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ONE OF A KIND

Legal Marketing Strategy Made Simple: What, Who, Where, How and When

By Jay Harrington

Every legal practice needs a simple legal marketing strategy.

Many lawyers want to build a legal practice. They desire the autonomy and financial rewards that come with a robust book of business. But they get stuck because they don’t have an actionable strategy in place, and if they do, its complexity impedes progress.

Legal Marketing Strategy

When it comes to building a practice, especially if you’re just getting started, complexity is the enemy. You need a simple strategy — a one-page plan — that prioritizes rapid action you can build on.

Let’s dig in and discuss the What, Who, Where, How and When of legal marketing strategy.

The Benefits of Simplicity

In the mid-1990s, Jeff Bezos distilled a groundbreaking idea into a simple pitch that transformed the retail world: an online bookstore with limitless inventory. This vision, straightforward enough to be sketched out on a single page, or even the back of a napkin, helped Amazon raise capital and became the foundation of its strategy. A one-page legal marketing plan can similarly streamline your path to growth, leveraging simplicity to overcome common hurdles lawyers face when building a legal practice, which include:

  1. Paralysis by Analysis. By focusing on the simple, core elements of building your practice, you can sidestep the trap of overthinking and the procrastination it causes.
  2. Lack of Motivation. The “goal gradient hypothesis” suggests that seeing progress boosts motivation. A simplified marketing plan makes each step toward your goal feel achievable, turning abstract ambitions into a series of tangible actions.
  3. Stuck in Routines. Amazon’s journey from a bookstore to a global retail giant was fueled by its ability to adapt to feedback and market changes quickly. Similarly, a one-page legal marketing plan fosters an actionable feedback loop. It enables you to swiftly adjust your tactics based on results (good or bad) and emerging opportunities. In other words, instead of getting stuck in your head trying to determine the perfect strategy, you can quickly test your ideas in the real world and pivot or double down as appropriate.

Now, let’s discuss how to build your one-page marketing plan and put it into action.

Step One: The Strategic Foundation (What, Who and Where)

Crafting a focused marketing strategy hinges on three critical components: What you offer, who you serve, and where you engage them. This clarity ensures your marketing efforts reach and resonate with your intended audience.

The What: Clarifying Your Unique Value Proposition

The “What” centers on the specific legal problem you solve. It goes beyond merely listing your practice area; it involves articulating the unique value you bring to your clients. This isn’t about what you do but how what you do benefits your clients. For instance, rather than stating, “I specialize in litigation,” you could say, “I help small businesses navigate the complexities of employment law to avoid costly litigation and maintain a productive workplace.” This approach makes your value proposition clear, showing potential clients exactly how you can help them.

The Who: Identifying Your Target Market

The “Who” involves identifying your ideal client. This is about focusing your marketing efforts on a specific segment of the market that will most benefit from your services. Understanding who your ideal clients are allows you to tailor your messaging to speak directly to their needs, concerns and aspirations. Are they small businesses in a particular industry? Are they individuals with specific legal challenges? The more precisely you can define your “Who,” the more effective your marketing will be.

The Where: Pinpointing the Right Ecosystem of Attention

The “Where” determines the platforms and channels where your target clients are most likely to see and engage with your marketing efforts. This requires an understanding of your clients’ habits and preferences. Where do they seek information related to your services? Is it through industry-specific publications, professional networks, social media platforms, or certain types of events and conferences? Identifying these channels — the ecosystem of your audience’s attention — is crucial for ensuring that your marketing efforts reach your target audience.

Each of these components plays a vital role in developing an efficient and targeted legal marketing strategy. Without a clear “What,” your value proposition may be lost amid the noise. Without a defined “Who,” your efforts may fail to connect with the individuals who need your services most. And without knowing “Where,” even the most compelling message may never reach its intended audience. 

Step Two: From Strategy to Tactics (How) 

With your “What,” “Who” and “Where” established, the “How” is your action plan — the specific methods you’ll employ to engage your target market. This is about choosing the marketing activities that not only align with your legal marketing strategy but also play to your strengths and preferences.

