The Foundation to Building a Successful Law Practice

The Foundation to Building a Successful Law Practice (Marketing Focus)

What is a strategy and why is it important to growing a successful practice? The answer is quite simple yet remains very elusive to many practitioners. A strategy is a guide or map for helping you or your firm to get to where you want to go. It is also a way to help you communicate to the various stakeholders (i.e. employees, partners, clients, prospects, etc.) where you are going so they can help you to achieve your goals. Southwest Airlines, whose strategy since 1971 has been to provide high-frequency, point-to-point, low-fare service, has grown to become one of America’s most profitable airlines. Southwest could never have achieved such results without creating a unique and clearly articulated business strategy. Whether you are attempting to grow a commercial business or a law practice, the basic fundamentals of business strategy as the foundation for growth are readily applicable.

Before jumping into creating your business strategy, a brief primer on strategy will help set the stage. At its simplest level, a strategy is what a business entity chooses to do with its limited resources to serve its customers. There is no shortage of books on the topic of business strategies starting with “Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors” authored by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter, considered by many to be the father of business strategy. Porter suggests that there are only two strategic options a firm can select. First is to be the low cost supplier and second is to differentiate oneself from the competition. In addition, a firm can decide to apply the low cost provider or differentiation approach to the entire marketplace or opt to be a niche provider focusing on a particular market segment such as airlines, pharmaceuticals or nanotechnology. Porter further contends that one of the most critical business mistakes is not to consciously select and pursue a business strategy.

Marketing Strategy for Growing your Law Practice

Whether you are responsible for growing an individual or group practice, the strategic principles espoused by Porter and a litany of leading management consultants over the past thirty plus years remains critical. Assuming you don’t aspire to be the low cost provider, then you need to make two fundamental decisions. First, you need to determine how you are going to “position” or differentiate your practice or firm from your competition. Are you going to provide services regionally, nationally or globally? Are you going to provide a broad range of services or are you going to specialize? Second, you must select your target market(s). Are you going to say you represent everyone and all industries or are you going to specify within which industries or demographics your strengths lay? Unless you are a mega-firm, a clearly defined approach for specialization and target marketing will be instrumental to your success. Even if you are a firm with 500 or more attorneys, the growth of your group practices and your firm will rely to a large degree on the cumulative abilities of your partners to develop and grow their individual client bases.

Once you have selected your strategy (i.e. your position and your target market), you are ready to develop the rest of your marketing plan. This entails developing your marketing message and making the tactical marketing decisions about how you are going to communicate this message in a consistent manner in order to build awareness, leads and clients for your practice. There are a variety of options to consider including publishing articles, making presentations, advertising, website marketing, direct mail, public relations, networking, blogs, seminars and webinars, to name a few. Given the fact that financial resources and your time are limited commodities, it is important to select the options that will have the greatest return on investment possible for your practice. In addition to selecting the most appropriate tactics, it is equally important to utilize the selected marketing and sales options properly and in a way which is aligned with your business strategy. Taking the time to plan and execute your business strategy will improve the results of your business development efforts. Dedicating 10-20% of your time annually to these growth activities, paying attention to what’s working and what’s not and making modifications as needed, and being patient for the results to appear is a recipe for success for any law practice. [1]

Notes

1. Greg Ehrlich is a Principal at Growth Marketing Strategies, LLC. Mr. Ehrlich is a strategic business development consultant that assists law firms, environmental consulting firms, and other professional service providers to systematically grow their client portfolios and revenues. He works with individuals, practice areas and entire firms to evaluate and enhance their sales and marketing strategies in a cost effective manner that maximizes the return on investment.