I know. It’s confusing. I’m telling you to invest less in marketing when everyone around you is telling you that you should invest more. As one of those self-interested marketing types, why would I tell you to invest less in marketing when you investing more is how I make my rather questionable living? Doesn’t that go against everything that us narcissistic marketing types are supposed to say to unsuspecting business owners? Um, yep. But I guess that’s what happens when you throw an accountant into the deep end and they’re forced to learn a thing or two about marketing – but that’s a story for another day.
Over the past 10 years marketing has changed more than it has in the 50 years prior to that. Every day sees the introduction of some new strategy, tactic, system, algorithm, platform, method or metric that’s supposed to help business people become better marketers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Most business owners just get MORE confused as they try to go up the digital learning curve. The more they learn the less they feel that they know. I know exactly how that feels.
I’ve been “doing digital” for more than 15 years now and have personally mastered (and excelled) at a wide variety of digital tactics. I can build pretty awesome websites. I can write decent copy. I’ve truly slammed it at SEO. I’ve built and managed profitable Google Ads campaigns. I can retarget successfully across multiple platforms. I’ve mastered cold email. I’m ranked amongst the world’s top 10 influencers for the Mautic marketing automation platform. I have a social media footprint running into the tens of thousands. I have anything up to 40 staff doing all this stuff for me and my clients – and yet…
I sometimes feel that I know less now than I ever did! That’s the fast-paced nature of digital.
In essence, minimalist marketing is marketing that’s guided by strategy, rather than the anarchy of standalone or disjointed tactics. You might wonder what I mean by that, so let me illustrate by explaining how many businesses arrive in that dark, unprofitable place.
John and Sarah start a business. They “know” that they need a website and get their neighbours cousin (a uni student studying graphic design) to build them one, really, really cheap. It has great pictures of John and Sarah on the website and their Mum’s are super proud of both of them. John and Sarahs’ friends all express their admiration for their new website, as well as the really snazzy purple, green and orange logo designed by Sarah. That thing really pops!
As the months and years roll by, John and Sarah find that they need more marketing collateral. Initially, Sarah designs some brochures using MS Word, but eventually, they hire a local graphic designer to “fix things up a bit”. The new brochures look great but don’t quite match the website or their business cards, as Sarah has changed their logo “just a bit” quite a few times now. In fact, the orange has gone and it’s now a bright shade of yellow. And it has some blue stripes. Ah well, it’ll all be OK…
Meanwhile, one of Johns’ golf buddies tells him that he knows someone in his industry who’s killing it with Facebook ads. John knows that their 22-year-old receptionist, Emilee, uses Facebook every day and is a regular Wizz on the computer. He instructs Emilee to create a Facebook page for the business and run some Facebook ads. How hard can that possibly be, right? He gets Emilee to write some blog post too, because – ya know – everyone needs blog posts and Emilee has plenty of free time to do that – in spite of her “solid C student” prowess at English.
Next, Sarah gets a random phone call from a phone number in India. David Smith (really?) is an SEO guru who can get their website ranking at the top of Google search results with his “Miracle 999 SEO Booster Bundle”. Sarah tells John all about the thousands of new customers from around the globe who could soon be visiting their locally focused website and buying from them. They jump right in for some of that amazing SEO.
Then Sarah meets somebody at the kids’ school who knows this awesome Google Ads guy – and you can guess the rest. Before long, John and Sarah are on the road to a digital marketing disaster. Sun Tzu said it best, long before the internet was ever even thought of: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” John and Sarah are now hearing the noise before defeat. Loud. And. Clear.
John and Sarah could have avoided the situation I’ve outlined by having a clear strategy and a solid tactical plan for their marketing. Instead, they decided to chase every bright shiny object that offered even a glimmer of hope for their marketing. They knew no better. I’ve done it myself. Repeatedly. You’ve probably done it too. These days, I think I spend as much (or more) time reminding clients to STOP chasing bright shiny objects as I do persuading them to stick to their strategy and just implement their existing plans. Staying focused and disciplined is hard. It also sits at the core of minimalist marketing, right along with Strategy.
Write this across your forehead: Strategy comes first.
Don’t even think about tactics (what marketing you’ll actually do) until you get this sorted or you’re headed for certain disaster. I’ll give you my iron-clad guarantee on that.
