Thursday, August 30, 2007

Legal Marketing - What Your Firm Needs (Part 4)

Law firms mistakenly believe that they can accomplish their marketing, business development, PR and advertising goals without making the necessary financial investment. The lawyers all complain about their firm's website, brochures, ads, skill level of the marketing staff, image, and brand.....yet they are not willing to make the commitment to these areas that are common in other industries.

I do not understand why otherwise brilliant individuals make their marketing decisions based on an effort to NOT spend money. The first thing that your firm must understand is that you cannot save your way to success, especially since the money is not being put aside for future internal investments, but instead all profit is distributed to the partners.

If your partners are earning more than $450,000 a year and they are obsessed with PPP (profits per partner), then you will never be able to make the needed investments in your marketing collateral and staff that will get you up to speed.

***For those who are not familiar with law firm economics, law firms release their "profit per partner" numbers annually and then rank themselves against these numbers. It is not uncommon for partners in law firm who earn over $500,000 per year to obsess over their firm's national PPP ranking. These firms make hiring, structuring, and other business decisions with this in mind. The main argument is that these ranks help in hiring to show law school recruits just how much cash they will bank from firm A over firm B. However, today's law student wants to see more than this from the firm the select. They want to work with a firm that is a well rounded and well run business.

Now to be fair, this is not all firms, but the point that you must make an investment in creating your visibility in your business community still stands. If the reason your firm does not have top level talent in marketing and business development is your lack of desire to pay competitive salaries, re-think your compensation for these critical roles.

Many large companies in other industries re-invest 6% to 15% of their gross revenue in marketing, sales, public relations, and advertising. Law firms are lucky to spend 1% to 3% on these important business practices (including the salaries of the staff). Legal marketing industry surveys praise firms that get close to 5% as progressive! These numbers alone show that you cannot expect to have even half the success of businesses in other fields.

MBA's study these disciplines in school, lawyers do not. Law schools avoid teaching the skills important to running a business (and yes, your practice is a business), which leaves many attorneys mistakenly believing that these are not important to the growth of their practice. WRONG.

If you want more success for your firm's marketing efforts, then your firms will need to get over the sticker shock of what it costs to successfully get attention in the business world. Get past the attitude of lawyers somehow being "special" and above "marketing". Understand what your client companies have known for years and make the investment.

But for God's sake, hire professionals to help you develop a plan and to properly select the best venues to use as a conduit for spreading your message. DO NOT LEAVE THIS UP TO THE LAWYERS! People all have preconceived notions about marketing. Often these opinions are emotionally based on what they see and what they like,...not based on what is effective. And PLEASE do not just look at what your competitors are doing and mirror their marketing. This me too marketing (which is very common in law firms) will just make you a commodity.

I never said any of this would be easy, just necessary for future success.

Have A Great Day.


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