Let's be honest, in most firms (never mind a law firm) planning isn't at the top of the to-do list. The lawyers we know tell us that planning tends to fit into one of four boxes:
- We don’t do it;
- We’d love to (but don’t really know how to);
- We do it (but just stick down any old thing in order to tick the box); or
- We completely over-engineer it and spend months crafting a beautiful document just to please senior management.
No matter which box you feel your firm falls into, we hope this "Guide To Writing A Strategic Marketing Plan For Growth" is for you.
Our approach to planning is that no matter your feelings on the subject:
- It needs to be done;
- It must follow a rigorous process; and
- It also needs to be practical.
As much as we believe in making the effort to write a plan, there is no point doing it if you can’t or won’t use it.
Your law firm growth strategy should be at the heart of everything you do at your firm to help grow your practice, so you need to make sure it is as useable and accessible as possible.
Forget the fancy words, you need a real, living, breathing plan which follows a structured approach to marketing & business development planning. You may well have heard of some of the concepts, such as PESTLE, SWOT and the 4Ps, and you might groan and roll your eyes, however, just because something is well used doesn’t mean we should discount it. On the other hand some concepts might be new to you but don’t shy away from them. Jump in and embrace the process!
This could just be the start your firm needs to start growing and realise its full potential!
We have put this planning document together based on our own experiences and it follows the exact process we use for our own firm.
We like to follow the six step model outlined below:
- Where Is Your Law Firm Now?
- What Do You Want To Achieve?
- How Are You Going to Achieve It?
- What Will You Actually Do?
- What Needs To Happen (By Whom & By When)?How
- Will You Know?
Planning isn’t rocket science at the end of the day, so let’s not make it difficult and let’s just get started...
Your Approach To Planning
We would recommend you read this Guide from cover to cover the first time making notes along the way on who might be the best person to help with each area. Rather than take everything on yourself, set up a working group and ask different people with different strengths to work on each section (and to agreed timelines).
Whether this is a group of forward-looking partners or staff in your marketing team, find a way that works best for your firm!
We would also recommend splitting the planning process up into two or three phases. First you need to work out where you are and where it is your firm is heading. This is your initial “Thinking” phase and may involve working groups with several people but whatever you do, you need to get high-level buy-in on where you think the firm is heading before you move forward.
Having completed the Thinking phase you now need to look at the “Doing” phase and think about what needs to be done in order to achieve the goals you have identified.
You will also need to think about who will be doing what in order to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve (within the specified timeframe and budget allocated).
Lastly, you have the “Measuring” phase. This may be drafted at the same time as the Thinking phase, although it is important to split it out and let people realise the importance of measuring whatever it is you are going to do.
If you are at splitting tasks up across your team, call everyone together at the beginning and explain the need for commitment and buy-in to the process. Explain that if they need help or get hit with a large client matter, they need to shout and not let their part grid to a halt without anyone knowing. The process should also be collaborative with everyone willing to help someone else out if needs be.
Writing a plan doesn’t mean you have to analyse your navel for months on end, however, what it does mean is that you give it your best shot and create something meaningful. Don't involve people who aren't committed. This matters!
Give your team a month or so to work through their various tasks although don’t just leave it to chance. Check in with them during the month to make sure they aren’t stuck (or perish the thought, they have forgotten about it!)
When you have all the component parts completed and you are happy with the standard of each, call your planning team together and have a final review of how everything fits together and ask for their opinion on how it could be improved further.
Once everything is finalised, you will obviously need to get sign off from your key Sponsors/ Executive Committee to ensure buy-in from the top, and once you do this you may also want to present the plan, or elements of it, to various sections of the firm (if not them all!).
Taking an open and collaborative approach to planning at your firm is very important as it will allow people to feel included. It should also mean they will be more likely to support the implementation of various initiatives within the plan.
As things progress and your plan becomes a living document, continually review if you are still on plan and if there are any developments which might require changing. Use your ‘measuring’ actions to record where you are against plan and report this on a monthly basis.
Like any planning process it always looks worse from the outside, so stop deliberating and jump in - please persevere and keep going!
Using the information gathered during this process as the basis of a monthly marketing and business development report and/ or meeting is another useful spin off from this process and will allow you to communicate with the firm on how your firm's growth strategy is performing - what is working well versus what isn’t and what needs further support.