I get to see a wide range of solicitors’ marketing plans ranging from the weighty dissertation to the single sheet.
Personally, I favour concise marketing plans for law firms as otherwise they tend to sit on a shelf and gather dust. However one that is too short may lack the essential SMART marketing objectives that mean it will bear fruit. The latest edition of the Law Society Lexcel practice management standard requires a firm to develop a marketing plan which must include: ‘measurable objectives for the next 12 months’. Being ‘measurable’ is an important step towards a SMART marketing plan. By SMART, we mean specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
By way of example, compare these objectives: ‘Raise profile locally’ with ‘Generate at least one mention in local press each month’. ‘Grow automotive business’ with ‘Win £50,000 of new business from automotive sector in the next 12 months’. ‘Improve average rates’ with ‘Increase average hourly achieved rate from £195 per hour to £210 per hour over 18 months’. In each example it is easy to tell whether or not you have achieved the second objective within a certain time frame. If you have not then, you can examine why not and adjust your law firm’s marketing strategy for the following year.
One area where solicitors’ marketing plans can be lacking in detail is in specifying target markets. For your marketing expenditure to have maximum impact, it is necessary to know where to focus it. Once you have a clear definition of your target market, it becomes much easier to assess marketing opportunities and decide whether or not to pursue them. With regard to private clients, you will usually be able to define this by geographic catchment area (time or distance from your office), by socio-economic profile, and other factors. For example, you may narrow your focus on business owners, certain foreign-language speakers or by stage of life, such as young family or retirees.
For business clients, in addition to specifying a catchment area, company size (by turnover or number of employees) you may wish to focus on a particular industry or corporate structure such as partnership or charities. It is possible to be much more specific by researching and detail the names of top target companies.
In addition to the firm-wide marketing plan, it may also be appropriate to drill down and develop plans for practice areas or sectors. You may even wish to consider introducing personal business development plans. If so, it is important that each sub-plan follows a consistent format to enable comparison. Such plans will also need to be reviewed from above to identify opportunities for co-ordination and economies of scale.
The six-monthly review recommended by Lexcel is important to keep activities and budgets on track, and to maintain momentum over the year.
Sue Bramall is managing director of Berners Marketing and advises law firms in the UK and overseas