A lucky break isn't going to see your law firm stand out from the rest. Instead, writes Kylie Beaufoy, some patience, a long-term strategy and a dynamic approach should ensure your marketing works.
Successful marketing is like winning the board game Snakes and Ladders. But there's one crucial difference - marketing is a game of skill, not luck. Successful marketers position themselves at the foot of ladders they can quickly climb. They plan so that they avoid the slippery slopes of the snakes which force them backwards. Marketing is the art of identifying and satisfying the needs of clients.
Legal firms need to overcome the misleading notion that marketing is hard-selling which will taint their image. Quite simply, by integrating marketing with other regular business processes, legal firms increase their ability to compete successfully.
Firms which understand that marketing is as important as governance and practice management, rather than some secondary add-on, keep climbing the ladders and emerge as the real winners. It's not the right time to spend money on marketing.
Wrong! With share prices tumbling and global economic uncertainty, too many firms are focusing on the cost of everything and the value of nothing. They're cutting back on spending and are making survival the sole priority.
In contrast, the smart and successful firms are seeing opportunities in every situation. As economic conditions become more challenging, the leading firms are capitalising on their competitors' withdrawal from the market and are coming up with assertive and cost effective marketing strategies - making them stand out from the competition.
One frustrated business development manager at a leading law firm said to me: "I cannot get the partners or senior guys out of their offices. They think that because there are no deals to be done they can ignore their clients."
This is a great time to be proactive while others may be scared or even complacent about what they can do.
Marketing goals need to be re-evaluated to match the changing environment - and should be specific, measurable, innovative and timely.
Successful marketing is a combination of strategies. This includes corporate branding, advertising, public relations and client relationship management (CRM) and below-the-line promotional activities (including direct mail, online communications and sponsorship).
Each of these is a rung on the ladder that is crucial in getting you to the top. So the strategies need to be implemented carefully and tactically.
"We're not large enough"
Marketing is not the privilege of large firms. If a law firm wants to develop its reputation as a specialist servicing the medical profession, for example, then maintaining a high profile within that industry is important for the firm, no matter what its size.
One thing at a time
Marketing is an investment and it must be recognised that it sometimes can take months - or longer - to win a client. A famous advertising agency head once said that there was 18 months between the first phone call and the first cheque. Organisations with a long-term commitment to building their business ultimately win the game.
A strategic long-term marketing campaign will help your business move up the ladders and win the ultimate prize.
Kylie Beaufoy is the director of Hall Chadwick Marketing Communication