Client Retention Legal Marketing — 02 August 2010

Twenty-five years ago, when advertising was limited to print ads and TV spots for bedazzlers and stone-washed denim, the concept of hiring a specialized team to ‘market’ a law firm would have been unusual. In fact, until recently, law firm advertising was often limited to a small ad in the local Yellow Pages. With the advent of relaxed rules on attorney advertising and the increasingly competitive landscape, effective marketing must be an integral part of every firm’s growth strategy.

A marketing consultant can implement strategies to grow your practice. In larger firms, full-time Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) work directly under CEOs and are tasked with “business development,” growing the business financially, geographically, and in some cases, even aesthetically, to fit a certain clientele’ needs and preferences. For smaller firms, a variety of part-time consultants can formulate an effective marketing strategy.

Enter the Marketing Consultant

A CMO’s purpose is to ensure that the firm is noticed and remembered by existing and potential clients. His or her foot is in just about every aspect of the practice, working with nearly every staff member and a wide array of outside vendors including website developers, designers, and printers. A marketing professional’s role can encompass:
definition the firm’s vision and building its brand

  • analyzing fee structure
  • performing marketing research
  • promoting public relations
  • overseeing improvements in client service

Once thought to only have a temporary installment in the office, marketing professionals are quickly becoming permanent fixtures in medium and even small firms. For smaller practices that may not be able to afford a full-time CMO, part-time or contract marketing coaches or consultants can fill the void. They can liaise with and hire website developers, publicists, and social marketing and branding experts.
Before hiring a CMO or other marketing expert, it is important to decide what your firm needs and what it can afford. Smaller firms may want to consider a part-time or freelance marketing consultant, while larger firms may opt for a full-time employee.  Regardless of whether they are full- or part-time, adding marketing professionals to the payroll can be expensive. Effective long term marketing campaigns, however, will more than compensate for the expense.

Small firms have a wide range of part-time options, including:

  • Attorney coaches are available who will help you, as a lawyer, become more marketable and also help create business development plans for your firm. Just as an athletic coach helps formulate winning strategies and mold successful players, an attorney coach can advise you and your firm on how to increase profits, foster better relationships with clients, and devise a marketing strategy. Unlike full-time marketing professionals, coaches tend to be responsible only for supplying you and your practice with ideas, not carrying them out.
  • You also have the option of hiring a marketing specialist from an independent marketing firm. Similar to an attorney coach, a specialist will come up with ways for you and your practice to better communicate with the public. However, unlike a coach, marketing specialists may not have experience with the legal services industry. Additionally, if you choose to hire a marketing specialist, keep in mind that you will most likely be one of many clients.
  • If you want to concentrate on an online marketing campaign, an internet and social media coach will be able to bring your firm onto the World Wide Web. When paired with a well-designed website and branding effort, a social media marketing campaign can help you keep in touch with existing clients and reach out to new ones. As with a marketing specialist, a social media coach may not have a thorough knowledge of how a law office works and may have many other clients.

Searching for Mr. (or Miss) Right

Selecting the right marketing consultant for your firm can be daunting.  Many can be contacted through local bar associations or other professional organizations.  Reading blogs and publications specifically for legal marketing can also be great ways to find qualified candidates.

When considering a candidate, look for:

  1. A background in legal services – not every firm’s marketing strategist needs to have passed the Bar, but he or she should have a strong familiarity with how a law office works.
  2. A ‘new school’, web-focused approach to marketing – choose someone who has exceptional expertise in leveraging the power of the internet, including social media platforms, blogging, attorney websites and search engine optimization.
  3. A multitasker – more than just the ability to do a lot of things at once, multitasking involves organizing and executing different projects simultaneously without sacrificing quality.
  4. A top-notch communicator – a marketing consultant who cannot communicate his or her ideas verbally and in writing is like a surgeon with no hands—it’s not enough to know how to do something if you can’t follow through.
  5. A people person – regardless of whether you hire a full-time marketing executive or a part-time specialist, he or she should be able to effortlessly work with every member of your team. Having an accurate understanding of your clients and your employees will help consultants frame the image of your firm.
  6. A successful track record – candidate’s experience should demonstrate that he or she knows how to run a successful campaign.  Be sure to obtain specific feedback on their performance from qualified references.
  7. A bridge builder – a consultant may want to portray your firm differently than you envision.  An effective consultant should be able to successfully integrate your firm’s culture with his or her strategies.

The addition of a CMO or marketing consultant will not instantly generate increased revenue for your firm.  But, given some time, the effects of a successful marketing campaign are pervasive, broadening the reach of your firm’s messaging, enhancing the relationships you have with your current clients and referral sources and helping to connect you with new business opportunities.

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Dolores Obrien

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