It’s July. Do you know how your marketing is doing?
In December, we wrote about 3 reasons why you didn’t achieve your marketing goals in 2014. Well, we’re now 6 months into 2015 and it’s a good time to look at how you’re doing and make sure you’re not making the same mistakes.
So for your mid-year marketing check, ask yourself these questions:
1. How well are you targeting your audience?
Did you take the time at the beginning of the year to prioritize the markets you wanted to go after? When you really think about it, you probably have at least a few audiences you can target for your services (different industries, referral sources, etc.). It’s unlikely you have an unlimited marketing budget so that means you have to pick and choose where to spend your resources. Do some research to determine who should be your top targets for the year. And then do more research to learn about their needs and interests, how to find them, where they get their information and how they make decisions. You want to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time.
2. Do you have specific goals and are you tracking results?
You should have very particular (and prioritized) objectives in mind that you want your marketing to help you obtain. This helps you to understand where to focus your marketing efforts and create benchmarks so you can monitor your progress. It might still be too soon to see the impact of your marketing in terms of actual new business signed this year. However, you may be seeing other indications that your message is effectively getting out to your audience. Are you seeing more web traffic, building your contact database, getting more calls, etc.? There are lots of ways to gauge progress. The first step though is setting short, mid, and long-term goals that are sufficiently specific for you to establish some way to measure improvement. Then remember that no matter how well you are doing, you should continue to track, test and revise your tactics.
3. Do you have a strategic marketing plan?
A marketing plan lets you think about your priorities and where and how you should focus your resources for the most impact. Without a plan, you run the risk of spending time and money on an assortment of different tactics without a clearly defined purpose. It also helps keep you honest and accountable. It’s too easy to start something and then let it drop. Putting it in writing reminds you that you thought it was worth investing in. You documented who you wanted to go after and why and how you would go about it. When you feel like it’s taking too long to see results or you’re tempted to spend the time and money on something else, read the plan to stay on track.
It’s July. How is your marketing doing?
How to find small firm marketing success – Part 2
Want to make the most of your marketing resources? In my last post, I shared 5 takeaways from a LMA small firm marketer roundtable. Here are 5 more tips to help any professional services firm find marketing success.
6. Repurpose all of your content. It can be very challenging to get firm members to write and speak so leverage everything they do. Someone wrote an article? Great, you can promote it as is, but also shorten it and put it out as 1 or more blog posts. Lengthen it or combine it with related content and make it a whitepaper. Turn it into a PowerPoint, webinar or video clips. Create other visuals like charts and infographics to highlight aspects of the article. Then post these different formats on your website as well as push them out via social media and email. That article will now have new life in several different formats and can be promoted over a long period of time to attract more people.
7. Manage expectations. Marketing takes time, effort and money, oftentimes more than partners would like. Writing, speaking, networking, meetings, follow up are a lot of work. And results may not be as dramatic or quick as some in the firm had hoped. That great article, speech, research study may not have brought in clients or gotten tons of press. But marketing isn’t a failure simply because there wasn’t an immediate or significant result. As mentioned in the last post, measure and track results. Look for small, but incremental changes. And realize that it’s seldom one single thing that definitively brings in business. You get clients by consistently making yourself visible and credible in a meaningful way that resonates with your prospects.
8. Share contacts across the firm. At some firms, members are reluctant to share their contacts. Everyone keeps their own, which creates a host of problems as well as limits firm-wide marketing efforts. With no centralized database, you can’t analyze and segment your contacts to better market to them. It may be difficult to monitor email metrics across the firm (opens, clicks, opt-outs, etc.). Individual members may not keep data up-to-date and may not be capturing the same information for each person. Also if something happens to that firm member, what happens to those contacts?
9. Share financial information. As with sharing contacts, the reluctance of firm members to share financial information, such as revenue and profitability, new business sources, etc., is problematic. Whatever the reason for withholding that information among the members, keeping it from marketers and outside consultants, can make it difficult for them to do their jobs. If you want them to advise you on how to grow revenue, they need an accurate picture of the business. Which practice groups are growing or the most profitable? Which members are bringing in the most/least business? The answers to these and other questions help determine priorities and allocation of resources. And when you are a small firm with limited resources you have to make the most of what you do.
10. Hire outside resources when needed and get quality help. Designers, writers, business and marketing consultants, public relations firms, etc. can help you with your marketing even on a small budget. They can take on the burden of certain tasks or introduce a different perspective. They also free up your time so you can focus on what you do best.
Hopefully these 10 tips will help you maximize your own marketing budget. Thanks to the LMA New York Chapter, Small Firm SIG chair and moderator Bruce Segall of Marketing Sense and panelists Michelle Birckhead of Chiesa, Shahinian and Giantomasi, Abby Fairman of Richards Kibbe & Orbe and Alan Levine of Levine Marketing Solutions as well as the other meeting attendees for their great tips.
How to find small firm marketing success – Part 1
Small firms may have fewer resources than larger firms, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as innovative, resourceful and successful in their marketing. At a recent Legal Marketing Association event, small firm marketers shared tips and advice on maximizing their marketing efforts. But you don’t need to be a small law firm to take advantage of these ideas. Here are some great takeaways for any professional services firm:
1. Define your unique value proposition. You don’t want to sound like everyone else so make sure you have a clear idea about what you offer clients that differentiates you from competitors. Think about where you have expertise, what are your niches, and where you provide the most value. If you need help, bring in an outside perspective to talk to you and your clients. And once you’ve done that, make sure your branding and content marketing strongly conveys and reinforces your difference.
