From time to time we are delighted to feature guest contributors. With a lifetime’s experiencing in marketing, Mark Hordern, former CEO of Glasgow Solicitors Property Centre, explains why marketing for law firms is important.
Here’s what Mark has to say about marketing for law firms.
In my experience, solicitors hate marketing – at least most of you do. After all, if you are a trained legal professional, why on earth would you want to get involved in what sounds very like ‘sales’? Marketing can be expensive, time consuming and might seem a little bit demeaning for a qualified professional. Besides, we all hate to be pushy.
The trouble is, all that legal expertise is of no value without clients willing to pay you for it. No business can survive without customers. Sadly, that is as true for lawyers as it is for anyone else. Moreover, no law business can grow without a steady flow of new clients. Indeed, given that some clients will leave for one reason or another, every firm needs to attract new clients just to stand still.
In short, if you don’t do marketing you don’t have a business in the long term.
Of course, most law firms recognise that they have to do some sort of marketing. However, a large proportion get disillusioned when results don’t meet up to expectations or put marketing on hold when they are busy. Gradually, marketing slips down the priority list and ends up on a ‘to do’ list that never gets any attention.
But some law firms seem to have the marketing magic touch. What is it that these successful firms do to make marketing work for them?
1. Keep at it.
Marketing for law firms doesn’t work if you do it in fits and starts. You can’t just run an advertisement for a couple of weeks and think ‘job done’. It takes time for marketing to have an effect. This is true of any marketing; advertising, email, PR, sponsorship, blogs, social media, networking, etc. All of these will take time to build awareness and reputation to the point at which someone will actually ask you for advice. So, plan to maintain your marketing effort in the long term.
2. Take responsibility
As a lawyer, you are not expected to be a marketing expert. That’s why it makes sense to use the services of someone who is. But too many firms, having appointed a marketing provider, simply absolve themselves of any responsibility for marketing. They take the view ‘that’s someone else’s job’. In my experience, that doesn’t work. You need someone senior in your firm, ideally the Managing Partner, to take responsibility for marketing. It’s vital to know what is happening and why, what results it is delivering and how much it costs. It doesn’t mean that you actually do the marketing yourself. But keeping on top of your marketing provider and letting the rest of your firm know that marketing is taken seriously are vital for success.
3. Spend, spend, spend
Marketing for law firms can be expensive (although that is not always the case). Costs can easily run away if you don’t keep a close eye on them. But that should not be an excuse for being miserly. Time and time again, I have seen good marketing campaigns defeated by an unrealistically low budget. Then disillusionment sets in, budgets get cut further because the initial campaign didn’t deliver the desired results. Once again, marketing drops to the bottom of the agenda. I realise this is difficult, especially if you are a Partner and what you spend on marketing has a direct impact on your income. However, running an underfunded marketing campaign is simply wasting money. You have to give marketing the resources it needs to succeed.
4. Be brave
Lawyers are by nature cautious people. But there is a lot to be said for being brave when it comes to marketing. Let’s face it, there are a lot of good lawyers around and it is difficult to stand out from the crowd. Being bold – even controversial – in what you say or what you offer is a great way to set you apart.
And don’t worry too much about giving away ‘free advice’ on a blog or your website. It’s easy to imagine that, with the right information, a prospective client will try some DIY legal work. But in reality, when push comes to shove, they will want the reassurance of an expert to act for them and they are most likely to trust the person who gave them good advice in the first place.
5. Be compassionate
Lawyers have a reputation, you might have noticed, for being ahem … expensive. A good way to change perceptions of your firm is to offer to work pro-bono for a good local cause. Of course, you have to be careful about which cause you choose, but a judicious choice helps to establish your reputation as a firm with a heart and as lawyers with a conscience. I used to know a law firm that offered to make a donation to a charity helping sick children in Africa if you appointed them. The donation was tiny (about £10 from memory), but the effect on the clients was out of all proportion to the amount spent.
6. Test, test and test again
There has never been more data on how well your marketing is working. You can see how many people opened your emails. You can also see how many visited your website, what they viewed on your website and how many people called your firm in response to your advertisement. On social media, the amount of data is almost overwhelming (and can be quite confusing for the uninitiated). So, test what you are doing, try different content and see which is most popular. Try new placings for calls to action on your website and see which works best. Testing is what helps you to get better results for the same spend and to put more emphasis behind marketing that is working for you.
Finally, it’s not about the fees, at least not always. There can be marketing benefit to offering a fixed fee service on occasion, but for the client that is more about certainty than cost. Clients understand that lawyers charge and they will see your fees as acceptable if they have confidence in you and you can show that you understand their needs. Indeed, cutting your fees might almost be seen as an admission that your advice is not as worthwhile as that provided by your competitors.
So, unless there is a very compelling reason for doing so, don’t cut your fees.
Mark Hordern is a marketing and communications professional who has spent almost 25 years working with law firms across Scotland. As Marketing Director and later Chief Executive at Glasgow Solicitors Property Centre he worked closely with law firms large and small to support their marketing activity. He was subsequently appointed Chief Executive of Pacitti Jones, the Glasgow based law firm and estate agency, leading the firm through a significant period of transformation. He now works with Client Communications to provide marketing support for clients and with his wife to help her fulfil her ambition to develop a business in her own right. In addition, Mark is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.