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Four Ways to Improve Your Marketing ROI

We all want our marketing efforts to go the distance. We want our work to be valued and valuable. I don’t know any legal marketing professional who doesn’t want their efforts to count. For these reasons, I believe, the Legal Marketing Association, Vancouver Chapter, asked me recently to present a session on how to increase marketing’s return on investment (ROI). How can our firms get even more from the ‘busy work’ of their marketing teams?

Put lightly, it’s a deep and complex topic and a challenge to skim its surface in a lunch session. Nevertheless, four key ways to achieve greater ROI surfaced as most worthy to present to the LMA Vancouver members. There are many more, but here are my four:

1. Get strategic – nothing will suck up resources faster than going off course and applying knee-jerk responses to marketing opportunities. Instead, a little planning will save time, budget and headaches. Think about your goals, strategies and tactics – in that order — for each practice group or major initiative. A marketing plan will keep you on course and in a much stronger position to resource your activities and evaluate opportunities as they arise.

Just as important as marketing planning, is the intention to avoid random acts of marketing, or ‘orphan activities’, as I like to call them. An orphan activity is usually not well thought-out or a part of your current planned activities. It could be in response to client requests to attend an event or run an advertisement in support of the client company or their charity. Aside from the can’t-avoid-them orphan activities, which incidentally shouldn’t be more than 5-10% of your total marketing budget, take the pledge now to be alert to orphans.

Instead, everything you do must connect to a plan, strategy a goal or, at the very least, another marketing or business development initiative.

2. Do less marketing and more business development

I wrote a separate column on this topic last September for Slaw and you’ll find it here: http://www.slaw.ca/2012/09/14/marketing-effort-must-allow-for-business-development/

The notion of the importance of making time and space for business development still holds very true.

Marketing stuffs qualified people and companies into the business development pipeline – these are people who are captured in your CRM or client database system, but also include those people who see your ad, attend an event or read one of your articles.

Business development efforts then works to understand their needs, pairs them with the right group or lawyer, stays in touch with them, behaves in helpful ways, sends relevant information and so on until they are converted to clients.

It’s the business development efforts that will move many of those in your pipeline along. Be conscious of advancing them through to a decision. Some firms will simply need to gear down on the marketing front and ramp up on the business development strategies from time to time throughout the year.

3. Use your data – marketing professionals are still not using their data or accounting colleagues to their fullest potential yet. Your own data, even in a flawed accounting system with incomplete new file open documents, can be useful.

It might take a bit of detective work to uncover the data your firm has and how far back it goes. For instance, can you compare the last two years of billing information with the past five years of data? Is billable time recorded by client, industry, practice area or matter type? Does your firm record which lawyer originated the work? In what manner is time recorded most reliably? Accounting will know and can likely help you use the data to find trends and patterns that will be most helpful. Consider pulling the following reports as a starting point:

  • Top clients by area of law or practice group
  • Firm-wide top clients by quarter
  • Top 20 clients (by billings) by practice for past five years
  • Top 100 – 50 firm-wide clients and their associated areas of law

Some business development opportunities will start to emerge and will inform your strategic imperatives.

Incidentally, ensure new file open documents are completed before a file is opened. Train staff to understand the importance of this information and how it’s used. Empower accounting to send back incomplete forms until they are filled in entirely. As is often said about statistics garbage in garbage out and while we’re not building a statistic model, we do want reasonably sound data from which to build strong business and marketing strategies.

4. Support your best

Focus on your firm’s best rainmakers first. Play to your firm’s strengths and where your support will go the furthest. Who will make the most of your financial and human resources? Where will you make the most gains? Who are your rock stars?

This not to suggest that your up-and-comers aren’t worthy because they are, but in the spirit of prioritizing your resources, fuel up your fastest jets first and get out of their way.

These are the lawyers who ‘get it.’ They may need a little organizing and direction, some ideas and support, then you need only point them in the right direction. They will ask good questions of prospects and understand the importance of noting and sharing this information internally. They connect the dots and make introductions, find opportunities to be helpful and are masterful at finding ways to stay in touch. With this group, a little help from marketing goes a long way.

With the greatest of intentions, this is where yours truly lost some traction many years ago when I tried repeatedly to convert ‘grinders’ – taken from David Maister’s ‘finders, minders and grinders’ – into rainmakers. It. Doesn’t. Work.

Once you have all your top rainmakers fuelled, turn your attention to the next group of contenders. These are the lawyers who have shown an interest in marketing and developing their practice, but may need a little coaching to build their confidence or get them on the right track.

In any event, do consider how you and your colleagues, as well as your lawyers, can get even more from your marketing efforts and resources.

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