Sun Tzu & The Art of Law: Capture New Clients Without Taking Prisoners
Let me start this rather lengthy article by saying just one thing: This information hasn’t been produced for lazy or broken people. If you’re looking for a way to keep the doors open and the lights on – and it has to work by this time next week – this article is absolutely not what you’ll want to read. If you’re too lazy to put in tens (or more) hours of work to get your marketing just right, this article isn’t for you either. It’s been written for lawyers who are serious about their marketing and want to produce a predictable, cost-effective system to consistently feed new clients into their growing legal practice. If that lawyer is you then read on.
We have met the enemy and he is us…
American cartoonist and animator Walt Kelly is often (wrongly) attributed with coining this now famous phrase. It derives from braggadocio during the War of 1812 in which Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry reported, “We have met the enemy and they are ours” to William Henry Harrison after the Battle of Lake Erie. Whatever the truth about who first said this, it is the truth. The very first enemy you’ll need to overcome in order to get your law practice marketing right is you. Before you read this article, I’d encourage you to set aside what you already think about marketing. Consider all of what you’re about to read, in context, later on – but please don’t begin the process of mentally deconstructing and fighting it until you’ve read the entire process through and given it due consideration.
The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle
The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle is a unique, seven-step process I have developed to assist lawyers with understating what they should be doing to get their marketing right. It provides a simple, no-nonsense process that anyone can easily follow. With that said, I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy. It’s going to require a considerable investment of time and effort on your part to bring it to life. You have been warned!
Part 1 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle – Understand Your Market
Most lawyers have some idea of who their market is. They couldn’t survive for long in business if they didn’t. What they often don’t know is who their best client is and what they look like. That makes it somewhere between difficult and impossible for your legal practice to target the clients you really want – and for whom you can probably add the greatest amount of value.
A good starting point in understanding your market is by asking yourself about these four key concepts:
Let’s step through each of these key concepts briefly.
What is the key service that you provide and who does it serve?
Suppose for a moment that you are running a legal practice and provide advice on several areas of the law. You need to ask yourself what key area of the law you specialise in, or wish to specialise in – then define exactly what kind of client that serves. You might come up with something like this:
My law practice specialises in providing advice on child custody disputes to parents, where communication between them has broken down.
Your statement will obviously be different to that depending upon what your practice does and who its clients are. The idea is to try and write a single sentence that captures your area of unique specialisation. This will provide you with your first clue about who your ideal client really is.
On the back of specialisation rides differentiation. In a nutshell, differentiation is the unique things that your practice does differently and/or better than anyone else. It’s all about the problem that your service solves for your client – and why they should deal with your firm over other practices providing similar types of legal expertise. To stick with the example of our child custody lawyer you might come up with something like this:
Our point of difference is that we seek to mediate instead of litigate. This means that on average, clients spend less money on legal fees, avoid unnecessary conflict with former spouses and protect their children from potentially ugly experiences in Family Court.
Spell out what’s different about the outcomes you produce and/or how you provide services, then state the primary benefit or benefits of that from the perspective of the clients that you serve.
With rare exceptions, you will find that your primary market can be broken down into segments. To stay with our child custody lawyer, they may well find that their clients have different interests. They might come up with a segmented list that looks something like this:
My key market segments are:
- Custodial parents in need of child support or enforcement of existing child support arrangements.
- Non-custodial parents seeking access to their children, or enforcement of existing child access arrangements.
- Parents unable to agree on custody, access and child support arrangements.
Each of your market segments has differing “pain points” – and that will greatly inform your marketing once you move to the planning stage. One size rarely fits all when it comes to getting your marketing right!
Concentration is about the clients best able to appreciate and purchase your services. Think of them as ideal clients – the people you most want to serve. You now know a bit about the need(s) you fill for them and their segmentation – so ask yourself questions like these to build an even clearer picture:
- What are their demographics (how old, what gender, how affluent, etc)?
- What are their psychographics (what motivates them)?
- There is probably ONE key reason why people buy. What is it?
- What is the problem to be solved with your services?
Sticking with our child custody lawyer once again, they might come up with something like this:
My ideal client is a parent of a child or children involved in a dispute with a former partner about custody, access or support of their children. The client and/or their former partner both care about their children and individually or collectively have the means to fund dispute resolution, via legal mediation.
Notice in this example how clear our child custody lawyer has become about their ideal client? They could take on cases with people who would struggle to pay their bill. They could focus on people with issues of domestic violence. They could focus on people who have property settlement issues. Instead, they have stated a clear preference for the kind of client that they really want to walk in the door of their practice.
Imagine how much easier it’ll be for our child custody lawyer to lure his or her ideal client now that they know exactly who they are. It works the same way for your practice too. Do the exercise and see how much you can learn about whom your practice serves.
Part 2 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle – Clarify Your Value Proposition
In Part 1 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle we looked at understanding your market. You’ll understand the necessity of that exercise as we step through the process of clarifying your value proposition.
What is a Value Proposition?
A value proposition is a promise to your customers or a segment of your customers about the value that your business delivers to them. Think of it as a customer-facing way of describing what your business does, in a way that makes it relatable and valuable to your customers and prospects. Here are few of my personal favourites:
- MailChimp – Send better email
- FreshBooks – Small Business Accounting Software Designed for You, The Non-Accountant
- Apple MacBook – Light. Years ahead.
