Have You Developed Your Marketing Plan for 2016?

All of the giants of industry are putting their marketing plans and budget together now. It is essential to have a well thought-out marketing plan that is proactive, not reactive. A marketing plan without a firm foundation merely sways in the breeze, with decisions being made willy-nilly about each shiny and novel marketing opportunity that is pitched by a company – some with the best of intentions, and others with more questionable purposes.

Step 1: Gather the Information

Before drafting your marketing plan, it’s critical to answer some key questions that will shape the plan to meet the specific marketing goals of your business. Here are a few you should start with:

Who is my target customer? Be specific. Look at demographics and consumer preferences.

What needs does our company meet? List the ways your products and services uniquely serve your customers.

Who are our competitors and what sets us apart? Look at the products and services they provide, and see where you can exceed their offerings. Research the marketing efforts of your competition. By doing so, you might notice that you’re missing the opportunity to take advantage of a “new” or previously underutilized marketing channel.

How are we going to reach those target customers? Learn how your target customers prefer to receive information (e.g., email, social media). Demographics can tell you a lot about this.

How will I quantitatively measure the results of my marketing efforts? This is huge, because you cannot know what is working for you unless you have hard data to reflect on at the end of the day.
Step 2: Determine the Marketing Channels You Will Use

Successful budget allocation depends on a thorough examination of the marketing channels you’ve used in the past, as well as promising new activities you can explore. If you’ve identified your target customer, you will already have a better idea of which marketing channels will take precedence over others. For example, if your target audience relies heavily on social media to make buying decisions, this may be a channel you want to fortify with more resources. Some of the ways companies reach their target customers are:

· Online/radio/TV/print advertising

· Promotional products

· Direct mail marketing

· Cross-media marketing

· Social media marketing

· Email marketing

· Search marketing

· Blogging and article writing

Step 3: Determine How to Allocate Your Budget

A marketing plan must have a comprehensive budget that encapsulates all resources required to achieve its goals. Some things to consider:

According to the Forrester Research Interactive Marketing Forecasts 2011 to 2016 (US), 32% of the average 2015 marketing budget was spent on interactive marketing (such as social media, mobile marketing, and search marketing), and it’s expected that this amount will increase to 35% in 2016.

Many businesses allocate a portion of their budget (say, 10-15%) for new or novel marketing opportunities that come up over the course of the year. This way they can test the waters of a new venture while knowing their spending limit.

Your allocations must capture all costs associated with marketing and the various channels you utilize. This includes staff, monies paid to outside agencies, etc.

If you’re struggling, a simple formula for budget allocation is what experienced marketers call the “70/20/10″ rule: 70% for time-tested and proven marketing strategies, 20% for those that are promising but not yet fully established, and 10% for trying new things.
As you can see, there are various factors to consider when developing a marketing plan. You must invest the time and resources to build a solid plan that delivers results. Your marketing plan is your marketing roadmap and will keep your business headed in the right direction with its marketing efforts. It will also outline, and allow you to secure, the resources you will need to arrive at your marketing goals. Without it, you have no way of measuring the results and determining which channels provide the best ROI for your business. Figure out your allocations and but a solid and comprehensive plan in place before your next event sponsor comes a-calling.

Using Direct Marketing to Increase Profits

Direct marketing has earned its place as a cheap way to create leads that transform to fresh business opportunities. One of the often used methods is direct mail. For a business to succeed in this area, a perfect choice of marketer must be made. The business must look for a company with a good reputation and experience. Majority of firms that purport to promote direct marketing are the “fly by night” category or the shady type with nothing to show. Their ability to generate a mailing list and offer telemarketing services should be near perfect.

Telemarketing is a sub-branch of direct marketing where consumers are contacted directly via phone. It has gained popularity due to increased usage and penetration of the mobile phone. Telemarketing leads reach a wide spectrum of consumers among them professionals and businesspeople. Direct mail has traditionally been used to send printed or illustrated material to selected prospects.

