The world – or at least the United States – is teeming with great marketing opportunities: radio, newspaper, blogs, websites, client newsletters, e-letters, consumer presentations, exhibiting at conferences, supporting non-profits, client appreciation events, SEO, networking, etc., etc., etc. It seems that just about every time I go to a conference or talk with a bunch of other attorneys I hear about another marketing possibility, and many times I’ve gone back to my office and started implementing the concept for my own firm.
Or someone has approached me with a marketing opportunity. The other day, the editor of a magazine for attorneys in northern New England asked me to write articles for his publication. Potentially doing so could establish me and my firm as the go-to attorneys for lawyers in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine who have clients with estate and elder law planning needs in Massachusetts. I could even do it pretty quickly by re-working articles we’ve already written. Tempting.
That doesn’t work. Those are random acts of marketing and they need to be avoided because they are ineffective, waste time and resources, and dilute your efforts. Like any other endeavor, successful marketing requires discipline, both in decision-making and in follow-through. We all need to be careful in what marketing initiatives we take on and then stick to the ones we choose. Here are a few tips on choosing your marketing activities:
1. Do what you like to do. If you like to write, write. If you like to speak to consumers, schedule events aimed at the public. If you are social and like networking, join professional organizations that create these opportunities. Do you enjoy helping others in groups? Then volunteer.
Life is short. Spend it doing what you enjoy rather then what seems like a chore. Not only will this bring you more pleasure, but you will also be more effective.
2. Use a screen when evaluating marketing opportunities. Since you can’t do everything, be ruthless in choosing the activities that will bring the most benefit and reject those that won’t. Here is a typical tool for evaluating the various steps you might take:
|Likely to bring great results
|Less likely to bring strong results
|Relatively easy||Requires great effort|
Place each of the marketing tasks you are considering taking on into one of these boxes. Of course, you may not know at first for sure how much effort an endeavor will take or how successful it will prove to be, but you probably have a pretty good idea. You can always review your classifications and move activities from one box to another based on experience.
Of course, once you have classified your options, start with those in the northwest quadrant, box 1. Those are likely to bring you the best results with the least effort. If you still have time, energy and resources after you have taken on all of the opportunities in box 1, you may consider boxes 2 and 3. It’s harder to decide which of these to initiate, and making the decision may take more analysis.
For instance, you may put a weekly series of consumer seminars in box 2 – likely to produce strong results with great effort – and monthly webinars in box 3 – not nearly as good results at much less effort. But if the webinars are unlikely to bring any results, they’re not worth even a relatively small effort. And if you’re not comfortable speaking to consumers or do not have the resources to promote the events or follow up with attendees, consumer webinars may drop from likely to less likely to bring strong results. In short, think it through before embarking on any marketing endeavor.
3. Stick with it. If you get immediate results, that’s great, but don’t count on it. Most marketing activities will only be successful over time. You will become known for what you do and you will learn how to execute better, whether that be writing blogs, speaking to professional organizations, or hosting a local radio show. This rule is consistent with the advice above to do what you enjoy. If you don’t, you won’t stick with it and you probably won’t be successful.
4. But cut your losses. While most marketing activities will only be successful over time, some are never successful. Usually you have a gut feeling about them. At other times, you learn from bitter experience. For our firm, we’ve learned that exhibiting at consumer fairs or annual meetings of local non-profits brings no results. This is also true of taking ads in programs for some of those events, though we continue to do so in some instances simply to support the groups. Once, one of our staff members was sold (and sold me) on signing up to be listed on a card as an employee benefit for a local hospital. We were assured that we could parlay that into doing presentations for staff at the facility. What a misrepresentation! Needless to say, that was once and done.
5. Finally, plan. Don’t be reactive in your marketing. At the beginning of each year, make a list of your potential marketing activities. Then use the four guidelines above to prioritize the opportunities and decide on your plans for the year. Set a budget. Then don’t change the plan without careful consideration. If someone comes to you with a proposal, tell him that you will consider it for the following year.