I’ve never been a fan of voluminous marketing plans that span a number of years and have page after page of strategies and tactics. They sit around and collect dust or take up electronic storage space. They are so overwhelming and unwieldy that no one looks at them or even attempts to implement what they contain.
Plus, we live in a world that changes too rapidly to be able to develop a strategy that will take us beyond the next 12 to 18 months. We need to determine what to focus on in the short term.
That is why my advice on marketing and business development plans subscribes to the one-page strategy model.
Keeping it simple and concise is sometimes not as easy as it sounds. There are many voices that need to be heard in law firms — different practice groups and a variety of target markets to name two — and many decisions that will need to be made in terms of how the firm or practice group spends time and money.
But, it can be done. Here are some tips on how to create a simple plan that will not collect dust and can have a significant impact on your marketing and business development success.
Narrow the goals
If you are developing your plan for the entire firm, a practice group or just for yourself, it is important to bring focus to your efforts. Write down all the goals and all the things you think you want to try to accomplish, but limit your thinking to the next 12 to 18 months. As you look over the list, cross off anything that cannot be done in this timeframe, or re-word it so that it can. You can also eliminate things that are high-cost, low-return items. Rethink these later to see if you can make adjustments to them in order to either accomplish more for the investment or reduce the cost.
Now that you have this list, have everyone in the group (or do it alone if the plan is just for you) look at it and pick the top three to five most critical things to accomplish. If you are working with a group, you can do this in a variety of ways. You can first have a discussion to combine or eliminate any of the goals. Once you have a good list, put it on a flip chart or marker board and have everyone who is participating in the planning exercise put a mark behind the goals they view as the top three. By doing this you will reach consensus regarding the top priorities.
Set the strategy
Now that you have your short list of three to five key goals for the next 12 to 18 months, it is time to dig into how you will make this happen. I like to refer to this as the WWW: Who, What, and When.
Look at each goal and plot the steps that will be necessary to make it a reality. What needs to happen first, then what? Who is going to be held accountable for the actions and when are they expected to deliver the results? The saying “nothing gets it done like a deadline” goes a long way when you are putting a marketing and business development plan together. Make it clear what you are expecting, when it needs to be done and who is being held accountable. In addition to identifying the people who are responsible and accountable for the task, it is sometimes helpful to include those who need to be consulted and informed. This helps make sure that people who need to approve, sign off on or otherwise agree with the process are not missed.
This should all fit on a page: Three to five strategies, the steps under each that need to be accomplished, and a name and date next to each step.
Determine the review cycle
To keep everything on track you will need to have regular review sessions to monitor your progress. If the plan is just for you, then hold yourself accountable and take time on a quarterly basis to see how you are doing against your plan. If the plan is for a practice group or the firm, set time aside at a regularly scheduled meeting (or schedule a separate meeting) to report on how everyone is doing based upon the WWW part of the plan.
This review process will also help you adjust as needed. If the large company you were targeting has now been acquired, you will need to make some adjustments. If a competing firm has just launched the new practice area or focus you were planning to launch, you might need to adjust your strategy to compete against this instead of being first in the market.
No plan will ever be perfect. It will constantly need adjustments. Reviewing it regularly will keep everything on track.
Celebrate your results
When you reach one of your goals, pat yourself on the back or share the results with your firm or practice group. This is an important final step. It helps you evaluate what worked as expected, what exceeded expectations and what fell short. All of these things will help you as you put together your next one-page strategy.
Now that you know the benefits of a one-page strategy, put the dust bunnies on notice: Their days are numbered.•
Dona Stohler of S2 Law Firm Strategies provides consulting services on business development and marketing for law firms. Stohler has more than a decade of experience in the legal services industry and is the past chair of the U.S. Law Firm Group marketing committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.S2lawfirmstrategies.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.