THE FUNDAMENTALS of marketing are not difficult to grasp. For the most part, marketing is based on what should really be common sense.
To be successful in business and in practice, you must provide people with what they need and what they want, and you must listen to others, understand them and help them. You must add value in any way that you can. It’s as simple as that. That’s where effective marketing begins and ends.
Objectives and Action Plans
Despite the fundamentals being obvious, most lawyers feel that they underperform when it comes to marketing, and many lawyers consider marketing to be something that is both discouraging and frustrating.
Why is that? The problem largely stems from failing to distinguish between objectives and action plans, and consequently measuring performance and success against the wrong sets of metrics.
Objectives are all about where you want to go and what you want to accomplish. In other words, objectives are about where you want to end up. It is of course necessary to know where you want to end up in order to decide what road you are going to take to get there, but the destination and the road that gets you there are two very different things.
When it comes to marketing, it is very important to draw a distinction between what you want to accomplish (your objectives) and what exactly you need to do to realize those objectives (the action plan).
Your objectives provide the context and a directional framework within which you will decide what to do. But don’t make the mistake many lawyers do in thinking that the objectives are the action plan and then evaluating their own performance and success based on whether or not the objectives have been realized.
Your action plan and the ways in which you evaluate your progress should be built around activities that you yourself can implement, and they should be activities that are entirely within your own power and control. When factors beyond your control have affected the result and you evaluate yourself based on that result, that is not an appropriate or accurate way to self-evaluate or to measure your progress in marketing your services.
Let’s say you set the following as an objective: "To get retained on a new matter by existing client X." This is something specific that you want to accomplish, but whether or not you actually get retained on the new matter shouldn’t be the measure of your marketing performance.
In this example, your marketing action plan could include things like making efforts to strengthen your relationship with the existing client; expanding your network and contact base within the client’s organization; developing a better understanding of that client’s current needs and anticipating their upcoming legal needs; submitting a proposal for new work, etc. These are the things you should be planning, implementing, tracking and measuring.
It is important to recognize and acknowledge that, your efforts notwithstanding, there will be many factors at play that will influence the end result that are entirely outside of your control. In the example above, there might be factors relating to what is going on within the client organization (internal agendas and politics, budgets, well-established relationships with other lawyers or firms, to name a few), what your competition is up to, and what is going on in the broader business community and economy.
It is of course true that the harder you try the more likely you are to succeed, but if you judge your performance based on factors that you cannot control, you are not fairly evaluating yourself and risk blaming yourself for an unsatisfactory outcome.
The bottom line is that in order to ensure that you move forward and that you are fairly evaluating your performance, you need to be specific about where you want to go, and track and evaluate your progress and success based on whether you are doing the specific things that are within your power to implement.
Donna Wannop, LLB, MBA, is a practice-development coach (www.donnawannop.com) who has worked exclusively with the legal profession for over 20 years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.