Most people cringe at the thought of putting one together. Attorney business development plans are nothing new. Everyone has told us to do them – from marketing departments to business books. Even when not told, it seems like a good idea to have a “plan” to get new clients and grow our existing books. And, over the years, most of us have even created a lawyer marketing plan. We might have even felt energized with our creative juices flowing when putting the ideas on paper. I guarantee you that, when you wipe the dust off those marketing plans, they are filled with some great starting places for building a great book of business. Another guarantee: if you develop and implement an effective lawyer marketing plan, you will develop business.
Most Attorney Marketing Plans Do Not Work
So if they can build our books and most every lawyer has been exposed to attorney development plans, why do they gather dust and never really implemented? It is really simple – most attorney marketing plans do not work. Don’t worry – it’s not your fault (mostly anyway). Though we’re told to put them together, no one is really ever taught how to do it successfully – that is taught by someone who has successfully developed a large book of business because of their personal attorney marketing plan. (That task, if you ever have gotten guidance, was probably left to a marketing staffer that is well intended, but missing the key experience of closing the deal.)
Here are three tips to develop your own lawyer marketing plan.
Tip 1: Your Lawyer Marketing Plan Must Set Very Specific and Measurable Goals
As lawyers, we’re taught to think big picture. Big picture is important and necessary, but successful lawyer marketing plans require plotting out the details. Somehow, most lawyer marketing plans are more theoretical than practical. For example, a plan may be designed to “obtain new defense personal injury cases with injuries in restaurants – through insurance panels and direct contacts.” That is a great start and the goal is pretty specific, but the plan doesn’t provide guidance. The “how’s” and “when’s” are left unanswered.
To answer those questions, a successful attorney development plan will:
Identify each step required to achieve the goal. This makes us think through the practical steps. Sometimes it will cause us to re-evaluate the goal (maybe it’s too aggressive or not aggressive enough) early on. For the above example, our specifics might be: 1) make list of restaurant contacts; 2) research competition that has handled similar matters; 3) research and list insurance carriers; 4) identify adjusters and arrange meetings.
Set alternative steps for accomplishing the goal. There are always several paths to a goal, and many times we run into stumbling blocks. But I have found that those that have a back-up plan or two keep at it and are successful. If you only have one plan and it doesn’t pan out, you might just give up – feeling you did as much as you could. In this example, while getting on the “panels” and arrange a meeting with the targets, you might also want to look to provide the adjusters (who make the decision to hire you) with something of value (a training or presentation) that they can pass along to their insureds and your future clients. This is a win-win proposition and a great back up.
Set regular deadlines for each step – and meet them. This is critical to success. And a key that is often overlooked – you must set a task for at least every two weeks. The key to lawyer marketing is to keep the ball rolling. You have other deadlines and things going on, but this is a must. (This is one of the reasons why attorneys hire coaches – we are good at setting productive tasks and following up; sometimes we’ll even help you with your homework!)
Regularly measure performance, and make adjustments. Looking back at your plan, what you have accomplished, and what you need to do is another key step. I suggest that you re-evaluate at least monthly or task by task, which should be every two weeks. Adjust and fine tune as necessary.
Tip 2: Effective Legal Marketing Must Have Short-Term Results
Results matter. To keep your attorney development plan effective and alive, I always suggest that one of your goals is to ensure a short-term success. And, I don’t define “success” as some feel good; I mean real, bottom line, money in your pocket success. This is what development is all about, and if you experience short-term success, you are more likely to continue working on lawyer marketing and achieve long-term successes too.
These are a couple of short-term goals that I suggest:
Look at Your Numbers. If you are like me, when you first heard the term “realization rate,” it triggers the eyelids to lower. But, when in management, I learned the true definition – getting paid for what you already do without doing more work. What? Yes. As a development coach, I often set the short-term goal of raising an attorney’s realization rate (bottom line cash in door) by 4-5% within 30 days. And, I do not take failure well – so, we accomplish that goal over and over. Again, this is money in your pocket without doing any extra work. (Call for a free consultation to get working on details.)
Expand Work For Existing Client. To be more specific, I work with attorneys in partnering with their existing clients to bring in two more matters (for that client or for one of the client’s contacts) in the first month. Each relationship is unique and will require a specific game plan, but this is one of the easiest and most satisfying short term goals to accomplish. (Of course, this short term goal should become a recurring monthly goal as well!)
Real Accountability Required
Study after study has shown that if you are accountable to someone else, you are more likely to produce results. More surprisingly, people are even more accountable to people they don’t know as well – maybe the excuses won’t work. Of course, we believe that this is where coaching is key. You have an objective, outsider that has built a large book of business that is willing to share these methods and keep you on track. Well worth the money invested. Even if we are not the right fit, we think hiring an experienced coach is essential.