To be a successful minimalist marketer you’ll need to focus on the quality of your marketing, rather than the quantity. If you’re going to have a website, make damned sure that it’s a high-quality website – good design, customer-facing, selling a clear value proposition and encouraging visitors to engage with you. If you’re going to write blog posts and distribute them via social media, make them informative and worth the time that readers might invest. If you decide to engage in SEO make sure your focus is on the kind of keyword sets where you can easily add value for visitors to your pages.
The days when you could just push out worthless content on the internet and still manage to have it discovered by search engines are long over. You are now competing with the (literally) millions of pages published each month on the internet for the attention of search engines and the eyeballs of prospects and customers. You’d better make damned sure that your content is worthwhile or you won’t attract either.
There are almost endless options when it comes to marketing tactics and you don’t have the time, money or skills to engage in all of them. I mentioned strategy as the first principle of minimalist marketing. The individual tactics you choose (like SEO, or PPC, or blogging) need to feed your strategy and those tactics will hopefully feed off one and other. For example, you might write a high-quality, keyword-rich blog post which you use to attract organic traffic to your website (SEO). You might also post that same blog to your social media pages, drive paid traffic to it (Google Ads, maybe), or use it in a newsletter to customers. One high-quality marketing piece can be used over and over and/or be repurposed. Again, quality is the key ingredient.
The biggest challenge with the essentials might be deselecting certain things that you are doing now in order to become more focused on the most essential tactics that feed your strategy. Making those choices can be more difficult than it looks, but they are essential if you want to become a minimalist marketer. Choose the things that are the best fit and the most likely to work. Drop the non-essential completely.
Minimalist marketing relies more upon systems and less upon people. Don’t get me wrong, people still have an extremely important role to play, especially in any service-based business, but even the people need to work within your system for minimalist marketing to be effective. You’ll find too that most of your people will love working within clearly defined systems because the part they have to play within that system should be quite clear to them. People generally love predictability and routine. You’ll be appreciated more than you know.
Software plays a major part in minimalist marketing too, reducing or eliminating the variables (or outright mistakes) associated with normal human behaviour, as well as eliminating the need for people to perform repetitive and often mundane tasks. Like the Terminator, a marketing automation platform just keeps pursuing its programmed objectives. It never sleeps. It doesn’t experience bad days when it doesn’t feel like emailing prospects. It doesn’t go on holidays or need any sick leave. Marketing automation might just become your new best friend.
For example, when a lead comes in via your website, could it automatically be pushed to your CRM? Could a series of emails and/or text messages be initiated that are designed to “warm-up” your newly acquired prospect? Can the right people in your organisation be notified automatically when your new lead engages in certain behaviours on your website? The answer to all of that is yes, thanks to the wonders of marketing automation.
Developing systems takes time and effort. The exciting thing is that you do it just once, then allow the processes you’ve developed and the tools you’ve employed to drive it. The long-term benefits of robust systems are profound. It’s not marketing specific, but I can highly recommend Michael Gerbers’ excellent book about developing systems, The E-Myth. Frankly, it’s the best book on business that I’ve ever read. Period. Just get it.
An ideal system will be end-to-end and outcome-focused. It will be sequential, leading each new prospect along a pre-defined journey to becoming your customer – all with as little human intervention as possible. Put another way, minimalist marketing requires you to think backwards from the desired result (i.e. the sale) and plan each of the steps that your prospect will take from the point of first contact through to when you finally take their money and beyond.
Taking this ultra-organised approach allows you to do some things that more randomised, standalone tactics just don’t lend themselves to. Here are what I see as the two greatest benefits.
1. Visibility Over the Journey
Have you ever wondered where a prospect is at in the sales process? Are they warmed up enough that they’re ready to buy your product or service yet? Is now the right time to reach out to them and offer more information, or should you wait a little while longer? Systems (notably marketing automation) provide you with a high degree of visibility over where your prospect is at in their sales journey, right down to letting you know what pages they’ve visited on your website, when and how often, etc. If you want to go to the trouble, you can even develop a point scoring system that puts objectivity into when the right time is to reach out and speak to a prospect. You need marketing automation in your life.
