One of the biggest problems facing attorneys trying to market themselves is finding the time to handle the scheduling and logistics associated with marketing lunches, meetings and other social events. Driven to distraction by constant interruptions, difficult staffing issues and demanding clients, most attorneys don’t or won’t take the time to do what it takes. Many attorneys are good at marketing when placed in the right situations; however, getting them there is the problem. Making phone calls with contacts often involves a lot of phone tag, calendaring client development events takes time, planning the basic logistics of marketing is distracting. As a rule, attorneys aren’t very good at the initiation phase of marketing.
This phase is essential – without someone to initiate and organize these steps, most marketing efforts will never get off the ground. If you aren’t successful in setting up lunches, dinners and meetings with referral sources, your client development efforts aren’t going to be very strategic. If you’re not meeting with the right people, then you’re relying on nothing more than happenstance to promote your practice. Happenstance will take you only so far. We advise you to take a more proactive approach.
Enter the Marketing Assistant.
When an attorney client, we’ll call him Mark, had difficulty marketing himself, he sought help. It came in the form of a young college student studying marketing at a local junior college. Though his new assistant had little experience, Mark immediately noticed the difference hiring a marketing assistant made to his practice. Every morning, armed with a list of contacts, Mark and his marketing assistant would have a short meeting to strategize, set up lunches and plan client development events. They also focused on placing articles about his firm in both local and statewide newspapers. To accomplish this last task, they compiled a list of publications and set up the list as an email group in their database system. Consequently, whenever something newsworthy happened in the firm – a new promotion, a new award – Mark’s marketing assistant could automatically distribute the news to the state or local press.
The Tapas Dinner
Another attorney we’ve worked with, we’ll call him Richard, found it too time-consuming to market his practice to prospective referral sources. To overcome this obstacle, he hired a marketing assistant who instantly impressed Richard with his initiative and drive. Formerly in sales and very personable, the new marketing assistant used his background to reinforce his marketing efforts. After hiring his marketing assistant, Richard felt his marketing efforts were re-energized. Not only did the assistant help implement Richard’s ideas, the assistant brought fresh ideas for marketing the practice. One of those ideas was to create a dinner event for Richard’s top referral sources. Similar to a Spanish tapas dinner the evening’s menu featured many small dishes instead of one main course. The firm’s top referral sources were invited and the evening was a great opportunity to acknowledge their efforts. While the group enjoyed the dinner, Richard had the chance to mingle with his guests and develop stronger relationships with different individuals in the group. Without the support of his marketing assistant, this event would never have gotten off the ground. Neither Richard nor his staff would have devoted the time and energy to making this event such a success.
To leverage your marketing efforts by working with a marketing assistant, consider the different client development activities you can delegate to them:
- Scheduling lunch/breakfast marketing meetings
- Managing your database of clients and referral sources
- Planning parties, seminars and other group events
- Building and managing a TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness) program – newsletter, email, birthday lists
- Assisting in preparation for speaking engagements
- Prompting you to write thank you notes
- Delivering gifts and buying sports, theater or event tickets for referral sources
- Prompting you into action when you stop marketing
Small firms can employ a marketing assistant for a reasonable hourly rate. When considering the amount you’d be willing to spend, don’t forget that if their efforts bring in more referrals, the investment of time and money is well worth it. Consider also that if your marketing efforts have not been stellar, or if you aren’t good at initiating marketing events, hiring an assistant can make all the difference. Rapid progress can be made if you hire someone who is people-oriented and loves to plan events. Someone who has studied marketing in college, a man or woman who has been in sales, a paralegal who is very good with people, all can be candidates for this position.
You may hire someone to work for you part-time, such as Mark’s college student, or, if you require more support, hire a person full-time, as Richard did. One of your existing staff members may also be drafted to help – just be sure you don’t overload them if they are still working as a paralegal. Virtual marketing assistants are also available. Consider this option if you have limited office space or are not interested in hiring another employee. Since virtual marketing assistants work from their homes or remote office locations, a law firm doesn’t have to free up office space or include them on the payroll. The firm can specify how much time they need on a weekly, monthly, or per-project basis. Virtual marketing assistants are paid $30 to $45 per hour, depending on their qualifications, and can be found online by looking up “virtual assistants.”
No matter how you set it up, this is an idea that works. In the words of Richard, “If you work with your marketing assistant to plan two or three marketing contacts a week, by the end of a year you’ll have made 100 to 150 marketing contacts. If that many marketing contacts a year won’t stimulate new business, nothing will!” If you are too busy to initiate client development activities, don’t despair – delegate.
- Hire a young intern – preferably a college student with some experience in marketing – to rejuvenate your practice.
- Meet with your new assistant frequently – it will be his/her job to “lighten your load” and help you market your practice.
- Newspapers are the single greatest source of public relations. Study the content filling the pages of your local newspaper. Make contacts with the staff of the local paper and regularly submit notices and articles to them.
- Have your marketing assistant organize an event for your top referral sources.