Nancy Myrland All Posts, Marketing Strategy 14 Comments

Ah, the 4th quarter.

It’s that time of year when the following questions pop up in listserves, conferences, partner and staff meetings, and everywhere else firms discuss marketing budgets.

What percent of revenue are other firms spending for marketing?

How about business development?

Then the big hunt begins.  Marketers are asked to research these numbers to find out what the norm is in the profession.

What’s the average in our profession?

Does it include salaries?

Does it include business development?

Does it include client entertainment?

Do you allow each professional to have his/her own budget for clients?

Does it include community affairs?

Does it include the new wardrobe for the marketing partner? (Just kidding, wanted to see if you’re still with me.)

The list of questions goes on and on.

Marketers are sent on a mission to make sure their firms know what industry and profession standards are so their firms can make sure they don’t over- or underspend.  Heaven forbid they do either….

Do you want to know what the averages are?  Here’s my answer to the question about what the average is for all other firms out there…


What do I mean who cares?  That’s right.  Who cares?!

Who cares what other firms are spending to do whatever it is they are doing that may or may not have anything to do with what you want to do next year?

Who cares about averages or norms when you should be aspiring to be anything but average or normal?

Who cares how much other firms allow for suites, client entertainment, advertising, media and all other marketing and business development activity?

Here’s what I want you to care about:

  • I want you to care about your budget and no one else’s.
  • I want you to care about a budget that is reflective of a planning process you undertake that takes in to consideration where you are, and where you want to go during the next 6 to 12 months.
  • I want you to care about a budget that is laser-focused on marketing and business development activity that helps you accomplish the goals you’ve established in that very careful planning process mentioned above.
  • I want you to care enough to create a plan that gets very specific about how you intend to retain and/or grow your current client base.
  • I want you to run financials that will help give everyone, including your marketing and business development professionals, a precise idea where your business comes from.
  • I want you to create a firm plan and goals that can then serve to guide your individual planning units in their planning processes.  If that’s too much to ask, then provide the resources that enable each planning unit to create a plan that you then use to create your firm plan.  Plans that inspire or support….both models can work.
  • I want you to stop spending valuable resources to chase a number, or a percentage.

If you are one of those who does so, please stop sending your marketers on a wild goose chase to uncover these superficial numbers that don’t necessarily relate to your situation.  Commit the resources to work through a thoughtful planning process that will help you spend whatever it takes to accomplish what you want to do.

In my next blog post, I’ll talk you through some ways you might want to approach your marketing and business plans, so stay tuned.

As always, I’d love to have you share your thoughts on your planning process below.

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Comments 14

  1. Well put! It’s easy to spend so much time thinking about what other people are doing that you forget to take the time to focus on what you want to do. The next thing you know, you’ve got a pile of financial information in front of you for the competition that’s great, but doesn’t necessarily reflect who you are or what path you’re trying to take. Then what?

    Two thumbs up for a great post!

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    “Then what” is right! It’s an easy way out to gather all of that % of revenue information, but it has to be based on facts, goals, tactics, etc. for it to be meaningful. Thank you very much for your kindness, and for stopping by!

  4. This is part of a larger issue of the majority of firm management being reactive rather than proactive. There seems to be an almost universal focus on transactional thinking rather than relationship building. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it is an epidemic in professional services industries. The chasing of marketing/business development numbers is just a symptom of a larger problem. After all, accounting, legal, etc… relationships are similar to professional marriages. You don’t break that relationship because someone cuter happens to say hello. But if that cuter person happened to write, call, invite you out on a regular basis, then perhaps you’d be interested. A budget should reflect the long-term goal of building those valuable relationships with prospects, referral sources as well as recognizes the current clients as a valuable resource. Who knows, that may cost a lot less than your peers are spending…

  5. Nancy:

    Thanks for putting out in the public what so many legal administrators know or sense in our guts. I believe that your thoughts are appropriate to many, maybe most, of our firms’ endeavors, not just marketing and business development. I believe it is important to know what the competition is doing but much more important to think about what is working for your firm and what your firm needs next year to be healthy and profitable.

  6. Great post, Nancy! It’s too easy sometimes to get caught up in what the competition is doing, and in many cases it’s not an apples-apples comparison. Focus on how we grow ourselves and stop worrying about what the rest of the world is doing. Got it – thanks! 🙂

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    Exactly Andrew! Thank you for articulating your thoughts. This process is too important to leave to flimsy research. The outcomes of a careful planning process are worth much more than the cost of the planning process. Thanks for your insight.

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    Tim, thank you for sharing what you feel is reality as it helps all of us with a reality check of what firms are actually doing when planning, or not planning as you indicate.

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    Lisa, yes, we all like to know what our competition is doing, but not where budgets are concerned. Pursuing numbers and percentages is an ineffective use of time, and will not lead to productive activity on anyone’s part. Thanks for stopping by!

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    Thanks Chip! So happy to see you here. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can ever do to help you through that process since I’m not far away. Good luck!

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