2. Identify & Resolve Weakness in Your System
One of the main benefits of being organised and having a system is that it permits you to measure the effectiveness of each step in your process and make changes, as required. For example, if you have a nine-step marketing process and you are losing a heap of prospects at step six, maybe you have a problem right there, which you can now address by taking (and measuring) an alternative approach. A less organised process wouldn’t permit you to even identify the problem, let alone experiment with possible solutions. A problem correctly identified is half the problem solved. The right systems and tools make the correct identification of problems 1,000 times easier!
What does every marketer want from their marketing? A solid return on investment.
I often meet people who are obsessed with measuring fairly meaningless metrics. Where their website ranks on Google for a certain keyword set. How many likes a particular post on Facebook gets. How many followers they have on their Instagram page. All of that stuff is interesting and you certainly should know about it. The problem is that none of it tells you anything much about your return on investment from marketing spend.
Minimalist marketers focus less on meaningless metrics and keep their eyes firmly on the ball of ROI. One of the keys to all effective marketing (minimalist or otherwise) is to measure your return on investment from particular marketing activities. How much do you make as a result of SEO, PPC, social media posting, or sending gifts to customers? You’ll be able to measure all or most of this stuff – and you should. Over time, you’ll know with a high degree of certainty what works best, leaving you free to spend more on your most effective marketing and drop less profitable marketing altogether. It might even leave you with some budget to experiment with some of those bright shiny objects!
It took me a long time to accept that less really could add up to more, that quality beats quantity and that NOT trying new things all the time could lead to a far more effective and profitable marketing program. Since I embraced minimalist marketing as a personal mantra, my business has never been quite the same. It takes a LOT of effort to get yourself organised as a minimalist marketer, but in my personal experience, it’s been 100% worth the time and effort required. Give it a go. Comment below to let me know how minimalist marketing is working out for you.
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.
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 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!
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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:
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…
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:
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.
My daughter got this awesome thank you note yesterday, after purchasing on eBay. It’s just way too good not to share in its unedited entirety.
Thanks for your order at [vendor]
We just want to let you know that your item has been meticulously gathered, placed on a red velvet pillow, and delicately escorted by 25 of our finest employees to our shipping department. Our master shipper has dutifully performed her craft, lovingly packing your order in the finest materials known to man . . .or woman!
Our team gathered to give your package the proper send-off it deserved. Tears of joy were shed, speeches were given, and there was even a farewell cake! Mmmmm . . . .cake . . .
Following the festivities, the whole group, led by our local high school marching band playing the song Leaving on a Jet Plane, ushered your order through our warehouse doors. No, we don’t own a Jet Plane, but your package was placed in the care of a roguishly handsome man who is riding in a majestic horse-drawn carriage which is on its way to your address as you read this. Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to you we go . . .
Although the item you’ve ordered will be sorely missed here at [vendor], we are overjoyed that it has found a good home. Take care of it, treasure it, and make sure you share it with us on facebook, twitter, or just send us an email, we love to see our items in action!
*Note the above is a slight dramatization of what actually happened with your order, but seriously we have packed it and it will be leaving us today!! We have updated the tracking info for you.
If you have any questions about the tracking of your item, please contact us and we will happily chase the roguish man to track your item. This may or may not involve running down our street. We’re totally ok with that.”
If you don’t love your item as much as we do, let us know and we can sort out any issue.”
I’d usually add something, but in this case, words just fail me. Awesome!!!
I recently had cause to sack a client. That’s not exactly a new thing for me, but it’s not something I’ve needed to do in quite a while. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve had to do it in several years.
The client in question (let’s call him Richard) runs a professional services business in a major Australian city. We’d built Richard a killer website, and had it ranking like a demon on Google for all of the keywords that really mattered to him. Richard had traffic. He had fresh leads pouring in each month. The problem is, Richard is a dickhead. He’d get new clients, get stoned or drunk (often both) – abuse them – then lose them. Somehow, that became our fault!
You can have the best website in the world. You can fill it up with great engagement and lead capture tools. You can implement killer auto-responder sequences, and have decision and action based sales funnels that would be the envy of any business. You can have a social media presence that makes you look like an expert. If you’re running a small business and you are the front man (or woman) you also need to be somebody that people want to deal with. People are going to need to like you.
