Does your law firm need a marketing plan? (Some do, some don't)

  • November 23, 2017
  • Sandra Bekhor

Marketing plans for most law firms used to be simple enough to scrawl out on the back of a napkin – business cards, signage, letterhead, lunch meetings, golf or hockey sponsorship and maybe a couple of speaking engagements...

Even the higher-budget programs were still pretty straightforward. The same trade show every year, the same print ads every year. Some promotional swag, just to freshen things up every now and again – a branded mug, t-shirt, baseball cap...

For most, those days are over, but much has been gained along the way.

More options = Harder decisions

With the advent of the internet, a wider variety of options became available to the small- to mid-sized firm – from websites to blogs to social media, video, podcasts and digital ads, the list keeps on growing and growing and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. But with options comes complexity. As a result, the questions lawyers have to ask themselves about marketing strategies are more involved than ever before. Questions such as:

  • How many different marketing activities should we pursue?
  • Who should participate in the implementation of our plan?
  • How can we stand out from the noise and the clutter?
  • How will we know if our marketing is a success?
  • How should we prioritize our various opportunities for exposure?
  • Are people connecting with our point of difference?
  • Which marketing activities are expected to deliver a better return?

Today, lawyers have a newfound awareness as to how marketing can affect the future of their firms. From determining who will walk through the door, to being able to project staffing budgets and affording the luxury to focus on preferred areas of the practice, a successful marketing program can make all the difference.

A game changer

To take this discussion from the esoteric to the practical, imagine the implications of having a marketing plan:

  1. Instead of feeling pressured by sales people calling with questionable deadlines or offers, you can feel confident about sticking with decisions previously made.
  2. Instead of just doing what you always do (and possibly second-guessing yourselves), you can assess the pros and cons of each opportunity on the basis of merit.
  3. Instead of trying to keep up with competing firms (and spreading yourselves too thin in the process), you can make decisions based on the unique circumstances of your own firm.
  4. Instead of investing time and money in one false start after another, you can build year after year on a solid foundation that delivers equity to your firm.
  5. Instead of one-off marketing that doesn’t make a lasting impact, you can establish continuity that is memorable to your audience and referrers.
  6. Instead of attracting a wide range of files, some of which are a fit and others not as much, you can take the time to consider the type of client files you really want to generate, and how.

Having a plan in place would take a lot of the guesswork out of marketing. It wouldn’t feel like every time you sit down to talk about marketing you’re starting from scratch.

Do you need a plan?

Even with the changes the internet has brought, for some firms the “back of the napkin” approach to planning is still enough. The firm meets practice goals. Email is ringing. The business model is sufficiently focused and contained so that any marketing efforts organically unfold in a strategic direction, driving referrals, client loyalty and new business. Unless there are plans to grow, modify the practice or proactively address market conditions, for the foreseeable future at least, these firms do not need a marketing plan.

For most firms, however, that is not the case. Even if marketing is only needed to drive or direct referrals, it may still be complicated enough to require a plan.

Plan or no plan, be prepared for change

The world we live in is very fast-paced and things can change at an alarming rate. So even if there is a marketing plan in place, it would be prudent to review and fine-tune it regularly and to give it a complete overhaul, annually.

And if there isn’t a plan in place, there’s still one element that would be advisable to employ: Metrics – or, if it’s measurable, measure it. Set goals for any marketing that you do and check the results to make sure you meet them.

Establishing a system to keep a close eye on some key metrics, allows you to stay nimble in response to change. Google is constantly rolling out updates to its algorithm and even the smartest of Search Engine Optimization wizards doesn’t know what’s coming next. Plus, there’s always the possibility that a competitor will get more aggressive about their own marketing, garnering attention from what used to be your captive audience, online or off.

So, whether you opt for a plan or not, stay on top of inquiries, referrals, web traffic, social engagement, newsletter subscriptions and other indicators, in real time.

The faster you notice change, the faster you can respond to it.

Sandra Bekhor, MBA, president of Bekhor Management, helps lawyers and other professionals build and enhance their practices, through marketing and management programs aligned with core strengths. Sandra has extensive experience helping small to mid-sized firms succeed in the modern marketplace. She can be reached at, 416-969-9600 and