In Part 1 of this series, I talked about the need for better legal business plans in the current economy, and the first step in developing them: Identify the tactics that will have the greatest impact for your practice. Now, on to:
Step 2 - Prioritize your target audiences.
When lawyers talk to me about marketing, they usually mean finding new clients. But in this economy most should be focusing first on defensive marketing to protect the clients they already have.
If you think that your clients are already satisfied enough with the service you provide, you’re probably wrong. In a 2008 survey of general counsel, Inside Counsel magazine asked lawyers to grade their overall performance with clients as A, B, C, D, or F. 42% of the lawyers thought they were earning an A. But when they asked clients the same question, in fact only 17% earned As. In other words, most lawyers overrated their performance. For more data on this, see my post on The Lake Wobegone Effect.
Lawyers are not alone in overrating client satisfaction. In his bestseller The Ultimate Question, client satisfaction guru Fred Reichheld quotes surveys showing that 80% of senior executives in a variety of industries believe that they deliver a superior experience to customers, but only 8% of customers agree (p. 117).
So the time to increase the satisfaction of current clients is now. For a list of the top 16 ways to increase client satisfaction, see this post.
After you’ve increased the satisfaction of current clients, only then should you start working on finding new ones. That’s when the really hard work begins. I often say that finding new clients is the hardest work you can do in a suit, because it takes so long, and it is so easy to fail.
If I were to try to go into detail here about all the steps you should follow to search for new clients, this series would probably require about 20 weeks instead of three. For now, I will just emphasize that the search for new clients must start by defining your niche and the types of ideal clients you should focus on. For more on this complicated topic, see The LegalBizDev Success Kit.
Step 3: Commit to a definite number of marketing hours every week.
The best business plan in the world will produce nothing unless you put in the time to follow up, week after week after week.
In my book, Legal Business Development: A Step by Step Guide I recommend an absolute minimum of at least one hour per week if you are focusing on current clients, plus three hours per week if you are looking for new clients. Remember, this is not my recommendation for a goal, it is my recommendation for an absolute minimum.
In most situations, I am a big believer that less is more. But with marketing time, more is more.
Step 4 - List action items that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timed).
The entire purpose of your business plan is to drive action. Too many business plans define the general direction, but don’t get down to the level of specifying exactly what you should do.
In my opinion, every business plan should include action items that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timed. Lawyers must particularly concentrate on defining action items that are achievable. If you are only going to be able to devote three hours per week to marketing, your top action items for the week should be tasks that can realistically be completed within three hours.
Step 5 - Customize the plan’s format to your individual needs.
Everybody likes doing things their own way. So if your practice group uses a business plan format that fails to include some information you consider vital, add to the format.
Here are some of the topics business plans often include:
• Major and minor practice areas
• Areas of niche expertise
• Top clients and referral sources
• Profile of ideal new clients
• My “Unique Selling Proposition”
• Goals: Short term and long term
• Cross-selling targets
• Activities to market myself within the firm
• Networking activities I enjoy and time commitments required
• Associations/organizations/board memberships (e.g., industry or trade, bar, or social/community)
• A “SWOT Analysis” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) of your practice group and your client needs
For more examples, see “The LegalBizDev Guide to Business Plans,” which will be distributed at my upcoming webinars on December 16 and January 14.
Next week, this series will conclude with the last three steps, to convert your ideas into action.