I could write this exhaustive list of things that you need to do in order to have people feeling the love. The truth is if you really need a list like that you’re probably a dickhead anyway. I can’t help you. You need a different kind of help to what I can offer. All I can say is “stop being a dick”.
Life is far too short to deal with dickheads. I don’t do it. I find that life is so much better that way.
Many people reading this post will have seen the film Field of Dreams. It’s a story about a farmer who keeps hearing voices from a cornfield that say “If you build it he will come”. The film isn’t really my cup of tea and I’m not going to spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie – but (spoiler alert) – the ghost of the farmers’ long last father eventually comes to visit after the builds “it” (“it” being a baseball field). A lot of people seem to think that if they build a website, “they” (being customers) will come. Here’s another spoiler alert. It just ain’t so.
Imagine for a moment that you set up a billboard in the middle of the desert. The billboard might be advertising air conditioning – which will probably seem like a damned fine idea to anyone who has ever spent time in a desert. It’s hot and any message about how to cool down might be welcomed. One problem. Very few people are ever going to drive by that billboard. Of the people who do drive by only some will be interested in air conditioning. Fewer still will want to buy air conditioning from you. Fewer again will want to buy air conditioning, right now.
Chances are that your website is just like that desert billboard. It’s got a worthwhile message targeting people who are likely to be interested in what you sell. The problem is that too few people are “driving by”. In the business it actually called web traffic – and web traffic is what you need.
A variety of tactics can be utilised to drive discovery of your website. Those tactics should be informed by your digital marketing strategy. Here are a few traffic generating tactics which are in common use.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the science (some say dark art) of driving traffic to your website via organic search results, primarily on the Google search engine. For most small, local businesses SEO is an effective, low-cost way to generate targeted website visitors. Just be aware that it can take a little time to produce results with SEO, so it’s not always a great way to generate immediate website visitation.
Pay per click (PPC) advertising allows you to advertise to potential customers and pay only for the clicks that result in a visit to your website. Google AdWords and Facebook ads are the two best-known examples of these types of ads. PPC can get your business at the top of search engine results TODAY and done properly can be an effective, profitable driver of website visitation and new business.
Remarketing and retargeting are very similar to PPC ads, but with the advantage that ads are served exclusively to people who have already demonstrated an interest by visiting your website. Remarketing ads can be served across a variety of “partner” websites and social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Personally, I think that almost every business should be using this very effective medium of reengagement.
Content marketing focuses on producing, publishing and distributing content that is likely to be of interest to your targeted audiences. That content may consist of such things as blog posts, videos, giveaways, etc. This post that you’re reading right now is an example of content marketing! Like SEO, content marketing can take considerable time to pay off for your business. Don’t rely upon it as an immediate source of new traffic.
Social media marketing consists of finding ways to reach out to and engage with the audiences that you build on various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Social media can help to make you the local, friendly authority in your business. Just be aware that social, means social. In other words, you need to take the time and make the effort to be human. That means actually engaging with people!
Outreach marketing consists of you approaching potential clients, via various methodologies. That could be via email, personal messages on social media, commenting on forums, etc. This is a very direct form of marketing and you’ll often see fast results from doing this.
This post isn’t designed to be a “how to”. It’s more of a “what to”. Building a website and hoping that people might drop by simply isn’t enough. You need to make people aware of the existence of your website and let them know where to go. Some or all of the tactics suggested in this post might work for you and your business in building visitation to your website and converting visitors into paying customers. Try them out. Let me know in the comments how it goes.
I’m often asked by tradies “What’s the best kind of website for me?”. I’d sure love it if the answer to that question was as simple as some people would have you believe, but it isn’t. Like so many aspects of marketing for tradesmen, the answer is “It depends”. I’m going to try and cover off on the major things that you’ll need to consider, right here.
The very first thing to consider when developing a new website is your customers. By customers, I mean the kind of people you serve (or want to serve) within the area of your geographic reach. I’m going to use a real-world example here. Let’s say you’re a plumber. It might be that you spend all of your time contracting for builders. You might be more of a renovation specialist, or maybe you’re one of those 24-hour emergency callout guys. What you do and who you serve is going to influence the kind of website you need to develop.
