Leveraging social media, creating authentic content is key
By Kelly Caplan
Originally published here: https://milawyersweekly.com/news/2020/01/30/mapping-success-make-your-marketing-plan-agile-adaptable/
New clients can appear at any time, and once-promising prospects can disappear just as quickly. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all marketing plan, there are steps that will generate results.
The time to plan is before your business slows, according to John Reed, consultant, strategist and founder of Rain BDM.
If you don’t have a plan in place, “prepare for another lawyer to come along and eat your lunch,” he said. “Unless you are absolutely certain your clients will be clients for life, you can’t afford not to invest in business development and personal marketing activities.”
Roy Sexton, director of marketing at Clark Hill PLC, said attorneys need to build a plan instead of waiting until the roof caves in.
“Sit down with a blank page with your marketing team first, and map out a plan together,” he said. “Setting two or three top-line annual goals, and then figuring out the quarterly activity to accomplish is the best blend here.”
Mark Winter, president and founding partner of Identity, agreed, adding that marketing is a process, not an event.
“It takes discipline, commitment and continuity in execution,” he noted. “Build a five-year vision, a one-year plan, and set quarterly goals that pulse towards those longer-term objectives.”
Reed said smart attorneys and firms manage and update their plans often so they can be properly positioned when new business emerges.
“Make a date with your plan at least every month, modifying and pivoting as needed,” he said. “Don’t just keep it on your computer — print it out, mark it up, and keep it on your desk or pinned to your wall to ensure you refer to it regularly.”
Winter added that effective marketing plans are those that can scale up and down based on the attorney’s or firm’s capacity.
“There is no shortage of well-thought-out marketing plans on shelves and in drawers in firms big and small,” he said. “But it should never go dormant. We know how the pendulum can swing.”
Content is key
Key to developing your marketing plan is creating — and strategically sharing — content, which enables attorneys and firms to have a much larger, yet targeted, focus.
“Get interviewed for articles or write thought leadership and distribute that content to local media outlets, to clients directly, and on social media,” Sexton said.
However, some attorneys may find it challenging to post regularly, or even to develop their social media “voice.” When sharing content, it’s important to be mindful of exactly what message you’re sending.
“No matter what content lawyers share, they should make sure it reflects their brands — what they want to be known and valued for,” Reed stated. “Social networks give anyone a microphone to criticize, vent, or rant. Lawyers need to resist that temptation.”
When sharing content on social media, know your audience.
“The area in which we have seen professional service providers get into trouble is when they post or comment on controversial or polarizing subjects,” Winter said. “You need to weigh how important it is for you to use a public tool to share or reaffirm your personal values.”
Because content plays such a large role in legal marketing, it should be tailored for different audiences, whether they read, view, or listen to it.
“Video will become an even larger component of firm branding and attorneys’ personal marketing efforts,” Reed said. “Also, look for corporate social responsibility — lawyers and law firms giving back — to become a cornerstone of their marketing plans.”
Sexton added that demonstrating corporate responsibility and community engagement is essential for any successful campaign.
“Clients assume you’re a good lawyer, but they also want to know you’re a decent human being with whom they will have a good working relationship,” he said.
Younger attorneys may have an advantage when it comes to leveraging modern methods of connecting and communicating.
“As we continue to see the positive influence of millennials on the corporate conversation, it is increasingly important to embrace our common humanity,” Sexton said. “Regardless the platform you use to share that information, the basics of good storytelling and marketing still apply.”
Winter said firms should pay attention.
“The challenge and opportunity will be for the older lawyers running the firms to listen, lean in and let their younger counterparts integrate new tools into older firms,” Winter said. “If you do, you will see great results. If you don’t, you will not only get passed by, you may lose your young superstars to firms that will.”
Social media savvy
Social media, be it LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, is an important part of every attorney’s marketing toolkit.
While each platform has its selling points, too often, they aren’t being used to their full potential.
“LinkedIn is the best platform for lawyers but not for the reason that most attorneys think,” Winter said. “LinkedIn is a massive search engine, but most lawyers look at it simply as a newsfeed. If leveraged correctly, it is by far the best prospecting and referring tool available to a service professional today.”
Sexton likened social media to a “mixer that never ends,” noting that attorneys can engage with the people they want to reach. He added that social media interactions should be no different than sitting in a boardroom or hanging out on a golf course.
“Courtesy and social etiquette should always apply, regardless the venue,” he said. “For everything you promote about yourself, comment on someone else’s work, acknowledge them, or share their accomplishments. You’ll be surprised how far that will get you.”
Marketing and business development are like any other skills: they may come naturally to some but are dreaded by others.
The best approach, Sexton said, is the simple one: Be authentic.
“Don’t try to be all things to all people,” he said. “Too many attorneys make the mistake of thinking their bio has to represent any possible task they could take on. At worst, it gives the impression you will say or do anything to land a client. People don’t respond well to that.”
Perhaps the best way to present your authentic self to potential clients is through relationship building.
“Building relationships with prospective clients, referral sources, and other influencers should always be at the top of a lawyer’s business development activities,” Reed said. “Fostering connections is still the best way to become top-of-mind with those who may hire or refer you.”
Winter agreed, adding that while he uses a blend of old-school and new technologies with his clients, he keeps this simple adage in mind: People hire and do business with people they like.
“No ad or marketing tool can replace the ability to connect at a personal level,” he noted. “Nothing beats building and maintaining strong relationships with decision-makers, connectors and influencers.”
If you would like to comment on this story, email Kelly Caplan at firstname.lastname@example.org.