“Any idea can be a great idea if you think differently, dream big and commit to seeing it realized.”
– Richard Branson
I would consider myself an idea person. It’s not a gift. I see it as experience coupled with enthusiasm, curiosity, and most importantly, a complete understanding of how to execute. Surrounding yourself with other idea people and consistently exercising the muscle helps too. Given the nature of the role, legal marketers must be skilled at generating new ideas and supporting other ones across the firm. At Lenczner Slaght, our marketing team is fortunate to have more new ideas than we can execute on. We also understand that our team’s superpower (and how we deliver our value) is having the ability to execute big ideas.
First things first, how do you decide which new ideas are worth pursuing? Past that, how do you plan and implement? A legal marketer must be selective, do their due diligence, and only advance the ideas with the most potential for success.
A few years ago, at Lenczner Slaght, our marketing team was approached by two female partners with a simple new idea – develop lists of female lawyers that you could confidently refer work to. Six months later we launched ReferToHer™. What follows is a portion of our process – the considerations we made to ensure that this particular idea would be one we could all be proud of for years to come.
- Develop a go/no go process. This is a typical step in the RFP process but there is good reason to adopt a similar process for any big new idea at a law firm. At the very least, you want to gauge whether your idea will be successful and whether you have the right resources to execute it. If you have time and resources, it’s best to develop a series of evaluation factors (e.g., experience, resources, cost, etc.) and see how your idea measures up to each one.
- Consider your strategic plan (and other functional plans). The firm’s strategic plan highlights the vision and includes high-level goals and objectives. A functional plan, like an annual marketing plan, for example, prioritizes those projects and programs that will be accomplished throughout the year. While both are critically important, neither of them are natural outlets for big new ideas. That being said, they set the tone and should be well understood so that when the new ideas do roll in, a legal marketer can easily decipher a good idea from a bad one.
- Keep your brand top of mind. New ideas must be aligned to the firm’s brand. Consider how the idea complements your existing brand and then consider if the idea will allow you to push it even further. Does the idea provide you with a new branding opportunity – perhaps to enter a new market or to establish yourself in front of a new audience? Brands can (and should) grow but, overall alignment is essential.
- Plan, organize, and master execution. The key to any big new idea is proper planning. Give yourself time to critically assess the idea and work out how you’ll execute it. Describe your idea in plain language. Scope out your goals and objectives. Develop key messages. Determine your people and financial resources. Think through your deliverables, action items, timelines, and sort out who is responsible for what in the short-term and long-term. Document everything. This process will help you make decisions, lots and lots of decisions. Most importantly, doing it right, will significantly reduce your risk of failure.
- Establish success measures. Define how you will measure the success of your idea against the goals and objectives you set. This might mean developing key performance indicators or finding a mechanism to gather qualitative feedback. Specify how often you’ll measure, in what format, and whether you have reporting requirements. Determining these elements during the planning phase will help you build a practical execution plan.
- Get buy-in from as many stakeholders as possible. Ideas fail when people don’t believe in them. If you’ve done the proper planning, you are ready to pitch your idea to a broader audience. Prepare thoughtful materials. Anticipate and write answers to a series of tough questions. Practice your pitch in advance to an internal, low-risk audience and request their honest and brutal feedback. Work out all of the kinks before you step in front of your key stakeholders. And when you do, bring the energy – a positive and enthusiastic attitude can make a good idea sound better.
- Boost your idea with new ideas. Think long-term. Include your idea as a principal project or program in your annual plan. This will give you time to imagine the ways you can improve or expand your program year-over-year.
- Focus on continuous process improvement. Whenever possible, look for ways to streamline your processes to make execution faster, better, and cheaper (this will free up space for new, bigger ideas!).
At many law firms, the pandemic has been an opportunity to reimagine marketing activities – to think past the weekly e-newsletter, be more attentive to the market, and discover new ways to drive value to clients. The firms that will succeed in the long-term have a marketing team that is all in – engaged professionals, well connected to their lawyers and clients, proficient at generating new ideas, and masters of execution.
And for firm management, do not discount the impact that new big ideas, and the work that flows from them, can have on a firm’s culture and morale. There will always be another award submission to write but, at Lenczner Slaght, there will only ever be one ReferToHer™, and we think that is something to celebrate.