Lawyer resolutions for 2014: Exercise more. Drink less. Start marketing the law firm.
If those were also last year’s resolutions, I would like to take this opportunity to get more specific and identify some worthwhile marketing resolutions for Canadian law firms.
Lord Kelvin claimed “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.” He would have liked modern marketing technology.
In 2014, every law firm should be creating and tracking their firm’s marketing performance with some form of analytics. This means monitoring how people are exposed to the firm, reviewing how people interact with the firm and tracking exactly how new clients are being acquired. It is a fundamental matter of business intelligence that is almost universally appealing to lawyers in management positions. Every firm that has a website should be developing at least a basic competency in reviewing analytics, whether by internal staff or through external professionals.
There are complete suites of products for monitoring law firm analytics. For that matter, there are plenty of search engines besides Google. The point is that Google Analytics is free, brilliant, and already running on most law firm websites. In 2014, the trick will be to make use of this data.
How are people coming to your website? What are they looking for? Do they become clients of the firm?
Many of these questions have an offline component. Law firms can build hybrid analytics platforms using a combination of website analytics, call tracking, and client intake forms. The ultimate goal is to establish a return on investment (although I hate to jump on the ROI-jargon-wagon) for marketing efforts. The business development clues acquired along the way (e.g. our firm receives a significant amount of interest from Calgary) is just icing on the cake.
Show Me The Money
In 2014, lawyers actually need to spend money marketing their firms. Admittedly, this is a self-serving statement coming from a legal marketing company. I must still emphasize this point because I remain somewhat shocked that many firms do not see marketing as a cost of doing business. Waiting to invest in marketing until business is slow will almost always be too late. Marketing, with websites in particular, are too often lumped together with IT expenses as a necessary evil, rather than as a necessary piece of the business of law.
Before spending money, resolve to include reasonable marketing expenses in the firm’s budget. While some marketing costs are major capital investments (e.g. signage, branding or a website), others present ongoing operational expenses (e.g. promotional items or Google AdWords campaigns). Accordingly, some expenses will need to be considered over multiple years. The actual size of the budget will depend on the number of lawyers at the firm, its practice areas, its regional market, its existing brand strength, whether the firm wants to grow its business and so on. The important thing is to develop a strategy and commit money to achieving the strategy. This will apply equally whether the firm uses internal marketing staff or an external marketing agency.
Get Help on Design
Just because you know how to put together a website, design an invite, or create business cards, does not mean that you should. I write this as someone who has the technical skills to do these things, but lacks the creative talent to make them look good. Good design requires talent, technical skills and experience. One or two of the above will not be enough.
Design does not come naturally to most law firms. It is not a plug-in you get with Photoshop. Even if you have the in-house skills and tools to go it alone, resolve to get help with design aspects of your marketing efforts whether in-house or through a legal marketing agency.
Do Your Own Thing
All law firms are different because all lawyers are different. Some are aggressive, some are affordable, and others are apart of the community. I am still waiting to see a Vancouver law firm branded along GLBT lines despite considerable interest on the client side. There will always be different clients that match with different styles. Instead, we see a race by many firms to do the same thing despite very little room at the top (especially for new entrants). This is especially problematic with corporate and commercial practices. In 2014, I hope to see more law firms that have the courage to do their own thing.
I hope these resolutions offer some more specific legal marketing goals for 2014. “Start marketing the law firm” remains a good start. As for the drinking and exercising, you’re on your own. Good luck.