Don't spend a dollar on your firm marketing before doing this.
Who loves cutting their own hair? Instead of going to a barber or hairdresser to do it, do you sit in the bathroom every month spending hours making it perfect? Anyone?? Yeah me neither.
It's both too hard and too scary if I get it wrong...and I have it shaved! Doing all your own marketing, branding, strategy and social media is like cutting your own hair. It sounds like a good idea to save some money, but it does nothing to help your brand image.
Building a kick arse brand is the difference between attracting work, and having to constantly chase it. The brilliant thing with technology change, social media platforms and the ability to engage more directly with clients is that there are plenty of opportunities to attract work. However, building a great brand doesn't happen easily, no matter what some 20 something marketing manager might tell you.
Building a brand can be freakin hard and costly work that doesn't happen overnight (now say that with me again!). It will make a big medium and long term difference to your bottom line (actually, ALL the difference), but it is an investment.
How long it takes to grow your brand to attract work is really just dependent on these 5 factors:
What you want to achieve from it
Where you spend your money
The value you give away
The time you're willing to invest personally
The quality of advice you get along the way.
What you want out of it
What? Not money first?? Not a “you need to give me $10K a month and I GUARANTEE it will work?”!
No, actually. How much you spend is not even on the list because it's only relevant to the return you want (and my time is worth more than anything I could spend). To give you an example of brand expenses, we used to spend $10,000 a month on ads in a print publication! Just the ad! We “only” did that for pure branding, we were search consultants anyway. But at the time it was the place to be seen.
We didn't even see it as candidate generating, we valued being known as the place to go when people were ready to start the process. We loved having all our big client ads there for the world to see (“social proof”). The GFC changed a lot, but it didn't change the need to have your brand front and centre.
You need to start asking how much is a client worth to you? What about simply 1 extra piece of return work a month? Do you even spend that little amount on your branding and marketing? It's crazy how undervalued the very machine that helps drive your business can be when you're stuck doing it all yourself.
Do you deep down have big plans? If so, and you're honest with yourself, then you know (short of accidentally finding yourself on the front page of the paper for doing something wrong) that getting free attention doesn't happen. And no, we don't subscribe to the all attention is good attention theory! Sure there are short term sugar hits like media and awards, but sustaining a brand requires a significant investment so you better be clear about what you're doing it for.
Part of our process with our clients is to make sure they are clear from the start on what they want, why they want it, and what it will take to get there. It's what we call our “Reflection” step in our 5 Step Framework to Win More Work. Knowing where you come from and what you want well before deciding “I want 30 Instagram images and a Facebook group”. So many people start back to front, wanting the physical thing without knowing why and we think that's crazy! You really need to know what you want before you start to create a strategy to get it (and understand what it will take).
Where you spend your money
Put it all on Black!!
I've seen a lot of “Social Media Marketers” proposals and frankly you might as well go to the casino and pick a number on the roulette table. An unfocused approach with the mere intention of having a presence on social media is a complete waste of money. As is “Social Media Marketing” just for the sake of it.
You need to invest where your audience is and have a strategy for each of the channels. That could mean Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or Snapchat. It could mean running webinars, more in-person events, creating great content to give away online or in person, videos etc. Getting the right mix is important, and spending the right amount to get bang for your buck is the key. It's why we talk about “growing your business” and not simply doing “social media marketing” because it's way more than that.
Maybe you want a beautiful Instagram presence (and you should certainly think about it given the ability to B2B or B2C market on your own terms). So what will that actually cost?
"How much is imagery? What do I put in the images? How do I make my wall look consistent? How long will it take to write the captions? How do I create the right hashtags? How much will it cost to get someone to engage with my audience? And I haven't even considered Instagram Stories yet!"
This is not to discourage, in fact I think Instagram is hugely important for law firm marketing and far more than most have invested in to date. However, it will take an investment and it's important to understand the work involved when you're looking at how you make that through third parties or hiring someone internally to do it for you.
The value you give away
Lawyers love giving stuff away- said no one ever.
For most lawyers the odd free consultation and a seminar to talk to clients about some obtuse change in the law is the norm when it comes to giving value. Some firms do it better, engaging with their clients and giving lots of free value, but it's the exception and not the rule.
On top of that, when was the last time you came across something really unique that someone was doing? Yep... another client presentation over drinks it is this week.
For anyone looking to stand out you have to start thinking about what IP you can give away, what value your clients want from you (or simply what interests them) that can keep your name front and centre.
