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Marketing Your Law Firm: Balancing Money and Time

Time and money are two of the most important resources for startup companies and individual entrepreneurs. The success of your firm depends on how you allocate your time and your money. Solo practitioners may have a more straightforward path compared to a firm that has a handful of employees. This is simply because an individual has more flexibility to put time into marketing efforts if his or her client list is bare. Then once business starts picking up, they can easily reduce marketing efforts and devote more time to their cases.

On the flip side, a firm can be overwhelmed with client work and not have enough time to market their business. With these variables at play, you may be wondering if there is a magic formula to getting it right.

Legal marketing experts commonly recommend that law firms spend 2 to 10 percent of their billings on marketing, and closer to 20-30 percent when launching a new firm. These costs may seem unrealistic when you are on a tight budget. How can an attorney successfully grow their firm without a large budget? The answer lies in dividing time and money in a way that makes the most sense. As with the example above, a startup firm will need to utilize more of everyone’s time in order to get money in the door.

In the early days of launching a firm, this can be quite simple. Either the solo practitioner spends several hours a day researching, learning, and executing marketing plans, or if the firm is young with several employees, each individual can handle a specific marketing channel.

Attorneys who have more time than money should focus on building a strong online presence. The first step would be to create a comprehensive content roadmap, and then build on those plans. These efforts would include launching an appealing and easy-to-understand website, creating a blog to supplement the professional website, updating the blog with relevant content on a regular basis, setting up social media channels, creating thorough and consistent profiles on review websites, etc. There are plenty of ways to invest everyone’s time!

High-quality content is worthwhile because it helps in other facets of your business. For example, you can use blog posts to answer the questions your potential clients have. The more you use relevant keywords in your posts, the great the chance that search engines pick up on the link. When individuals start doing their research to find an attorney, it is very possible for your link to rank well on various results pages. Likewise, using Twitter to answer legal questions at no cost is a great way to increase your visibility and get followers.

As your continue to write your own content, your business may start picking up as prospects find you online. At this point, your time is put in jeopardy because you now have leads you want to convert into paying clients. Once these leads become clients and your cases start to pile up, you’ll start making money – but then you won’t have much time left for doing your own marketing.

If you continue to try to write your own content, there’s a chance you can stretch yourself too thin, which can have negative repercussions on your work. The demand placed on your time is natural, and you’ll have to balance your day-to-day tasks by doing some delegating. Many lawyers are wary of giving up control of marketing efforts early on in their practice, it at times it is necessary in order to focus on revenues.

A simple solution is to hire a third-party content company to continue to create relevant and regular content, assign the task to another staff member, or get several interns in-house who can help with managing your various marketing channels. Freshness in content is a must if you are going to compete successfully with similar firms in your geographic location. You can also require all content be reviewed by yourself or another senior member of the staff before it gets publicly posted online.

Striking a balance between time and money is not easy – and it is always changing. There will be slow seasons and there will be months where you can’t get more than a few hours of sleep each night. If you are willing to be flexible and prepare to respond to each situation as needed, you may find yourself less stressed and more balanced. For example, if your peak season is approaching, start handing off your marketing efforts or creating a schedule for hired vendors to follow. This will give you some reassurance that you know what is going on without having to manage it all by yourself.

It is also a good idea to create an audit process you can do on a regular basis. In the early days of your firm, it may be as frequent as every six months. Midsize and large firms may do a self-audit every two years or before changing/expanding marketing resources.

An audit can help you answer some of the following questions about your time and money efforts: Is your budget too high or too low? Is there enough staff to meet client demand? Where is your firm getting the best results? Is the reporting structure clear and correct? What areas of marketing are most successful and leas successful? How can billable hours be increased? Are employees feeling stretched or bored?

The answers to these questions are strong indicators of how successful your firm has been when it comes to balancing time and money. While the results may not be what you expected, or offer some undesirable truths – use it as a means of improvement. You can only improve if you know what needs improving.