In other blo posts here, here and here we have discussed developing marketing objectives and strategy as part of the marketing planning process. Now we will look at deciding which marketing tactics that can be used to execute the marketing strategy and in turn achieve the marketing objectives.
For the purposes of this blog marketing tactics are divided into:
- Marketing communications. These will cover the traditional ‘offline’ elements of marketing including advertising, public relations, event management and direct marketing.
- Digital marketing. These will cover the more modern ‘online’ elements of marketing.
In real world there is no clear distinction. Advertising, public relations and event management can all take place online.
Introduction to law firm marketing communications
‘Marketing communications’ is the umbrella term used to describe the ways in which law firms attempt to inform, persuade and remind target audiences, either directly or indirectly, about the organisation, the legal services it provides and any other relevant marketing messages a firm wants to promote.
Marketing communications are forms of promotion, and are the voice of the firm in the marketplace. They are the means by which firms can create dialogue and build relationships with its audiences – from prospective and existing clients to employees.
Why are marketing communications relevant to law firms?
For law firms looking to attract new or to retain existing clients marketing communications are essential. Prospective clients can be told or shown how and why a legal service is used, by what kind of person, and where and when; they can learn about who provides the service – both the individual adviser and the organisation. And this can be done directly or indirectly (see table 1).
Law firms can use marketing communications to send out messages and information that are designed to promote a positive image of the firm among its target audience. Consequently, should a situation arise where legal advice is needed, an individual or organisation will remember a particular law firm from their marketing communications activity.
How to develop a marketing communications strategy
As with all good marketing practice, you should start by planning, and being clear about what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it. A marketing communications strategy will give you this much-needed level of clarity and focus.
The strategy should specify:
- The audience: who do you want to communicate with?
- Objectives: what do you want people to know?
- Tactics: how will you achieve this?
- Measures: how will you measure the impact of the strategy?
Identify your target audience
Start by identifying who it is your organisation wants to focus on. Existing clients? New prospective clients? Or intermediaries and other sources of referrals such as estate agents, insurance brokers? Are these individuals or organisations? Market influencers (such as the media). The general public?
Being clear on who you will be ‘talking to’ will enable you to focus on the most suitable marketing communications and pitch your key messages effectively.
To help identify your target audience follow these tips:
- Analyse the features of your legal services. Determine the benefits that your clients get from your services and how your services fulfil the needs of those clients. Make a list of those features and needs to make the analysis easier.
- Look at the types of clients who are likely to purchase and use your legal services. Consider things such as age, gender, income level, marital status, occupation, educational level, gender and ethnic background. Identify which clients have the greatest need for your services.
- Consider the personal characteristics of your potential customers and determine how the client’s lifestyle affects a need for your products. Think about the client’s interests, values and personality traits. Consider how and when your client will use your services, as well as the features that appeal to the client.
- Look at your competition’s target market. Analyse the needs that your competition fills for their target market. Identify the areas of the market that have been overlooked by the competition. Seek to fill the void within the market, rather than targeting the same market as your competition.
- Take a look at your current client base. Identify the legal services that interest your current clients and determine what benefits these clients get from those services.
- Compile all of your research findings. Use your findings to determine which types of clients have the most need for your services. Keep the market well-balanced so that your target market is not too big or too small.
Determine your communication objectives
What are the objectives for marketing communications? These should be based on your organisation’s wider marketing and business objectives.
They could include:
- Improving your organisation’s ‘profile’ by becoming more ‘well known’ among your audiences
- Encouraging your audiences to take a particular course of action, such as getting in touch to take advantage of a special offer
- Promoting the need that your service can fulfil, such as pursuing compensation for personal injury, help in buying a home, administration of an estate after the death of a loved one.
- Standing out from your competitors
- Promoting certain traits of your organisation, such as reducing client stress through convenient service
Select your marketing communications tactics
There are a number of tactics available for you to use, the relative strength of each depends on the objectives that have been set by your organisation.
Here are some examples of communicsation tactics for law firms:
Used to encourage, persuade or manipulate an audience (viewers, readers or listeners; sometimes a specific group) to continue or take some new action.
- Advertising can be used to build up a long-term image for a legal service or trigger a quick sale.
- Advertising can efficiently reach geographically dispersed buyers.
- Certain forms of advertising (TV or radio) can require a large budget, whereas other forms (local newspaper) do not.
- Just the presence of advertising might have an effect on sales: Audiences might consider a heavily advertised organisation must offer ‘good value’.
Public relations (PR) is a management process used to influence and shape the attitudes and opinions held by an organisation’s target audiences, which could include clients, target clients, employees and suppliers.
PR should be coordinated with the other marketing communication elements.
The benefits of PR are based on:
- Credibility – News stories and features are more authentic and credible to readers than advertisements.
- The element of surprise- PR can reach audiences who prefer to avoid salespeople and advertisements.
- Dramatisation – PR has the potential for bringing to life an organisation or service/product.
Event management is the application of project management techniques to the creation and development of seminars, events, conferences, exhibitions and festivals.
There are many advantages to events and experiences:
- Relevant- A well-chosen event or experience can be seen as highly relevant as the audience can get personally involved.
- Involving – Given their live, real-time quality, audiences can find events and experiences more actively engaging.
- Implicit – Events are more of an indirect ‘soft-sell’.
Direct marketing is a form of advertising that allows organisations to communicate straight to their target audiences, with advertising techniques that can include mobile/SMS messaging, email, interactive consumer websites, online display ads, fliers, catalogue distribution, promotional letters, and outdoor advertising.
Direct marketing is:
- Customised -The message can be prepared to appeal to the addressed individual.
- Up-to-date-A message can be prepared very quickly.
- Interactive – The message can be changed depending on the person’s response.
Measuring the impact of marketing communications will enable you to continually assess what is working and what is not, and to report to your organisation’s management on performance and progress.
For example, if your firm decides to place an advert in a local newspaper you can measure the number of enquiries that you get by directing telephone calls via a special purpose telephone line or number.
Marketing communications are the forms of promotion and voice of the law firm in the marketplace.
It is important that law firms have a clear target audience. The ‘make-up’ of the target audience will determine what approach you take to communicate with them.
The most common offline marketing communication tactics are advertising, public relations, event management and direct marketing.