What is strategic marketing?

By Sandra Bekhor

Websites, Google ads, SEO, swag, media, seminars, newsletters, LinkedIn, Facebook, video…

That’s all well and good as a list of relevant areas to do marketing for your firm. But how do you make them, collectively, help you take your practice where you want to go?

At the end of the day, marketing should be about more than just bringing in a few inquiries, which wouldn’t be a sustainable, or even satisfactory, return on your investment. It should be about pursuing what you really want. The right clients. The right files.

To really deliver impact, instead of an assembly line of disjointed efforts, you need an overarching strategy that ties all your activities together, a strategy driven by your firm’s identity and its goals.

Think about it. What do you (and your partners) really want for your firm? Be as specific as you can. Financially, strategically and personally.

The 80/20 rule usually offers some insight. Twenty per cent of your files typically drive 80 per cent of the value of your practice, however you wish to define it. The rule can be applied in all sorts of creative ways. Test it out. Ask yourself which clients are:

  • The most profitable?
  • The most interesting?
  • The most suited to your firm’s collective skill set?
  • Lined up with your processes?
  • The most loyal?
  • The least effort to maintain?
  • Aligned with your plans for the next 5-10 years?
  • The best referrers?

Take your pick and go through the process of defining, in detail, the profile of your desired growth market. Go deeper than the usual thin descriptors of business sector and size, in the case of business-to-business, or gender and age, in the case of business-to-consumer. Pursuing more work with your desired growth market, with deliberate intention, is not the same as just throwing up some Google ads and hoping something sticks. The better you understand your bull’s-eye market, the easier it will be.

Now, how do you turn your marketing around so that it not only points in the direction of this specific audience, but also comes across as sincere and compelling to those individuals and / or businesses?

  • First of all, recognize that you don’t need to do what other law firms are doing. Your website doesn’t need to look like theirs. Your video doesn’t need to sound like theirs. It may feel safer to follow the pack, but it’s also limiting.
  • Next, if your firm is doing something exceptional, figure out what that is. It may not be a predictable thing like having a deep speciality. That doesn’t make it less valuable to your clients. Especially if this specific quality is the reason that your top clients have stayed with your firm all these years.
  • Then, figure out how to describe this exceptional quality in a way that people will believe and in language that’s accessible to your market.
  • Finally, try to pinpoint your desired growth market’s location, so you can reach it with your newly updated message. Should you go online or off? Which activities are the best fit? You might already be reaching this audience with your existing marketing efforts, but could you do it better? Are you missing something? Are you wasting time and money on something you don’t need to be doing anymore? Should the lawyers and staff of the firm participate in the implementation of the plan? Who? How?

Strategic marketing isn’t simply something you can outsource or delegate without proper consideration and involvement at the leadership level. Otherwise, you wind up with something that looks and sounds like everybody else. It may get the phone to ring, but is it really driving in the right clients? Could it do more? Better?

Sometimes you need to take a step back in order to move forward. Be practical. Choose the route that’s the best fit for your firm, based on your need and appetite for change, your culture, the state of the marketplace and available resources. There are many options – from firm retreats to marketing, strategic and succession plans, leadership development programs and business coaching. You can take yet a further step back and actively seek input from your audience through surveys and focus groups. For some firms a longer, more structured exercise is a fit. And for others, a one-pager will suffice. Scrawl it on the back of a napkin, if you must!

The bottom line is that marketing, done right, is inherently tied to law firm leadership.  It should be informed by the vision for the firm and there should be an active feedback loop between the two groups, on an ongoing basis. 

The objective isn’t to build a thorough and complete plan that remains static for years to come. It’s to inspire a new way of communicating, one that remains alive and nimble, like the marketplace within which your firm operates.

Sandra Bekhor is a practice management consulting with Bekhor Management. This article is based on her recent CBA seminar, “Take your practice where you want to go.”  You can find her slides and blog post on the topic on her website, and reach her at sandrabekhor@bekhor.ca