Over the last year, I’ve been analyzing my work with law firms to apply the lessons learned and improve the services I deliver to clients. In doing so, several themes emerged that impact — in some shape or form — nearly every client I have ever worked with:
1) The marketing function — whether handled by professional marketing staff, paralegals and secretaries or the attorneys themselves — typically has little coordination, resulting in “random acts of marketing.”
2) Business generators — the attorneys in the firm who bring in the business — typically work in silos, alone or in a small group, with little coordination in building a pipeline of potential work that meets the broader needs of the firm.
3) The so-called “marketing and business development being a continuum” is fractured, creating a gap between the two functions. This prevents firms from maximizing their investment in awareness, credibility and lead generation activities and makes revenue generation activities less efficient and more time consuming. Most often the gap is the result of a lack of alignment between a firm’s business vision (if one has even been defined), understanding of client needs (if an assessment has even been done) and talent management (the tools the firm provides to help attorneys become better business developers).
I started calling this the Law Firm Marketing Dilemma. Visually, it looks something like this:
If this diagram resonates with you, I would recommend taking three steps to make 2013 the year your firm overcomes the law firm marketing dilemma.
Where to start:
1) Business Vision and Marketing Alignment
Does your firm understand what its business vision is? There is no shortage of evidence that shows that the most successful and profitable professional services firms are those that have a clearly defined vision, culture and values. All too often, firms skip over this important question and dive right into tactical planning. Don’t. If you don’t define the end goal, you will never reach it.
2) Adding Value to Clients Beyond Tactical Execution
Conduct a client audit. Start by understanding your client base. Who are your clients? What do you do for them? Where are you most profitable? What are their similarities? What are the trends, needs, drivers impacting them? Beyond the legal matters your have done for them, look at the business challenges they have. What are the themes? Where are the missed opportunities? Again, this is not a superfluous exercise. You can’t market to prospective clients you don’t understand.
3) Define and Develop a Talent Management Strategy for Business Growth
What do the attorneys and professional staff need to support your business objectives? This starts by understanding your talent strategy — the way in which you want to utilize associates and professional staff. Once you know the goal — be it identifying future firm equity partners, leveraging associates to handle the tactical aspects of the law, creating business generators to tap into a new market demographic, or focusing a business model on the use of paralegals to provide greater cost efficiencies — you can identify the communication and training needs to help them achieve their goals.
With a defined vision, clear understanding of client needs, and a talent management strategy to attain them, you then have a starting point for focusing marketing programs and collaborative business development efforts that will generate greater consistency and overall return on investment.