How to Create a Law Firm Marketing Plan For Your Firm

Building new business for your law firm can feel like an uphill battle, especially if law school didn’t prepare you for handling the day-to-day business of managing a law firm. A marketing plan can help you have a solid direction on how you can acquire new clients and take care of business development tasks more easily.

Lots of lawyers jump straight into marketing because they feel the pressure of building new business but holding off until you have a marketing plan in place can make your marketing significantly more successful and cost effective. A legal services marketing plan can help you build business for your firm faster with less wasted marketing dollars.

If you’ve felt like marketing isn’t working for your law firm, not having a clear marketing plan may be a large part of why it’s been a waste of time and money thus far. We’ve found that firms that don’t have a marketing plan in place often feel that marketing didn’t work for them—despite that it works for lots of other law firms.

If you don’t know where to start and need help making a marketing plan, contact us for a free initial consultation where we’ll help you get clarity on how marketing can help you grow your firm.

Set Marketing Objectives & Making a Measurement Plan

Every great marketing plan sets objectives the law firm wants to achieve and ways to measure those objectives. Without clear objectives on what you want your marketing to do for your firm, you’ll easily waste time and money on the wrong strategies.

Your firm’s marketing objectives can vary significantly depending on what your overall goals are for your firm. Without clarity on your objectives, your firm’s marketing may not work as effectively as it can than if it were better aligned with your objectives.

For instance, if you want to increase profits, doing a financial analysis may show that reducing the loss of long-term retainer clients is more important than acquiring new business. The approach of retaining clients versus acquiring new ones involves very different marketing strategies.

Common objectives for law firm marketing include:

  • Promote New Practice Areas or Legal Services
  • Establish an Online Presence
  • Increase Lead Generation
  • Target New Kinds of Clients
  • Retain Existing Clients and Retainers
  • Build Firm Awareness
  • Develop Firm Loyalty with Referrals, Associates, and Clients
  • Increase Firm Profits
  • Expand Into a New Market, Region, or Practice Area
  • Grow Market Share
  • Build Legal Industry Authority

Each one of these objectives requires different marketing strategies and should impact your lawyer marketing plans accordingly. Before you start marketing your firm, make sure that you know which objectives are most important, including which are non-negotiables to success and which ones are desirable but non-essential.

Set a Marketing Budget & Determine Your Return on Investment Level

Marketing can feel extremely risky as a law firm owner and can easily add extra stress to your life if you don’t have a clear path towards success. Setting a marketing budget and knowing what it will take to see a return on investment in marketing is an essential part of creating a marketing plan for your law firm.

It’s also important to understand how much risk you’re willing to take to recoup your initial investment in marketing and what you’re willing to tolerate, just the same as you would think about risk in your investment portfolio. Owning a law firm isn’t for everyone and getting a bit more comfortable with risk is part of building a successful firm.

However, you can mitigate the risks associated with marketing by knowing your profitability numbers. When you’re creating your law firm business development plan, you need to know your numbers:

  • Typical Revenue Per Matter
  • Typical Cost to Acquire a Matter
  • Costs of Non-Billables Per Matter Typical Profits Per Matter

Most law firms over simplify how they think about profits and don’t realize that some matters are more important to success than others, even if you charge the same hourly rate. Non-billable hours are part of every case—and some kinds of clients or matters require more of them.

Many business owners, let alone law firm owners, don’t know their profitability numbers—and this is where investing in marketing can cause the most stress for lawyers. If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know how many new matters you need to acquire and how much acquiring those matters can cost before your marketing is net negative.

For your marketing plan to be successful, you must know how many new matters you need to acquire per month and how much acquisition can cost per matter before you see a negative return. If you have never done digital marketing before, consulting with a legal marketing expert can help you better understand the costs of marketing and costs per acquisition of new matters.

Assess Your Current Market Position & Competitors

Successful marketing is often entirely relative to your competitors. If your competitors aren’t doing very much marketing, your firm can likely corner the market with less expense and effort than if your competitors are very active marketers.

As part of creating your marketing plan, you need to analyze competing law firms’ marketing efforts and assess their strengths and weaknesses to discover where there are opportunities for your firm.

You should build a comprehensive assessment of your competitors, including:

  • Digital presence, including website, content marketing, social media, search engine rankings, and other factors
  • Advertising, including Google Ads, billboards, tv, radio and other traditional advertising
  • Partnerships, Sponsorships & Referral Sources
  • Customer service, including client intake processes and client reviews

You also need to assess your own strengths and weaknesses and understand threats to your success from competitors. After assessing your competitors, compare your own marketing with theirs to get a clear picture of where your law firm needs to improve and include these opportunities and weaknesses in your marketing plan.

Getting a comprehensive assessment of your competitors may require consulting with a marketing professional who specializes in legal marketing to fully understand what competing firms are doing and how you should use that information in your own marketing planning.

Identify Your Target Market & Positioning

Part of your assessment when building your marketing plan should focus on marketing positioning, or how prospective clients think of different law firms you compete with. Identifying what unique strengths and values you bring to potential clients can help you better position your law firm in the legal market and more successfully acquire new clients. As well, it’s important to understand how different segments of your target market may think about your competitors. Thinking back to the best matters for your firm, identifying what your ideal clients are looking for in a law firm can help you better understand how to position your law firm.

