Our firm has in place a strategic plan as well as a firm client development plan and individual lawyer client development plans as well. While we have great ideas and good intentions – we seem to be falling short of the mark and not accomplishing much. What are you thoughts regarding our dismal success with our client development efforts?
Based upon our observations drawn from working with client law firms over the past eighteen years we have concluded that marketing is poorly understood and ineffectively implemented in many small law firms. In addition, the following obstacles are at play:
There is no time for marketing or any firm developmental activities. Production is king and non-billable activities such as marketing are discouraged.
Attorneys are uncomfortable with marketing. This is primarily due to lack of understanding, training, and experience with the process.
Many attorneys confuse marketing with advertising. Marketing is not advertising. Marketing activities can exist without any promotional components such as television advertisements, radio spots, tombstone magazine advertisements, or direct mail. Marketing is the broader process concerned with the development and delivery of legal services and is part of the firm's long range planning process. It provides answers to the questions what are we selling and to whom are we selling. It involves maintaining relationships with existing clients as well as creating new relationships with prospective clients. In fact, a major objective of many successful marketing plans is obtain additional business from existing clients.
Frequently law firms experiment with marketing and engage in isolated promotional activities not integrated with the firm's business plan with the expectation of immediate results after the one-shot activity. The firm engages in fits-and-start activities that are completely unfocused, unrelated to an overall plan, unmeasured, inconsistent and often inappropriate.
The typical culture of many law firms discourages investment in long-term developmental activities. The focus is on billable hours and production. Everything else is of secondary concern. The consensus governance model typical in law firms hinders change and timely decision-making at the firm level. In addition, effective marketing in law firms requires marketing at the firm, practice group, and individual attorney levels. This requires effective training, mentoring, follow-up, and accountability at each of these levels.
Most reward and compensation systems focus on short-term production and discourage participation in longer term (non-billable) firm investment activities or projects.
Tackle some of the above issues and you will be on your way to improving your client development and marketing efforts.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC