To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour. – William Blake
Besides being a go-to high school yearbook quote, Blake’s riff on time, for our intents and purposes here on this blog, touches on a core principle in effective legal marketing: perspective.
When it comes to successful legal marketing, having the perspective to differentiate tactics from strategy, a sprint from a marathon, short term from long term, is what establishes lasting law firms from shuttered shingles.
Short-termism is almost built into our lives now, in our businesses, in our technology and media.
As we grow our book of business, and our calendars and to-do’s fill up, and the notifications start rolling in, the addressable issues and points of attention that arise day after day become so numerous that it seems like nothing stays still, or relevant, long enough to be properly addressed.
And so it is with marketing and advertising for law firms. It’s something we’re calling Restless Marketing Syndrome.
Rather than establish metrics that connect digital marketing agency performance and efforts to calls and cases in their law firms, shareholders suffering from Restless Marketing Syndrome (RMS) are constantly chasing lower costs, higher promises, or the latest bandwagon.
RMS sufferers are myopically focused on short-term results and expectant of long-term growth. Typically overwhelmed by marketing advice, shallowly invested, and itinerantly focused on the next opportunity, RMS can feel like you’re running a race, not a business. Which is funny …
According to a recent poll on social media, a fair amount of lawyers feel like marketing their firm is a foot race, not a marathon.
As covered in our Legal Marketing Nutrition Guide, to defeat RMS, and create a lasting legacy, law firm marketing plans must balance long-term (Brand Growth) and short-term (Sales Activation) goals and metrics.
Let’s explore the marathon metaphor further, discuss the differences between short-term and long-term business metrics, and then we’ll find out how adopting the Marketing Marathon Mindset can ensure you get clients in the door today and build a legacy that guarantees your law firm will be here tomorrow.
WHY BALANCE LONG TERM AND SHORT TERM IF EVERYONE ELSE THINKS THIS IS A SPRINT?
Why think “marathon” when your competition is thinking “sprint?”
It’s a fair question. And it reminds us of many talks around disarmament …
If our competition is racing to build arms that secure its foothold in the marketplace, shouldn’t we be ready to use the biggest weapons we have, run on all cylinders, full speed ahead, sleep when we’re dead?
You can surely keep riding the bull of business, but after a few years, you’re going to be looking for a space to dismount and catch your breath. By that time, the bull will be too big to let the horns go.
Don’t believe us? Think you’re different?
The very real mental health crisis, job burnout, and attrition rate the legal profession is facing as it heads into the future reaffirms the thoughts in your head right now – it’s not easy running a business.
Now imagine having to close one.
While your competitors continue to sprint, and waste their money and time comparing barrel-sizes, you should be running a marathon and building a law firm marketing plan that works on two levels – Brand Growth and Sales Activation. Focusing on just one of these areas is a shingle-shuttering death sentence.
Don’t believe us?
Let’s ask Les Binet and Peter Field, who, in their pioneering research as presented in “The Long and the Short of It – Balancing Short and Long Term Marketing Strategies,” working off the legacy of Andrew Erhenberg, have studied thousands of brand campaigns and case studies over 60-plus years to discover the truth of effective marketing strategy → Short-term metrics will not create long-term brands.
“The way in which long-term business effects are generated is fundamentally different from how most short-term metrics are produced. Although long-term effects, like a strong brand, always produce some short-term effects, the reverse is not true and long-term effects are not simply an accumulation of short-term effects.”
THE RACE IS BECOMING VERY CROWDED
According to the 2017 Florida Bar Opinion Survey, lawyers believe that oversaturation is the top professional concern heading into the future.
And according to another Twitter poll, a healthy portion of lawyers believe that just doing “good work” at their law firm will be enough to overcome the competition.
To follow up, we asked lawyers on Twitter if their clients could recognize “good lawyering?”
In a highly skilled profession like law, based on years of specialized education, how could it ever be possible that referrals from clients, who don’t know what good lawyering even looks like, could deliver the amount of business necessary to overcome competitors in a saturated market?
The quality of your legal skills and execution will always be of paramount concern to the core of your business model, but that isn’t what distinguishes you from your peers in your clients’ eyes.
The true point of distinction for a law firm isn’t the experience their lawyers bring to the table, it’s the experiences their clients take away.
THE MARKETING MARATHON MINDSET
Based on the foundational marketing science research in our Legal Marketing Nutrition Guide, the Marketing Marathon Mindset is our suggested antidote that addresses the symptoms and causes of Restless Marketing Syndrome.
Based on pioneering marketing research and science, the Marketing Marathon Mindset is a framework, composed of four core marketing concepts (Brand ID, Strategy, Metrics, Maintenance), which can be summarized by one simple marketing mantra: Short-term metrics will not create long-term brands.
If you accept that legal skills alone are not enough to differentiate your practice, and you realize that in order to grow your law firm, you cannot rely on the compounding effects of short-term gains, then the Marketing Marathon Mindset is for you.
Let’s go into detail about how you can discover your law firm’s brand, and then use that brand to guide strategic, measurable, and business-aligned marketing decisions that create a lasting legacy.
Fully understanding your law firm’s brand is the essential first step in defining how you run the marketing marathon.
Depending on the way your law firm packages perception in the public marketplace, your brand defines the marketing strategies you’ll employ to attain the desired business goals you’ve set out to achieve.
Without a brand, there’s no strategic guidance when it comes to business development. So lawyers waste a ton of time and money employing a wide array of marketing tactics that end up being ineffective and costly. This brandless, unguided chaos ends up leaving lawyers with the impression that marketing doesn’t work. Go figure.
