By: Sharon Berman
Published: The Recorder
If you or your firm has ever looked for external marketing support, you may have been puzzled by the available choices. Firms are bombarded with consultants and agencies promoting their ability to generate leads and business. Figuring out what you need and where to start are generally what create the dilemma.
Confusion abounds because lawyers understand the importance of marketing and business development to their success in the abstract. Very often, though, attorneys do not know much about how various elements of the marketing and business development process should be put into place to best meet their goals.
Most often, they make the unwitting error of embarking on tactical marketing before creating a foundation by determining their market positioning, communication points and other aspects of this process. They are lured by what looks like a panacea of specific tactics, such as blogs, website videos and advertising. Although each of these components has its own role within the parameters of an overall marketing strategy, merely employing these vehicles does not amount to rolling out a comprehensive strategic plan.
What is beneficial, then, is an explanation of the range of options when it comes to marketing advisors, what each does, and when you should seek a particular kind of firm. There are nebulous areas caused by the overlap in what marketing firms do, the interchangeability of terms—marketing consultants may respond to the term “branding consultant” for instance—and the amorphous nomenclature—marketing firms consult on and develop some kind of plan or strategy for clients, but may not call themselves “consultants” or “consulting firms.” Marketing professionals and firms cover a spectrum of expertise, but each entity has its own sweet spot.
A marketing consultant most often focuses on a firm’s objectives, strategies, and tactics and may or may not do hands-on implementation. For example, an established firm might call on a marketing consultant when the partners can’t agree on where to put their emphasis going forward. Should they focus on a particular industry or expand a certain practice area? This marketing consultant or firm might interview firm partners to get their perspective, conduct market research to pinpoint opportunity and identify the most profitable areas, and work with you to develop a marketing plan: what you want to achieve, what strategies you will use, and what marketing tactics you will employ to accomplish your goals. The firm might implement the plan itself or engage a consultant to determine how to get it done.
Branding is about communication. Therefore, a branding consultant sees that you consistently convey your message to your markets verbally, in writing, and graphically, the latter being what most professionals associate with branding. For example, your firm could decide it’s time to update its look and message. The branding professional would then probe to get your perspectives. They may also interview clients to get an outside-in viewpoint. The professional would focus on honing your communication points. The deliverable at the end of the process is a new logo and look for all of your external online and hard copy materials. It may include a tag line or the wording your professionals use to describe their work or that of the firm. This type of work tends to be project work. After this process, many branding consultants and law firms amicably part ways.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COACH
Sometimes a firm recognizes the need to train its lawyers how to market, how and where to network, how to build relationships, and how and when to ask for business. In this instance, a business development consultant or coach would be in order. These professionals teach lawyers skills that were never taught in law school, namely how to sell in a professional and effective manner. However, the realm of most business development consultants does not cross over into other areas of marketing.
PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM
A firm might want to increase its name recognition in its target markets so that when there is a need, the firm is the first to come to mind. It might also be facing the challenge of attracting talent because recruits have not heard of the firm. For this purpose, you would seek a public relations firm that aims to create top-of-mind awareness of your firm and its expertise through traditional media channels including social media. A PR firm positions your lawyers as experts with journalists so you are quoted in news stories and looks for opportunities for your lawyers to publish bylined articles and obtain speaking engagements.
Sometimes firms are hampered by their ability to implement their marketing. The firm may have great ideas that they haven’t been able to get off the ground, or their marketing occurs in fits and starts. This organization would look for a marketing firm that specializes in the hands-on strategic implementation—getting it done—which can cover a range of marketing tactics, including PR, social media, direct mail, search engine optimization and other activities.
Then there are myriad firms that specialize in a particular tactic, such as website development, social media or search engine optimization. These each bring different benefits depending on the firm and where you are in your marketing lifecycle. The main point is that you want to have your foundation in place before embarking on individual tactics. Your marketing advisor can counsel you as to when to bring such professionals on board and can manage the process for you.
An outside marketing consultant or firm can help reinvigorate or focus your firm’s marketing. While the choice can seem overwhelming, having more insight into the professional expertise available can narrow your search and help you find the professional or firm right for your organization so that you can quickly get your marketing underway.