Creating Your Personal Marketing Plan
Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.
In the last article we talked about preparing to create a marketing plan. Now it’s time to write down your plan. A written plan requires you to organize your thoughts, and provides some accountability guidelines for your activities. This article does not address the specifics of advertising, but if you do plan to use advertising, it should be addressed in your plan, too. Here are five steps to create your marketing plan.
1. Budget marketing time. Decide how much time you will commit to marketing activities each week. It’s important to set a minimum so you will develop a regular habit of marketing activity. You can’t postpone your marketing efforts until you are low on work, because marketing legal services is a long-term process. You have to plant and nurture seeds before you can harvest the fruit. You can’t wait until you need the apples to plant the apple seeds.
Budget a minimum of five hours per week. That will allow for 10 to 15 minutes per day for making little connections by emails, notes or phone calls. Your other marketing activities will require time blocks of approximately two hours each. You might choose two per week from the categories of (a) in-person meeting over lunch, breakfast, dinner, coffee or cocktails with a client, prospect or referral source, (b) group networking activity such as a bar, civic, or industry association meeting, (c) writing or blogging, (d) online networking in listservs, social networking sites like LinkedIn, chat rooms or forums, or (e) speaking. Some weeks all of your efforts will fall in one category, but try to diversify your efforts over time.
2. Set monthly goals and action plans for developing relationships within your target audience. Choose just one target market to start. Begin building a relationship with at least one new person in that market per month. Experiment with strategies to come in contact with new prospects. If your clients are companies, what industry associations do they belong to? Can you attend their meetings? What conferences or trade shows do they attend? Can you take on a leadership or other visible role in the industry organization once you attend consistently for a while? Can you blog, write articles for their publications, or speak at their conferences? Write down the actions you plan to take.
If your clients tend to be individuals, what problems or other characteristics do they have in common? What groups do they join? Who else serves the same types of people? For example, if you have a wills, trusts and estates practice, can you speak to organizations that financial planners belong to? Can you be a speaker at an event a financial planner hosts for her clients? Can you be an invited guest? Can you speak to retirement or assisted living associations or organizations for new parents or for caregivers of aging parents?
Personal injury lawyers and other litigators often find this step difficult because most people don’t expect to need their services. You may need to focus on developing relationships with referral sources. Can you speak to or write for consumers’ rights groups, union organizations, safety councils or organizations that provide support or resources for people with related problems or injuries? Who else serves the same people – hospitals, doctors, clinics, chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, community services, psychologists, credit counselors, auto repair shops? Are there close knit groups of people who share information and resources with each other, like neighborhood associations, ethnic associations, or religious associations? Can you be a part of and play a helpful role to any of those groups, and thereby become a trusted resource whose name would get passed around? Can you educate them about the legal issues that may affect their members or customers?
Set goals to regularly attend meetings in organizations where you can build relationships with referral sources or potential clients. Designate at least one meeting that you will attend every month. Sporadic attendance gets associated with unreliability, and won’t give you enough exposure to build relationships. You may need to visit several organizations before you find the best ones for you. Look for meetings in which you are interested in the topics discussed, the cause they support, and the people who attend.
3. Set goals and action plans for repeatedly connecting with existing clients and prospects. When a need arises, people prefer to take their problems (or stake their reputation on a referral) to someone they trust. Trust takes time to build, and if you don’t connect with them sufficiently often, they may not think of you when a need arises. Create your reserved parking spot in their brain on the subject you can help with. Set goals regarding how often you will contact them or show up where they show up.
You can connect in many ways. Send a newsletter with useful information. Give them a resource for help with their non-legal problem. Call to check on how the economy is affecting them and their business. Invite them to a social event related to their interests. Share a restaurant review for their favorite food. Keep them abreast of cases or legislation affecting them. Bump into them at meetings they attend. Send a birthday card or holiday card. Send condolences when their team loses a big game, or congratulations if they win. Ask them to be a speaker at an event you help plan. Interview them for an article you write. Every time you connect again, you are reinforcing that reserved parking spot. If you are genuinely interested in helping them with their concerns (regardless of whether they relate to legal issues), you build trust.
4. Track your efforts and your next actions. You may have a distorted picture of what works if you don’t keep records. Make a note every time you connect with your targeted prospect or referral source. When your record shows that it took 12 “touches” to get that new piece of business, you won’t stop at 3 next time.
Your record should also capture your plan for the next action to take. Did you promise to send something? Will you need to set up another meeting when you get additional information? Are you waiting on a response from them? Are you both planning to attend the same conference? When will you touch base with them again?
Choose a recording method you are comfortable with. You can use case management software, a three-ring binder, a chart in Excel or WordPerfect, or even a legal pad. Some attorneys keep a notebook with a page for each prospect and a running narrative of their goals and the actions they take toward them. Some create a prospect chart with names, contact information, decision makers, the needs they have uncovered, results of meetings or calls, and next action steps. You can email me for samples of some tracking charts in Excel.
5. Review your goals, plans and results regularly. That will help you keep a marketing focus and show you where to make course corrections. Over time you will get a better sense of what works for you and how long it takes. Be patient and persistent!
© 2009 Debra L. Bruce
This article was originally published in The Practice Manager in February 2009.
Debra L. Bruce is President of Lawyer-Coach LLC (www.lawyer-coach.com), a law practice management coaching and training firm. She practiced law for 18 years before becoming the first Texas lawyer to be credentialed by the International Coach Federation. She is Vice Chair of the Law Practice Management Committee of the State Bar of Texas and a past leader of Houston Coaches Inc. You can email her at email@example.com.