If used properly, direct marketing can help increase a business’ profits in as short period as a month. Direct mail can be customized as the needs of a business may change from time to time. This makes it very flexible. To develop important leads, first identify the market segment you wish to address. For instance, if you are selling supplements, you may target first time mothers who want to lose the extra weight gained during pregnancy. Another group may consist of men in the middle age brackets, who simply want to eat healthy food.

After the market is identified, look for a direct mail services provider. Request them for a mailing list. In some cases, you will buy this list at a small fee. Customized letters are then created. To use this direct marketing method effectively, the letters should enumerate the benefits of the products or services on offer. They are then posted to the respective addresses as detailed on the mailing list. The responses arising out of this are the leads which if aggressively followed will translate to sales.

The company can assess the success or failure of a direct marketing campaign. For example the direct mail letters may request a prospect to quote a number, code or tear off a coupon and present it on the next purchase. When the customers start making inquiries, the code numbers will be noted and entered into a special database created for this purpose. Once the leads have been entered, any subsequent sale will be marked against its respective lead. At the end of the campaign all sales arising from the direct mail promotion will be used to determine profit volumes.

Direct marketing is not entirely a new concept. Direct mail campaigns have been carried out for a while now. The method is cheap as compared to placing advertisements in newspapers, printing poster or buying prime time on television stations. It generates more leads and is easy to monitor. Telemarketing services can be used together with direct mail as tools to bring large volumes of leads hence more business as it connects with clients.

10 Problems Lawyers Face in Marketing Their Practice

Too often lawyers forget that they are in business. It is not enough just to set up shop and expect clients to somehow find you. It takes a lot more to let the world know you exist, that you have great skills and will do an excellent job for your clients.

But, unfortunately you can’t do a great job for clients that don’t know about you. This is where good marketing comes in. When you look around and see successful practitioners in your field, you can safely assume they have effective marketing methods that helped them build a viable practice.

The most effective method of building and sustaining an active business is a mix of networking, referrals and marketing. For most lawyers, the first two-networking and referrals are the most natural to manage. Marketing, however, is more difficult to master and many lawyers don’t know how to do it well. Indeed, many make mistakes that can cost them time, money and clients.

Below is a list of 10 problems and sometimes mistakes lawyers make in marketing their practice:

1. Not devoting enough time spent on marketing

As in every “self- employed” business, practitioners need to devote a certain amount of time in bringing in new clients. Marketing is a part of that equation. A question that needs to be considered is how much time to spend on marketing? Consider allowing at least 200 hours a year for marketing. If you break this down by week, it’s about four hours during your work week. Your marketing can be done during a business lunch or at a professional conference. It is not difficult to weave those hours into your day if you plan ahead.

2. Counting on industry exposure

Speaking at conferences, doing interviews, writing articles or doing radio interviews isn’t enough. Simple industry exposure alone will not count towards explicitly planned marketing efforts. Marketing is not an “organic” process. If you do have an interview, whether it is radio, TV or a podcast, be sure to put it on your website. Roughly 30 percent of the population has grown up with the internet always present in their lives and video is a big part of how they look for services. If you don’t already have video on your site, you need to add it. It’s an excellent opportunity to show your best skills in how you represent your firm and impress future clients. It’s a great business-getting technique. Live interaction on your website can certainly count towards your marketing efforts.

3. Not sure of your target audience

Who are your clients? If you are not sure, then your advertising and marketing efforts are a waste of your time and money. You need to analyze very carefully and clearly who wants your services. Otherwise, you will waste time and energy on the wrong prospects. Once you have identified and analyzed your target client, will your advertising and marketing efforts be more effective, when you do have your ideal client, that client will be an excellent advocate for future clients. Just as referral business is always ideal, directing your marketing efforts towards the right client base to produce a more optimal result. You can meet your ideal client anywhere, especially when you know where to go to find them.

4. Failure to measure marketing results

How do you know your marketing plan is working if you don’t measure the success or failure of your campaign? Line up the specific actions you have taken and see which ones are getting the most action. Even if some are not getting the same level of response does not mean you trash it. What measuring does tell you is which areas to beef up. Like any advertising or marketing fishing expedition, you want more than one line in the water. Take a look at the response to your blog, for example. See how many people visited or commented.

