Now that the holidays are over and it’s 2018, you’re likely focused on planning for the new year. January is always an ideal time to take stock and make changes to set your law firm on a path for success in the coming year.
One important element of your 2018 planning should be to create a marketing plan for your law firm. Did you know that bringing in new business is one of the biggest challenges most lawyers face? The good news is that an effective marketing plan is the perfect antidote to that problem.
It’s easy to do if you know where to start. The key is to establish a marketing plan that makes sense for your law firm, and then stick with it. With that in mind, here are some ideas to help you lay the groundwork for a successful and prosperous 2018.
Establish a marketing budget for 2018
First and foremost, determine a marketing budget up front. Failing to set aside money for marketing is a mistake that a surprising number of lawyers make. In fact, according to the 2017 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report (“Report”), 49% of lawyers surveyed didn’t have an annual marketing budget at all.
However, many of the lawyers surveyed recognized that they’d allotted too little toward marketing in 2017. For that reason, they reported plans to increase their budget in 2018, including 41% of solo lawyers and 36% of lawyers from firms with 2-9 attorneys.
Increasing your law firm’s marketing budget may well make sense in the coming year. If you decide to do so, make sure that the budget you create is a reasonable one, but is still expansive enough that you’re able to get the most from your money by spending it wisely and effectively.
Look to the past to plan for the future
One of the best ways to set a marketing budget and plan for the year is to look to the past. By assessing what did – and didn’t – work for your firm last year, you’ll be able to make informed and impactful decisions for the months ahead.
Don’t be disheartened if you find that you’re less than impressed by your firm’s results over the past year. Rest assured, you’re not alone. In fact, according to the Report, many lawyers believe that their law firm’s prior marketing performance is often lacking. When lawyers were asked to rate on a scale of 1-5 (where 1 is equal to “not at all confident” and 5 equals “very confident,”) how confident they were that their firm’s marketing was effective, the average rating was 2.8.
The good news is that you can learn from past mistakes. Take stock of your law firm’s marketing performance, assess the highs and lows, and use that information wisely as you make plans for the future.
Consider using a legal marketing consultant
If you’re feeling overwhelmed after assessing last year’s marketing performance, you may want to consider hiring a legal marketing consultant. This is a tactic that works very well for some firms, although the majority of law firms tend to forego a consultant, with only 27% of lawyers reporting that they’ve used one, according to the Report. Smaller firms are the most likely to handle marketing on their own, with 73% of solos doing so, followed by 71% of lawyers from firms of 2-9 attorneys.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to be in control, you may not want to outsource any of your firm’s marketing. Or, you may choose to outsource only key parts of your law firm’s marketing plan, such as social media or search engine optimization. If you do that, you’re not alone since according to the Report, 27% of lawyers surveyed hired a consultant or agency to assist with search engine optimization/SEO, followed by18% for social media, and 8% for Adwords/PPC.
Of course, it you do outsource some of your law firm’s marketing, it’s important to carefully oversee the consultant’s work to ensure that your firm’s marketing is ethically compliant. Another issue you’ll want to give careful consideration to is selecting the most effective marketing channels for your firm, as you’ll learn about below.
Choose the right marketing channels for your law practice
Every law practice is different, and as a result, every law firm’s marketing plan should be unique. Yours should be tailored to meet the needs and size of your law firm, your practice areas, target clients, marketing budget, and geographic location.
Looking back on last year’s marketing efforts is a good place to start. By doing so, you’ll have a better sense of which channels performed well – and which ones didn’t. It’s also helpful to have an understanding of which channels work well for the majority of lawyers. Although this won’t be determinative, it’s a good starting point.
The Report indicated that the leading online and digital channels for all attorneys surveyed included email (37%), print (34%), and Facebook (26%). And, somewhat surprisingly, the Yellowpages came in fourth, with 18% reporting that they still advertised in the tried and true phonebook in 2017.
Solo respondents used email (35%) and Facebook and Avvo (25% each) for most of their marketing efforts. For attorneys at firms of 2-9 lawyers, the percentages were a bit different, with Facebook leading the way at 39% and print coming in second at 34%.
Finally, 21% of lawyers produced videos as part of their marketing efforts. Larger firms with 100 or more attorneys were the most likely to do so (53%), followed by 22% of lawyers from firms of 2-9 attorneys, 19% from firms of 10-49 lawyers, and 7% of solos.
How many of these channels have you used in the past? Which ones were most effective? If there are some that you haven’t tried that firms of a similar size as yours have used, then that might be a channel worth exploring in 2018.
Now that you’ve set a budget, looked back on your past marketing efforts, and have learned what marketing channels other lawyers are using, you’re well on your way to choosing the right channels for your law firm as part of your practice’s marketing plan. And, don’t be afraid to tweak your plan along the way if things don’t go as you’d hoped. Marketing your law firm is a fluid process. You’re not locked into it.
2018 is a fresh start and you’re headed toward a successful year with your updated marketing plan. Put your plan to work, carefully monitor your results, make changes along the way if needed, and then reap the rewards of a thriving law practice!