How to Avoid Resource-Draining One-Off Marketing Activities

Many firms and lawyers alike still approach marketing as a task on a to-do list. Get carpets replaced, schedule articling student interviews, get a marketing speaker for the associates…

Marketing is not any singular item. It’s not holiday cards, a website, client lunches, or even a marketing speaker. None of these activities could stand alone and generate much of anything worthwhile unless your firm is the only gig in town. For the same reason that when you meet someone for the first time, it’s unlikely they will immediately send you work. You need to develop a relationship and find multiple opportunities for contact to build trust and credibility. Marketing helps you achieve this, but on a larger scale.

When managing partners and their executive committees view their firm as a business – a multi-million dollar business – it’s easier to see that marketing is not a separate function of the business, but an on-going and core part of the corporate fabric that drives revenue. As such, marketing, client service, client communications and client feedback should a standing agenda item for all management committees and threaded into the business plan.

Not only are orphan marketing activities ineffective, they gobble up valuable resources, whether in lawyer time or marketing budget. Instead, consider how marketing can help achieve your firm’s goals by facilitating year-round dialogue with various audiences.

Here are just a few ways to avoid marketing orphans:

  1. When an opportunity presents itself – a new event sponsorship that hits right in the heart of current or prospective clients, for instance – grab it, but look for additional methods to reach the same target group. Look at newsletters, pre-event gatherings or communications, advertising, follow-up with leads, sponsors and VIPs.
  2. During your planning phase look at how you might circle the wagons around a specific industry or sector. If you’re using advertising to boost a practice area, build out your website with lots of client-friendly rich content, secure editorial space in the same or similar publications and write a column on the same practice area (helpful content only please!).
  3. Every time someone brings a “good idea” to the table, challenge the group to consider how you’ll support that one initiative with other activities. Get commitment of resources – financial and human – before you hit the switch.
  4. Review your current orphans and if you’re not getting any results after a good effort of at least a couple of years, see about dropping some of these, especially if you can’t make a reasonable business case to support it.

Soon you’ll see that when you bundle your efforts, they will achieve much more than most individual activities.


  1. Very important insights.

    My one quibble is that I don’t think “orphans” is the best metaphor because it connotes abandonment or lack of attention, when the problem that stand-alone tactics create is the opposite — they require too many resources and to much attention.

    Another way to frame it would be stand-alone vs. integrated tactics. Per item #2, managing to a comprehensive integrated plan enables marketers to optimize overall impact by focusing on a critical few areas.

    Additionally, unplanned, one-off opportunities can be vetted more effectively when there is an integrated plan in place.