- Evernote – Remember Everything
What makes a great Value Proposition?
In a nutshell, it’s direct and unambiguous simplicity. You’ll notice something about each of the value propositions I’ve mentioned above. They’re all breathtakingly simple. They are also unambiguous. They each present a clear message about what problem that business solves and makes a promise to the customer about it.
Some of the value propositions presented are also clever. Take the Apple MacBook as an example. The value proposition of “Light. Years Ahead” only makes sense because pretty much everyone on the planet knows that an Apple MacBook is a lightweight, highly advanced computer. Apple’s massive marketing budget supports that, which is why it works so well. That kind of clever is probably not going to work for most legal practices. You need to be far more direct.
Developing your value proposition is going to be a lot of work for most practices. First of all, you’ll need to dig up all of that information about understanding your customer that you prepared in Part 1 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle. Next, you’ll need to work out exactly what it is that you sell – then reduce that to a value that your clients and prospective clients can “buy in” to.
I’m going to use my own business as an example here. We provide a wide variety of digital marketing services – website design, SEO, social media bookmarking, pay per click management, copywriting and marketing automation integration just to name a few. The truth is that businesses don’t come to us to purchase those services. They come to us because they want to generate more leads and make more sales. The services we provide are just part of the process we use to achieve that. We ended up with a value proposition that doesn’t even mention our services. Our value proposition is:
ROI focused marketing that drives profitable clients right to your door.
We had to dig really deep to get to that. In fact, when we started work on this we had almost two pages of notes detailing the services we provided and the value that those services deliver to our clients. It was overwhelming just to look at it and it took us more than 100 hours of work to reduce that to the value proposition we now have. You’re going to need to roll your sleeves up and get your hands very dirty on this.
A positioning statement is a subset of your value proposition. Preferably, it should be just a few words that convey to clients and prospective clients the essence of what your practice does and the value your services deliver. Here are some of my favourite examples:
- 7 Up: The un-cola
- BMW: The ultimate driving machine
- Heinz: Beanz Meanz Heinze
- M&M’s: Melts in your mouth, not in your hands
What I love about those positioning statements are their simplicity and brevity. Each one really captures what’s on offer and lets consumers know how their needs will be satisfied. I’m going to use my company’s positioning statement as an example now:
intelligent marketing that www.works! ®
In just a few words it lets people know what we do (intelligent marketing), how we do (digital and online) and delivers a promise (it www.works!). Part of our 100+ hours of work was invested in arriving at that positioning statement and we’re damned proud of it. The mechanics of creating a positioning statement for your legal practice are exactly the same as they are for any other business. Having something unique and informative will help to set your practice apart.
Putting it all together
At the end of this exercise, the idea is for you to have a written value proposition and a positioning statement for your practice. They need to be something that speaks to your targeted clients about what value your legal practice brings to them – without being so clever that the message is missed. Ideally, you want people to be able to glance at your value proposition (think about somebody driving by it if it were splashed across a billboard)and know in an instant how your practice satisfies their specific needs.
Creating a value proposition is hard work. It’s perhaps the most difficult part of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle. Properly clarified, it’s also the one thing that more than any other can unleash the power of effective marketing for your practice. It is well worth the intensive effort involved.
Part 3 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle – Develop Your Strategy
In Parts 1 and 2 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle, we looked at understanding your market and clarifying your value proposition. These things will drive the development of your strategy, which will later inform your choice of tactics. Before we move onto specific tactics it’s time to get serious about the big picture with your marketing.
What is a marketing strategy?
Ancient Chinese warlord philosopher Sun Tzu had this to say about strategy:
I wholeheartedly endorse that view – especially when it comes to your marketing.
It might be best to start any discussion about strategy by painting a picture of what strategy is not. What strategy is not is any standalone tactic designed to generate new clients for your practice. In the digital marketing realm think of SEO, content marketing, posting videos on YouTube, running a Google AdWords campaign – or anything else you might implement without first understanding the bigger picture. The standalone marketing activities mentioned just now are each tactics. People very often confuse tactics with strategy.
What a strategy is, is a plan of action or policy that is designed to achieve an overall aim. It’s the big picture of exactly where you’d like your marketing efforts to take you and your practice in the months and years ahead.
What’s your big picture?
You’re in professional practice for a reason. It might be for the lifestyle it affords you. It may be because you get to do something every day that you love. It could be to make a lot of money. It might be for a variety of reasons. Whatever your reason or reasons for being in professional practice are, you need to have a steady supply of new clients.
Realistically, your marketing strategy is somewhat about attempting to create an ideal vision. How would you like your practice to look a year from now? What about in three years or five years time? Your marketing strategy should be moving your practice towards that ideal picture, no matter what that ideal represents to you.
If you’ve followed steps 1 and 2 in solving The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle you’ll already have a fairly clear picture of who your ideal client is and what value you deliver to them. Your big picture marketing plan should ideally revolve around how to get more of the clients that you really want, in order to build the idealised vision of your practice. You need to be clear on that.
A small solo practitioner in commercial property who wants to expand might have a five-year vision something like this:
Over the next five years, I plan to evolve my practice into a leading advisor to developers of commercial office blocks, being constructed in south-east Queensland. I would like to run the practice from an office in the Brisbane CBD with a staff of not more than ten individuals, including four lawyers. I anticipate fees in the order of $2.3 million annually.
