Nancy MyrlandAll Posts, Business Development/Sales, Marketing Strategy Leave a Comment

Lawyers Need To Write Marketing & Business Development PlansA version of this post was originally published in the Legal Marketing Association’s (LMA) Midwest Chapter publication, In The Loop.

We’re nearing the end of Q1, and about this time we are all beginning to think one of three things:

  1. We wrote our marketing and business development plans, but we’ve been too busy to concentrate on them. {{sigh}}
  2. Yet another year has slipped by without creating the marketing and business development plans we intended to {{heavy sigh}}.
  3. Yyyyes! We wrote our marketing and business development plans, and we are accomplishing every component of them, and that feels great!

Being a realist, I understand that your answers might fall anywhere in between all 3 of those, or that different attorneys, practice groups, industry or management teams might have different answers within the same firm.

If every attorney and business unit in your firm had marketing and business development plans, this would mean the most well-oiled, productive, focused, efficient, cooperative, supportive firm on the planet. Of course this would be wonderful, and we’d all like to practice law or work in such wonderful places. By the way, if this describes your firm, please let me know as I’d like to feature you on my show, video or in a blog post soon. Better yet, I think erecting a monument on your behalf would be in order!

Given that life, business and time often get in the way, we sometimes have to acknowledge that our planning process is not the way we’d like it to be. If that describes your situation, I’m here to tell you to hang in there, and keep the following in mind:

  • Take What You Can Get. If you’re a legal marketer, this means that sometimes you have to accept the low-hanging fruit, which are those lawyers and teams that seem to accept the planning process gracefully and with a bit of passion. Work with these people, and help them shine. Your job is to make your internal and external clients look as good as you possibly can, so accept that premise, and focus on helping them build their practices through planning. If you are an attorney, this means you have to start where you are, not where you wish you were six months ago when the thought of a Business Development Plan first entered your mind.
  • Forget The Calendar Year. The perfect initial planning process commences in the 3rd quarter, and is completed by November, or early December at the latest, in order for your firms and attorneys to have everything in place, including the necessary budgets, to accomplish all that is set out in their plans. In today’s digital age, change is swift, so plans are revisited several times a year. If this is not happening at your firms, don’t worry about it! Try hard to get this time frame accepted in your firms, but if that’s not working, then work with the calendar that you have. I would much rather see a Marketing Plan created in March for the duration of the year than I would no Marketing Plan at all. {{hint, hint}}
  • Pitch The Hierarchy. Back in my days in corporate America, the planning process would resemble this: the Corporate Business Plan fed our Division Plan, which then fed individual profit center plans. In law firms, this means that, ideally, our firms would first create overall Strategic Business Plans, then teams, whether those be practice, industry, client service or other, would create their plans, taking into account the goals the firm has set. After this, individuals, including all professionals (not just lawyers) and staff, would create their plans based on what the firm and teams have written, taking into account how their activity can help the firm and teams accomplish their goals. Do you see how it all feeds into the next, thus supporting the goals up and down, left and right, top to bottom, bottom to top? {{Ahhhh…now there’s that well-oiled machine I was talking about!}}

As wonderful as this would be, it doesn’t always happen. Again, you should strive for this polished process but, if you can’t get that to happen this or next year, forget about the hierarchy, and start wherever you find the least resistance. Incremental progress is still progress.

Everything Counts

Whether Marketing and Business Development Plans, or even Firm Strategic Plans, are one-page or twenty (heaven forbid), the most important aspect of implementation is forward motion. It is our tendency to become overwhelmed with the rest of our work, and to let plans sit on the shelf, whether they are digital or on paper.

Make It Simple

If you create plans that go into tactical detail, with dates and responsible parties, and identify items, tasks and movement necessary to accomplish each strategy, then you will have a plan that is much more manageable. It then becomes a simple, easy-to-follow To-Do list for all involved, including you or those you have chosen to help coach you and your attorneys through the execution and completion of your plans.

It Adds Up

Making contact with a current or potential client once a month for 12 months times 10 potential clients takes very little time, but creates a groundswell of contact that results in 120 touches a year. Multiply that by the number of attorneys in your firm, and you and your firm have just become a communications force to be reckoned with! Before you know it, you have put you and your firm squarely on the radar of those with whom you would like to do business.

Don’t Worry

If this year seems to be getting away from you, get back in there and advocate for the strategic, logical process we discussed above. If you are an attorney, ask for the help you need to get it done. If you are a legal marketer, go find those you know to be willing to work with you, today, and begin creating that change you know is important. At the end of this year, how do you think you will be valued if you have helped your attorneys create real Marketing Plans aimed at retention and growth?

Lasting Impact

Always remember that the creation of Marketing and Business Development Plans is not just a cumbersome activity to be marked off of your list of goals, but is a means to real, targeted growth that will have impact on your firms for many years to come. That’s meaningful business activity.

Remember. Everything counts.


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