If you serve builders, they are going to want to hear about your attention to detail, timeliness of completion, the guarantees you provide, your licensing status, your insurance coverage, your credit terms and the scope of work that you can handle. They might want to see images of completed projects and testimonials from other builders you have worked with. They’re not interested in your ability to unblock a drain or fix a minor bathroom leak!
If you’re a 24-hour emergency plumber, people generally only want to know a couple of things and they want to know RIGHT BLOODY NOW! They want to know your phone number, how quickly you can be at their house and how much a callout will cost them. Information about your license number and how beautifully your last bathroom reno worked out are of zero interest to them. You need a website that literally shoves what they need to know right in their face.
Right of the back of understanding exactly who your customer is is clarifying your value proposition. Think of your value proposition is a promise that you make to the customers you serve.
First up, visitors to your website will want to know that they are in the right place. Make them think and they’ll hit the back button faster than lightning. This is no time to try and be clever. If you are a 24-hour emergency plumber, be bold and place the words 24 HOUR EMERGENCY PLUMBER front and centre on your homepage. You might then clarify that statement with a value proposition such as “We help drains go with the flow” or something that is clever or fun. The main thing is that your visitors will know immediately that they are in the right place.
People need to know right away that your website addresses their immediate needs. Provide a clear and compelling message about what you do and be CLEAR about the promises you make. Work hard to avoid excess clutter and noise that might distract your visitors in any way. That means no flashing words, scrolling images or annoying music! People want a plumber and you are it! Take care of this stuff or visitors to your website will be hitting the back button in droves – I guarantee you!
You only ever get one chance to make a first impression. Often, your website will be your very first point of contact with a prospective customer, so it needs to create both a realistic and positive impression about what you and your business are all about. My best advice is to keep the design clean, keep it simple and make sure that it properly reflects your brand, utilising your logo and using colours, fonts and imagery to reinforce your message.
Nothing screams amateur hour more than a website that looks ugly, is difficult to navigate and makes it hard for visitors to locate what they are looking for. Truthfully, most tradies shouldn’t be playing amateur web designer any more than a web designer should be playing amateur electrician or gasfitter. Spend some money and get the professional help that you need to create the right impression for visitors. Do it, or they’ll visit your website an quickly leave.
A call to action is the ONE thing that you want visitors to your tradies website to do. Do you want them to pick up the phone and call you? Would you prefer that they sent you an email? Maybe you want them to download a free guide that you’ve created about bathroom renovations, or you’d prefer that they ask for a free quote, via a web calendar. Maybe a lot of things! The primary thing is to craft your message towards only ONE consistent call to action.
The research is clear that overloading visitors to your website with more options results in less actions being taken. Whilst this seems counterintuitive, the research cannot be ignored. Decide upon exactly what course of action you want your visitors to pursue, then structure your content and call to action to push them towards that ONE goal. Like many things in web design, less really is more.
People often find dealing with tradies to be quite overwhelming. Unlike everyday grocery purchases, many people might only need a tradie a few times in their entire lives. It’s natural for people to fear what they don’t understand (which is mainly the cost) – and many people do fear talking to you. It’s up to you to make that easier for them and one of the simplest ways to achieve that is by simplifying your services.
A lot of tradies use jargon on their websites and also have a tendency to use 10 words where 5 might do. Write as if you are speaking to a 12 year old. If they can understand what you’re saying, so can pretty much everyone who visits your website. Even sophisticated buyers appreciate directness and simplicity. Make yourself and your services accessible by simplifying them. Your website visitors will love you for it – and loving your results in new leads.
Responsive websites adapt to fit a variety of devices and screen resolutions. Making your website responsive means that it is usable on everything from desktop and laptops, through to tablets and mobile phones. Given that well over 50% of all searches on Google are now conducted on a handheld device, the importance of having a great responsive design cannot be overstated.
Importantly, in the early part of 2018 Google will be switching to a “mobile first” index, meaning that primary Google results will be drawn from their mobile index. Websites which are not designed to work with mobile devices will be downgraded or eliminated entirely from this supremely important index.
Set all of the foregoing aside and the back button is just a click away. People will use it if their mobile experience is poor, just as you would!