2. Get internal staff involved. Engage staff and give them opportunities to contribute to your marketing. Of course, not everyone will be happy about the “opportunity.” Public praise is a great motivator as are small gifts. Also offer real benefits to them like learning new skills. Train administrative assistants to manage social media on behalf of members who don’t feel comfortable with it. Pay for classes for someone to learn design skills to help with small tasks.
3. Be smart about how you and others spend time. Prioritize, plan and organize. Create a written marketing plan. Establish an editorial calendar to make sure tasks are assigned and content deadlines are met. Set up procedures to help track and manage marketing activities and projects. But make sure you don’t have too many people involved or have staff with too many other responsibilities. Despite what I said above about leveraging internal staff, marketers should focus on marketing. Other staff should have their defined roles too. But when those last minute requests inevitably come in, you need to get help.
4. Constantly measure marketing results and share data about ROI. Too often firms will continue with specific marketing efforts long after they have ceased working. Sponsoring particular events, advertising in certain publications, and other tactics might have worked once and so the firm is comfortable with it and doesn’t want to stop. The way to combat this is to look at the results. If you sponsor a golf outing every year, but you haven’t gotten a client in years from it, ask yourself whether that money could be better spent elsewhere. If you’re a small firm marketer, present the ROI data to the firm members and then provide a list of alternative ways to spend that money. (Of course, if the firm hasn’t been tracking results at all, then you need to start.)
5. Think creatively about events. Large events aren’t always better. Offer to do events in client offices. Conduct smaller, more frequent, or highly targeted events at the firm. Also explore doing webinars. They are less costly and less time-consuming to produce. The turnaround time is also quicker to take advantage of new developments or hot topics. Virtual events can be a more interesting or engaging way to provide information to clients than the ubiquitous client update.
A small firm budget doesn’t have to mean small results. Plan carefully, try new things, and leverage your existing resources to improve your marketing. In my next blog post, I’ll cover more tips for small firm marketing success.
3 reasons why you didn’t achieve your marketing goals in 2014
As 2014 comes to a close, it’s time to look back at what you wanted to accomplish this year with your marketing and how well you succeeded. Disappointed in the results? Well, here are 3 common reasons why.
1. How well did you target your audience?
Most businesses have multiple potential audiences for their marketing. The problem is understanding and prioritizing the markets you want to go after and making sure your marketing is tailored for and promoted to that group.
How well did you select your target audience? Did you analyze what market segments were the strongest candidates for your business? Which ones seemed likely to grow or contract? Where you had the strongest relationships and expertise?
Maybe you knew clearly who you wanted to pursue, but how much did you know about them? It’s important to research and gather information about your audience’s needs, interests, challenges, etc. Explore the best ways to reach them. Be as specific as possible. For example, if typically you have to go through several gatekeepers before being hired by a company, identify the decision makers within these companies at each stage in the process. Then understand the pain points they are experiencing. How can you help them with their problems and build trust?
The better you understand your market, the better you can adapt your marketing materials and distribution so you can deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time.
2. Did you set specific goals?
Sure everyone’s ultimate goal is to grow their business, but how did you break that down? Were you specific about how much new business you wanted to bring in? How about client retention? What about profit margins and return on your marketing investment? Did you plan for which business areas had the most potential for growth? Which ones were stagnant or declining?
Along the way to growing your business, there are also other goals you might have set. Some examples include building brand awareness and trust, generating more or better quality leads, showcasing your thought leadership, educating clients and prospects, driving traffic to your website, engaging audiences through social media and many others.
Each of these goals has corresponding metrics to help measure your progress. Some of them are fairly straightforward, but others need to be well-thought out. Do you want to increase your website page views by 10% or do you want visitors to spend more time on your website and view more pages? How do you define whether you’re getting better quality leads from your marketing? Your metrics aren’t about whether you succeeded or failed. They are about helping you continually test, compare, revise and hone your tactics so you can improve results.
My point is that you should have had very particular (and prioritized) objectives in mind that you wanted your marketing to help you obtain. This helps you to understand where to focus your marketing efforts and create benchmarks to monitor how you’re doing. Without that, your marketing was probably less effective and directed than it could have been otherwise.
3. Did you have a strategic marketing plan?
In a strategic marketing plan you set out your goals and target audience as well as look at your business and financial situation. Then you identify and outline appropriate strategies and tactics. A marketing plan lets you think about your priorities and where and how you should focus your resources for the most impact.
Without a plan, you run the risk of spending time and money on an assortment of different tactics without a clearly defined purpose. Maybe some of those efforts will work. But what about the things that don’t work, or more likely, you’re not really sure what worked or what could have worked better. When you act without a marketing plan, you’re more likely to make ad hoc decisions. For example, let’s say you want to start a blog because everyone is doing it. If you start by thinking of your audience, goals and business situation, you can now more easily strategize what topics you want to cover, how you should promote and distribute it, and other ways to leverage the content. Or you may decide to go in another direction completely that fits your plan better. The plan helps you look at all the pieces in a logical way to maximize your investment.
What should you change in 2015?
Before you dive into the New Year, take some time to think about where to focus your efforts. Creating a marketing plan doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking especially if your business is small to mid-size. Start simple. Decide on a limited number of priorities with a well-defined market segment and develop your strategies around that. Determine a few tactics you want to test and establish metrics to gauge your results.
If you already have several marketing efforts in progress, think about how they fit together into an overall marketing plan. For example, let’s say you already have a monthly newsletter. What are your goals for it? Who is the audience? How does it fit into your overall strategic plan? What can you do to get better results? By thinking about it in this way you may see ways to tailor and exploit the newsletter in new ways.
Start 2015 right. Plan upfront for marketing success.
Good luck and Happy New Year!