Identifying your target market can also help clarify which strategies to avoid that your competitors are doing and prevent wasted marketing dollars on strategies that won’t work for your ideal clients.

You can ask these questions to help you better identify your law firm’s positioning, after first identifying who your target client is:

  • What do our clients think about our firm now?
  • How do we want clients to think about us in the future, both next month and years from now?
  • What firms will we need to outperform to dominate that positioning?
  • Does it make sense financially to try to occupy that position?
  • Does our marketing strategy & tactics match our desired positioning?
  • Does our marketing collateral match our desired positioning?

These questions can be a bit more difficult to answer than questions related to hard numbers but financials should play a part in your positioning and target market goals.

Some markets and positions are more financially difficult to maintain than others and require a higher marketing spend. Making sure that your positioning aligns with your costs and revenue is essential to see a return on your investment in marketing.

Forecast New Business, Expenses & Growth Opportunities

Understanding how to allocate your marketing budget for your law firm and how much you should spend on different marketing strategies should take into account which areas are the most productive at new business development.

Figuring out sales and expense forecasts for your marketing can help you better identify growth opportunities and make your marketing more productive. Before you can forecast, you need to know the following:

  • Market demand: The total number of estimated matters in your practice area, combining filings and non-filed matters
  • Market Share: Your firm’s percentage of market demand determined by signed clients
  • Contact Rate: The percentage of how many potential clients contact you
  • Sign Rate: The percentage of new clients you acquire once they contact you
  • Cost Per Acquisition: How much you spend to sign a new client
  • A marketing professional can help you identify market demand through search volume data, or the number of people who search for a particular keyword or topic on search engines every month, as well as information from legal market research.

You’ll find that different markets have more demand than others and that costs per acquisition can also vary significantly depending on practice area. Determining where your best opportunities are for growth requires you to know what percentage of the market you already dominate and where you can expand.

After knowing this information, you can ask further questions to build your marketing plan:

  • Which strategies will work best to capture more market demand?
  • Which strategies can your firm use to gain and maintain market share or avoid to prevent reducing market share?
  • Which channels can help your firm reduce cost per acquisition?
  • Which strategies can increase the contact and sign rates of your firm?

With this information in hand, you’re ready to start thinking about which strategies you’ll use in your law firm marketing plan, where you’ll allocate your marketing dollars, and what to watch for in new business to know if your marketing is working.

Set Marketing Channels, Choose Strategies & Assign Responsibilities

To complete your marketing plan, you need to choose marketing strategies, assign who will be responsible for implementing strategies, and set up measurement to know how well your marketing is performing.

Over the years, we’ve found that there’s a mix of digital marketing that works particularly well for law firms. Certain practice areas benefit from a different mix of digital marketing, depending on how you’re targeting ideal clients but most law firms see the most benefits from prioritizing SEO, Google Ads, Content Marketing, and using earned media to stay highly competitive.

We recommend adding in more marketing channels, like social media, to your marketing plan after covering those essentials if your budget allows and if there is market opportunity. In general, the most common marketing channels for law firms are:

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Google Ads
  • Content Marketing & Blog Posts
  • Social Media Ads
  • Organic Social Media
  • Reputation Management
  • Public Relations
  • Email Marketing

In addition to choosing which strategies and channels will be included in your marketing plan, you’ll want to set performance benchmarks to help you determine what’s working, what needs adjustment, and if certain strategies need to be removed from your plan.

As well, it’s important to create accountability for marketing implementation by assigning marketing tasks and following up that tasks are completed.

Many law firms try to assign marketing to support staff in addition to regular tasks but be aware that support staff may have to learn how to do marketing before implementing strategies, slowing down timelines to success and potentially increasing costs by reducing effectiveness.

Have Contingency & Emergency Plans in Place

If the 2020 pandemic crisis taught us anything, it’s that marketing needs can change quickly if situations change. While regulations tend to be slow moving in the legal industry, lawyers tend to be even slower at adapting to market changes.

That doesn’t even take into account marketing industry changes, which is an industry in constant flux due to changes by major players in the marketing space, including Google, social media networks, and more.

You can prevent your law firm from being caught up in changes by consistently measuring your performance with benchmarks and having a contingency plan in place. As well, you should have an emergency marketing plan in case market conditions rapidly change or your firm gets caught up in a PR disaster.

  • What are marketing risks that could arise in the future?
  • How should our marketing change to adapt to potential changes?
  • What level of performance should we tolerate and how long are those tolerances?

Knowing what these plans are before you need them can help your firm be more agile than your competitors and capture a changing market more easily. As well, making sure that your marketing team is ready to make changes and are able to consistently communicate with you is key to surviving emergency situations.

Need Help Making a Law Firm Marketing Plan?

Creating a marketing plan for your law firm can be a challenging task, especially if you don’t have any experience marketing a law firm before. With having to know which channels work best for your practice areas, the right thresholds for costs per acquisition, and how to best optimize your marketing, there’s a lot to learn to effectively build a marketing plan for your firm.

We have plenty of experience helping law firms successfully grow through marketing from start to success, having transformed firms without any digital presence into powerhouses in their region and practice areas.

Want to learn how you can get a law firm marketing plan? Contact us for a free initial consultation and talk to one of our legal marketing experts to get started.

Kim Herrington

Kim Herrington is Creative Director of Orsanna where she leads the production and strategy for clients' marketing and advertising. She founded Orsanna over seven years ago to bring quality marketing services to business owners.