Some time between now and the end of January there's a good chance that lawyers and law firm owners are going to be sitting down and having a good old fashioned THINK about stuff.
As a general rule, I thoroughly endorse thinking.
I endorse thinking even more when it's targeted, meaningful, and results in actions that propel law firms to greater success in the future.
So, if part of your big think at the end of this year is going to involve a look at your marketing efforts, then here are a few pointers to ensure that it's not a colossal waste of time.
Get The Right Data
Possibly the dumbest thing you can do is to just take whatever data your marketing team/person decides to give you.
I say possibly because some marketing teams are awesome, know exactly what is useful for you and don't feel like they need to justify their existence by providing you with useless metrics. Others… not so much.
So if the data you are getting begins and ends with views and open rates, then I suggest you start asking a few more questions. The trick is to ask the kinds of questions that give you actual information you can use when planning your marketing efforts for next year. Views and open rates don't give you that by themselves.
Here are a few to get you started:
- with the top 10 articles by views (assuming you wrote 10 articles…) how long did people spend on that page on average?
- for our top 10 articles again, how far down the page did readers actually get?
- assuming you categorise your articles in some way, what categories of articles get the most traction? Is there a topic, headline style or writer that seems to get more attention than others?
- with the top 10 videos by views, what was the average watch time on those videos (you might need a stiff drink before seeing this one…)?
- what were the main channels by which people got to our website – paid, organic search, social media, and which social media?
- with the top performing social media posts for each platform this year:
- what topics were they on?
- can we see that they bumped our social media following in any way?
- who was engaging with these posts, and are they our target clients?
- has our email marketing database grown or shrunk this year? Who are the top 50 people who open and read our material regularly, and are they clients of the firm? If they are not clients, are they people we have reached out to this year in any way?
- Who are our top evangelists (if we have any) – the people who read our stuff, comment on everything, share our articles and generally throw lots of love our way. How can we acknowledge or thank them for that?
You get the idea – real data gives meaningful information that you can the USE, not just a colourful pie chart that makes you feel warm and fuzzy.
Not tracking some of these things? Great! That's step 1 for next year – start tracking this stuff.
Where Did you Fail Miserably, and Why?
There's a good chance you had a marketing plan this year – whether goals, actions, aspirations or just something you thought off during last year's down time.
Whatever the case, write a list out of what you hoped to achieve or do this year, and whether or not you achieved it.
Then, the big question becomes: why?
In many cases that will be because you didn't do anything about it.
But then you need to ask WHY again – don't just give yourself a kick up the pants, because if Dr Freud made you lie down on the couch and talk about your mother, there's a good chance we'd find out that there is a better reason than “I just didn't”.
Perhaps you can into tech hurdles? Perhaps you don't actually think those activities were going to be useful? Perhaps your practice was super busy this year and you didn't trust anybody enough to delegate? Perhaps you lack the confidence to put material out there?
Whatever the case, understanding why you didn't do something is the only way you're likely to move towards actually doing it. Write it down – be honest.
What did you Crush?
Whether or not it was planned, presumably there are some things you did in the marketing space really well this year?
Well – write them down! What worked great, what goals did you hit, what parts of the plan just fell into place?
And again ask that great question: why? Why did it work, and why did you work at it?
Basically this is just the last section, but on the wins.
Look at the Goals, Look at the Actions
OK so we've done a bit of reflection, now we need to get to the guts of your marketing plan, which is this:
- What are you trying to do?
- How are each of the activities you did in the last year helping you accomplish that?
The reason that we did the failure/crushing exercise first is because you might find that some of the things you thought would be good and actually executed throughout the year didn't actually achieve anything.
And while I don't believe that short term measurements are great, a year is a decent length of time if you've been doing things properly to figure out if you're on an upward trajectory.
So it's honesty time: what, precisely, are you trying to achieve and how have your actions from the last year helped with that.
Find the Gaps, Do the Research
Next it's time to try and do a bit of digging about the things you don't know.
So, for example, if your law firm has no website, no email list, no social media presence, and does no marketing of any kind… then that's an opportunity to look at what things you could be doing.
But, more likely, this is a chance to see where:
- You weren't doing things well enough – your efforts were half-hearted at best, and that's the likely cause of your failure; or
- You simply didn't know that opportunity X existed, or you decided to avoid opportunity X for some other reason.
Hunt around – what do “they” say people should be doing these days? The internet is a rich source of many opinions, and while some of them will be bad it's still a good chance for you to catch up with what's going on in digital marketing land.
Jot these opportunities and gaps down.
You now have the material to make some informed decisions about the year to come.
Culling and Creating
This section requires a pen and some paper that you're happy to scribble on.
Here's the gist of it – you need to decide what you're going to do, and what you're going to stop lying to yourself about doing.
Here's what I suggest:
- If, after research and reflection, you can't for the life of you figure out WHY you might do a particular thing, then take it off the list. You just won't do it, and you'll feel bad and distracted for having not done it. Alternatively you could hunt for the right WHY, but if you don't find it then it shouldn't be on this list.
- If, after research and reflection, you realise it's important but you have no idea how to execute it, then put it on the list and hire someone to help you put it into action.
- If, after research and reflection, it's an awesome idea, you love the concept and you basically know how to execute it already – then put it on the list!
So, now that you have your data and you've done a quick review of what did and didn't work it's time to make some decisions: what's going to go, what's going to stay, and what's going to change?
Careful With This Next Bit
It's at this point that most strategic thinking processes go off the rails. Why? Because we overreach and produce an insurmountable to-do list that can't possibly be achieved and counter-productively gets put in the too hard basket the moment the phone starts ringing.
Lawyers tend (especially during holidays) to dramatically overestimate their own ability to do things through sheer determination and force of will. Sure, we can get a lot done, but normally nothing resembling what we tell ourselves we can get done.
If you've been playing along up to this point, you should have a functional list of what general activities you're going to do and basically why you think they are a good idea.
Here's the trick to putting those things into practice effectively:
- Pick just one of those activities each day
- Do one thing towards its achievement
That's it – one decision, one action, one execution each day and you will ultimately succeed over the longer term.
Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.Jim Rohn
You have the tools, you have the knowledge, and you have the time. So get after it.