive and easier to do than seeking new clients altogether.
With that in mind, outlined below are six ways in which you can enhance your chances for successfully cross-promoting firm services:
1. Create a “Cross-Selling” Culture 
This means putting the “kabash” on attorney egos and instead rewarding/offering incentives for originating business outside of one’s own practice area. It means putting internal programs into place that allow firm attorneys to know what their colleagues are doing. And it means encouraging attorneys to look beyond the obvious in discussions with their clients. Are they thinking as an attorney looking out for his/her own interests or are they thinking as a member of a larger team?
2. Use Your Cyber “Real Estate”
Yes, your client came to your web site because they were looking for some business counsel, or a family attorney, help with a DUI, assistance on a tax matter or any of a host of a zillion other legal concerns. But that doesn’t mean they should not be exposed to the myriad of things you do. Simply having a button on your site that says “Practice Areas” is not enough – no one may ever even bother to hit or hover over that link. Find appropriate space on your home page (and other pages as well) to let site visitors know.
3. Be Smart About How You Use Your Newsletter (or E-Newsletter)
Law firms are big on getting out newsletters and e-newsletters. That’s great. Not so great are the cross-selling opportunities they waste. If your newsletter contains several articles, make sure there’s something you’ve included that alludes to some of the firm’s other practice groups. This is true even if the newsletter focuses on one particular type of law. If you typically send out material that is more akin to a client “brief” (i.e., a single article or post), look to get these out as frequently as is feasible, making sure to rotate the content (and thus each issue) around your different practice areas. Remember, in many cases (perhaps most), the recipient may not even read the content. All they may see are the headlines. If each highlights a different area of family law, why on earth would they ever even think of you when it comes to their business concerns? Note that for e-newsletters, this is particularly true. Most may go unopened. But that’s OK – if you have a compelling subject line that highlights a different area of practice every time the recipient sees your name.
4. Understand that Brochures Still Matter
We once had a client that came to us with concerns that they were leaving money on the table. Among other things, one of the tactics we suggested was to use their firm brochure to highlight its disparate practice groups. Now, there is nothing unusual about this – many firms have sales materials that describe the range of their services. The problem is however, that individuals who only see the brochure lying on the waiting room table or who peruse only one section of a multi-page sales piece may never even see all that the firm has to offer. Our solution was to create a brochure with several pages, step-cut and titled with the different practice areas so that anyone picking up the piece would have no choice but to see all the ways in which the firm might service their legal needs – just by looking at the cover of the material.
5. Use Letterhead Wisely
For all of the reasons noted above, doesn’t it make sense to find room to list your practice areas on your letterhead? It need not be in large type or take up a lot of room, but just as you might note different office locations and/or key executives, why not note your areas of focus.
6. Ask…
That’s right. Sometimes the answer is right in front of you. You don’t have to be pushy, but there is nothing wrong with asking your divorce client if he is working with anyone on his business’ legal needs; or the real estate client whether she has started to think about a succession plan; or the plaintiff in your PI case how he intends to protect his assets. All of this of course, takes us back full circle – to the importance of creating a firm culture that facilitates cross-selling.
So there you have it. Six things you can do right now.
I am sure there are others. And I’d love to hear about them. If you or your firm have come up with a brilliant cross-promotional approach idea or have a question as to how you might implement a new concept, bring it on!

Monday, February 27, 2017

To Market Consistently or to Do So in Bursts: Assessing Your Practice Area’s Purchasing Mindset

