Law firms operate in complex environments in which many environmental and internal factors affect their ability to meet client needs and achieve organisational objectives.
Those responsible for marketing within firms need to be rational about their marketing decisions. Marketing planning helps firms sharpen this rationality so as to reduce the complexity of the challenge they face.
Marketing planning is a managerial process, the output of which is a marketing plan. It is a logical sequence and a series of activities leading to the setting of marketing objectives and the formulation of a plan to achieve them.
The process can be very simple and is achieved by means of a planning system or framework – a structured way of identifying a range of options for the law firm, making them explicit in writing and formulating marketing objectives that are consistent with the law firms overall objectives and of scheduling the specific activities most likely to bring about the achievement of the objectives.
A typical marketing plan will include a mission statement, the firm’s corporate objectives, the current situation (ie the SWOT analysis and results of the marketing function audit), the firm’s marketing objectives, its strategy, the estimated results, the budget and a detailed implementation programme.
While this wealth of information serves a purpose, a condensed version covering the essential elements can be just as effective, namely:
- What is your firms’s current situation? (Established by marketing function audit)
- What are your firm’s objectives? (See objectives below)
- What is your firm’s strategy? (See strategy below)
- What tactics will your firm employ? (See tactics below)
- What actions will your firm take? (See actions below)
- What control measures will your firm employ? (See control below)
Ultimately, a marketing plan will give your firm clarity around what needs to be done to achieve its objectives.
This is the opening chapter of a marketing plan that serves as a start-point before setting the marketing objectives and strategy for your firm. The ‘current situation’ is based upon the outcome of the basic marketing function audit that you should have already performed.
In this section of your marketing plan, you may also want to include information about your location, your target market and the competitive environment your firm operates in.
Describe your current or planned business location.
- If you do not yet have a business location, name areas or properties under consideration and the criteria you will use in selecting a location. Consider client proximity, parking availability, accessibility by public transportation, employee availability and site expansion potential.
- List any negative aspects of your location that would affect sales (such as a lack of sufficient parking) and try to list solutions for such problems. Remember that no location is perfect – try to turn every negative around and make it work for you.
- Describe any plans for the future expansion of your firm. Do you intend to move? Will you offer additional legal services as you grow? Will you hire more employees or legal practitioners?
- If you offer or plan to offer a legal service in a manner that does not require clients to visit a location, include a description of how you and your clients will meet or interact – how legal services will be delivered. Also, if your legal services are offered online, you would describe how your services would be delivered to clients.
Critical to your success in marketing any legal service is aiming all your marketing efforts at a target market.
- Describe the size of your target market. Remember, a market is people with something in common, not a place or a thing. Be specific and include statistics about the size of your target market. Include information on whether the size of your target marketing is growing, shrinking, or staying the same. If the size of your target market is changing, explain why.
Describe your target market in the following terms:
- Characteristics they share such as age, income level, sex, race, number of children, marital status, and where they live.
- Habits or hobbies they exhibit.
- Wants and needs they have and how your legal service fulfils them. For example, all homebuyers need legal services to help purchase their new home.
- Describe your market’s buying habits. When do they buy? How much? How often?
You may have more than one target market. Identify your primary market – the clients who buy your legal services most often. Then, include secondary groups if you feel they will provide significant business. For each group, you must identify their characteristics and needs because you will most likely change your marketing strategy accordingly.
Competitive analysis and issues
Understanding your competition and external issues facing your firm will help guide you in developing your marketing objectives and marketing strategy. In this Current Situation section of your marketing plan, include a snapshot of your competitors and brief descriptions of external issues that are relevant to your organisation.
A competitive analysis includes information about other individuals or companies (competitors) whose legal services that compete with yours. Your potential clients will make a choice between spending their money with you or with your competitor.
Once you have described your current situation, it is time to consider what your marketing objectives are.
The purpose of marketing objectives is:
- To describe what future success looks like
- To provide a purpose and focus for your firm
- To foster co-ordination and collaboration across the firm
In the objectives section you should state the desired outcomes. What your organisation wants to achieve.
These outcomes might be increased revenues, volumes, return on investment (ROI) and other profitability indicators.
To achieve these outcomes, your objectives could include the following:
- The volume of expected business to be achieved
- The value of that business
- A quantified increase in client retention
- A specified expansion into new markets or segments
- The launch of a new service line
- A percentage increase in the firm’s awareness or brand recognition
- The percentage of market share to be gained.
What a firm wants to achieve, in terms of such things as market share and volume, is a marketing objective.
How the organisation intends to go about achieving its objectives is strategy.
Strategy is the route to the achievement of specific objectives and should describe the means by which the objectives are to be reached, the schedule for achievement of objectives and the allocation of resources.
To illustrate, strategy can be related to the 4Ps:
- Product: how the legal service lines will be branded, positioned or expanded to adopt new features or qualities.
- Price: how much the legal service will be sold for.
- Place: the general policies for where the service will be provided and how they are accessed. For example your firm’s ‘place strategy’ may be to provide legal services from a number of local high street locations but also to sell legal services through local intermediaries such as estate agents and financial advisors.
- Promotion: the general policies for communicating with target audiences.
Tactics explain in detail how your strategy will be put into place. Often this will be about which marketing activities and promotional tools you will use such as public relations, social media etc.
These detail specifically how you will deploy your chosen tactics. For example, your firm might choose Google Pay-Per-Click (PPC) as a ‘tactic’ to encourage potential personal injury clients to your website.
An action plan would include those responsible in your organisation who would set up the Google Account, who would be responsible for creating the PPC advert and also include the timeframes in which they will be actioned.
Control involves measuring performance and results of your firm’s activity. How you go about this will depending on the strategy pursued, the objectives set and the tactics deployed.
The key thing to remember is that the control element is continuous. It should tell you what is working well and what isn’t, and so that adjustments can be made.
For example, your firm can determine ‘controls’ to measure the effectiveness of the PPC advertising by monitoring the results using ‘Google Analytics’. Google Analytics is a tool provided by Google that generates detailed statistics about your organisations website traffic and traffic sources and measures conversions and leads.
Successfully implemented marketing plans will have a profound effect on the achievements of a law firm. However most firms do not have an integrated, coordinated plan for their marketing activities.
The reasons for this:
- Weak support from the Managing Partner
- Lack of support from direct line management
- Confusion over planning terms
- No written objectives or strategies
- Too much detail needed
- Once a year ritual often considered an unpleasant task
- Failure to integrate marketing planning into overall business planning
Those individuals tasked with marketing duties must often overcome the challenges above before any meaningful marketing activity can take place.
Getting the Managing Partner on-side with their active support and participation is likely to contribute to success.
Marketing planning is a managerial process, the output of which is a marketing plan.
A basic marketing plan can be formed based on the structure:
- Current situation