That big picture can now inform the strategy required to achieve the vision. At this point, you don’t need to focus on how you plan to achieve all of this. Many people do focus on the how and get themselves stuck right here – never to move forward. The how is contained in the next part of the Intelligent Marketing Puzzle, when you choose your tactics. Your objective right now is just to focus on the big picture, not what you’ll have to do in order to give it colour.
Capturing the vision – what’s your strategy?
Now that you have a vision of how you’d like your practice to look, know who your ideal client is and know what value you deliver to them, it’s time to develop a marketing strategy to achieve your goals. Your marketing strategy sets the scene for everything you’ll be doing in your business from a marketing perspective, so it’s important to spend the time required to get it right.
Our fictional commercial property lawyer knows what kind of clients they want to target and where they’d like those clients to take their practice. Their strategy might look something like this:
My marketing strategy is to engage and re-engage with commercial property developers operating in south-east Queensland, with the objective of building long-term relationships, repeat business and referrals from those clients.
Match that marketing strategy with our lawyers vision for their practice and we have a person who now knows precisely where they want to take their practice and has a strategy to get there. Yes, they still need to work out what they have to actually do in order to reach their goals – but those decisions can now be informed by an overarching plan. Their strategy is an elegant and simple statement about what needs to happen in order for their practice to grow.
A final word on strategy
The late management doyen Peter F. Drucker once described the most important characteristic of a leader as somebody possessing a clear vision of a desired state of affairs. I wholeheartedly endorse that view. Make that x 10 when it comes to your marketing strategy. If you can’t articulate your marketing strategy in a paragraph you have a serious problem on your hands. Better still if you can manage to articulate it in a single sentence. Simplicity is a beautiful thing. It takes considerable work to achieve it.
Part 4 of The Intelligent marketing Puzzle – Choose Your Tactics
So far we’ve looked at understanding your market (Part 1), clarifying your value proposition (Part 2) and developing your strategy (Part 3). Choosing your tactics is all about deciding upon the things that you will actually do on a day-to-day basis in order to engage with your market and seduce them into becoming paying clients.
What is a tactic?
In simple terms, a tactic is an action or method that is planned and used to achieve a particular strategy. Where your strategy might be about bringing an ideal set of circumstances to life, your tactics need to take into account present, real-world limitations such as finite time, lack of fulfilment capacity, budgetary constraints, etc. All of these and many other considerations will inform and to some extent dictate what you actually end up doing.
Let’s take a look at a conveyancing lawyer and see how things might work for them. We’ll assume that in putting together the first three pieces of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle they decided that their primary strategy should be to engage and re-engage with home buyers at the pre-purchase and point of purchase phase of their sales cycle, via a combination of direct lead capture and nurturing, and referral via centres of influence.
In assessing their market our conveyancing lawyer has determined that there are three critical timeframes during which they needed to engage with prospective home buyers:
1. Before purchasing a house; and
2. At the point of purchasing a house; and
3. After purchasing a house.
Time for our conveyancing lawyer to start brainstorming and come up with as many ideas as possible about how to engage during those three critical phases.
Before purchasing we know that most buyers will be likely to investigate costs and a few other things. There are a ton of things the lawyer might be able to do in order to capture prospective buyers early. Think about whom prospective homebuyers might speak with; real estate agents, furniture removalists, local sports clubs, school principals – there are a variety of people that they may need to speak with before making a decision. Each one of these people offers an opportunity for our conveyancing lawyer to get them waving their flag – especially if the lawyer might wave their flag in return.
We know that prospective buyers will probably speak to some of the people on our conveyancers’ hit list. We also know there’s a high probability that they’ll surf the web to find out more. Why wouldn’t our conveyancing lawyer (we’ll say they’re in Newcastle)put together a small eGuide called; “Buying a Home in Newcastle – A Complete Guide to Everybody & Everything You’ll Need to Know”.
The book could be available for download from their website (in exchange for the buyer’s contact details) – as well as given away to prospective buyers by every person on our conveyancers’ list (we’ll call them centres of influence) – also in exchange for the prospective buyers contact details.
The guide could be optimised in organic search results on Google, as well as via targeted Google AdWords. What is the cost of that?
• An investment of time in writing the eGuide
• Printing a few dozen copies
• Distributing printed copies to the conveyancers’ list of contacts – then staying in touch to nurture those relationships
• SEO and/or Google AdWords
These tactics could see homebuyers delivered to our conveyancer BEFORE any other lawyer even has a chance to know that they’re in the market for conveyancing services.
Point of Purchase
Our lawyers biggest window of opportunity is when the home is purchased. Perhaps their best bet is to get the real estate agent who sold the property to engage with the buyers for them and endorse their firm. How might they do this?
There is the free eGuide of course, but what about another gesture – something bigger? Why not buy some cheap bottles of bubbles and distribute those to their real estate agents who are now centres of influence? The agents could present this “celebratory gift” on behalf of our lawyer, together with a great wrap about “…what a terrific guy (or gal) Mr or Ms Lawyer is” to each new homebuyer. Get the agent to finish up with; “I’ll get Mr or Ms Lawyer to contact you” – and have them pass the buyer’s contact information along directly to our lawyer. Again, this sort of tactic can deliver a client to our conveyancing lawyer at a time BEFORE any other lawyer even knows that our new homebuyers are in the market for legal services.
