Marketing plans for law, architecture and other professional practices [infographic]
So, you’re wondering if you need a marketing plan for your professional practice. It may help to begin with a better understanding of the benefits a marketing plan can offer.
If you’re a lawyer, architect or other type of professional, a marketing plan will enable you to:
- Sort through the many options facing your firm and select the ones aligned with your ideal clients and referrers
- Deliver greater impact with limited resources and focus that impact on the right audience
- Create a system so you know what you’re doing all year long
- Establish a process to measure, review and adjust as needed
This infographic deconstructs the basic elements of a marketing plan to illustrate what’s involved at each step and how they all fit together. Special attention has been paid to the personal aspect of the professional service firm’s marketing plan, including speaking, writing and networking.
For those of you who prefer longhand writing, just keep reading…
The objectives of a marketing plan for professional practices
The first decision you need to make about your marketing plan is about your practice development objectives. For some, laying out objectives will be easy. For others, it will be a struggle. Either way, this is the most important step in your marketing plan. Your objectives represent the end point. The plan represents how you will get there, like a mapped-out route to a destination. As an example, if your objectives call for aggressive growth within a niche market, to accomplish that, you will need a robust plan focused on one specific sector.
Your immediate objectives will shape the first phase of your marketing plan. A 6-12 month window would be appropriate for this phase.
Your longer-term objectives will help balance immediate tactics with foundational elements that feed the future of your professional practice.
Your marketing plan is an opportunity to, not just pursue more of the same, but rather, to be strategic about the type of client files you really want to generate. To get started with this section of the marketing plan, create a list of the various audiences your firm serves today and then prioritize the list to identify your ideal clients. Considering the importance of word-of-mouth marketing for lawyers, architects and other professionals, apply this same line of thinking to your referral network, so you can prioritize your ideal referrers too.
Primary clients – Describe the profile of your ideal client in as much detail as you can. Are you targeting businesses or consumers? Include other details such as service requirements, location, expectations, values, beliefs and interests.
Secondary clients – Other client groups your firm services may also be mentioned in your marketing.
Primary referrers – Whether it’s a client or a complementary professional, this is your ideal referrer. Describe this referrer in as much detail as you can, including areas of commonality such as target market, shared values and location.
Secondary referrers – Other referral groups within your professional network may also be mentioned in your marketing.
Unique selling proposition (USP)
What does your firm do that is, not only unique, but valued by your audience? Your USP isn’t about difference for the sake of it. It’s about tying difference to a benefit that is meaningful to your ideal client.
Many lawyers and architects think their firm isn’t substantially different from their competitors. But, even if you offer the same services to the same market, if you consider the clients’ experience, you may find your difference in other factors. Examples include professional style, communication, technology or other support offered by the firm.
Explore what keeps your existing clients loyal. What about your firm does your ideal client value most? Is it talent, knowledge, vision and insight? Or is it a softer quality like the ability to listen and understand?
The goals of a marketing plan for professional practices
Ultimately, the point of developing a marketing plan is to build an action plan. The action planning step begins with outlining clear goals. Goals are different from objectives in that they are limited to specific accomplishments. Objectives, on the other hand, are focused on the firm’s bigger picture. It is advisable to reduce your list of goals to focus only on your highest priorities, before moving onto the next step in the process. An example of a marketing goal suitable to a professional practice would be to build better relationships with a specific segment of a referral network.
Each goal will need one or more strategies that illustrates how the goal will be attained, conceptually. For example, if your goal is to build better relationships with your referral network, a strategy could be to join or even create a professional networking hub (online or off).
Tactics – Tactics represent the specific actions driven by your strategies. You may need several tactics for one strategy. Building on the example for the above strategy, tactics could include the development of a LinkedIn or Facebook group focused on a topic common to the segment of your professional network that you are focusing on. While the marketing planning process is meant to invite ideas, take care to prioritize the ones that will be most aligned with your goals and offer synergies within your action plan. This will help you to maximize the impact of resources, including money, time and people.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – to ensure your marketing plan succeeds at delivering on your practice development goals, you will need to quantify what success looks like for you and to establish metrics that measure actual results. You will also need a process to monitor progress. That said, remember that a marketing plan is meant to be a fluid process. If you find that you are not meeting your KPIs, you can always reshape one element at a time. For example, if you launch a Facebook group, but it fails to expand the referrals to your firm, you could consider new ways to grow the group.
Over recent years, as the marketing opportunities suitable to lawyers, architects and other professional practices expanded, marketing plans gained significant traction. This on the one hand is a good thing, as it means you have practical options to get the word out about your practice. On the other hand, the overwhelming number of alternatives and inherent complexity of these options prevent many professionals from even getting started. They also prevent many from modifying what they are already doing, even if it’s not working. A marketing plan solves these problems by establishing a process to scan options relative to your needs, helping you identify what is a fit and what is a waste of precious resources.
Making decisions throughout your marketing plan doesn’t mean that they’re set in stone. You will still want to pay close attention to what’s working and adjust. Set a process in place that allows you to periodically review results and consider modifications. As you adjust, pay close attention to the root causes – of both success and failures – so you can make the right changes.
After all is said and done, one of the greatest benefits to having a marketing in place for your professional practice is not having to stress about urgently coming up with something brilliant to head off quieter periods ahead. So, when you’re busy, you can focus all your energy and attention on your clients, files and team, just as it should be.
At Bekhor Management, our approach is focused on what really works to build and enhance small to mid-sized Canadian law, architecture and other professional practices. We invite you to book an initial consultation if you’re looking for assistance with any aspect of your marketing or management.
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