Law firm marketing is relationship-based like most other service industries. It is how sales originate. One option for measuring is to look at the elements that can be measured and will have easy to identify metrics. Some of those include:

Open rates on your email
Click-through on your website and analytics
Results from client satisfaction interviews
Rates than win proposals
Events that gain repeated attendance
Business from seminars and CLEs
Good placement for your articles
5. Lack of a clear marketing message.

Too many law firms get disillusioned and have a negative attitude towards marketing. One of the problems is that they don’t have a clear idea of what their marketing message should be. A half-hearted approach or lukewarm effort certainly won’t work. If your method is good but the message is vague, then you have a problem. If your message isn’t clear, then chances are the entire campaign will fail. Be clear on your message before you create a program, make sure you create a competent marketing message. A good message is critical to a good marketing method. You must have both to succeed

6. Poor website design

Your website is a reflection of you and your brand. It is an important venue for your public relations reputation. Your website is your marketing image and platform. In terms of your public relations component, your website offers the opportunity to position your firm securely as an expert in your field. If there is a case in which there will be media attention, your website will gain significant attention both from the media as well as the public. Consequently, you need a good design that is easy to navigate and matches the personality of your typical client. According to the top law firms who rank high in the web design world, the overriding recommendations suggest keeping it clean and simple. Content should be informative, engaging and highly readable. Visitors should be able to easily find what they are looking for without having to leave your home page. Tabs should indicate where on the site the visitor can find specific information as well as a way to send a question via “contact us” page.

7. Poor business development

Marketing is more than advertising and getting the word out about your practice. Business development should be part of your marketing plan. List every way you plan to develop your practice. Start your plan with clients you know you will win and work from there. Build a reputation and have references. These should be people who know and trust you. In fact, these clients will be a very important part of your marketing operation. These are the clients that you can count on to send you new business and keep you informed of current issues in your field of practice. A business development plan is something you can measure. Create a file of every part of your practice where you plan to grow your business. From that measure how many times you “touched” a client. For example, how many times did you have lunch, talk on the phone or received a referral from that client. How many clients did you gain from a networking event, professional meeting or lecture?

8. Trying to do everything at once

Marketing ambition is a good thing. Certainly it is better to be enthusiastic about marketing your firm, but stay focused and accomplish each task fully before jumping to another. Focus on one strategy at a time. You can begin with your website.

Create and launch a newsletter
Join some networking groups
Investigate effective advertising options, such as a pay-per-click plan on Google
9. Not using social media

If you do not have more than a website, no one knows you exist. It’s not enough just to have one presence online. Even if prospective clients see your website, they will also be looking for you elsewhere to get to know you better. Create a Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, Google+ page, Twitter account and record some lectures you gave and put them on YouTube. Social media has changed the marketing balance. Today it is about building relationships and communicating with the world via an online message. Your future clients want to feel they know you and they do this by seeing your persona online. Now the emphasis is on building direct relationships and developing a conversation with the people you want to reach.

10. Ignoring the world of mobile technology

More people find what they are looking for from a mobile device than even a laptop computer today. Every part of your online presence must have a mobile component to it. Research has found that 84 percent of Americans use smartphones, and for about half of those people, their smartphone is their main connection to the Internet. A recent study from Portio Research found that mobile applications will exceed 200 billion per year by the end of full year 2017, and revenues in 2017 will reach 63.5 billion US dollars.

Mobile computing and searches have far exceeded desktop for several years now. In fact, 70 percent of all online searches come from mobile devices, far outnumbering desktop and laptop. Of that, 31 percent of searches to law firm websites comes from mobile search. That means that about half of all of your web traffic is coming to you from a smartphone or tablet user.

Marketing mistakes can derail even the sharpest law firm. A lawyer can’t exist without clients and clients can’t find you if they don’t know you are in practice. It is just a fact of the business world that effective marketing practices are necessary to let the world know you exist.