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Quick: Start the new year with a ‘firm’ marketing plan

December 31, 2014

By Jon Quick

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My original intent in preparing this column was to emphasize the importance of having a marketing plan to start the new year (usually as a subset of your business plan) and offering tips on how to do it. In doing my research, I discovered hundreds of instructional articles on law firm marketing and how to develop a proper plan.

While there are many versions of an effective marketing plan format, most of them basically include lingo such as “description of the company,” “competitive environment” and “market product focus.”

I am not here to teach you how to write a marketing plan. You can figure it out pretty easily. Lawyers are really smart people, right?

The truth is that, often after some conversation with a client, one of those fancy agencies will come up with a marketing plan for the law firm and charge the firm a wad of bucks.

Next, the lawyers take the time (which they don’t have) to gloss over the marketing plan with the fancy agency. Note “gloss over.”

They may agree on spending some of the money the agency proposed. Then the law firm puts the marketing plan in a drawer. They don’t look at it again. “Gee, we knew we had to do some marketing. Now we have it done,” the firm says.

Then, when the advertising/marketing doesn’t work, they fire the fancy agency.

The biggest problems with this scenario are usually the fault of the law firm, notwithstanding that the fancy agency may not have done its homework. Here are the common issues:

1. The initial planning was done without proper thought and input.

2. Putting the plan in the drawer. Many firms do the same thing after they build that big, beautiful website. They might as well not even put the site up because they do nothing to drive traffic to it because they never change it. It’s like reading the same newspaper day after day.

3. They don’t take the time or make the time to find ways to make marketing really work.

I have found many law firms – and business owners in general – are guilty of No. 2 and No. 3 above. While you certainly can get assistance with marketing so you can get back to practicing law, you still have the ultimate responsibility to follow your plan and gauge its effectiveness. You also have to be willing to change the plan as circumstances dictate. Just as you do when you take a case to trial, your strategy will undoubtedly change.

If one form of advertising doesn’t work, assemble the troops and try something else. You have to make the time to pay attention to your marketing efforts. Somebody once said, “A funny thing happens if you don’t advertise. Nothing.”

The real key to an effective marketing plan is to get started correctly. It’s listed as No. 1 above for a reason.

Here’s the secret to doing it right. You start with what I call an IGS (idea generating session). I give consultant Gerry Tabio credit for many of these tactics. It’s like a brainstorm but with a few essential rules.

• No idea is a bad idea.

• An idea can be a word, thought or phrase.

• Absolutely no judgment of ideas at this point!

• Wild out-of-the-box ideas encouraged! You just never know.

• Quantity not quality at this stage.

• Build on the ideas put forth by others.

• Every person and every idea has equal worth.

• Have fun!

Then chose your participants; usually 8 to 10 people is adequate, depending on the size of your firm. Choose people from all levels of your organization, not just upper management or partners. You never know where the next big idea will come from. It also builds your team morale and spirit, giving everyone the opportunity to put his/her mark on the firm.

Decide what you want to accomplish. For example: Today’s Focus—To come up with solution-based ideas for where to market the law firm, branding of the law firm and slogan for the law firm.

Have a high-energy facilitator to keep the session moving. Sometimes it’s even best to have someone from outside the firm. Set aside two hours and have a giant pad of Post-it notes to collect ideas. Write every one of them down.

At the end, your conference room walls will be covered with the Post-it notes. Then the group votes on the best ideas and you compile them into a block. Use bigger type for those items which got the most votes.

This is not your marketing plan, but it gives you an excellent beginning and does wonders for morale and team-building. It’s an especially valuable exercise if you are looking to create a refreshing new look or brand or to enhance your old one. I’ve used this technique many times with great success.

It’s pretty easy to look at the list and come up with some effective branding lines and a slogan. This exercise truly expressed the spirit of that firm today. Further, it gave them focus on their newly enhanced brand as the final marketing plan was developed.

As we embark on a new year, make it a resolution to spend more time on your marketing. The outcome can be truly remarkable, without having to spend so many bucks on that fancy marketing agency.•

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Jon Quick is the president and founder of Carmel-based QPR and Marketing. With over 25 years experience in media, Quick is a former manager with CBS and Emmis Communications. He can be reached at 317-432-0309 or by email via QPRmarketing.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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