So many firms just don't do simple things like having calls to action on their website, offers for free lead generation downloads (that the clients want), or offering packages and alternative service options.
The time you're willing to invest
Ok, so there's lots to do and you need to decide what you pay for, and what you do yourself. For most people the first question is “do I know what I'm doing” enough to even start that? Do I have enough time on top of everything else?"
"Am I confident that my time is being well spent compared to having someone else do it for me?"
Maybe you have lots of time not doing client work and if so that's perfect, you can hit Google up and learn everything you need to know on YouTube. Quite literally, everything from Facebook Ads to Instagram Stories you can learn to do. Learning what to do is a bit different but give yourself a year to 18 months of doing everything and you'll work out what works for you. There are so many resources out there that investing 2-4 hours a day for the next year getting your head around each platform and engaging in it will give you the ability to spend a big part of your day doing it as your brand grows.
In terms of time spent, how long does it take you to write a piece of content? Have you been able to be consistent for 6 months writing at least one piece every fortnight to build your brand? If it takes you more than 4 hours- what is the cost of that to you in your business? Must be at least $1500? For one article.
Are you willing to spend time on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter replying to messages, engaging on other people's pages, and building a following? Are you willing to put in the nights to do a webinar, create marketing material to get people to join it, set up email nurture sequences to keep in touch with them?
I spend 2 hours a day on Instagram and Facebook replying to messages, liking and messaging other users to build our following and we've grown from 0 to 3500 Facebook followers and 0 - 950 Instagram in the past year. So make sure your expectations align with the work you want to put into your marketing or invest in someone to do it for you.
The quality of advice you get
So maybe you realise it takes more work than you have the time to spend, but you want the results. You'll need to seek help from someone who knows both your business and the industry. Not only that, but you need to recognise that your goals and needs will differ from someone elses, so you need to make sure you get tailored advice and not just a cookie cutter solution.
Strategy is not just about now. It is making sure you have a short, medium and long term plan that you can grow into. Help with strategy at the outset is hugely valuable, but it's also somethng that is really difficult to understand from an ROI perspective until things go wrong! Get bad advice, and it's not just the money spent but the opportunity cost of the time wasted.
We'd also suggest thinking long and hard about using third parties that don't work in the industry. It's absolutely self serving advice, but if you can work with people who know the industry and have success with others in it you can at least have that level of confidence that it will work for you.
There are no 100% guarantees
One last thing whenever you are speaking to someone to help your business grow.
There are no 100% guarantees. If anyone tells you otherwise.. run, run away.
Building a brand is a process. Things will work, some things won't, the point is you need to be flexible and continually evaluate over appropriate periods of time what is working for you, and do more of it. A great example for us is articles we write on “Alternative Careers for Lawyers”. We get a huge amount of our traffic simply with this blog content.
So we decided once a month we'll do a new “Alternative Careers for Lawyers” post highlighting one in particular... and guess what? They're super popular too and we've even taken it one step further by developing an e-book around the concept which will be available in the near future.
At the start I was flippant about cost but obviously cost is a thing, we don't all have bags of money. So what do things cost?
Well to have a brand like ours known around Australia and internationally you need to spend 18 months marketing full time with a team of 4... you do the math. Everything from your podcast, blog, Facebook ads, Instagram imagery, video, time to engage, lead generation, webinars, etc etc etc...
If this makes you scared, it should. But only if you aren't investing in yours because guess what?? Your competitors are.
Nothing comes easily, so don't believe some marketer who tells you otherwise. Can you achieve big things anyway? Absolutely! Can we show you how not to waste some of the money we did? Absolutely again!! The key is knowing what you want, maybe world domination isn't on the radar... but being known as the go to Litigation firm in Melbourne for high end work is. And that is super achievable with a strong strategy and help getting there. It's just not going to happen by accident or without a hell of a lot of work yourself, or without help doing it.
In the end it's critical to be clear about what you want so you can spend your money marketing where it matters.
You can have a great brand, attract more work and better people- but it takes work. The question for your business is who does it?!
We help progressive and innovative firms build their brands on social media, get in touch to find out more.
Branding is important for both individual lawyers and businesses. We’ve written lots on this topic and are currently giving away our guide tailored to firms, 7 Marketing Mistakes Killing Your Growth (+ How To Fix Them). You can grab your complimentary copy below.
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