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Market and Communicate to Grow Your Firm

Marketing--The Key to Success
by Barbara Lewis MBA and Dan Otto MBA

Marketing can be focused on two groups: the client or end-user of your services and/or the referral source who refers the client/end-user.  The most cost-effective way to market is to concentrate on the referral source.  You can market to one referral source who may refer you five clients over the course of one year.  Or you could use the same time to market to one company and you may or may not get that one client.

The best way to identify your market target, is to review your list of clients from the past several years and determine how your clients originated and which industry dominates your client base.  If you determine that you have a predominance of clients in the construction industry, then marketing through construction associations and publications will probably be beneficial.  In analyzing who referred your clients, you discover that a number of referral sources are certified public accountants.  Consequently, you should be speaking at CPA organizations and writing for CPA publications.

Once you've determined where your past clients have come from, you are ready to use that data to develop a marketing plan for the future.  Research has shown that firms with a written marketing plan have more growth in revenues and profits than firms without a plan.  Average revenues and profits per attorney are higher as well -- by as much as nearly 150 percent.  Developing a marketing plan is critical if you want to generate more profit.

The marketing plan, divided into two areas of reputation and relationship marketing, is a month by month program of action steps describing what you intend to accomplish during the next 12 months.  Reputation marketing includes speeches, articles and seminars that will build your reputation, whereas the relationship marketing is one-on-one marketing to individuals.  You can do relationship marketing without the reputation side.   However, you usually can't do reputation marketing without the relationship, unless you have a very high profile, media intensive case or practice.

The most crucial element of the marketing plan is to develop a database or mailing list, which is the core of any marketing program.  This list contains your targets for relationship marketing.  The adage "out of sight, out of mind" is true.   You need to communicate with your referral sources, clients and prospects on a periodic basis (about four times a year), so that they remember you when they need you. 

Relationship marketing focuses on the individual.  One of the best ways to enhance a relationship is to eat a meal with your target and to do so periodically.  Many great rainmakers obtain their clients through social situations.  The key in a social situation is to talk about what you do in a way that lets the listener know more about your skills and talents.  Another great way to develop quality targets for your marketing is through networking in groups and organizations that mirror your current client base or referrals sources.    


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