Ask the Experts at LMA
What to Do When You Can’t Afford a Marketing Director
Question: We’re a small firm and can’t afford to hire a full-time marketing director. Are there other options we should consider?
Alycia Sutor: Most definitely! Firms just beginning to think about their marketing and business development efforts often take a “toe in the water” approach. Some firms have initially started with an internal resource who can devote a limited number of hours to marketing-related projects. Often this helps a law firm get started on some of the more tactical marketing activities, like building a bio and practice description library or helping with the execution of specific events or initiatives. This approach gives firms an opportunity to assess their marketing and business development objectives and then identify the staffing and expertise needs over time.
Other firms have hired outside consultants who can act as a “marketing director for hire,” usually on a limited but dedicated basis. The benefit of working with external consultants is that you can access very experienced experts on a more limited basis until the firm is ready to take on a full-time employee. Once a full-time resource is needed, the consultant will often help design the role and even help with the recruiting or hiring process.
Of course, either way, tapping into LMA resources and the member network will be helpful in accessing best practices and data that can help build the case for marketing and business development expertise at a dedicated level.
Alycia Sutor (@Alycia_Akina) is a managing director at Akina, a GrowthPlay Company. At Akina, Alycia helps lawyers and law firms elevate their practices by helping them improve their business development, leadership and innovation strategies and skills.
Keith Wewe: A firm without a full-time marketing director conveys the impression of a firm without someone constantly monitoring the brand strategy to ensure it aligns with everything you do. You’ll want someone doing that. But fear not, you have many available options. Here are the top two I recommend.
1. Hire a strategy consultant. This person will come in and work with lawyers to understand the key selling points of the firm and how those differentiate your firm from your competitors. Once the brand strategy is set, have your consultant create a roadmap for you to infuse the strategy into your marketing content, website, events and other marketing-related initiatives. If done correctly, it’s a three- to four-month project.
But note that the project doesn’t end after the initial deliverable. You’ll need a strong person on staff to drive the project and you’ll want your consultant to take a fresh look at the strategy and roadmap about 12 to 18 months after launch to determine if course corrections are needed.
Don’t have a strong driver on staff? See approach two.
2. Hire a fractional CMO. This person is also a consultant who will come in and work with lawyers as dictated above, but he or she is both strategy consultant and project driver. They likely own their own consultancy, have worked in-house at a law firm (so they understand the unique dynamics of the legal vertical) and currently work for several other law firms. You’ll keep this person on a monthly retainer and they’ll do everything noted above.
Already have a strong driver or part-time marketing coordinator in-house? See approach one.
There are benefits to each approach, you just need to determine which one is right for you. And don’t hesitate to reach out for help in determining the right fit.
Keith Wewe (@kwewe) is VP of strategy and solutions at Content Pilot, a marketing, technology and business development consultancy for law firms, and the current president of the Legal Marketing Association. In his role at Content Pilot, he works side-by-side with internal firm resources to successfully implement their website, proposal center, branding strategy and identity solutions.
That’s a Good Question! What’s Yours?
No, not every law firm has a professional marketer or business development coach on staff to answer questions. So send us your questions via email or in the comment section below, and we’ll pass them on to the experts at the Legal Marketing Association. Watch for the best responses here in Ask the Expert.