As featured in Forbes on August 20, 2021.
Several studies demonstrate that those who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. Perhaps the most famous of these studies was conducted by psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews at the Dominican University of California. In 2007, Matthews led a study on goal-setting. The results were telling: Those who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to achieve them than those who simply thought about their goals.
But how do Matthews’ results apply when it comes to marketing and creating individual or practice-area plans for professional services businesses? Once a lawyer or an accountant develops their initial goals, their work is not done. They still need to do three essential things:
1. Further refine the goals to make them as specific as possible.
2. Develop tactics that are targeted and manageable to help them achieve the goals.
3. Determine how they will remain accountable for achieving the goals.
These are the core elements of a professional services marketing plan.
As someone who creates marketing plans for partners at law and consulting firms, I’ve seen the difference between plans that work and plans that fail. Those that work are generally brief (one to two pages at the most) and include well-thought-out objectives, manageable tactics and ways to measure success.
Brief And Targeted Plans
Plans should be brief and easy to articulate to others in the firm. Objectives should be well-thought-out. For example, your objective might be “to be retained by banks based in Massachusetts with significant regional presence, to have a general counsel who has been in place for less than 10 years, and to maintain an acceptable liquidity over ‘X.’” This is a targeted goal with a narrow objective that takes prospective decision-makers, where the targets are located, and the financial standing of the entity into account.
The narrower the objective, the better. Time spent thinking about and refining a goal is time well spent. On the other hand, a partner may perceive plans in a three-ring binder with color-coded tabs as professional. Still, unless the specific partner who is involved and who will ultimately be pursuing the tactics has been thinking about and developing the plan, failure is still possible.
Planning For Tactics That Fit The Objective
You can have the most creative and well-executed tactics in the world, but if the objective isn’t clear and the tactics don’t match the goal, time and money are generally wasted. Consider a firm that hosts a lavish dinner party with a celebrity chef, wonderful food and fine wine. The partners spend most of their time planning the event by having discussions about selecting the wine. Unless the firm has a clear objective for holding the event, all the wine-selection activity in the world will not matter. If they don’t clarify the objective (to show clients they are in good company or introduce a new practice area), why should they make the effort?
Planning For Tactics That Reach Your Audience
Tactics to develop business are plentiful, but to decide on tactics — for example, regular client memos, seminars or speaking engagements — it’s essential to think of these tactics in terms of what the client values. Do your clients want short, helpful client memos that end with a checklist of recommendations, or do they prefer to get information online through an on-demand video? Figuring out your objectives, knowing your audience and then finding the right tactics to achieve those objectives takes time and consideration.
Making Yourself Accountable
Before diving into your marketing, consider how you will measure success. Will it be by how many meetings you set up as a result of certain activities? Will it be by the number of bylined articles you place? Will it be the number of clients your marketing brings into the firm? Thinking about how you will measure success early in the goal-setting process helps you become accountable to the project and to yourself.