Law Firm Marketing: It’s Like Working Out (Really)

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Guest blogger Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk

Guest Post by Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk

I’ve recently had a number of conversations with professional service providers and other marketing consultants on the topic of marketing spending. Some see it as a worthwhile investment, while others see it as a necessary evil, and some even see it as a complete waste of money. And depending on how it’s done, each can be correct. But the biggest—and most common—misconception is that law firm marketing is seen as an expense rather than an investment.


I like to compare it to going to the gym. Come January 1, you are at the gym at 6am, running on the treadmill, working out with weights, and you may even hire a trainer. You religiously go three times a week, but the results are slow to come. You only lose one pound in the first week, and none in the second week. Your determination starts to wane. By the third week, you only get to the gym one time, and only run on the treadmill on that visit. You drop your trainer because he’s not doing any good anyway. You gain a pound in your fourth week. Your drive falls even farther, and you don’t make it at all during the 5th week. And so on.

This is how many law firm marketing efforts go too. You start with a plan (though many don’t even do that) and are excited to see the results. You may create a customer newsletter, hold a seminar, update your website, or even start using Twitter. Everyone is excited and ready to handle the work that is going to start rolling in. But the results aren’t what you expected. So, over time, you pull back, decrease your marketing efforts and see even fewer results. Eventually you are firmly convinced that marketing is a complete waste of money and time because it doesn’t work.

Here’s the problem with both scenarios. You expected immediate results and didn’t get them. Here are a few ideas that may help your next marketing initiative or trip to the gym.

It pays to plan

So many law firm marketing initiatives are done in a vacuum and not part of a strategic plan. Before starting any marketing effort, clearly define your audience, tactics and goals. And make sure they are reasonable too. If you don’t have someone on staff with these skills, it pays to have an expert come in and help you create your plan. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? Not everyone can do it.

It’s sad, but many people are convinced that anyone can be a marketing professional. To create an ad, find a cool photo (or better yet, clip art!), put some words under it and call the magazine, right? Um, not quite. But I do have to admit marketers have done a pretty bad job of branding our profession and practitioners.

True marketing professionals have the training and experience to create plans, determine the best tactics to reach the right audiences, know how to implement various initiatives, can ensure the marketing plan supports the larger business plan, and provide measurable results. It’s a lot more than playing with pretty pictures and cocktail parties, no matter what anyone says.

It takes variety

Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, but this is how a lot of firms function. Your targets are not all reading the exact same publications or attending the same events. It pays to have a marketing plan that uses many different mediums, some of which may be rather new and untested, like social media. Map your initiatives out on a grid so you see how the plan works and when each part of the plan will be completed. Remember, variety is the spice of life.

Marketing is cumulative

Law firm marketing is not a one-shot deal. It has many facets and each initiative builds on the previous one. It is commonly stated that it takes 3-7 impressions to build awareness with an individual. Think about that. The first 2-6 times you reach out to them, they don’t know who you are and probably can’t recall your name, let alone what you do. Only once your firm is cemented in their mind will they even think of calling you when they need your services.

Just like going to the gym, you need to create a plan to get where you want to be, measure regularly to make sure you are on the right track and have a goal in mind before you even get started. Make sure you are working out all your muscles so you get the full benefits of exercise. And be consistent with it. You can’t go to the gym for 10 hours one day a year and expect any results at all, except maybe one seriously painful recovery period. It takes regular, consistent and well-directed exercise to reach your goal just like it takes a marketing plan, clear goals and multiple tactics to grow your firm. So what are you waiting for?

I’m off to the gym.

BBR Marketing is the brainchild of Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk. She has nearly 20 years of marketing experience working with a diverse range of industries and people, most recently as the marketing director for a mid-sized accounting firm in Atlanta.

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  • Sean Timmons

    Thanks for this. Great analogy. The hardest thing among some of my colleagues is that a consistent and persistent effort is needed to achieve progress.

  • This post provides an interesting contrast to the comments last week on Gyi Tsakalakis’ post regarding JD Supra (and by extension of the comments, Linked-In). If lawyers can incorporate JD Supra or Linked-in into a larger marketing plan, they may eventually achieve results, but it won’t happen automatically. Also, if participating in one of those sites is part of your marketing plan, you have to stick with it for quite a while. When it comes to tech, Lawyerist readers are not a representative sample of the population. Most people are just figuring out what these sites are; a marketing plan based on them is going to be a very long-term strategy.

  • This is a great analogy! As much as you want to, you really can’t expect to get instant results. It definitely takes some time, but it’ll be worth it in the end if you stick with it!