Branding is typically seen as something only larger and more prominent businesses get to play around with. While it’s nice to fantasize about transforming our law firms to be more like Zappos, or Uber, or whoever is the marketing darling dujour, the concerns and demands of running a business soon outweigh the seeming importance of creating a brand for it.
We thankfully have a step-by-step guide on how to discover your law firm’s brand. Knowing your brand is the first step to finding your pace in the marketing marathon. There is a rhythm that is all your own. Defining your brand is the perfect way to instill confidence in your law firm development, and confidence breeds success, and success is all part of the strategy.
To run the Marketing Marathon, outlast your competition, and make it to the end goal (a prominent and lasting legacy for your law firm), a strategy is not just essential, it’s imperative.
The fact that the vast majority of your competition in the legal space thinks they are running a sprint when it comes to their marketing should feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.
Your competition blasts through their budgets early, exhausts their reserves after a few laps, pushes themselves to convert faster and in shorter windows, and burns through tactics to get ahead now, all while thinking they’ll gain wholesome benefits tomorrow? The law firm that counters this narrative with a strategic understanding of how marketing should create both growth and sales, or what we call Legal Marketing Nutrition (LMN), runs their law firm on a more confident and relaxed course.
We’ve created an interactive resource for you to get your very own Legal Marketing Nutrition Report for your law firm. Your law firm marketing strategy, when developed through the lens of LMN, assures your business will have what it needs to succeed to today, as well as last till tomorrow.
If most of the people you are neck-and-neck with today are running a marathon like a sprint, they’ll be collapsed by the side of the road in two weeks without a strategy. Don’t try to keep up with them. Instead, factor strategy into your Marketing Marathon Mindset, keep up with your LMN, and stay the course!
Another benefit to running a marketing marathon vs. a sprint is that you have a holistic understanding of not only what it tactics it takes to survive the long distances you’ve committed to, but also where in the course you need to implement those tactics and by how much.
Marketing metrics (lead tracking, Cost Per Case, Cost Per Lead, channel ROI) and business metrics (CRM, intake conversions, sales and profit) are both critical to measuring and optimizing your law firm development tactics.
Along with running a marathon like a sprint, most law firm owners are failing to capture the most basic marketing metrics at their firm. Our informal polls show that almost 60 percent of law firms currently have no idea how to measure CPL or CPC, both essential metrics to understanding marketing effectiveness.
Brand Growth and Sales Activation, the two modalities of law firm development as outlined in the LMN, must be measured in different ways to demonstrate their impacts. A branded ad campaign won’t perform the same as a direct sales campaign.
It’s safe to assume that a large portion of your constituent runners on this path are not measuring their law firm’s business performance. So even just the beginnings of an attempt to measure marketing effectiveness at your law firm can lead to insights and curiosity that could drive the changes necessary for advancement. Thankfully we’ve created several content resources that address How to Measure Marketing ROI in Your Law Firm.
Accountability – there may be no terminology more abused within marketing and business language these days. Not because there aren’t enough reliable people running law firms, it’s that there aren’t more curious ones empowered to make decisions.
Take a look at all the evidence above. Lawyers running their own businesses, facing a saturated market, in a profession with a massively high attrition rate, are focused on keeping the lights on, short-term gains, and running the race like a sprint. In these bustling law firms, there just simply isn’t time to create a brand, define a marketing strategy, define expectations and outcomes, and then decide how you’ll continue to check on how it’s all progressing, let alone find time to get curious as to if the whole operation works at all. But in order to maintain your Marketing Marathon Mindset, curiosity is the exact attribute you need to develop.
How can you cultivate the final step of the Marketing Marathon Mindset – maintenance – to ensure that your marketing strategies continue to maintain their pace while perennially developing new opportunities to grow your book of business? Curiosity.
Curiosity is maniacally encouraged in the beginning stages of developing any idea or concept, but curiosity isn’t really encouraged throughout the lifecycle of those ideas or concepts. Too much curiosity can rattle the advances you’ve made, leading to unintended consequences. (Falling off a horse midstream, killing the cat, and opening unclosable boxes.)
The further we advance in our businesses, the further we dial down the curiosity, so as to seemingly increase stability and decrease the likeliness for failure.
Curiosity-killing-as-a-survival-strategy is a way to ensure your law firm makes it to tomorrow, but it’s not the way to ensure it will thrive into next year.
Law firms are not solid, foundational, non-changing entities, nor is the goal to become a machine. A service industry like law is dependent on clients, and clients are people. So the landscape your law firm operates in and the strategies necessary to expand your business and maintain market share change as the habits and behaviors of people and culture change. Curiosity is the only way to monitor and/or anticipate these huge cultural changes, both outside and inside your law firm, that can connect you with new ways to build your book.
Adopting curiosity as the engine that powers your accountability structures is perhaps the best way to ensure you stay in the legal marketing marathon for a good long while. Lawyers should develop the curiosity to notice patterns in culture, in advertising, in their law firms, and use that curiosity to create new goals, campaigns, and business models. Curiosity can help your law firm maintain its rightful place, and pace, in the marketing marathon.
SO, ARE YOU READY?
We hope we’ve convinced you to switch gears in the way you chart the course for your law firm development, and address your own symptoms of Restless Marketing Syndrome along the way.
By adopting the Marketing Marathon Mindset and developing your marketing strategy around the mantra “short-term gains don’t make long-term brands,” the path toward establishing a lasting legacy, making long-term gains, and leaving your current competition in the dust, will be crystal clear.