Published in January/February edition of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine
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Carrying Out Your Marketing Plan:
How to Meet the Challenge

By Irene Leonard    


Actually carrying out a marketing plan is one of the biggest challenges many lawyers face in building their law practice. These suggestions might help you win this challenge.

Your mareting plan must reflect you. The first step in carrying out your marketing plan is to tailor your marketing actions to match your personality. Think of your marketing plan as your personal road map to get you down the road to where you want to go and take into account the way you like to travel.

However, don't use your personality to help you avoid being uncomfortable. You need to be prepared to be uncomfortable when you get started. It's normal when doing new things. Choose actions that with time and practice you believe you'll get comfortable with.

Make it worth it. Determine what results will be enough of an incentive for you to be willing to experience discomfort when implementing your plan. What do you want to achieve? Which of your values are supported by your marketing activities and your anticipated results? Is making partner important? Do you want more interesting matters?

Attracting new clients to make your practice a success might be enough if you're a solo or a partner needing to build your business. If you're an associate you might have to dig deep to find out why you want to invest time marketing other than because the partners require it of you.

Overcome your limiting beliefs. What limiting beliefs—usually unconscious beliefs that deter or stop you—about marketing do you have that you need to discover and overcome? Once you uncover the beliefs getting in your way, you can change your perspective to one that helps you market. The classic lawyer’s limiting belief is, "I don't like to sell." Antwaun Smith is a partner in a Missouri law firm who overcame that belief by adopting this perspective: "I want people to know I can help them."

Have realistic marketing goals. As well as having realistic marketing goals you need realistic marketing actions to help you achieve those goals. Getting a new website – one type of action – is not likely to increase revenues from $200,000 to $1,000,000 in three months – the goal. What is reasonable to aim for, by when, and how?

Acknowledge each step. Continually acknowledge the steps you take, not just final results. Include achievable, incremental benchmarks in your marketing plan to help you move towards your larger goals. By acknowledging achieving the steps or benchmarks along the way you'll create a sense of satisfaction that will help keep you going. Lawyer Eileen Powers of Annapolis, Maryland says "It really helps to review all the things I've accomplished in the past two weeks."

Be willing to fail. If you describe yourself as a perfectionist, don't let that trait get in your way. Marketing activities can feel awkward or not right at first. Be willing to make mistakes and learn from them.

Develop marketing habits. Include activities in your marketing plan that you'll turn into habits: actions you'll do consistently and will continue even when extremely busy. They can be actions that fit into existing routines. Some lawyers make a habit of talking with people on their way home in the evening.

It takes several connections for a referral source or potential client to remember you and your services. It's not likely someone is going to hire you because they met you once or appreciated your presentation to their professional group. Ideal marketing habits consistently increase your visibility and connections, so someone thinks of you when they need you.

Patience and persistence are needed. In additional to consistency you need patience and persistence. Marketing activities need plenty of time to see results. It's no good to say "I didn’t get any clients from that networking event I went to" and refuse to go again. Attending two or three networking events is not persistently working a marketing plan, but attending twenty might be.

Allocate time. It's critical to carrying out your marketing plan to allocate plenty of time each year for marketing activities. You'll need to plan to take time away from other activities in order to spend time on marketing activities. Matt Donohue, a partner with Markowitz Herbold PC in Oregon, puts in at least 300 marketing hours a year.

Spending time every day on one marketing action is a common way lawyers ensure they are making marketing habitual and devoting the necessary time.

Create structures to remind you to market.

Use a contact management system to deepen relationships. A contact management system can help you remember what you've learned about the people you're connecting with. Todd Goluba, a senior partner with Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, says he uses the "Outlook notes feature to help remember personal things about clients and prospective clients so that he remains engaged not just with their business interests but with their personal and family lives."

Use your contact management system to timely and consistently follow up so you don't let months or years go by between connections. Camille Ralston, a partner with Montgomery Purdue Blankinship & Austin in Washington State, says, "I didn’t realize so many months had gone by until I started tracking when I last spoke with someone."

Track your success. If you know your marketing plan is working, you'll be motivated to keep going. Create an excel spread sheet to track where clients come from. Use your client intake form for the data.

Until clients show up use a subjective tracking system to judge how well you are doing. For example: On a scale of 1 to 10, how well have you been implementing your plan? How well have you been carrying out individual marketing activities? Assess your efforts monthly so you can track and compare your scores to see improvement.

Refine your activities. By tracking you'll be able to determine how to improve or course correct your marketing plan. At least quarterly evaluate which marketing actions are working and contributing to achieving your marketing goals and what actions aren’t. Then refine your plan to do more of the actions that are working.

Give yourself rewards to stay motivated. You lock in new habits when you can see benefits from those habits. Find ways to reward yourself in the short run when you know you've been doing a good job on marketing. This is especially important before you start landing clients. During a marketing activity like checking in with a past client, many lawyers feel rewarded when the client lets them know how pleased they are to hear from the lawyer.

Seek help & encouragement. If you just can’t seem to get started, or you're not making the time to start, get help. Don't keep trying to do it alone. Find someone who’ll advise and encourage. Someone you can brainstorm with on how to work your plan. Doing things you've never done before is easier when you have support.

Executing your marketing plan is the most important investment you can make to build a rewarding, successful practice. Use these suggestions to make your marketing process as smooth and enjoyable as possible to meet the challenge.

Irene Leonard has been a professional business coach for lawyers since 1997, after practicing law for 18 years. Leonard helps lawyers carry out their marketing plans to build and grow rewarding, successful law practices. For more information: irene@CoachingForChange.com.

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