If all else has failed, our conveyancing lawyer now has to compete with every other law firm that does conveyancing. What a drudge! Just the same, there are the tried and true methods that work. Local newspaper advertising, website optimised for organic search in their area, Google AdWords, retargeting of website visitors on Facebook, Google’s ad display network and other digital platforms. What about signage outside their office, or a sandwich board out on the street? If their marketing budget allows for it there’s always billboards, radio and TV. Their budget and ROI from advertising will largely dictate how much of this sort of marketing they can afford to do.
Choose your Tactics
It’s now time for our conveyancing lawyer to determine exactly what tactics they have the time, money and skills to deal with. Due to cost constraints, they may have disregarded billboard, radio and TV advertising. Maybe they already have a decent website. Maybe they have time to write a guide to buying a house in Newcastle. Maybe they know a lot of local real estate agents, but no removalists, teachers and others – so decide to focus only on real estate agents as centres of influence. Maybe they know a printer who could make a great label for those wine bottles. Maybe a lot of things!
Their tactical plan might end up looking something like this:
Tactical Plan for Newcastle Conveyancing Lawyers
Our tactical plan is first, to engage with buyers by exploiting real estate agents as centres of influence in the pre-purchase and purchase phases of our targeted prospects buying cycle. The agent’s assistance will be enlisted by providing prospective house buyers with a free information guide called “Buying a Home in Newcastle – A Complete Guide to Everybody & Everything You’ll Need to Know”. The guide will provide prospective homebuyers with a variety of useful information, present the agent and aligned local businesses in a positive light, and present our firms value proposition of “Fixed price conveyancing for homebuyers in Newcastle”. The most desired objective is to obtain the prospects contact information from the centre of influence at this point.
Additionally, centres of influence / real estate agents will be provided with Newcastle Conveyancing Lawyers branded bottles of wine to present to home buyers as a gift from our firm, at the time when they purchase a property. Agents will be encouraged to provide a hearty endorsement for the firm when presenting the gift, and state that they will pass the homebuyers information along to us. The agent will also provide homebuyers with a copy of our Guide (if they do not already have one) and direct contact details for our firm. The agent will be expected to provide the prospects contact details at this point, in all circumstances.
Our secondary tactics during the pre-purchase and purchase phases will be to market the information guide “Buying a Home in Newcastle – A Complete Guide to Everybody & Everything You’ll Need to Know” as a free download, via our firms’ website and social media pages. Visibility will be achieved utilising a combination of search engine optimisation, Google AdWords, and Remarketing through the Google AdWords display network and Facebook. The guide will also be offered in various articles that will go on the firm’s blog and be syndicated to its social media accounts, each written about subjects pertaining to purchasing a home in Newcastle. Blog posts will be optimised in organic search results on Google and on other search engines.
Our tertiary tactic is to nurture prospective purchasers via email, after capturing their contact details. Emails will be written in an informative, low key style and will address a range of issues that may be of interest to buyers. These will include topics such as how to calculate stamp duty, standard contract provisions to be wary of, pest and building inspections, etc. Each email will contain a subtle call to action that directs prospective buyers to register for “free pre-purchase legal assistance”.
Our pre-purchase, point of purchase and post-purchase tactics will be supported by prominent external signage at our premises and year-round advertising, all of which will support our “Fixed price conveyancing for homebuyers in Newcastle” value proposition, as follows;
- Local Newspapers
- Yellow Pages Online
- Various Web Directories
Our Newcastle conveyancing lawyer now has a clearly defined strategy and has chosen which tactics to use in order to bring their marketing strategy to life. Now it’s just down to execution, which will be the subject of Part 5 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle.
Part 5 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle – Execute Like Hell!
This is where the rubber really begins to hit the road and you need to start making hard decisions about what needs to be done, who will do it, when it needs to be done by, and how much you’ll need to invest to do that. This is not easy work. You are going to need to invest some real time and effort in creating a workable marketing plan.
If you have not yet invested the time to put together the first four pieces of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle, now would be a good time to go back and review those steps. Choosing what tactics you’ll employ BEFORE you’ve first developed a cohesive strategy will most likely be the kiss of death for whatever marketing you implement. You may get lucky and kick a goal or two. With a good strategy in place, you won’t just kick a goal or two, you’ll win the game. Let’s get started.
Why most marketing plans fail
There is a very simple reason why most marketing plans fail: Failure to execute. Some businesses spend enormous amounts of time and money, putting together fancy looking, bound marketing plans. Their marketing plans contain wondrous words like “market segmentation” and display colourful pie charts. Some have entire sections dedicated to TV and radio ads – none of which will ever be produced – and show off stunning front-page graphics. I don’t know why any law firm would even bother with this sort of stuff. Almost without exception, it’s completely unusable rubbish!
Who does what, when and how?
When it comes to executing your marketing plan, consistency is a key consideration. Let’s stick with our mythical conveyancing lawyer that you met in Part 4 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle. We know that they have decided to implement a range of tactics, which have been informed by their strategy. A quick review tells us that the tasks required to execute these tactics necessitate a broad range of skills. In no particular order these include;
Somebody needs to set a marketing budget. It is possible to market without money. It’s also extremely difficult. The person in the business who controls the purse strings is going to have to make this decision based upon real-world considerations. Spend too little and a lack of results can be assured. Spend too much, and the cost of acquiring customers becomes too great for the business to sustain. You should know your business well enough to have at least a basic handle on this already.
