Managing marketing – hot potato or high performance team? Part 5 (first published in Managing for Success by the Law Society)

In the final part of the series written for the Law Society Law Management Section, Sue Bramall cautions against wasting resources and urges law firms to make the most of the limited time and budget reserved for marketing legal services. 

Click here if you missed part 1 of the seriesLaw_Management_Society_high_performance_teams.JPG

Beware creating a junk bucket

‘At last there is someone in the firm to whom all those pesky advertising opportunities can be sent to, and I can pass on those random marketing ideas that have been sitting at the bottom of my to do pile.’

A bit like the National Health Service, there are always more ideas for marketing than there is budget or resources. If an idea has been languishing at the bottom of a pile for months or years, then the chances are it is not such a great idea and should not be dumped on the new marketing exec without examination just as a way to clear your desk.

Similarly, there is always the partner whose pet project has been refused by every previous incumbent and, with nothing to lose, they are sure to see if this time it might get through.

It is easy to be a busy fool, and with instructions coming from all corners of a law firm, and every department claiming that theirs is the most important, your new marketing exec will need clear guidance on priorities.

Your marketing partner or committee also needs to be prepared to say no, and explain why internal resources are not available for certain activities. This is so much easier when there is a clear marketing plan for a firm.

Fee-burners v fee-earners

Those of us who now work for ourselves and provide consultancy services to law firms often remark on the different attitudes we experience. Now that we present a bill at the end of the month (instead of receiving a payslip), we are an investment rather than an overhead. Our time is respected, and meetings are significantly more productive.

Despite the fact there is a cost to the firm of employing marketing support, an attitude can prevail where the time of a marketing executive is of little value – meetings are frequently cancelled, emails ignored and actions postponed.

One leading law firm addressed this cultural challenge by including a seat in the marketing team for all their trainees. Broadening their experience in this way and building strong relationships pays dividends all around.

Let’s be honest …

Of course your firm is a wonderful place to work, but why is it that marketing staff don’t stay very long?

Most execs who have studied marketing at university or via the Chartered Institute of Marketing will have spent a few years immersed in case studies related to the big brands with enormous marketing budgets and consumer-driven advertising strategies. They may well harbour dreams of glamorous photo shoots in the Caribbean and product launches in Monaco.

Fortunately, there are a few of us who really enjoy the intellectual rigour of working with the law, the challenge of working with a modest budget and often idiosyncratic management cultures.

But this is not enough for many marketers, who find law firms a very frustrating place to work. It will be just as dissatisfying for them to be unable to complete projects, and even more disheartening not to have any clear objectives.

Being treated as fee-burner is hardly encouraging, and a lack of career opportunities can soon cause them to see if the grass might be greener elsewhere.

If you wish to make a success of your investment in marketing resources, then it needs careful planning, preparation and management.

Get it right, and they will be a valuable ambassador for your firm, adding value to your brand and reputation and helping to build your business.

Go back and read part 1 here. If you are a member of The Law Society’s Management section, you can also read the full article on their website.

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