No-cost and Low-cost Ways to Keep Marketing Despite the Economy

By: Sharon Berman,

Published:  The Leadership Exchange, Greater Los Angeles Chapter – Association of Legal Administrators

Making the most of your marketing dollars is particularly critical in today’s economy. Savvy firms remain committed to marketing even when budgets are tight.  They know that it’s easier to attract attention with fewer firms’ messages in the marketplace.  Additionally, as the economy turns around, there’s no ramp-up period to get your marketing back into the swing of things, while your counterparts will be scrambling to catch up.

Don’t Let Fear Keep You From Investing in Marketing

Evaluate your strategies and tactics carefully to get your money’s worth. Here are eight steps you can take that will cost little or nothing—and they can’t wait for better times.

Plan carefully. Work with your attorneys to create a concise plan that focuses on your marketing target. Rethink your messages and the messengers—are your marketing messages and marketing media resonating with your targets and current clients? Analyze your marketing calendar for the rest of the year and into 2009. Make sure you know what is supposed to happen when and increase the lead time by 25 percent.

Get your database in order. A clean and up-to-date database is the core of your marketing program and your incoming/outgoing referral system. If it consists of a stack of business cards, invest in a contact management program now. Moreover, your database should extend beyond current and former clients to prospective clients, referral sources and influencers.

Keep communicating consistently. It’s vital to keep communicating consistently with your target markets, but there are ways to scale back. For instance, evaluate printing your newsletter in black and white with grayscale images instead of color. Use less expensive, but not cheap paper. Issue only one hard-copy newsletter each quarter, supplemented with more frequent online updates, but don’t go to an email-only program. Hitting that delete key on the ever-expanding email in-box is pretty easy, and you’ll miss the audience that may respond better to something tangible.

Invest in business development training. Leverage your “sales force” (attorneys, paralegals, assistants, receptionists) by investing in business development training. Some may be sales “naturals,” but most people need to learn and practice how to identify and qualify potential clients, and how to conduct appropriate sales conversations. Sales training books, tapes, webinars and seminars are very inexpensive.

Keep your website fresh. A website is a forum to demonstrate energy, expertise and leadership. If now is not the time to do the long-planned revamping of your website, at least don’t let it become dated and stale. You can post success stories, announcements of speaking engagements and articles your attorneys have authored. Not only does this reinforce your credibility, but fresh content contributes to higher search engine rankings.

Leverage current clients. Marketing to existing clients is called “maintenance marketing” and is extremely cost-effective. It costs less to get new business and referrals from existing clients than to attract new ones. Since your attorneys are already trusted advisors, focus on exploring ways to expand their relationships with clients by offering additional services, such as consulting.

Reinforce your firm’s credibility. If this economy has left your attorneys with time on their hands, suggest they invest it in reinforcing their credibility. One of the best ways to do that is to publish by-lined articles (articles written under the attorney’s name rather than by a journalist). Most likely your attorneys already have ideas for articles – they just need to capture them and put them on paper. Encourage them not to let perfectionism get in the way. The most important thing is to start writing a draft. A friend, colleague or professional writer can help edit it later.

Measure and track. It’s difficult to know how fast you’re driving without a speedometer, or how far you’ve traveled without an odometer. Marketing is the same way: you have to know how far and fast you’ve come so you can fine-tune the marketing process. Yes, it’s notoriously difficult to measure results in a professional services setting, but do your best to gather the results. Some firms limit their measurement to new clients, but you should also consider tracking “nibbles” from prospective clients that resulted from a marketing effort such as a talk, a lunch or your website.

Don’t Pull the Plug on Marketing

No matter what the economy, you’ve got to keep marketing.  Investing today can mean much more business down the line.

Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Marketing & PR, a marketing consulting firm specializing in working with professional services firms. She can be reached at
The firm’s website is

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