by Chris Screen, Head of SME at St.George
Marketing and advertising have not traditionally been high priorities for law firms. However, as the industry continues to grow more firms are investing their dollars in marketing to gain a winning edge, as confirmed by recent ALPMA research on the impact of the changing legal landscape on law firms.
At St. George, we’re seeing more examples of high-quality, agile boutique firms expanding and growing on the back of effective communication with clients to better promote their service.
To help more small businesses in the legal profession get ahead, here are our top tips that will help you fine-tune your marketing pitch.
1. Write a business plan
It may seem old school, but a business plan is a great way to provide focus for the firm and its lawyers and paralegals – no matter how small the business. More than ever, firms need to know what they want to do and what they don’t want to do. The best law firms understand their service strengths and communicate that to clients. You don’t have to write a book, but you do need a succinct document covering the key elements of your vision and a strategy to achieve it.
2. Put it in the budget
Marketing should not be an afterthought – it needs to be part of the culture of your firm. Factor into your annual budget a specific amount for marketing and new business development. Smaller firms, in particular, need to create a point of difference for clients. You don’t have to go for expensive television advertising. We often hear from our customers that targeted campaigns in local newspapers or smart social media campaigns can be more effective.
3. Measure, measure, measure
Invest in measurable strategies so you can track outcomes and see which activity is giving you the best bang for your buck. This focus on measurement should extend to practice marketing - set up a record to monitor which parts of your business are delivering the highest-value work and implement a program to obtain client feedback, too, so you can identify possible problems or opportunities.
4. Target existing clients
The most effective way to generate more business is usually to focus on clients who already know and trust your firm. Communicate with them regularly to see how else you can support them, which will mean more work for your firm. Establishing and maintaining contact with the key decision-makers in their business is the best way to do this.
5. Upgrade your website
Many smaller law firms still don’t have a website with ABS research showing only 44% of Australian small and medium businesses have a web presence. Yet, more people are now looking online for their service providers. Many more have poor sites that are hard to navigate, look unprofessional and fail to identify key practice areas. A website won’t solve all your marketing woes, but at its best it’s an important way to field enquiries and create a sense of trust with potential clients. When designing your website, invest in a professional to optimise the site for search engines.
6. Devise a social media strategy
Even if you’re sceptical, many of the young lawyers and paralegals you’ll want to get on board are on social media. Ignore platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and you may reduce your recruitment efforts. You don’t have to be on every platform – choose the best one for your firm and give it a try. Make sure the voice you use on Twitter and Facebook, in particular, matches your firm’s culture and values.
7. Get out there
Your people are often your best marketing tools. Let them blog, encourage them to attend industry conferences, let them leave the building and visit a client’s office regularly (even if it’s just for a friendly catch-up). Building stronger networks and closer connections with clients is a proven strategy to grow a business.
As with any business growth, it does take careful planning and investment of time and money. With current low interest rates, now presents a good opportunity for businesses considering an investment to make a move, whether it be getting started on your business plan or meeting with a banker to discuss your funding options to help grow your business.