You’ve reached a point in your law practice where your time is allocated to running the business.  The attorneys and your support staff are busy with the client load, which is great.  This is a fantastic place to be in.

But this also means that your support staff has less and less time to help market the law firm.  Savvy business owners know that this is no excuse to let the marketing slip.

The long-term success of your law practice means you must consistently promote your expertise and obtain new business.

Hiring internal help vs. external marketing help

The easiest solution up until this point has been to delegate the marketing to someone internally.  They are probably already on your payroll and you trust them to get the work done.

But digital marketing is evolving quickly and you know you need to remain as visible as possible.  You don’t want to let these important tasks slip while your competition excels with their internet marketing strategy.

The next logical step is to hire a marketing coordinator or marketing manager for your law firm, right?

Not necessarily.

There are a number of questions you need to ask yourself as you move into this next phase of your business.

  • Do you have the resources to employee a full-time marketing manager? Things like salary, benefits, on-going training, workspace and equipment/software costs.
  • Will an internal hire have the skills and experience needed to run a full marketing program?
  • Would it make more sense to work with a marketing contractor on a project basis?
  • Or will I need more than one contractor to cover all our bases?

Suddenly, the idea of hiring an internal marketing manager just got a lot more complicated!

I recognize that hiring someone internally is the ideal option because you’ll have a team member 100% dedicated to your marketing.  They can eat, sleep and breathe your brand.

But an experienced marketing manager will be looking for a salary of say $60,000 – obviously this will vary depending on your location and the level of expertise.

Plus, your internal hire might need assistance from external vendors for graphic design and website development, so you’ll need to budget for that as well.

Can you continue with the status quo and get by?

You can try.  But continuing to dump the task of marketing on your existing employees will likely result in burnout and reduced productivity.  And is that really the best use of their skills?

The latest industry research indicates that 90% of internal marketing teams lack the skills needed to run effective digital marketing campaigns – and we know that consumers go to the internet when looking for a service provider – including an attorney!

Hiring a marketing agency addresses many of these issues, although there are pros and cons to hiring an agency as well.  Here are some reasons why working with an agency is ideal:

  • Reputable agencies have experience, knowledge and are ready to get to work
  • They provide an external perspective, void of internal politics or limiting beliefs
  • They have expertise that isn’t found in-house

If you’re ready to hire an agency, here are the steps we recommend taking.

Step #1 – Analyze your needs

Step #2 – Have a basic plan

Step #3 – Set a budget

Step #4 – Meeting with potential partners

Step #5 – Review and select an agency

Step #1 – Analyze your needs

You should have a basic understanding of the trends occurring with marketing (particularly digital trends) so you can evaluate the current strengths and weakness of your marketing.  What are you excelling at?  Where are your weaknesses?

Perhaps you’ve done a fantastic job at traditional marketing – building a network of referring attorneys and generating leads through speaking engagements.

But perhaps your web presence is lacking because your internal team doesn’t have the skills needed to blog and update the website on a regular basis.  Understand where your shortcomings are so you can match an agencies expertise with your particular needs.

Step #2 – Have a basic plan

Since your internal team has been managing your marketing, it’s safe to assume there is no written plan.  This isn’t ideal, but also not totally unexpected since your internal team probably doesn’t have a background in marketing.

But if you’re considering hiring an agency, you’ve got to get focused.  If you’re not focused, an agency won’t be able to help.  For example, our best clients have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and can articulate that to us in our initial conversations.

What are your goals and what do you want to achieve?  Any agency worth hiring should ask what you want to achieve, and then provide a clear solution for getting you there.  Do you want to attract more qualified clients?  Do you want to increase the profitability of existing clients?  These are key questions you need to be prepared to answer.

Spend some time putting together a marketing plan that you can review with an agency.  It doesn’t have to be perfect – just something to get the conversion going.

Step #3 – Set a budget

Hiring an agency is an investment in the long-term success of your law firm.  You can’t expect to achieve big-picture goals without making some kind of investment – whether it be your own time (which is limited) or someone else’s.

As you set a budget, there are a few things to keep in mind about how you might be charged for the work completed.

  • Hourly rate
  • Flat rate/project-based fee
  • Monthly retainers

There are pros and cons to each option, and a lot will depend on the needs of your law firm and what you want to achieve.

Many companies approach their marketing as project-based work.  This might have worked five or 10 years ago, but the internet has changed the business landscape.  The pace at which things move is fast!

Consistently marketing your law practice is a must, otherwise your message won’t break through the “noise.”  It’s estimated that we are bombarded with 3,000 marketing messages each day.  If yours isn’t one of them, then potential clients won’t even know you exist.

So while investing money into marketing each month seems daunting, it’s truly become a necessity.

For reference, marketing consultants can range from $65 – $300 per hour.  However, work in the range of $95 – $150 an hour is probably a good target.

Looking at these numbers, you might be even more tempted to continue to delegate your marketing to someone internal that’s in the range of $30 per hour.  But remember that it will take time for that person to learn the intricacies of effective marketing and then put them into practice.

When you consider the time needed for that learning curve, it probably makes more sense to hire a consultant who can put their knowledge into action immediately.

Step #4 – Meeting with potential partners

With a good sense of your needs and what you’re willing to invest, you can start to evaluate potential partners.  We use the term partner because effective marketing is a collaboration between you, your internal team and your external “marketing department.”

So please don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can delegate and then disappear.  That is a recipe for disaster!  You will still need to be available to the person/team you hire for feedback, insight and approval on your marketing campaigns.

When it comes to fulfilling the need of your external marketing department, there are literally thousands of options.  But it’s wise to focus on the companies that specialize in law firm marketing because they will likely have solutions that solve your particular problems.

We have a free download with details on some very specific items to discuss during this evaluation process that you’ll want to check out.

During this process, understand that multiple meetings and/or conversations will be involved.  You each need to get a feel for each other and understand what problems need to be solved.  Then the agency will need time to put together a high-level plan for you.  The detailed planning and implementation comes once the agency has been hired.

Step #5 – Review and select an agency

After you’ve spoken to a few potential partners, you should have proposals to review and compare.  Now you need to decide which option will be the best fit for your firm.  Carefully consider what each agency is proposing and how they plan to implement your project.

Budget will certainly be a factor, but remember that this is about the long-term success of your firm.  You will need to make an investment in order to see a pay-off in the future.

Final thoughts

Moving into this new phase of your marketing requires careful thought and planning.  Remember that the world of marketing is vast and ever-changing.  You need to be flexible, while still keeping your long-term goals in mind.  The partner you select should have that same mentality.

Have more questions about hiring a law firm marketing consultant or agency?  Leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to respond!

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