I touched on this in earlier, when I mentioned the importance of clarifying your value proposition. The less people have to search and think about where to find information on your website, the better. That isn’t because your website visitors are dumb – it’s because they’re busy – and you have to always remember that they can hit that back button and go to a website that makes things simpler for them. It’s up to YOU to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Remember that YOU are the expert. Part of being an expert is being able to break down the complex into its essential components and make them easily digestible for the non-experts who need your services. I’ll say it again: less is more. Think about what people need and want to know and make it easy to find and easy to understand. It makes you look way smarter than your competitors who use long words, frustrating navigation and confusing or contradictory calls to action.
Testimonials are extremely powerful persuaders. You already have people whom your firm has helped and chances are that some of them will be happy to provide you with glowing testimonials. These can be placed directly on your website or sometimes be fed to it via integrations with social media platforms or review focused websites.
Testimonials provide compelling evidence of how other people just like your website visitors have acted and provides them with a kind of roadmap of where to go and what to do. If you don’t have any testimonials you can use case studies, or maybe even demonstrate the presence of a good-sized social media following. The objective is simply to provide some proof of your ability to solve your website visitors’ unique problem or problems.
Following these simple tips will keep the right kind of visitors engaged on your website for longer and will dramatically increase the chances that they will reach out to you. Like anything, the only way to know if this works is to make the necessary changes and put it to the test. Best of luck with making your lazy website start to www.work! for a living.
NB: This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse and has been edited by its original author.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is the science (some say dark art) of driving search engine traffic to your website. When somebody types a particular search into Google that is related to your trade service you ideally want your website to be visible in search results. For example, if you are a plumber in Brisbane, you might want to be visible for a range of keywords that people might type into Google. For example:
The most common way to make a tradies website visible for search terms like those are via search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising, like Google AdWords. Usually, when somebody calls you about search engine marketing for your tradies website it will be to sell you one of those services.
SEO is all about “optimising” your website, social media pages, directory listings and other online profiles so they appear in search results for keyword sets that you target – preferably as high up the list of search results as possible.
PPC is all about competing with and bidding against other local tradies who want to rank as highly as possible on Google for certain keyword sets too. Generally, the more bidders there are in a PPC auction, the more you’ll pay for your ad to appear in search results.
Unless you know how to do these things yourself, you’ll have to pay for both SEO and PPC. You might be best to think of SEO as a longer-term investment in “free” visibility on the search engines, whilst PPC is something that can drive traffic to your website immediately and produce fast results. Which is better? Maybe neither. In an ideal world, you might want a balance of both.
Whenever tradies ask me this question I always say the same thing: Show me the demand. Any marketing consultant who’s not just out to take your money will ask the same question or a variation of the question. If there is no localised demand for what your business does, SEO & PPC will generally be a complete waste of your money. I’ve been doing this a long time and that’s the truth. Unfortunately, there are many people selling SEO & PPC who either don’t appear to be aware of this simple reality or who just don’t like to talk about it. If you’re not being asked about localised demand, chances are you’re dealing with a fool or are just about to be royally scammed. Understanding local demand is the starting point for all good quality search engine marketing when it comes to promoting local trade services.
The numbers don’t lie. They’ll tell you if it’s worthwhile for you to invest money in SEO or PPC. Doing a cost-benefit analysis doesn’t require fancy spreadsheets or a masters degree in mathematics. Some basic searching on Google will reveal a lot, as will some rudimentary keyword research. A pen, paper and calculator will tell you the rest.
Firstly, think about what people might type into Google as a search when looking for a tradie like you. If you’re an electrician in Newcastle, you might choose some terms like this:
You can check your approximate monthly search volume for individual keywords and keyword sets by using the Google keyword planner, which is a free tool. You’ll need a Google account to access and use the tool. There are also some other freebie tools online, just Google “free keyword planning tools”. Many keyword planners will give you more ideas once you have entered a few basic search terms. They’ll often also tell you local search volumes, keyword competitiveness and estimate the cost per click on Google. You can be sure that if something has a solid search volume and a high cost per click, SOMEBODY is making money from that keyword set. Any competent consultant will know how to research keyword search volumes for your trade and will discuss with you what keywords you should be targeting for SEO and/or PPC purposes.
