Every law firm needs a marketing plan, but most don’t know how to create one that aligns with their various goals. Understanding the distinction between the plan itself, the strategy, the tactics employed, and the channels available can help a lawyer craft a winning attorney marketing plan.
Business Plan vs. Marketing Plan
Lawyers should have both a business plan and a marketing plan.
The business plan is the big-picture document and strategy outlining several key components of how the company will function. This is typically broken down into seven sections:
- An executive summary
- A description of the firm
- Market analysis
- Organization and management of the firm
- Services offered
- Marketing plan
- Financial projections
A marketing plan is a physical document and a smaller component of a complete business plan, but it can also be pulled out and used as a document on its own.
In some cases, the marketing plan provided in an initial business plan might be a condensed version of the living marketing plan the firm uses on a regular basis. In order to achieve growth, legal marketing requires thinking strategically about what goals the firm wants to use and how the firm will pursue those goals through various initiatives.
A law firm's marketing plan should clearly answer four questions:
- Who is your target audience?
- How do you position yourself in that audience?
- What are you going to sell?
- How will you tell you’ve hit your goals?
A legal marketing plan should always answer these questions. However, the answers will differ based on the approach, region, and practice areas.
What Goes Into an Attorney Marketing Plan?
Many people get the concepts of “strategies” and “tactics” confused with an actual marketing plan.
The strategy document is the long-term view of how a particular outcome will be achieved, such as revenue or the number of employees hired. The marketing plan names the tactics and channels to get to that point. However, it’s about more than simply stating what a law firm should be doing.
In order to develop the tactics and channels to reach potential clients, a lawyer needs to know much more. The following details should be captured on the early pages of their lawyer marketing plan:
- A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis
- Data on the needs of the target market and why the firm believes there’s potential in that market
- Financial and marketing goals for the firm
- A month-by-month marketing budget
Essential Steps to Build an Attorney Marketing Plan
Creating an attorney marketing plan involves finding the answers to the four questions mentioned above.
It requires defining your target audience, finding the best marketing channels to connect with your target audience, setting price points and budget, and setting goals that you can measure against.
1. Define Your Target Audience
Regardless of your practice area, your potential client is not “everyone who might need business services” or “people thinking about divorce.”
Instead, you need to dig deeper to understand who you’re marketing to. This will help you establish every other aspect of your marketing plan, so it cannot be overlooked or left too general.
If you’re stuck on how to get started with defining your potential clients, look at past and current clients to understand how they found and chose you.
Note that the words your clients use to describe your marketing, the firm’s unique aspects, and what they liked most about working with you might not be the same things you’d use to describe your firm.
Listen to your former clients and when you hear a repeated theme, incorporate that into your messaging.
If you’re a new business or are pivoting away from past services into something new, you’ll need to hit the drawing board to determine your positioning. Find gaps in the market to stand out from your competition.
For example, if you’re a divorce lawyer, you might see that many lawyers in your area are committed to high-conflict cases and drawn-out custody battles. There might be no existing firm that has capitalized on customized child custody agreements developed through a collaborative divorce or mediation services. That’s a gap in the market that a family lawyer could fill.
Likewise, a personal injury lawyer might discover in their market research that most attorneys focus on big truck and car accident cases. There might be a shortage of lawyers who work at the intersection of personal injury and workers’ comp cases, however.
Once you know the gaps in the market, use this to inform your value proposition and an elevator pitch that explains what you do and who you do it for succinctly:
Your value proposition is what makes you different from other law firms providing similar services.
- Example: personalized service
- Example: Willingness to take on complex cases
A quick elevator pitch makes it clear who you serve.
Use this formula:
I help [Insert client type here] achieve [insert outcomes] through [insert firm value proposition].
Example: I help new startup founders protect their intellectual property through comprehensive IP legal strategies.
2. Find the Best Marketing Channels
Recognizing your ideal client is an important starting step, but you also need to determine the best channels through which you can reach that person. But first, a quick primer on some key terms around marketing plans:
- A strategy is an overarching set of goals that help a firm achieve an outcome over a longer period. It doesn’t change often.
- A tactic is a smaller action to help move the firm closer to the desired outcome. These can shift based on real-time data.
- A channel is a place, like social media, where potential clients can find a firm. Where do your prospective clients spend time? Where are they when they need an attorney, and how can you effectively reach them at that moment and in that channel?
For more information about strategies, tactics, and channels, check out this article on DUI attorney marketing strategies.
Channels are most effective when they reach your target audience.
Whether you’re handing out business cards at a local networking event, investing in law firm SEO tactics, setting up your Google My Business page, or participating in marketing activities with local bar associations, you need to spend your time and money in those situations when you’re most likely to connect with your ideal clients (or ideal referral sources).
The most popular channels to call out in an attorney marketing plan are:
Don’t just select a channel because you know your competition is thriving there. What works for one firm in one market or practice area doesn’t always work as well for another. Make data-driven decisions about why you suspect a particular channel will work for your marketing, and then be sure to set goals so you can check in on those efforts.
3. Establish Price Points & Budget
Research suggests that law firm spends between 2%-19% of their gross revenue on a marketing budget. Most likely, the vast majority of firms spend 4-7% of their revenue on marketing.
Among other things, this budget can include ad spend, pay for employees and contractors in the marketing department, and all other marketing-related expenses.
When setting a budget for marketing, it’s also helpful to create certain metrics like “customer acquisition cost” (CAC) and “cost per conversion.”
Since acquiring a new follower, intake caller, or email subscriber is not necessarily the same as what it costs to acquire a brand new client, calculate both numbers. This can help adjust your marketing budget.
When thinking about your marketing budget, list out:
- All expected monthly spend items, including those that might increase at certain periods or scale-up throughout the year
- One-time costs, such as sponsoring dinners, annual gifts for referral sources, specific ad placements, or special events
- Investments in marketing have additional costs, such as events when a firm owner or other lawyers have to dedicate a great deal of their time (like networking events).
4. Determine How You’ll Measure Results
Running a successful marketing campaign requires setting goals and measuring against them. Too many lawyers say things like, “I’m not getting as many clients as I want,” or “it feels like we’re throwing spaghetti at the wall” because they haven’t defined what success looks like.
With vague goals like “get more clients,” there’s no way to tell for sure whether a marketing tactic or channel is working or not. When these tasks are handed off to a firm's marketing director, the goals should always be clearly outlined and documented.
Some key performance indicators to track include:
- Website traffic
- Leads from ad spend
- Traffic visits to calls
- Intake calls to signed clients
- Average fees per client
- Number of referrals sent per referral source
- Number of client reviews on places like Avvo or a firm Facebook page
Together, all of these data points can help lawyers evaluate how marketing efforts are working so that adjustments can be made as needed with both tactics and budget.
Uplevel Your Attorney Marketing Now
Whether you’re starting a new law practice or looking to improve your existing firm’s search engine results, the tactics and channels you choose to promote your legal services make a big difference.
Rankings.io can help you capitalize on search engine traffic with a strategic SEO plan. Contact us today for more support with your digital marketing strategy, including a free consultation to discuss strategies and tactics to help bring you firm more cases.