Dorothy journeyed to the Emerald City with one objective: to seek the Wizard of Oz’s help and return to Kansas. Although her quest was fraught with risks, her chosen path ultimately led to her goal.
Like it or not, proposing any journey creates a risk — the possibility of not reaching your destination or not achieving your goal, not to mention arriving nowhere while having wasted significant resources, time and energy.
Law firms of all sizes struggle to define a marketing and business development pathway that strikes the right balance to deliver measurable value at a manageable cost. A well-defined, quantifiable approach (proactive, not reactive) is necessary to execute a law firm’s strategy.
By following a five-step path, you can help your lawyers and marketing and business development professionals work together to meet the firm’s goals and deliver what is most essential: value.
At the firm and service (practice/industry) level, determine or forecast the challenges your clients face. Identify economic triggers and other drivers, such as grants, tax incentives or regulatory changes. Understand how your clients are impacted by an evolving workforce, as well as technological advancements.
Build your collaborative team by matching your lawyers with marketing and business development professionals to work in tandem. Compare your services to the competitive landscape. Is your firm leading, lagging or trying to catch up?
Identify how market developments and circumstances align with your lawyers’ skill sets and the needs of the businesses you serve. Work across the firm to gather your findings, as different practice groups and service teams may have relevant insights into different parts of industries. Explore clients’ patterns or trends.
Detect potential market differentiation. An unintended consequence may be identification of services where demand will inevitably shrink. You may need to set an exit or alternative plan for these services.
There are some key questions to consider during this step:
- Are you finding a gap in the market or solving a problem?
- Are the firm’s current service offerings positioned to develop a new or expanded service in a target area?
- Have you conducted a deep-enough dive into the specific market and hallmark clients to pinpoint your firm’s strategic goals?
- Does this meet the needs of existing clients or an entirely new target group?
- Have you identified opportunities for cross-servicing?
- Have you created an overall budget and accounted for possible new investments?
As an example, perhaps your team has determined that a wearable health care technology group is a new strategic priority by conducting a market assessment and finding that new tax incentives are promoting an influx of businesses and employees that would be ideal fits for your services. Your firm has a strong health care regulatory team and complementary emerging business, tax, and labor and employment teams. But your team is not ready to move forward without carefully plotting the steps that follow.
After you have identified a potential solution or opportunity, your group will need to define your business objective and value proposition. Identify the buyers of the service and potential referral sources. Conduct a review of the competitive landscape. I prefer a detailed “lean canvas” analysis to form a business case and easily executable go-to-market plan.
Address the following questions:
- How will we develop services and tools that make us a go-to firm in the market?
- How does this fit with other priorities?
- Is it a cultural fit with our firm’s brand?
- Is the solution impacted by industry changes to the legal profession?
- Who is leading the team’s efforts?
- What specifically will your firm do?
- Who is going to do what?
- When does it need to be done?
- What is the budget and investment?
- What metrics will the firm use to measure and evaluate the efforts?
To continue the earlier example, the wearable technology group may hinge on several contingencies. Other firms may already present a competitive challenge. Alternatively, the proposed activity may already be a good fit with market developments. If it can be accomplished with limited budget and without stretching the marketing and business development department’s resources to inefficiency, it may be time to implement.
Develop a marketing and communications plan and scale accordingly. If this is a new service, tool or product, ensure that your clients and the market are asked to weigh the cultural fit with your brand. Leveraging your brand can be a strong tool in a firm’s arsenal, but diluting it can present irreversible damage. Depending on budget, resources and the potential size of the market, consider starting small with a pilot program. Examine the who’s and how’s. Develop a target referral group/source where you might host joint events or conduct webinars around burgeoning topics. Find organizations congruent with your positioning that can help you spread your message.
With content marketing and public relations, more is not necessarily better. The strategic goal is to raise awareness, engage with your target audiences (including clients, prospects, alumni, recruits and the media) and, ultimately, drive business.
For the wearable technology group, the defined audience may be journalists to help raise awareness about regulatory angles. If your targets are startups, partnering with a bank and accounting firm may enable you to provide a more robust panel presentation.
To deliver what is required to execute on your plan, it is key that you identify and get to know your internal and external audiences, as well as your potential advocates and adversaries. Work with marketing and business development to set up training for your attorneys to help them to understand and provide input into the messaging and content.
Determine what channels will provide the most impact and ensure you are evaluating the distribution channels to create unified campaigns. These may include direct communications, print, Web, social media, press opportunities, email, blogs and conferences and events.
Update your contact database to ensure you are able to reach all defined audiences, and set a timetable for distribution of the content. Be flexible, as events may change your planning as you go.
You need to set the metrics that will be used to determine success. The team needs to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) in advance. For example, track new pitch opportunities, client growth or new target clients acquired. In raw marketing terms, you can track open rates, forwards, likes, search engine optimization or media mentions. Once all KPIs are evaluated, each of the steps above can be modified or tweaked to help provide greater value.
Your pathway takes more than three heel clicks in a pair of ruby slippers, but give your journey the structure outlined above and you will be able to provide value to both your clients and your lawyers.
Jennifer S. Bankston has spent over 20 years spearheading strategic initiatives for law firms and other industries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.
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