Many firms acknowledge the importance of a marketing plan but so few firms invest the time in making one.
Law firms are the worst culprits. The whole year firms receive marketing mail shots from publications asking for A&A (articles and advertising) often generating work for partners as they discuss the relative merits of each new publication. This would have all been avoided in a single meeting at the start of the year if a budget and plan had been put in place.
The essential questions behind any marketing plan are; “What are the Objectives?”, “Who are our target market?”, “Which are the most effective channels to reach them?”, “What budget is needed to achieve these goals that fits within the context of the firms total revenue”.
The objectives of any marketing action is to generate new business, but particularly in professional services the topic of brand building is discussed more frequently in board rooms. Measuring the growth of a brand is nebulous, but evidence can be found in the minds of your existing clients. Call your top 20 clients and ask them about “the level of service they received”, “what words they would use to describe your firm?”, “What work do they plan to send to you in 2014″!!
The essence of target markets analysis is segmentation, breaking the wider market into manageable slices that can be identified, and ultimately worked with. In the FMCG space, this analysis has been discussed in length for the last 30 years, however it is a newer issue for professional services. Law firms, have natural segments of national/international clients and Corporates/Funds. Many Luxembourg law firms who benefit from receiving referrals, can also segment their market between third party referrers and end-users.
Once you have decided upon your segments, often dictated by your existing client base, make a judgement call upon which segment is most likely to provide the best R.O.I for your marketing budget.
The initial question was “Is a marketing plan important?”. It is not just important it is essential; not only will it save you time, help the firm focus on the key questions behind its business, help more marketing focused partners convince more conservative partners to become involved. It will enable you to agree a budget for the year, allowing you to delegate the day-to-day decision making to a marketing manager/agency thus freeing time for Partners. After all, time is money.