I’ve got some big ideas and big things I want to accomplish in 2017. This year is going to be amazing, and I know that because I already know how I’m going to make it amazing.
What was that? You don’t have a big plan to do big things this year? Well, you should get one of those. I’ve got one. They’re neat.
If you want to hit the ground running in 2017, take some time to sketch out what you want to accomplish this year. And I don’t mean doodling some numbers on a legal pad on your lunch hour. Take a day or two off and work on that plan. Do it sooner rather than later. Like, this weekend. Figure out what you want to accomplish.
Figure out what you want to accomplish. How much money you want/need to earn this year. Where and when you want to take a vacation. If you want to hire staff or even a law partner. If you plan to move to a larger office or redecorate. Everything. What does your law firm look like at the end of 2017? How are you going to get from where you are now to where you want to be?
My plan starts with marketing. Every plan should start with marketing. Marketing can be defined as the collection of activities performed to attract new clients to your firm. No marketing, no clients. No clients, no money to run your firm. So marketing is Job # 1 each and every day.
I don’t like the shotgun approach where you advertise a little here and network a little there. I like to target my market efforts and dollars toward specific things. For my firm, our focus is on structured networking with clients and referral sources and online marketing for new prospects. Client appreciation events are huge. So are speaking events. We also invest in social media marketing and a strong website with good SEO. We don’t spend a dime on print, TV or radio. Your mileage may vary depending on your practice areas and how comfortable you are with marketing.
OK – let’s break this down a little. By “structured networking” I mean opportunities to spend time discussing business with specific people who are in a position to help you get more business. People who can send new business your way are referral sources. Existing clients who can give you more of their business are also good targets. You can meet them for coffee or lunch or go to BNI meetings or Chamber of Commerce meetings. But what you can’t do is network willy-nilly with just anyone. Make sure that your networking has a purpose: for you to help the other person and/or to get them to help you.
If you do events, they also should not be willy-nilly (I like that term. It’s fun to say. “Willy-nilly!”). Who should be there? Who do you want to talk to? Maybe it’s a good time to reconnect with clients you have not seen in a while at a barbecue. Maybe you want to impress a new prospect or client with a catered event benefitting charity. Maybe you want to demonstrate your knowledge with a seminar on a current topic of interest to your clients (and cement your relationship with them in the process). Or maybe you want to spoil your referral sources with a little wine and chocolate. Know why you are having the event. Otherwise, it’s just a party, not a marketing opportunity.
The other marketing you do is probably advertising. Ask yourself where your clients are looking for a lawyer, and that’s where you need to put the money. If you do personal injury work, bankruptcy, or criminal defense, a billboard might make sense. If you specialize in estate planning, however, better to be a sponsor on your local NPR station. Or if, like my firm, your clients are researching lawyers online to decide whom to call, money is better spent on a good website, Google ads, and social media.
Let’s break it down a little more. Who, generally, is your client? What magazines do they read? Where do they spend their time online? What TV stations do they watch? Where do they like to eat? What kind of car do they drive? Who do they know? Answer those questions, and you’ll figure out where and how to get in front of more people who might be your client. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.
The next part of my plan is a service plan. Specifically, a plan to make sure that all of that new business I plan on attracting to my firm translates into work done and happy clients. It’s a great problem to have: more business than you know what to do with. I plan on creating some new systems and efficiencies to get better at cranking out the work product. That’s at least until I figure out the whole cloning thing.