Planning to Fail?

While most exhortations about marketing planning involve a strong suggestion that you should be doing it, this article will be headed in a different direction.

Over the Christmas break, a lot of senior lawyers are going to be doing some planning.

That might be deliberate, or just our inability to turn the subconscious thought process completely off. Whatever the case, if you're a senior lawyer I can reliably predict that at least a little brain power will be devoted to planning your marketing for 2023 over the coming weeks.

And since that's going to happen either way, what if we took a moment to highlight what “good” marketing planning looks like. Because let's be honest – a lot of marketing plans achieve precisely nothing.

When Lawyers Hear “Plan”

Part of the issue about gearing up a marketing strategy is where our brains tend to go when we hear the word “plan”.

To a lawyer, being told to come up with a “plan” conjures up images of nicely bound booklets, 5 year vision statements, strategic retreats with lots of alcohol, and generally a large-scale operation designed to come up with a comprehensive document covering all aspects of possible occurrence for the foreseeable future.

So let's start by using every lawyer's favourite tool – a defined term:

marketing plan means: a marketing idea that you can actually execute.

Hargreaves – 2022

There, that's better! Now we just have two elements to explore.

A Marketing Idea

Here's the raw truth: most vaguely sensible marketing strategies have a decent chance of success if you give them a red hot crack.

Yet, for some reason, we spend inordinate amounts of time trying to find the “best” thing to choose, knowing that we probably don't have time or money to do everything that's possible.

So we work ourselves into stitches about whether we should blog, tweet, link, video, podcast, graphic, text or newsletter ourselves into marketing bliss.

With the inevitable result that by the time we have made a decision it's half way through the year.

Here's my suggestion: pick something, and stop overthinking it. If you can pick two things, then that's great. If they offer efficiency with each other (video + podcast, anyone?) then even better. But just pick something and move on.


While the planning phase can be deeply painful if overdone, the execution phase tends to be where the wheels come off the wagon.

It happens for a few reasons.

First – you picked too many things in phase 1. Maybe you did so because of the mindless optimism that the new year tends to bring with it, or because you forgot that you've said “I've just got to do it” for the last 5 consecutive years and never actually “just done it”. Whatever the case, in the picking stage in (1) let's be a bit realistic about how much time you're actually going to spend.

Next – you don't know what you're doing. Perhaps you picked “video marketing” but you haven't got the first clue how to kick things off, and so you put if off over and over again out of a concern that you've not quite nailed the process. Again, this is readily solvable. If there is a hard stop (eg don't have a camera) then just buy a camera. While the available choices can get a bit overwhelming these days, ultimately most things can be solved with a modicum of decisiveness.

Finally – you get too busy. This is party connected with (1), but is just as often a function of the fact that lawyers are sometimes quite inundated with work. That's just part and parcel of legal practice. It's not really a problem unless the “period of busy” becomes the “permanancy of busy” – at that point it's not busy-ness that's your problem, it's priorities.

So Don't Plan yourself to Death

Sure, a big booklet of great ideas sounds like an ideal marketing plan, but for most lawyers it's simply a waste of time.

That's why I like our simple two part process: pick something, then do it.



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