Now that you have some basic information it’s time to take a look at the competition. Who is ranking organically on Google? What about with Google AdWords? Are they your local competitors? Are they a struggling business, or somebody who is doing well? What is their website like? Would YOU call them if you landed on their website after clicking an ad or a link? How good is your website, in comparison? Can you compete well or do you need to spend some time and money improving your website before jumping off the block? Be honest with yourself.
Next look at how much SEO and PPC will cost you, plus the cost of any ads. How many new inquiries would you need to generate in order to break even? What about to make a profit? Are there any other costs to consider, such as a new website or tweaking your existing website? If SEO is going to cost you $1,500 per month and PPC another $750 per month, plus the cost of ads, will you recover that? How soon? Some VERY basic mathematics will tell you most of what you need to know.
Don’t be dazzled by all the fast talk and “guarantees”. A digital marketing proposal makes sense, or it doesn’t. If the whole thing is going to cost you $4,000 per month, for the next 12 months, how else could you spend that money on advertising and what results might you expect from that? Could you just put that money straight in your pocket instead? Consider the alternatives.
Just because it’s digital advertising doesn’t mean that it’s good advertising. Like every other business, digital marketing has plenty of cowboys in its ranks. Check out the people you’re dealing with and ask to see some real world results before taking action. That usually sorts the men from the boys. When it comes to deciding if search engine marketing is right for you, as a local tradie, “it depends” really is the answer. Knowing what it depends on puts you streets ahead in deciding if SEO or PPC are right for you.
I came across an extraordinary report last week. Produced by global marketing platform provider Percolate, the report focuses on the hidden cost of marketing – non-working spend. You can download a copy of the report here.
Percolate mostly deals with large global brands. I know for sure that most small businesses don’t spend anything like 52% of their marketing budget on non-working spend – but maybe they should. Let’s dig a bit deeper on what non-working spend actually is.
In a nutshell, non-working spend is the money spent on creative – not putting it in front of an audience (i.e. what you spend directly on advertising). Think of the cost of creating and maintaining your website, graphic design and printing of brochures, creating content for blogs posts, agency costs, performance monitoring and measurement expenses and the myriad other items that eat into your marketing budget that are not direct advertising spend.
Working advertising spend is what you invest directly on distributing the content you create – be it postage, paid ads on Google and Facebook, print-based ads, radio and TV commercials or the million other advertising options which exist. Working advertising spend is an expenditure that directly delivers your message to your audience.
Put bluntly, the typical small business generally lacks the internal skills (and time) to develop marketing strategies that predictably deliver new customers and a sustainable return on investment from advertising. Even those businesses that have a capacity to develop strong marketing strategies rarely have the internal resources to successfully execute tactics (most notably in the digital realm), monitor, measure and manage their marketing plans to success.
The Percolate report is very focused on reducing non-working advertising costs. For large corporations with internal marketing departments and vast amounts of capital invested in branding and the like, that makes a lot of sense. It makes almost no sense at all for a business where the owner writes boring copy for the company website and the receptionist designs (ugly and ineffective) marketing collateral, using Microsoft Publisher. These businesses need to spend more on their non-working advertising spend – generally a whole lot more.
Think of it like this – what’s more likely to elicit a positive response from prospects; a poorly designed website built by your next door neighbours 12-year-old – or a professionally designed website built by people who know how to sell ice to Eskimos?
If you’re going to spend money on bringing people to your website, you might as well make the investment in fully optimised pages and a well-crafted message.
The same principle applies to researching your market, development of your primary value proposition, creation of an ROI-focused marketing strategy, selection of worthwhile marketing tactics, management and monitoring of your marketing and advertising campaigns – and most of all – investing in the people who bring all of that to life.
Modern marketing is complex. That’s especially the case in the world of digital marketing. One standalone tactic like AdWords, or SEO, or running Facebook ads is unlikely to work for your business anymore. You need a strongly focused and cohesive strategy that drives your decisions on what tactics to implement. You’ll also need a good team around you to advise upon, execute and manage your plan.
For smaller businesses, your non-working advertising spend may prove to be the decisive factor in whether your marketing plan succeeds or fails. Hire skilled people internally, or outsource your marketing to a company that has the expertise and people to make your plan work. Either way, you need to budget for the hidden cost of marketing – your non-working marketing spend.