When I ask a new lawyer coaching client the question: “What's your marketing budget?” I usually get silence back or a general statement like “Whatever it takes…” Many attorneys haven't given a marketing budget much thought. Of course most of us set budgets in other areas: secretarial expense, law books/online legal access, computers & software, etc. But, when it comes to something as vital to a law practice as marketing, the ball gets dropped.
To the best of my knowledge law schools still do not teaching marketing. You might get a smattering in a law practice management class but generally we are on our own to develop this critical skill. And, as a result, most attorneys are amateurs. Its not rocket science but rainmaking is a skill that must first be learned, next utilized to develop a marketing plan and finally followed religiously.
To get started, first ask yourself: “What is my marketing budget?” This is really two questions; your financial marketing budget and your time marketing budget. Decide both.
Financial Marketing Budget. Ask yourself: “What amount of money am I willing to spend each and every month to develop my law practice?” Of course many law firms have marketing budgets for sections or even individual attorneys. If that's the case for you, you will have two numbers: what amount the firm can provide and what amount you are willing to provide yourself. If you don't know what your firm will do, ask. You may be pleasantly surprised. Your financial marketing budget will cover any and all expenses related to executing your marketing plan. Such items as attendance at conventions and meetings, networking and referral building, lunches with prospects, memberships in clubs and organization, newsletters, websites and, for some attorneys, advertising. The reasons for determining a financial marketing budget in advance are twofold: 1) Knowing the amount you have available may influence the choice of marketing tools you employ. 2) Having a specific amount of budgeted funds helps you commit to implementing your marketing strategy.
Time Marketing Budget. How much time are you willing to commit on a weekly basis (this is usually easier to work with than a monthly basis) to develop your law practice? I get answers that vary a lot. For some lawyers three hours a weeks is hard to squeeze in. It makes you wonder why they need marketing if they are that busy. Perhaps they are keeping busy but not making money-that's whole other issue. Some new attorneys or lateral transfers are willing to spend much more time on marketing: 10-20 hours+ per week. So what about you, how much time are you willing to invest in order to grow your practice? And I mean each and every week. Smart rainmaking requires a clear strategic plan, not just doing something here and there and hoping to generate business. And, legal marketing also requires consistency. Every week that goes by without marketing is a week that is gone forever, you can't get it back. That's why you need the budget. Your commitment should be to spend that amount of time per week on marketing regardless of what else is going on in your practice. So you ask: “But what if I don't know what to do?” Good question and a subject for a later posting. For now just commit to the time. If you have to sit at your desk without a plan you will end up doing something and that's way better than nothing. Get started.