There’s a reason why disparate practice groups require different marketing approaches and it has a great deal to do with the context in which each operates. By this, I mean that the very nature by which potential clients go about deciding with whom they wish to contract for a particular kind of legal service has, or at least should have, a big influence on the types of marketing vehicles that are best to be employed. Not only that, but the practice area to be promoted may also determine when marketing activity is to be scheduled and for how long.
Allow me to explain.
Consider two examples. In the first, an estate planning or wealth management firm decides it wishes to engage in a multi-faceted marketing effort designed to generate new clients relatively quickly. Even casting aside the requisite web site and related activities for a moment, there is a wide range of marketing options available to this firm. It can invite target prospects to a seminar, offer white papers on its web site or run short bursts of advertising to suggest prospects contact the firm regarding a service the firm touts as being essential. Its message is relatively simple: “In order to create or maintain wealth, you need to do a number of things. We will advise you on what to do.”
Now consider a personal injury practice that wishes to also generate new business quickly. Here, the options to promote over the short term are much more limited. This is because no one needs (let alone thinks about) a PI attorney until that moment when one has been injured due to the fault of another. There is very little, if any advanced planning involved in the decisionmaking process. Who to hire only becomes a critical question at that moment. That is why PI firms and attorneys must implement ongoing marketing efforts so that the client is aware of them when that moment arises. And it could be at any time. Their message is basically, “We’re here when and if you need us.”
In many ways it is akin to how one goes about looking for a physician. I know before my first child was born, my wife did a lot of homework as to which pediatrician best suited us. The same can be true for an internist, an OB-GYN or a dentist. Yet, one typically doesn’t question which urologist, heart specialist or orthopedic surgeon to visit until one has a need to visit one.
This is one, albeit critical reason why marketing personal injury services usually requires greater financial outlays than a similarly sized estate planning practice. The same holds true, though perhaps to a lesser extent for criminal law. Unless you are planning to commit a crime and to being caught, you probably have not given much thought to who your defense attorney will be. Conversely, as with estate planning, a tax attorney may be able to “push” inquiries from potential clients. A family law practice? I would suggest it lies somewhere in between. Individuals considering a divorce may do considerable research into their options – but it is difficult for family lawyers to target those “considering” divorce.
Where your particular practice area falls on this spectrum of being able to promote for the short vs. the long term impacts not just the financial resources you will need, but may also determine when you implement your marketing initiatives. Going back to that tax attorney for example, the time between the end of January and April 15th usually makes sense. Family lawyers may wish to consider the period right after the holiday season. For that poor PI or criminal law firm however, there may be no especially good time to pursue such cases.
By the way, the same holds true for business-to-business practices. There are certain legal services that a business knows that it will need (e.g., transaction matters), while there are others that may make sense only at a particular moment in time (e.g., bankruptcy).
The point is, that when determining the marketing vehicles to use, how much and when to use them, as well as the kinds of costs that may be involved to effectively implement a program, it is important to have a good understanding as to the inherent nature of the client’s decisionmaking process.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Managing Partner’s Nightmare: Leaving Money on the Table

In our over 20 years of marketing law firms, one of the most often expressed concerns by managing partners is a fear that they are leaving money on the table. By this, they are usually referring to the fact that clients are associating the firm and/or individual attorneys with specific areas of focus, rather than as a resource for resolving any of a number of legal matters. This is typically seen in the client who contracts with a law practice for one legal matter and then walks down the street to contract with another regarding a different legal concern.  
Part of this may stem from compensation arrangements that do not reward internal cross-promotion and part may simply be a function of internal politics and territoriality. 
So how does the growth-inclined law practice avoid the dreaded “’shoulda’s’ ‘woulda’s’ and coulda’s?’” 
The answer lies first in creating a culture in which the firm moves from a practice area orientation to a problem-solving one. Such an orientation often requires re-educating personnel that the firm’s major focus really is on just helping people. Administrative and human resource matters should be approached with that mindset and compensation should, in large part, be based on each attorney’s capacity to do just that. That means rewarding individuals not just for the work they bring in or the work that they do, but also for the work, internal or external, that they can bring to another member of the firm’s staff. Further, in some cases, an interdisciplinary team approach to client problem-solving should be considered. And processes should be put into place that allow firm attorneys to regularly be made aware of the legal matters in which their brethren are involved. 
Second, law firms must do a better job of educating both prospects and clients as to the full range of their legal services. This means developing the kinds of materials – both online and off, which easily convey the many ways in which the firm can be of service. Specific areas of the firm’s legal expertise that are buried deep inside a firm brochure or web site do little in communicating how the firm can help an individual or business in more ways than they might have otherwise thought. Instead, law practices – particularly those with disparate areas of focus, should consider development of collateral materials that highlight its portfolio of services upfront. Ditto for the firm web site. Often, it is not enough for such content to be placed under some “Practice Area” button. That’s because the individual looking for assistance on a family law matter may never even bother to see whether the firm can also help him on his pending bankruptcy. The same holds true for the corporation seeking help with transactional matters, but not knowing (or bothering to find out) that the firm can also handle matters of litigation as well. 
One way in which we have seen law firms address such issues is through the development and dissemination of e-newsletters. Here, what matters most is not the actual content (though it should still be well thought-out and well-written), but rather the subject line on the address and the title of the main article. Recipients may never actually even read the content, but even in rejecting it, will nonetheless still be exposed to other services the firm provides. The goal here is not to drum up business immediately (though its been known to happen), but to plant the seeds among the firm’s database for that day when the need for a particular service does arise. 
Finally, in an age where everyone is (or should be) self-publishing, it is easy to communicate the individual skill sets of specific attorneys. What is mandated however, is ensuring that the ways in which such messages are disseminated, show a consistent regard for the firm at large. This means incorporating the firm’s logo, tag line, contact information (and possibly even practice areas) into individual online communications. Ultimately, it is the sum of all communications that serves as the face (and even the essence) of the organization.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Making that New Year’s Marketing Resolution

