Attorney Diane Mader didn’t happen upon her successful practice, she planned it that way.
Middleton-based Mader is a strong proponent of legal marketing because, as she puts it, “You need to plan your work and work your plan.”
Having a marketing plan, according to Mader, “keeps you aware of what’s going on around you from a business perspective, so that as you see changes in society or things that you think institutionally are not working and should be changed, because you’re always thinking about marketing, you’re always thinking about the need to respond to these kinds of shifts.”
Staying on top of the larger plan isn’t always easy, though, Mader said.
“The rub, for an attorney or in any small business, is that you get so busy doing the work that it’s very hard to keep track of the bigger picture, which is the business as a business,” she said. “But if you don’t take care of the business, the business won’t take care of you.”
Attorney Heidi Eglash is another successful example of the payoffs of using a marketing plan.
Eglash created her own informal plan as a portion of her business plan and in the past six years, the La Crosse attorney has grown her practice to include two associates. She’s also helped her associates create individual marketing plans, which they revisit frequently at staff meetings.
Creating a plan
Google “attorney sample marketing plans” and you’ll find multiple iterations to get started on your own marketing plan.
There’s also the MarketMyLawPractice.com template, which is available for a discount to members of the State Bar as part of a broad array of online marketing assistance and costs anywhere from $700-$1,200 per attorney per year.
Westlaw offers similar online marketing packages, Eglash noted.
Mader said her plan began with a “core message,” her mission statement of sorts. A variation of it is the “elevator pitch,” a 30-second description of who you are and what you do. Mader’s version is: “I’m an attorney who practices collaborative divorce law. I try to help people survive divorce and come out on the other side with children who are flourishing and happy, and as much of their marital estate intact.”
She next addresses how and where she’ll get clients who share that vision. For Mader, it’s overwhelmingly by referrals from past and current clients and other attorneys or professionals from other disciplines, she said.
Getting referrals is a result of providing top-tier client service, she emphasized. Marketing, Mader said, is less about getting prospects and more about keeping existing clients happy, so they’ll send more like them your way.
Susan Costley, the director of marketing at Godfrey & Kahn SC, Milwaukee, said she encourages associates to pursue the marketing activities they enjoy the most.
If you dislike public speaking, for example, don’t make that part of the plan — otherwise, it will quickly be shelved. Also, if necessary, break up some of the loftier goals into short-term, manageable objectives. The progress you make when taking those small steps will keep you motivated, she said.
Among Mader’s tasks, she said, is to regularly update the various informational packets she has assembled for the differing needs of prospective clients and referral sources. They are typically sent along with handwritten thank-you notes. The personal thank-you’s also go to clients who’ve recently hired her, and again when the representation concludes.
Mader also offers free initial consultations. In addition, she maintains a notebook, where she records every action she takes toward accomplishing the goals on her marketing plan, as well as ideas for the future.
Critical to the success of her plan, Mader also promises to devote a block of time each week to marketing. If, by Friday afternoon, she hasn’t done anything marketing-related, she said she’ll stop the client work at 3 p.m. and end the day with marketing.
It helps to set up outside accountability, Costley said. Even attorneys in small firms, or solos and staff, can nudge each other to stick to their plans. At Godfrey & Kahn, they ask for year-end reports, she said, to keep the attorneys on track.
In Mader’s case, she shares space with Attorney Janice Wexler and two clinical social workers who practice collaborative divorce. They meet monthly to discuss marketing.
More time than money
Both Mader and Eglash spent nothing on their marketing plans, except the time it took to create them, they said.
Likewise, both incur very small upfront marketing expenses, such as website maintenance.
“It’s cost-effective because what I’m using is my time to hone my message,” Mader said. “And when people decide to hire me, they are hiring me, not my law firm. So many tasks related to marketing can be done yourself, like the writing, public speaking and free consultations.”
The time devoted to your business is what really pays off, Eglash said.
“It’s more time than money,” she said. “There’s a lot of snake oil out there — the most expensive interactive website or search-engine optimization consultants. But you don’t necessarily need all that. You just need to focus on who you are and what your goal is, and how you’ll project who you are to the people you’re talking with.”