BEGINS WITH THE MARKET
Not With The Firm
Still doing your firm’s long range or marketing plan the old-fashioned way – by starting your plan with “What kind of firm do we want to be?” Planning is difficult enough without wasting time doing it wrong. Decades of experience makes it clear that the first line in the marketing plan begins with knowing your prospective market. I spelled it out in the first article I wrote on the subject in The Virginia Accountant in 1980 – and it still holds true.
In that first article, I wrote that marketing is comprised of four things...
· Know and define your market.
· Define your service.
· Define the tools of marketing that would work best for your market and your firm
· Manage the tools of marketing
I would add, today, one more thing – define your objectives in terms of the first three bullet points. I said it in 1980, and time has proven that it’s still true.
· Know and define your market. That is, your existing and potential market for the services you have to offer.
· Define your service, in terms of the market for your skills, specialties and experience, as well as your ability to serve that market. Quality and value don’t count. In a law firm, they’re a given.
· Define your objectives, in terms of the market needs, as well as your ability to meet those needs.– If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know how to get there?
· Define the tools of marketing that would work best for your market and your firm. There are a finite group of marketing tools. What counts is not the ability to use all of them, but your ability to define the ones that would work best in your market, and then further define them in terms of your ability to use those tools artfully and effectively.
· Manage the tools of marketing, by using your tools artfully and skillfully, by casting them in a strategy that addresses the needs of your market..
The way a plan built this way works is to bring pragmatic focus to the plan. If each of these steps is conceived thoughtfully and realistically, your plan then becomes viable and productive.
An important point. While a marketing plan is ultimately for a firm, it’s more realistic and effective to make a separate plan for each individual practice, taking into consideration that the market for each practice is different and distinct. When this is done well, not only does the plan work for the practice, but the results redound to the entire firm. It doesn’t seem to work the other way around.
Traditionally, developing the marketing plan has been the job of the marketing director and staff. And when non-marketers get involved, it can be disastrous. What you usually get is wishful thinking based on mythology, which dooms a plan from the beginning. True, partner participation is mandatory, at least for the substance of the plan and its relevance to the needs of the market. but this participation should be based on the skills each practice group has to offer.
What is happening now, though, is the growing marketing sophistication of lawyers and accountants allows them to contribute realistic and professional marketing skills. I report this trend in Professional Services Marketing 3.0, which details the evolution of marketing since it first became legal under the U.S. Supreme Court 1977 decision, Bates v State Bar of Arizona. I call this phase Marketing 1.0. Marketing 2.0 is what happened in the interim years since Bates, during which marketing began to evolve to its current state. We are still in that stage. This evolutionary process, which is impelled by the growing need to compete with frank promotional activity, is not only changing the face of marketing, but generating new law and accounting firm structures to better compete. Under 3.0, firms are changing structures and business plans for increased productivity and greater focus on client, rather than on firm needs. The focus on client needs is based on value to the client, rather than to the firm and its needs.
It’s through this kind of planning and practice that that an evolutionary process also begins in the contemporary firm. This is resulting in moving from the long-held traditional firm that resembles the Dickensian model, to one that’s more streamlined and not surprisingly, more productive and profitable than the traditional firm.
Should marketing planning begin with “what kind of firm, and how big, do we want to be? “ Not if you really want to be your kind of firm, and more profitable as well.