New year’s resolutions are a funny thing. No matter whether they are for an individual or for a law firm, adhering to them is difficult. For many, the beginning of January means the annual commitment to aggressively promote their services. Unfortunately, just as with promising to lose weight, to exercise or to remember that elusive wedding anniversary, actually doing so is less than certain. Sometimes, life just gets in the way.

So, for all those law firms that promise to “do something” each year and then find every excuse “not to,” this post is for you – 5 tips for jump starting your business development initiative:

Recognize the Commitment
Just as the experts recommend a disciplined approach to building a financial portfolio, so too must you take a structured, long-term approach to marketing. In order to be successful, marketing should be considered an investment – not an expense. There are no silver bullets, and while obtaining a tangible return on investment is always the goal, most integrated marketing efforts should be measured on their ability to build the practice – versus their efficacy in generating quick, but perhaps, less than ideal leads.

If You’re Going to Be In – Be in Strong
With a few exceptions, most marketing initiatives take some time to realize tangible results. There are reasons for this, but the main one is that it usually takes several exposures to a message before it resonates with its intended target.

To illustrate this, consider the ad you might see for a particular service. Given that the ad is a piece of communication for which money has been exchanged, you are rightfully skeptical as to the veracity of the exuberant claims in the copy. Visiting that organization’s web site makes you a bit more comfortable. Then, your cousin Joe recommends that service as well. So now, you’ve been exposed o the organization in several different ways – all of them positive. Your perceptions of the risks in purchasing this service are mitigated and you are more likely to pursue a relationship.

Similarly, think of another situation in which you see the same message repeatedly even within the same medium. The first time you may not even notice it. The second time, it might generate some interest. By the third, fourth or fifth time, that message has been drilled into you. Hopefully, you are ready to “buy.” But even if you are not, you will be aware of that organization and its services when that time does come.

My point in mentioning all this is to help you understand why marketing takes both time and financial resources. In most cases, being in just a little, will not take you all that far. This is as true for the dollars required for a television campaign as they are for the amount of content needed for search optimization as it is for the time that is necessary to effectively engage in face-to-face networking. It’s a little like marriage. Yes, you can get out of it if necessary. But, in order to maximize your chances for success, you have to fully commit.

Name Your Quarterback
Regardless of how you will be promoting your practice, someone is going to have to take the day-to-day responsibility for making sure the best of intentions become reality. That can be a dedicated marketing person, a chair of a marketing committee, a senior partner, etc. It can even be an consultant or marketing firm – provided that someone in-house is designated as the go-to person for that outside resource. When it comes to marketing, there can be many, many opinions (“Do you like the color green?”), but ultimately a process has to be in place for making decisions. Otherwise, plans will lay unimplemented years and special opportunities of an immediate nature will be missed.

Vet Your Marketing “Partners”
Every marketing consultant or firm will tell you that they will be your “partner.” This is great – providing what they tell you is true. Try to get a feel for what they really do. Are they an IT vendor that understands the bells of whistles of web site development, but knows little about how to attract prospects? Are they wed to a single type of marketing vehicle and thus see every solution from a very limited perspective? Ask to see their work. Ask to speak to their clients. And don’t be shy about looking at several competing firms. Personally, I have found that those firms that do the best vetting also tend to be the best clients. You’re about to engage in what will hopefully be a long-lasting relationship. Make sure you are dancing with the right partner.

Get Top-To-Bottom Buy-In At any organization, it’s important that every stakeholder be on the same page. There’s nothing more discouraging than when one or more individuals want to aggressively go after new business, while another individual or group are reticent to put the time or money into the effort. As in any team sport, unity is critical for achieving positive results.

Of course, there’s one other thing that goes almost without saying --- though Nike did a pretty good job of saying it: “Just Do It.” Yes, promoting your practice can be hard, requires time and financial resources, and can be downright scary. But isn’t that what most new year’s resolutions are all about?