NB: For the purposes of later examples I’ll be using in this article an initial budget of $10,000 has been assumed, with a recurring monthly budget of not more than $4,000.
Somebody is going to have to write the eGuide. They will also need to write a landing page on the company’s website that offers the eGuide to prospective homebuyers. They’ll need to write blogs, emails and ads for Google, Facebook, Yellow Pages Online, local advertising directories, and the local newspaper. That’s a whole lot of writing!
Somebody will need to design a cover for the eGuide and make it look visually appealing. They may also need some assistance with design elements for their website, social media pages, print based ads, external signage, any additional marketing collateral that they decide to produce such as wine bottle labels, brochures and business cards.
Unless the firm has somebody who knows how to configure a download feature, embed a lead capture form and set up an autoresponder, they will need a Webmaster or programmer to assist with their website.
Somebody will need to take care of the search engine optimisation of their website in local search. Organic search results are far and away the most economical way to get visitors to your website. Who in the firm knows anything at all about SEO and is able to take care of it?
Somebody will need to take charge of the creation and ongoing management of the firms’ social media accounts. If they don’t already know how to do so, they will need to learn how to distribute blog content through social media channels as it is produced, handle the development of Likers / Followers, respond to on page messages, etc.
Somebody will have to become the face of the firm, go out to meet with real estate agents, and get them to become centres of influence. They will need to visit them regularly in order to reinforce the firm’s value proposition, replenish supplies of eGuides and wine, and generally massage those relationships.
Somebody will need to assume responsibility for liaising with advertising providers, such as print and digital based companies. They’ll need to arrange and approve copy, meet deadlines for lodgement, negotiate prices, etc.
AdWords & PPC
Somebody will need to establish and manage pay per click accounts, such as AdWords and Facebook, split test, purge and regularly create fresh ads. Who in the firm has the experience and time to do this?
I’m guessing that by now you’re seeing just how quickly doing all of that can become a mess – and fast! The only effective way to ensure this is done is to develop an execution plan – and make people responsible to one and other for implementing what’s in the plan. Either do that, or you’ll need to outsource all or most of what needs to be done to somebody who can skillfully take care of it for you.
For now, I’ll assume that you want to do (most of) it yourself. Here’s a general outline of an action plan to get things up and running. You’ll need an Initiation Plan to get things off the starting block, and an Execution Plan to keep things running. I’ll cover both.
In order to keep things really on track, we’re going to appoint a project manager for this. The role of the project manager will be to follow up with people and ensure that everything is completed on time. The project manager will have a few things to do too, so they’ll have somebody to report to as well. After discussing who is best suited to do which tasks, we’re going to make Sue (the office manager of our mythical conveyancing lawyers) the project manager. Fred is the firm principal. Mary and Dave are both paralegals. We’re going to try to be ready and raring to go within three weeks.
Our Initiation Plan
NB: You’ll find this easier to view on a desktop or laptop!
We’ll assume that everything went well and that all of the tasks on our list were completed to a satisfactory standard, within the three-week timeframe allowed (it is, after all, a mythical law firm). It’s time for another meeting where our people will decide who is best suited to take care of all the action steps that will be required on a day to day basis in order to keep the marketing plan moving forward. Sue did a great job of project managing the Initiation Plan. We’re going to place her in charge of the Execution Plan too. Now it’s time to start executing like hell!
Our Execution Plan
NB: You’ll find this easier to view on a desktop or laptop!
Our Newcastle based law firm has now created a workable plan to implement the marketing tactics that will drive their strategy – and hopefully their sales. They know exactly what needs to be done, who is responsible for doing it, when it has to be done by – and who is accountable for making sure that it’s done. If they’re smart, they produce a plan like this for the whole year ahead – not just the initial three months of the campaign. They can modify the plan later on.
In Part 6 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle, we’ll be taking a look at measuring your results, which is the only objective way to know if what you are implementing is achieving your strategy – or just burning valuable time and money. It’s also how you make your marketing become predictable.
Part 6 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle – Measure Your Results
If you’ve been putting the pieces of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle together, you should by now have a fairly detailed marketing plan. The simple reality is that if you have a plan and follow it through, you will definitely do a whole lot more business than what you will without planning and consistent execution.
To get the most out of your marketing plan you’ll also need to measure your results. There are many free and paid tools that you can use to measure certain metrics, and in time you might want to do that. The important thing, for now, is to understand what you wish to measure and devise a simple way to do it. You can build more complexity into your monitoring as you progress.
Why measure your results?
Over time, measuring your results allows you to:
• Minimise or completely eliminate marketing activities that produce few or poor quality clients
• Focus more of your time, effort and money on marketing activities that produce the clients you really want
• Understand and ultimately reduce your cost of client acquisition
• Build high levels of predictability into your marketing activities
If that doesn’t excite you into wanting to measure your results then I don’t know what will!
What to measure
What you really want to know is what’s working for you and how much that costs. Tracking this can be as simple as using a piece of paper and a pen, with some simple arithmetic added in later – plus making damned sure that you consistently record what you want to know. I’m going to stick with our mythical conveyancing lawyer to illustrate how this might be done.