This could involve a mix of content creation, such as writing articles that address the legal issues your Who faces, being active in social media discussions within the platforms identified in your Where, or hosting webinars to dive deeper into topics of interest.

These and other tactics you may employ can be effective because they scale. For example, a single thought-leadership article or social media post can reach hundreds or even thousands of people in your target audience. 

However, it’s also important to do things that don’t scale, such as consistently reaching out to and engaging with the most important, high-potential contacts in your network — your key contacts.

When you have one-on-one interactions with clients and prospective clients, you’re engaging in “business development.” While these efforts don’t scale because you’re investing your time to stay top of mind and build trust with one person (as opposed to many via a scalable marketing tactic like content creation), the investment creates a higher potential for ROI because it offers the opportunity to build a deeper relationship.

(Read: “Unscalable Business Development.”)

I suggest lawyers create a list of 20 to 30 key contacts — a VIP list — and aim to have some form of value-added interaction with each key contact monthly or at least quarterly. This may take the form of sending an email with a link to an insightful article, introducing two people in your network who would benefit from knowing each other or extending an invitation to lunch or an event.

Your “How” tactics should be simple and repeatable. For example, you could write long-form articles, create short-form social media content, and consistently reach out to key contacts.

It’s important to keep in mind that the effectiveness — not to mention the consistency — of your How also depends on leveraging your personal strengths and interests. If you enjoy and excel at public speaking, webinars and presentations might be where you make the greatest impact. If you have a knack for writing, thought leadership articles could be your mainstay.

The key is choosing methods you’re comfortable with and excited about, making your marketing efforts sustainable. 

Step Three: The Cadence of Your Efforts (When)

This brings us to the final component of your strategy: “When” — the cadence of your tactics.

The universal law of compounding suggests that small, incremental gains, when consistently applied over time, can yield enormous results. Time accelerates returns in financial investments, and in building your practice, so you should harness the power of compounding, which requires consistency, time and patience in your marketing and business development efforts.

The alternative is to take a scattershot approach to business development and marketing where you dabble in lots of different areas, try to communicate to many disparate audiences, and inconsistently take action. 

Establish a schedule that defines not just How you’ll engage with your audience but also When. By way of example, let’s revisit the tactics discussed above and assign some deadlines to ensure you remain accountable to your goals: Write one long-form article per month, create two short-form social media posts per week, and consistently reach out to three key contacts every week. Committing in advance to When you will execute your How will help you stay on track.

Step Four: Review and Refine

The journey to building a profitable law practice doesn’t end with the execution of your strategy. Continuous review and refinement are essential for ensuring your tactics remain effective, relevant and aligned with your objectives. 

Review your efforts regularly to gauge their effectiveness in real-time. This involves analyzing engagement metrics, tracking client inquiries and conversions, and gathering feedback directly from your target audience. These insights provide a clear picture of what’s working and what isn’t, enabling you to make informed decisions about where to invest your resources.

Think of this process as a cycle of continual improvement. With each iteration — review and refine — you enhance the precision of your strategy. This cycle fosters learning and growth and allows you to tailor your efforts to your audiences’ preferences, thereby increasing your effectiveness.

It’s time to pull out your legal pad and answer these five critical questions: What? Who? Where? How? When?

It only takes one page to get started. Once it’s complete, quickly pivot to taking action. Don’t wait until you feel fully confident — action breeds confidence. Don’t delay because you think you have more to learn — the best lessons come from experience.

(Read: “Consistent Action, Not a Perfect Plan, Is What’s Required to Build a Successful Legal Practice.”)

Opportunity awaits. And with your one-page strategy in place, you’ll be ready to seize it.

Image ©iStockPhoto.com

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Jay Harrington Jay Harrington

Jay Harrington is the owner of Harrington Communications, a leading thought-leadership PR and marketing agency that specializes in helping law firms and lawyers build awareness, influence and new business. Jay is the author of three books for lawyers on issues related to business and professional development, including “The Productivity Pivot,” “The Essential Associate” and “One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Practice.” He podcasts at The Thought Leadership Project and writes a weekly email newsletter. Previously, he practiced law at Skadden Arps and Foley & Lardner. Follow him @JayHarrington75.

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