Did you see the recent survey of business development spending on the cover of Law Firm, Inc.? The writer seemed encouraged by the upward trends, but I was appalled.
When ALM and Brand Research surveyed large firms for this article, they found annual spending of $1.8 million on marketing (defined as communication to groups of buyers) and $1.3 million on business development (defined as selling to individual buyers).
The combined figures were about 1.1% of gross revenue -- so ridiculously low that I don’t even want to talk about it. (At least, not until I write Part 2 next week.) Today, I need to rant about the fact that the average law firm spends more on marketing than on sales. What a waste.
Let’s see, which is more important: communicating with groups or selling to individuals? Which is more likely to bring in new revenue next month: a better web page, or sitting down to talk with people who have legal needs and budgets?
Sure, you need to spend enough on marketing to identify your tactics and your core message. But that can be inexpensive, if you’ll let it be. Unfortunately, if partners want to debate the details, they will pay marketing people to watch and to wait. I recently talked to a graphics designer who spent two years getting a law firm to approve their first brochure. While these attorneys were fussing with wording, more sales-oriented firms were taking their clients to lunch.
Here’s a tip: nobody is going to read your brochure. It’s important to have one, so clients can see how successful you are from the quality of the graphics and the printing. But no client is going to focus on phrasing the way your partners might. So if you’re ever forced to choose between spending 100% of your money on marketing or 100% on sales, pick sales.
Select a few partners who like people, and turn them loose. Better yet, spend 5% or 10% of your money on marketing to figure out who these rainmakers should talk to and what they should say. Then turn them loose. But don’t do what these firms did and spend more than half of your budget on marketing.
If you’re opposed in principle to direct selling, send the marketing part of your budget to the United Way and hope that the good publicity brings in some new business. It may not work any better than your current marketing, but at least something useful will come from it.