Our lawyer has decided to use the following marketing advertising/discovery mediums:
- Facebook/Blog (Direct)
- LinkedIn/Blog (Direct)
- Local Newspaper Ad
- Referrals (Agents)
- Referrals (Others)
- Street Signage
- Yellow Pages Online
- Web Directories
- Website (AdWords/PPC)
- Website (Search/SEO)
In this campaign, our lawyer wants to attract new conveyancing clients. All of these marketing mediums will offer fixed price conveyancing.
What does our lawyer already know?
Let’s take a look at what our conveyancing lawyer knows right now:
Direct Upfront Costs
The spreadsheet below shows the direct upfront costs, in dollars. The second column displays “per-use” costs for items such as bottles of bubbles which can be calculated and expensed, as consumed. The third column is for upfront costs that might reasonably be amortized over a period of time, such as PPC and SEO setup fees, as these are generally a onetime expense. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve chosen 12 months as the period for all amortized expenses. Both per-use and amortized costs can now easily be taken into account when calculating your return on investment from marketing costs.
NB: You’ll find this easier to view on a desktop or laptop!
There are some other costs that our lawyer could add in if they wanted to make it complicated. They already have a website. They’ve already met the cost of that some time ago, so all they need to do right now is meet the cost of editing the site to reflect their fixed fee conveyancing offer and add a landing page for their free eGuide. Our lawyer has to pay staff and other overheads regardless of what marketing takes place, so that’s been left out of the equation too. You know there are many other costs associated with running your practice. It’s your spreadsheet, so make it as simple or as complicated as you want to. Personally, I’d keep it really simple, just for now.
Recurring or Monthly Costs
We’re going to use the information we have to work out the recurring or monthly costs of conducting this marketing campaign. Some of it is really easy. If our lawyer gives away a bottle of bubbles, that costs them $10.50, including the cost of the label. A paper-based eGuide costs them $1.70. Easy peezy! Let’s take a look at those less tangible expenses and how to group them.
NB: You’ll find this easier to view on a desktop or laptop!
As you can see, I’m not a great graphic designer. I’ve used colour in order to make it easier to understand how expenses might be grouped together, in order to work out how much each source of new business is costing you. For example, if you look at PPC Setup, PPC Management and PPC Ads I’ve grouped all of that together – including the amortized monthly cost of the initial setup. I’ve done the same with bottles of bubbles and labels, but in that case, we have a known cost per item – so I’ve simply estimated a certain level of usage per month for those items.
Later, you’ll see that I’m going to consolidate some of these costs even more. For example, to me, it makes a lot of sense to consolidate and split the amortized cost of graphic design and website editing/programming equally between SEO and PPC – making that cost directly attributable to a metric you can easily measure. You might want to consolidate printed eGuides and bottles of bubbles too, as they both belong to the cost centre associated with referrals from real estate agents. Again, it gets down to what you want to measure and how complex you want to get. I’d keep it simple.
Don’t Blow the Budget!
It’s important to try and stick to a budget that your practice can afford. We can now easily see that our lawyer needs to invest $7,157 upfront in this marketing campaign, which actually includes the first month’s cost of several recurring items such as YellowPages Online, some web directory ads and local newspaper advertising. This is well inside the $10,000 budget initially set for upfront costs.
Monthly direct costs are estimated at $3,699. Again, this is well within the $4,000 per month budget set earlier.
Looking good? Time to set a sales forecast.
You’re never going to forecast sales correctly. That’s especially true when you have limited or no information to work with from your past marketing efforts. There will be some things that you’ll be able to figure out without a lot of trouble. In the case of our fictional lawyer, they know from previous research that on average a homebuyer will spend $1,239 on their fixed price conveyance of $695, when other services (in particular Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney) are sold as add-on services. They also know that around 30% of new clients will come back again at some future point in time. For now, let’s assume that each new conveyancing client generates $1,239 in revenue for the practice. Let’s take a stab at forecasting three months worth of sales.
We’ll shoot for one new conveyancing client for each working day over the next three months. Let’s say that’s 60 days – so we want 60 new conveyancing clients from all sources. 60 x $1,239 = $74,340 in revenue. We now have a very simple sales forecast.
You may have a lot more information to work with, in your practice. Perhaps you’ve been actively marketing for several years and have been tracking new client sources, average client spend, client return rates, etc. In that case, you can create something more complex (and considerably more accurate). In the absence of such information, the best you can do is take a stab at it. Just do it and live with the imperfection.
Time to create a tracking system
Our lawyer can now create a simple inquiry tracking system. When I say simple, it can be as simple as a paper form on the reception desk, next to the phone. On the form the person answering the phone or who greets walk-in clients marks off the lead source, by simply asking new inquiries where they found out about the firm. The user places a 1 next to the inquiry source each time an inquirer confirms where they first found out about the practice. Effective doesn’t need to be complicated.
The form might look something like this:
In the real world (especially if you employ professional assistance) you will very likely have analytics tracking in place on your website that tracks a range of activity, including leads capture, phones calls and a whole range of other useful information. The “how to” of all that is way beyond the scope of this article. In reality, what you see above works just fine most of the time. When I first started to track inbound inquiries in my accounting practice this was exactly what we used. Once again, you can get as complicated as you want with this. I’m a great believer in simple.
