The necessity of a marketing plan for your small firm is hard to gauge. Unlike desks, printer paper and other things you need to run your practice, the tangible benefits of a marketing plan are hard to see.
Odds are you’ve received a pitch outlining the advantages of developing a marketing plan for your firm – probably from someone who would like the job of developing it for you. But just how crucial is it to have one?
As mentioned, one potential con to having a marketing plan is that the good they do isn’t always evident. In fact, many formal marketing plans – containing things like target markets, mission statements, and big-picture goals and strategies – end up gathering dust because their lessons are too vague, too soon forgotten and too seldom implemented.
Legal marketing expert Tom Kane writes that a formal, sweeping plan often ends up with general ideas that won’t do much practical, day-to-day good. “The goals and objectives of the firm and practice groups should already be in place,” he says.
But don’t let that deter you from creating and implementing a business development plan, which is far more task-focused (and therefore effective) than the average marketing plan. “These are specific, actionable, agreed upon plans focused on what each individual lawyer will undertake personally,” says Kane. “There is no hiding here.”
If you don’t have a marketing plan but think you might want to give one a try, a bare-bones one can be done for the cost of little more than some time. The elements of a marketing plan for small law firms tend to be similar regardless of practice area. In fact, you can make a good plan by just answering some questions:
- What is your firm’s current size, either in terms of staff or caseload?
- What would you like those numbers to be in five years? In 10?
- What does your firm have to offer that competitors don’t?
- What kind of people do you think could use your firm’s help? How can you get in touch with them?
- What kind of branding efforts does your firm do? Should it do more?
You can probably answer these questions quickly and candidly, without the help of a consultant. As Cynthia Sharp points out in an article written for the American Bar Association, outlining a few specific, sharply aimed goals can function as a de factor marketing plan. A practical, results-focused plan can end up doing much more than sitting in your filing cabinet.