When lawyers approach personal and firm level marketing as two distinct and independent exercises, they create needless limitation on impact. So, despite the best of intentions, neither the individual nor the firm is set up to maximize return on investment.
Simply put, when it comes to law firm marketing, the coordinated whole is considerably stronger than the sum of the individual parts. Without a real connection to the firm’s unique identity, when speaking, writing or networking, individuals might as well be representing any firm. And, without real input from the individuals that make up the firm, the firm’s logo, tagline, website or brochure might as well be representing any group of lawyers.
The road towards alignment might very well be fraught with the unavoidable complexities inherent in bringing together differing personalities, viewpoints and politics. Nevertheless, it is an investment in firm sustainability. The process enables the emergence of rainmakers, thought leaders, scintillating speakers and even social media darlings. It also enables the most authentic form of expression at the firm level.
Complexities aside, the key steps towards alignment remain the same, from firm-to-firm.
6 steps towards aligning personal and firm level marketing:
- Positioning the firm – The time to ask the team for input on the firm’s vision and values is during the process of developing flagship brand and marketing materials, such as a logo, tagline or website. Bypassing this level of engagement typically results in a foundational disconnect between messages articulated within firm materials and by individual lawyers. There’s no easy way to resolve such conflict. Force fitting firm level messages into the personal marketing plan doesn’t come across as authentic and reigning in individuals exhibiting characteristics unaccounted for at the firm level only results in stifling talent.
- Positioning each area of practice – For firms offering more than one area of practice, the highest level work on firm values and vision needs to extend to a meaningful statement about each area of practice.
- Prioritizing the target audience – Among law firms, there’s often resistance to narrow the target audience or to limit marketing efforts to either the referral market or the prospective client. But, it’s important to recognize that if the firm can provide the team with a prioritized list of prospective clients, it can help to ensure that the limited time available for personal marketing is put to good use. List in hand, instead of casually accepting speaking, writing or networking opportunities as they arise, lawyers can become selective about pursuing activities that place them in front of the most desirable growth market, thereby improving their chances of making a real and lasting impact.
- Developing the firm level marketing plan – The firm level marketing plan needs to be developed not only with consideration to reaching the right audience efficiently and effectively, but also with consideration to tools needed to facilitate activities identified within the personal marketing plans. Ideally, the firm and personal marketing plans would be developed concurrently, employing a fluid process that allows for back and forth coordination and adjustments, rather than a hierarchical approach. So, for example, if the individuals were planning on emphasizing speaking engagements within the personal marketing plans, at the firm level consideration would need to be given to branded presentations, professionally written biographies, leave behind materials and newsletters designed to capture leads with a sign-up sheet. To send individuals off to implement such activities without solid tools designed to support their efforts, would be to dilute their efforts and, possibly, lose the opportunity for repeated engagement with a qualified and interested audience.
- Writing the personal marketing plan – Ideally, the personal marketing plan is always written by the person intended to implement it. That’s not to say that individuals need to write their plans without mentor or coach but the final say as to what is both realistic and also well suited in terms of talent and interest should lie with the individual. Beyond coordination at the firm level (in terms of messaging, goals, benchmarks and tools), in order to be set up for success personal plans would also need to be coordinated with each other. Integration of firm level marketing messages into personal activities is a sensitive task that, depending on the individual, may require some training, particularly if such messages are to be utilized freely and spontaneously. The elevator pitch is commonly perceived to be stiff and unnatural but creative approaches to this old tool shouldn’t be overlooked. It can be a useful way to give individuals small sound bytes that are easy to remember, facilitate conversation (rather than speeches) and take the pressure out of networking.
- Reviews and ongoing commitment – Coordination between firm and individual marketing activities needn’t stop once the plans are in place. Regular review of progress against goals and guidance with respect to any potential stumbling blocks, are helpful when provided on a regular basis, formally and informally. Firm level training and /or investment in the development of the team could extend to leadership, public speaking or business development programs, marketing or social media coaching and special interest seminars.
The benefits to aligning firm and personal marketing plans are many. To name just a few: improved return on investment, consistent messaging and cohesive practice development efforts.
Beyond the tangible, lie softer benefits for which return is harder to pin down. Improved morale and confidence generally results when individuals understand how their personal efforts support, and are supported by, a larger entity, particularly when they helped shape such entity. This type of cultural change has a tendency to seep into all aspects of relationship building, going well beyond the scope of formal business development efforts. It’s the real difference between a static vision that gathers dust on a shelf and one that’s alive with the energy of the individuals that make up the firm. Whether it’s a phone call, a handshake or a lunch meeting, clients can pick up on a positive attitude. Even if that were the only benefit of all this coordination and training, it would still be worth it.
But it’s not. The list is long.