Three months later…
Part 7 of the Intelligent Marketing Puzzle – Review, Refine & Repeat
After all of your hard work we’re about to place the final piece of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle – or are we? Really, we’re about to look critically at what you’ve done already, review the results, decide what’s working (or working best), determine what’s not working so well – and then make some important decisions based upon the facts. Let’s get right into it!
Gather your data
In Part 6 of The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle we looked at our mythical conveyancing lawyer and the data they had gathered before launching their first three-month marketing campaign. We’re going to now take a look at the results of the campaign and use that information in conjunction with the data we gathered earlier to analyse the results. Here’s what they produced in terms of new conveyancing clients at the end of their first three-month campaign. The spreadsheet includes new clients, gross fees generated and the average fee generated per new client from each marketing source:
NB: You’ll find this easier to view on a desktop or laptop!
In this case, every marketing tactic that our lawyer employed over the three-month campaign produced something. It’s already clear that some marketing sources produced more new clients than others and that the average client spend for each marketing category differs significantly. Let’s take a look now at what it costs our lawyer to generate each new client.
Our lawyer already has a spreadsheet that shows them the monthly cost of each advertising medium. All they need to do is work out the number of bottles of bubbles and printed eGuides they’ve given away, and working out their cost of sales becomes quite straightforward. In the spreadsheet below I’ve assumed that our lawyer has given away 32 bottles of bubbles and 47 printed eGuides over the three month period of their marketing campaign. I’ve also consolidated a few cost centres, as mentioned earlier, just for the sake of simplicity.
NB: You’ll find this easier to view on a desktop or laptop!
Review your results
Working out the cost per client is as simple as dividing Total Cost by New Clients (see above). That’s not the whole story though. What we really want to know about is the return on investment (ROI) generated by each type of ad.
Calculate your ROI
There are many ways to calculate ROI. A very simple method is to take Total Revenue and subtract from that the Total Cost (see below). You then divide that figure by Total Cost. The spreadsheet below uses this extremely simple method to calculate our lawyers ROI on each category of ad spend. Just note that this method does not produce an ROI figure for what are effectively cost-free new clients, such as direct referrals. Simple common sense applies here.
The table above shows us that not all of the advertising that our lawyer undertook produced a positive ROI – it cost them money for nothing! A quick glance at the table reveals their costliest marketing tactic (Web Directories) had had a negative ROI of -19.66%. By contrast, referrals from real estate agents produced a very healthy ROI of 4,372.75%, with a solid average client spend of $1,278. Our Lawyer is now armed with a great deal of information to inform what they should be doing during their next three months of their marketing campaign.
Refine your tactics
Our lawyer needs to take a critical look at each tactic used in their campaign in order to decide if they should continue using that tactic or not. To keep it simple, we’ll assume that our lawyer is going to continue with their fixed fee conveyancing offer and will attract a similar number of new clients and a similar amount of revenue for each tactic employed over the next three months.
Costs will vary a little from our lawyers first campaign. In order to decide what tactics stay and what tactics are dispensed with, our lawyer has chosen an objective standard of a 150% ROI (1.5 times their investment) as the “knockout” benchmark. For a tactic to be used again it will need to hit that ROI benchmark.
Using the knockout benchmark of 150% ROI our lawyer is immediately able to eliminate both YellowPages Online and web directory ads from the next three months of their campaign, saving them a total of $484 monthly – or just over 13% of their monthly marketing budget. That money can go straight to their bottom line or be poured back into more productive forms of advertising.
Our lawyer might look at any number of other metrics here as well. AdWords/PPC is clearly a costly tactic at $418 per new client – but it does produce a consistent number of new clients for the practice. By comparison, SEO produces fewer clients but each has a significantly greater dollar value and lower acquisition cost for the practice. Should our lawyer divert some of their monthly AdWords/PPC budget to SEO?
Estate agent referrals offer a huge ROI for our lawyer. Should they do some more outreach to local real estate agents and see if they can create more centres of influence amongst them, as referrers? What is the personal time commitment required for our lawyer to do this? Can somebody else in the practice take care of this? Should they consider employing somebody either part or full-time to take care of this for them?
The options are endless when you have good quality information to work with. The longer you gather that information, the more informed your decision making can become and the more profitable your marketing will be.
Refine your plan
Our lawyer and their team now need to step through each tactic and make a decision about what is the best way forward with their marketing plan over the next three months. Let’s take a look at each tactic not already knocked out and consider the opportunities.
Blog, Facebook & LinkedIn
Each team member involved in creating blogs and posting them to social media takes an average of 45 minutes to write and post a blog, then link it to social media. At an average of three blogs per month, a group investment of around two an a quarter hours per month is required to continue with this activity. Using our available data we can easily calculate that blogging and social media posts generate an average of one new client a month and average revenue of $737 per client.
The SEO consultant engaged by our lawyer has advised that there are organic search benefits attached to regularly posting blogs on their website and sharing them on social media. Whilst that benefit appears to be a little less tangible, new clients acquired as a result of search/SEO are of higher average value than all other new client sources and offer an attractive ROI for the practice.
On this basis, blogging and social media sharing gets the tick of approval and stays in the campaign, unchanged.
Local Newspaper Ad
Local newspaper ads have produced a return of close to 825%. Whilst the average spend of clients acquired this way is rather low at $751, the ROI is just great, so local newspaper ads get to stay in the marketing mix. Would it be possible to push up the average spend of these clients in some way?
