How to Build a Successful Law Firm Marketing Department: 5 Strategies from Jill S. Weber

Law firm marketing has evolved into far more than event planning or newsletter publishing, insists Jill S. Weber, who is President-Elect of the Legal Marketing Association and Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer for Stinson Leonard Street. She says marketers in her association have significantly improved client service while making a powerful impact on revenue.

“What really impresses me in our association is how many people I meet who can share specific case studies where they have driven meaningful change in their firm, or meaningful bottom-line impacts,” explains Jill. “It isn’t just marketing as promotion; it’s how to improve the client experience in a way that benefits the firm’s bottom line.”

We sat down with her to get her thoughts on what it takes to build this kind of strong marketing department and outlined five here.

1. Know what you’ll need from your marketing team.

Do you want someone to handle traditional marketing activities like advertising, events or a website? Or, do you want someone who is going to generate leads? If it’s the latter, look for:

  • A business development executive who is very well connected in the community and knows executives and legal-buying decision makers at a variety of companies, or
  • A business development professional who can help attorneys develop and execute personal business development plans.

No matter what you require, establish individual goals for each role and tie measurable outcomes to them, she advises.

2. Don’t Understaff.

The rule of thumb is one marketing professional for every 20 to 25 attorneys, so a 100-attorney firm would have four to five marketing professionals. However, that depends on what you will expect from your team, notes Jill.

For instance, don’t expect a marketer to develop an individual business marketing plan for 100 attorneys, from associate to partner, coach them on execution, and create a website and host events as well. One person can’t do it all.

3. Structure the department around core marketing competencies.

“I have seen a variety of different organizational approaches,” says Jill.  “It is going to depend on size of firm, so I don’t think there’s any one-size-fits-all.”

Instead, she advises to focus on core competencies.

“If you’re in a small firm you’re going to need someone who is a jack of all trades and master of none,” she explains. “Meaning they understand how to manage public relations, but they may not be a public relations person; they may outsource that to a PR professional.”

Core competencies of law firm marketing include:

  • Business Development. “That’s working with individual clients, making sure you meet their needs, you understand their needs, and you’re delivering superior client service,” she says.
  • Communications.  This can include the gamut of marketing communications activities from electronic newsletters to public relations to attorney biographies to traditional advertising.
  • Marketing technology. This includes websites, email automation and customer relationship management systems. “This may or may not reside in the marketing department depending on the firm’s size,” notes Jill, “but it needs to be considered as part of an overall department delivery.”
  • Client Services. “By that I mean what you’re doing to solicit feedback from the client, stay close to your client, and establish client service standards that are all part of a forward-thinking marketing department in today’s law firms,” she points out.

4. Make sure the department leadership is strategic.

“You don’t want an order taker. You want someone who is going to be strategically thinking about how to grow the firm’s relationships,” says Jill.

She describes that as someone who can bring the knowledge of the entire firm together to better serve clients. For instance, one partner may have an agribusiness client and another is an environmental attorney who knows about new regulation that affects agribusiness. A strategic marketer will connect them to develop a plan to educate the agribusiness client about the new regulation.

Further attributes of a strong marketing team are:

  • Technological acumen. Jill says marketers should be on the forefront of how technology can impact the legal profession. “Clients increasingly expect people to be technologically savvy,” says Jill. “So you need someone who is going to be really adept at understanding technology and forward-thinking about how this technology can benefit the practice of law.”
  • Strong writing abilities. “No matter what role you’re playing in a marketing department, the ability for business communication is really critical,” Jill notes. “Even when people are in the same office, we communicate a lot via email. So you need someone who’s succinct and accurate. After all, the written word is stock and trade for lawyers.”
  • Good interpersonal skills. “In an ideal situation, when you hire someone they have to be very adaptive to the attorney’s needs,” says Jill. “So you might be coaching someone who is extremely introverted. You don’t want to be telling them to go to cocktail parties and network. On the other hand, if you’re around somebody who is extremely extroverted and is very good at building relationships one on one, you don’t want to advise them to write a bunch of articles for a legal journal.” Adapting to each attorney’s needs and style will help build the rapport and relationships that will ensure attorneys will trust and move forward with marketing recommendations.

5. Set them up for success.

Jill says the most successful marketers are the ones whose leadership allows them to spend less time filling charity tables and more time helping lawyers better manage client relationships. An example is delivering research to each attorney’s inbox explaining current trends for individual clients or their industries.

“If you tell a client ‘I just read this happened in the industry. Would you like me to get on the phone for a quick call at no charge?’ That client is going to be very loyal if you do that over and over again,” says Jill.

“When it comes to client relationships, one size fits one,” she continues.  “Those activities where marketing professionals can do more and more to support lawyers (in building client relationships) will generate more revenue than bringing everybody into a room for a seminar or blasting out an email newsletter to 2,000 people that comes from the firm but doesn’t have a personalized introduction from the relationship partner.

“The more firm leaders give marketing professionals an opportunity to create more personalized communications, the more successful both the marketing professional and the revenue-generating capability of what they’re doing will be.”

Next up, Tim Corcoran, Principal, Corcoran Consulting Group, will discuss share his perspective on  what it takes for a law firm to market itself successfully. Subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss it.

 

Leave a comment