Hit long-term marketing goals with short-term planning

Michael Hammond and Mark Powers,
The Daily Record Newswire

Over the last several years, it has become more and more common to hear lawyers say, with more than a hint of frustration and worry in their voices: “What’s the point of doing a marketing plan? Why bother trying to forecast trends and predict results when you’re riding the rollercoaster of this uncertain economy?”

The short answer is that the need to plan is even greater during a prolonged recession with sporadic growth. While planning for the future does not guarantee the result, it will get you much closer to achieving your goals than if you continue to allow your firm to drift with no particular destination in mind.

Even if you don’t accomplish all of your objectives, the mental exercise of planning provides focus, clarity and renewed commitment to your marketing efforts.

The elephant in the room

Start with subscribing to the view that planning for future growth is more likely to be effective than allowing it simply to drift along. Let’s say you’ve even taken the next step of having a marketing retreat out of which came a written plan, complete with a handful of significant annual client development goals. Just how do you eat the elephant of a big, audacious marketing plan with ambitious annual goals?

For many firms, once the retreat gets checked off the list of things to do, the enthusiasm for marketing quickly wears off as the inexorable grind of day-to-day routine reasserts itself. Thus begins the self-fulfilling prophecy: “Marketing doesn’t work; we tried it once and nothing happened.”

The elephant is a lot harder to eat when nobody can find it. So what went wrong?

Law firms and rainmakers who succeed at marketing do so because they not only have a plan, but also a system of support and a structure of accountability that ensure that the plan is executed. Without short-term and intermediate goals that build incrementally toward the achievement of the longer-term annual goals, your “big picture” plan will never be implemented.

A shorter-term orientation also gives you the opportunity to make any course corrections necessary to reach your ultimate destination.

So just how big is your elephant? Let’s say that your marketing plan has a goal of increasing and enhancing the number of referrals your firm receives from past and present clients. Let’s also say that you have developed a list of your current top 20 referral sources and another list of referral source prospects with great potential. In order to ensure that you cover the names on both lists, you will need to allocate your client development time on a rotating basis between the old, proven referral sources and the new, potential referral sources.

First, make a list for each month, with 12 names to be contacted. Next to each name, identify the objective of the contact with this referral source — “develop more rapport” or “ask for referrals” or “conduct an interview.” Since you will have a different level of relationship with the individuals on the two lists, your intended objectives will differ widely, but will all be focused on improving your relationship.

If you’re merely an acquaintance of the person you will be contacting, your goal may be to simply get to know the person better. If it’s someone you’ve known for a while who hasn’t sent you any business lately, your objective might be to interview them or to ask for a referral.

Next, the follow-up — “send hand-written thank-you note” or “send game tickets I promised” or “calendar lunch for next month.” Following up with these referral sources is critical to demonstrating that you are reliable, trustworthy and serious about cultivating the relationship.

And don’t stop at assessing progress monthly. Just as the annual goal from the marketing plan about cultivating referral sources had to be divided into monthly goals — contacting 12 existing and potential referral sources — the monthly goals also have to be broken down into weekly goals to ensure that they are achieved in a timely manner.

Three marketing contacts a week can be made in a variety of ways, including meeting for coffee, inviting them to lunch or getting together after work. Three contacts a week will result in more than 150 marketing contacts per year, which should, in turn, result in significant progress in achieving the annual goal of generating more business from existing and prospective referral sources.
Enjoy the elephant

While lunch tends to be the most popular marketing activity, it doesn’t have to be the only one you rely on for meeting with your contacts. In planning your marketing contacts, make sure that you take into account your own interests, hobbies, passions and causes in which you believe. In order for you to look forward to these activities, they should involve something you enjoy doing as much as possible; otherwise, marketing will just become something you dread and are a lot less likely to do.

If you enjoy cooking, for example, invite a valued referral source and his or her spouse to your home and cook dinner for them. Or if you’re passionate about a sport and discover that one of your contacts is as well, get tickets and invite them to go with you to the next game.

In short, find your own way of marketing, an approach that fits you best. That’s the key to becoming a successful rainmaker. Such an approach will not only keep you marketing consistently, but also ensure that you build and enhance relationships in a genuine and authentic manner. After all, building relationships is the cornerstone of all referral-based marketing.

Ultimately, you eat your elephant by taking one bite and one action at a time in a very intentional way, consistently, over time. But it’s effective short-term planning that leads to achieving long-term marketing goals. Marketing is really all about “staying in action.”


Michael Hammond has spent his entire career practicing law or managing marketing initiatives within the legal profession and served for more than 20 years as senior vice president of marketing for Attorneys’ Title Insurance Fund. Mark Powers is the president of Atticus Inc. and co-author of “How Good Attorneys Become Great Rainmakers” and “Time Management for Attorneys.” He can be contacted at mark@atticusonline.com.