Apr 15 '09
When you look around you can’t fail to notice the 101 offers that draw you in… it would seem that one can pretty much do everything on interest free credit or for under a tenner… so why do we all think that marketing and business development have to cost us a fortune? Ok, we don’t want to devalue the marketing that we do and see it only as an expense but it’s easy to put off activity because of cash-flow concerns and to stop ourselves from developing a plan for the coming year.
Now is the time for New Years resolutions (personally, I’ve started mine a month early to get a run at it…) and it makes sense to try to set some for developing our practices too.
So, in the spirit of the January sales (that have already started) ten marketing things you can resolve to do… that won’t mean major (or any) expenditure.
- Life laundry – The start of the year is a good chance to have a tidy up and this has an impact on how well you present yourself. Is your office tidy? Are your meeting rooms tidy? Are there files everywhere (or a fridge/washing machine/toaster in the entrance hall – as I saw at one law firm)? Kick off the year by taking a step back and assessing how well you present yourselves to clients that come in to your offices… if necessary, have a good old sort out!
- Looking dirty – We’re not talking you (although clearly personal presentation is important). We’re talking about the entrance to your office and the areas clients use. Are there dirty marks on the paintwork that could be cleaned off with a bit of elbow grease? A stain on a carpet tile that could be replaced? Could the front path do with a tidy up? We’re not suggesting that you all have to roll your sleeves up but you do need to make sure that you present the impression that you want… and what impression does dirty, run-down give of your ability to do the work professionally and efficiently?
- Last client win in 1954 – If you have profiles on the website do make sure they are up to date. The same goes for information about service areas and (of course) legal information. Take the chance over the next few weeks to check whether things are up to date and, if not, change them. It might give you some ideas for wider changes you want to do in 2010.
- Say “thank you” – Much of your work will come from personal recommendation and referral. Whether that means existing clients or professional contacts they have all been responsible for your income over the past year. Now is the time to say a proper thank you… to everyone. This doesn’t have to mean a bottle of scotch or a flash lunch… it can simply mean a postcard or a letter. Whatever you do, saying thank you properly and personally (that means no round-robin emails) means the world to people and helps to remind them that you’re there. Yes, that’s right… saying thank you can remind people that you’re there and you may even get some more work in off the back of this small, simple gesture.
- Get in touch – Over the year there will be a whole host of clients who have lost touch with your firm for one reason or another. Take a look back at your matters list and pick out a few that were lucrative but, for whatever reason, haven’t been in touch for a while. Pick up the phone and arrange to meet for a coffee… Importantly don’t think that just because there is a logical reason for their losing touch (ie. the end of a conveyancing process or litigation) that there is a logical reason for not getting back in touch. You can always promote the wider services of the firm.
- Paper trail – Lawyers in particular seem to take a great security from piles of paper. Paper means WIP and WIP means useful. If you have piles of paper and files open it makes you feel safe and busy. Unfortunately, though, their attraction is lost on most other business people. Towers of files just look like you haven’t done your tidying up. So dedicate an evening to closing some files, sending out some client care review letters (yes, that getting in touch part again) and sending any outstanding invoices. All this, naturally, can be done over a good bottle of wine!
- Go online – It’s worth taking a look at your marketing materials at least every 6 months and asking yourself whether they are still useful. We all succumb to the temptation to produce newsletters and flyers when we don’t really have a business case for doing it. Start the New Year by taking a long look at everything and asking yourself whether it really serves the purpose you need it to. It may be that documents talking about the legal process or useful information (rather than selling your services) would work better as an online newsletter. The more you can put into an email or electronic format the greater the saving on ongoing print costs. Consider using something like www.mailchimp.com to send out newsletters, rather than printed glossies.
- Evil email – This brings me nicely onto the inevitable subject of your database. The reality is the quickest and easiest way to reduce marketing costs is to take communications online. You may be thinking that email is the comms tool of Beelzebub but the fact is, in this day and age, most people communicate this way… and it is no longer seen as the easy option… simply the best option. That said, it does require an accurate mailing list and you’re probably sitting there with a lot of “email” boxes left empty in your database. It would be a valuable use of your time to make some calls and search on Google to try to fill in some of those gaps. Top Tip: If you type “@whatevertheirwebsiteaddressis” into Google you will often generate a number of available email addresses – which will allow you to work out the format of your contact’s address.
- Go on record – One of the best ways to demonstrate your knowledge is to write short articles of checklists that you can share with the public, clients, referrers etc. Start by going through the newsletters or legal discussion forums and picking a couple of “hot topics”. Write them up with your own opinion and start by compiling them into a newsletter or blog. When you have your confidence up then why not consider sending them through to the local or legal press? You may find that you have hidden talents and can turn PR to your advantage.
- Forward planning – This one goes without saying… that said, I know I’ve said it before. One of the most useful things you can do is to work out where you want your business to go and the steps you need to take to get there. Set your three-year goal, work out the process goals that you need to achieve it and then write a “to do” list of actions required to achieve each process goal. Make sure you put time in the diary each week to make it all happen.
Personally, I always used to love the Christmas holidays when I worked as an in-house Marketing and BD Director. It was quiet and I was left to my own devices to get the planning done, tidy things up and come up with some ideas. Without the pressures of “hectic periods” you can really let your imagination go wild and it’s a really satisfying feeling starting the New Year with a clear desk and a well-planned “to do” list… or perhaps that’s just me that feels that way!