Size matters: How marketing for small law firms differs from large firms

goldfish jumping out of the water By the end of their career, over 80 percent of attorneys end up in a law firm with less than 25 attorneys. When it comes to business development, there are several critical areas where the size of your law firm seems to matter most.

1. Time frame

Attorneys in small firms must wear multiple hats at the same time – which means they are extremely pressed for time. Most of our clients in small firms have to wear half a dozen of these hats every day! However, they cannot neglect learning the art and science of lead generation; they just don’t have a lot of time to learn this critical skill.

When it comes to learning how to market and grow their law firm (or any other skill they must possess) they must do it in a compressed time frame and then get back to work.

2. Size of the marketing budget

Many large law firms have a marketing budget bigger than the annual revenues of small law firms. Years ago, I stopped asking my clients for the size of their marketing budget because I grew tired of hearing, “Budget? We don’t have a budget.” I get it. Your marketing plans must be designed to be easily implemented on a low cost budget.

We teach our clients one of the best returns on investment a small firm can implement is to start a monthly e-newsletter. We recommend Constant Contact or another similar service to help them get started. Our clients tell us that almost every time they send out their newsletter, referrals start coming in. Make the choice to do “something” versus nothing.

Number of decision makers

Most marketing decisions at many large firms are made by committees. I see committees as a waste of time because in order to make a decision virtually all of them must say ‘yes,’ but it only takes one person to say ‘no’ and the whole deal falls through.

When you are making a big decision about marketing your law firm I recommend you assemble your people to get their input, but then take personal responsibility as the owner of the firm and make the best decision you can given the information you have at that time. 

Or appoint a specific team member to oversee the firm’s marketing efforts. Allocate an amount they can invest each month on marketing and then have them develop a written plan or at least a list of initiatives they want to tackle, help them prioritize, then hold them accountable for the results. Taking action immediately and consistently versus waiting months for a watered-down decision from a committee will produce better results over time.

Need for immediate ROI

Large firms can afford to be patient and wait months or even longer before they see a positive return on investment (ROI). Small law firms require a much shorter time frame within which to measure their ROI. Many of the business development strategies we teach our clients are focused on a shorter time frame.

At the same time, you cannot expect instant results because the clients you get today come from the marketing you did 3-6 months ago. 

Law firm marketing is hard work, but part of the reason why some firms are so successful and others are still struggling is because only a relatively few are willing to do the hard work it takes to implement a truly effective marketing strategy.

Here are the best three pieces of advice I can give you when it comes to marketing your small law firm this year:

1. Get a MAP! Write down your Marketing Action Plan. It doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be written down and be as specific as possible.

2. Find someone to hold you accountable for achieving your business development goals.

3. Take consistent action. When it comes to marketing, done is better than perfect! You will never have the perfect marketing plan.