When it comes to marketing strategy, the internet offers tons of advice – everything from how to promote on social media to which automation platform you should use. However, much of this information is geared toward marketers: people who already understand the core concepts, techniques, and applications modern marketers use for brand management, lead generation, and analytics.
Unfortunately, small to mid-sized law firms often struggle to market themselves effectively. Hiring an in-house marketing expert can be costly and difficult to justify, but agencies usually aren’t the answer either. Finding one that truly understands the industry, from its driving factors to the ethics of legal advertising, presents its own set of challenges. More than that, managing the relationship can easily become a drain on time and focus, and when it’s all said and done, the expense can be as significant as that of a full-time employee.
There is another option, though. An entrepreneurial, team-centric, daring sort of approach. One that attorneys, amid all the business of litigating and practice management, might not have considered.
Bootstrapping your In-House Marketing Department
At first, it might seem impractical, even impossible, but in fact, a small to mid-size firm can absolutely succeed with DIY marketing, provided three key elements are present:
- A company culture firmly grounded in teamwork, respect, and ongoing learning
- Clear, measurable goals
- A commitment to providing necessary resources and recognizing success
The basic premise is simple: your attorneys and admin staff form a project team or committee that handles marketing. The team capitalizes on native strengths, talents, and interests, and crafts a marketing strategy around them. Then you iterate and learn as you go. It won’t always be perfect, but like most things, it gets better with practice.
Roll Your Own Marketing: A Playbook for Small Firms
First, decide what you want to achieve. Make it concrete and measurable, and make sure it’s reasonably attainable. For example, set your sights on gaining five new followers on social media each month, or on acquiring three new leads in a target industry each quarter.
Next, create a team. Identify strengths and talents your people have, and map them to your goals. Perhaps one of the partners can start a blog, and another has some experience in graphic design. These abilities can feed a content engine that attracts clients by demonstrating your expertise. Or maybe one of your associates likes going live on Facebook. Videos are a powerful communication medium – and for most situations today, amateur videography is fine. Thirty minutes to develop a script and thirty minutes on camera, and you’ve got an engaging piece that shows prospects who you are and what you can do. Round out the team with a project manager to help you keep your goals and your schedule on track, and you’re on your way to DIY marketing magic.
Third, make an investment in execution:
- Estimate how much time your team will need to achieve their goals, and determine whether it’s reasonable and practical. You may need to adjust your expectations, add resources, or both. Be ruthlessly honest about this part.
- Get your team the time, tools, and training they need. Self-guided courses, YouTube demos, tutorial blogs, and webinars are great, free resources. And don’t overlook your Bar Association – they’re a great source of information and ideas.
- Invest in the tools. Whether it’s a graphic design platform, a WordPress site, or a light kit and a lapel mic, a small amount of money will go a long way towards setting your team up for success.
Finally, be realistic. You can’t expect one person to be the writer, videographer, brand ambassador, and social media manager all at the same time – especially when they’re already pulling double duty. More than that, you can’t expect someone to succeed in tasks where they have absolutely no knowledge or aptitude. Just as you wouldn’t ask a patent lawyer to handle divorce cases, you can’t expect the office introvert to be a natural on camera.
Playbook 2.0: Beyond the Bootstrap
As your team gains experience, you can set your sights higher. Try turning transcripts of your videos into blogs, asking your attorneys to post LinkedIn stories at the conference they’re attending, or even launching a podcast. Hire outside experts as your strategy expands – ad hoc support from freelancers is a great way of accessing talent and expertise at minimal cost.
Bootstrapping your marketing program might seem like a tall order, but in small and mid-sized firms, everyone knows that success means wearing more than one hat. For the determined firm, a successful, bootstrapped marketing engine is entirely within reach. All that’s required is time, dedication, and a little creative thinking.