Our team decides to develop a fixed price offer for back-to-back Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney, which they hope might encourage these clients to spend more money, on average. That fixed price offer can be used for all new clients.
Sue is placed in charge of developing an offer, which the team will review and decide how to implement within the next two weeks.
Our lawyer clearly has a winning formula here with an ROI of over 4,370% and a respectable average client spend of $1,278. This tactic is worthy of plenty of attention from our team and is certainly going to stay in the marketing plan.
Before the team met, our lawyer decided not to allow another team member to handle relationships with local real estate agents. Once a relationship has been developed, it would be easy for any lawyer to leave the firm and simply continue with that relationship at another firm. No, this one is important. Our lawyer will take care of this themselves.
Our lawyer announces to the team that they’ll be hiring another lawyer or two to assist with all of the new business now coming through the door. In reality, they are freeing up their time to focus on building relationships with local real estate agents.
This is effectively free business and stays in the plan. It’s notable that the average client spend from this source is a respectable $1,124. Some discussion is had about how to incentivise existing clients to refer new clients. Perhaps a reward could be offered, such as the firms increasingly sought-after bottles of bubbles?
Each team member agrees to come back to the table armed with one idea for motivating existing clients to refer new clients, when they next meet in two weeks time, to discuss the fixed price offer for Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney.
Improving the firms street signage proved to be a pleasant surprise! Amortizing the cost over one year, the average cost of acquiring a new client via that means is just $58. After 12 months that cost becomes zero. There were concerns expressed about the low average spend per client, from this source. The team concludes that people walk in looking to take advantage of their fixed price conveyancing offer of $695. This is reflected in the lower than average client spend of just $689.
The team agrees that they should attempt to push up average client spend with the yet to be introduced fixed price Will and Enduring Power of Attorney package.
A team member also suggests other forms of outdoor advertising such as the sides of bus shelters and billboards. Given the overall success of outdoor signage in attracting new clients, this is deemed worthy of further investigation. Sue is assigned to work through the various options for outdoor advertising and report back to the team at their meeting in two weeks time.
At an average client acquisition cost of $418 AdWords/PPC are looking like a fairly expensive way to acquire new clients. At $2,330 per month (including amortized costs)AdWords/PPC has represented almost 63% of the firms overall monthly advertising spend. Rightly, everyone expresses concern about this.
Prior to the meeting our lawyer and Sue have spent some time with the consultant they hired to take care of this for the practice. They are greatly encouraged by what they are told and the visibly improving click-through rates, costs per click, conversion rates, etc. They can see that the ROI from AdWords/PPC is very likely to improve quite a bit over the next quarter and tell the team as much.
For now, AdWords/PPC stays in the marketing mix.
Clients acquired through search/SEO spend more on average than any other new client. Nobody knows why. They just know that they do. Interestingly, five of the nine new clients generated from search/SEO came to the firm in the last month of the marketing campaign. This is in line with the incremental improvements in organic search rankings seen by our lawyer and Sue when they met with the firms SEO consultant.
Provided the firm is able to continue improving both the rank and diversity of keywords on Google, it appears that their continued investment in SEO will be very well rewarded over time.
SEO is a keeper.
During the current campaign, no other sources of new clients were identified.
Rinse & Repeat
Let’s take a look at our lawyers revised marketing tactics and see what the impact is likely to be on new clients, revenue and ROI, simply by eliminating underperforming advertising methods.
NB: You’ll find this easier to view on a desktop or laptop!
By eliminating two underperforming marketing methods our lawyer has immediately achieved all of the following:
- Reduced their monthly advertising spend by $484, or just on 13% of their budget.
- Impacted potential new client numbers by only two clients, or less than 3%.
- Impacted potential revenue by just $1,488, or a touch over 2%.
- Increased average ROI from 1,000.95% to 1,395.37%.
In addition, our lawyer and their team have discovered a new way to potentially increase the average amount of new revenue generated per new client and are investigating new avenues for marketing, based upon the information they now possess about what works – and what doesn’t. It’s now time to rinse and repeat.
You can be optimistic that when our lawyer and their team introduce their fixed cost packages for Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorneys, they will likely see an increase in average revenues per new client. They already know from experience that fixed price packages are attractive to their market and they will very likely prove to be a winner. They’ll be tracking results and by the next review of their marketing plan, they’ll know for sure if its working or not.
If investigations into outdoor advertising work out and they decide to give it a try, they’ll be tracking the results from that too and will have objective information to help them assess its ongoing viability as a marketing medium.
It’s the same story with our lawyer and their increased outreach to local real estate agents. They will be carefully tracking and monitoring the results from that, as well.
They have planned their marketing. Now all they need to do is keep working their plan.
Some final thoughts
It’s been my great pleasure to guide you through The Intelligent Marketing Puzzle. I hope that this might set you on the path to transforming your marketing as a result of putting all of the pieces together. It’s a lot of hard work to build reliable, predictable marketing systems that provide a solid ROI. That said, I promise that the rewards and feeling of control that you’ll gain really do justify the effort.
I encourage you to comment below or message me directly with your feedback. You can even pick up the phone and give me a call on +612 8091 3955 (Australia). The mission of my company is to put predictability and profit into the marketing systems of business owners – and especially those in professional practice. I live and breathe this almost every waking hour. It’s what I truly love to do. I wish you the very best of luck with solving your own Intelligent Marketing Puzzle.