Spending money on promotion for your chambers is often seen as a massive punt, a huge risk, a pure gamble. But it needn’t be that way. It’s all about measuring your return on investment, and understanding that for success to be had, the investments needs to be planned, budgeted for and delivered via integrated marketing campaigns.
Within the possible “promotion mix” for chambers there are five primary methods: direct marketing, advertising, sales promotions, personal selling and public relations. A true promotion strategy should encompass all five to some degree depending on the desired outcomes. Promotion needn’t be costly but it does need to be well planned and executed.
Mostly used for lead generation purposes (for example the generation of new clients or obtaining additional work from existing clients) direct marketing delivers a clear message to a targeted audience. By sending personalised letters to a target group, the rate of positive responses is increased over that of stand-alone advertising. Direct marketing enables chambers to consistently target clients with messages reinforcing any other promotional elements and supporting the chambers brand.
Direct marketing isn’t just limited to printed mailshots. Emailshots are also highly effective when combined in an integrated campaign; these can reach people for a fraction of the cost of a hard-copy mailer. With the correct email and newsletter system you are also able to track the delivery of mail and whether or not the recipient has actually read it. What you can’t guarantee is that they understood it or will act upon its contents!
Whether chambers opt for hard copy mailings or email mailings, the success of the campaigns will be dictated by the quality of the database and the messaging used. All too often messaging is diluted when there are too many things to say or too many people are involved in producing them. Make sure that that you start by writing the one key message at the top of the page. All subsequent paragraphs must relate to that one key message or you will dilute the mailing and reduce the response rate. All outgoing materials need to have a “call to action”, ie a reason for someone to respond and a mechanism for them to respond, eg web page, fax-back or telephone number. This sounds simple, but it is often overlooked.
To be truly of benefit, direct marketing should consist of hard copy, email and newsletter mailings and should be part of an overall integrated promotions campaign. It should draw on elements of advertising and it should lead naturally into personal selling.
Potentially, advertising reaches a larger audience than direct marketing and builds awareness for a relatively smaller cost per person. If the goal is simply to broadcast a message across a spectrum of recipients, then advertising is the most cost effective promotion method. Advertising typically includes entries in magazines, newspapers and website banners.
However, the very nature of advertising means that there is less control over who receives the messages. It is also very difficult to measure the outcome. If adverts are used in conjunction with dedicated website landing pages, or with dedicated telephone numbers, then the results are easier to monitor. The key is to have both of these elements available and then for chambers to place advertisements in niche publications where they are well publicized and the audience is highly targeted. Similar to the direct mail pieces, adverts also need a response mechanism and a call to action if required.
Defined as incentives to encourage buyer behaviour, sales promotions are a short-term strategy and should be used very selectively. The most relevant methods of sales promotions for chambers would be a temporary reduction in price for a selected period of time or an introductory price for new clients operating in a specific niche they want to break into. However, it is important not to damage the brand image.
This is something that clerks have been doing for years. They are skilled at informing, persuading, and customising the offer for each potential client. The result is a strong relationship between chambers and the clients which can then be built upon further by the delivery of a good service. Many sets have brought in business development managers to do this, alongside the clerks. The BDMs are responsible for fostering further relations, cross-selling other services and generally managing the accounts. On the whole personal selling is more effective than other marketing methods but it is not as commercially efficient.
Seminars also fall into the category of personal selling but these should only take place when you have a clear, stated and measurable objective. They should not be done just because they’ve always been done and they should not be done to boost the ego of certain lawyers.
Seminars cost money to put on and they take a great deal of time to organise. The work that results from these is also not likely to be immediate (although I have had instances where instructions were received the same day) so you need to factor this into the measurable objectives and the tracking of the overall campaign. If they form part of an integrated campaign you will gain a higher traction rate that if you continued to do them randomly.
Webinars are fast replacing seminars as a cost effective method of disseminating information to the ever busy lawyer. Chambers should be considering ways to run these virtual seminars as part of their service offerings for clients (as part of a proper integrated campaign of course).
Publicity is similar to advertising in that it broadcasts to a wide audience. However it differs in that it is generally viewed as unbiased since it is usually written by independent journalists and it is not paid for by chambers. Independent case studies, law reports and social media activities would fit into this category. The downside is that publicity can be difficult to manage effectively.
In social media circles it’s difficult to control negative opinions – “Solicitor’s from Hell” is a prime example of that. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Publicity can be managed by spending time to foster relationships with journalists and by providing them with the information they need to do their job. Chambers need to be mindful of what they send to journalists, it needs to be concise and of interest to the readership. Self-serving pieces will not only make it to print, they will harm the relationship with that journalist.
Which promotion method to use?
The promotion mix needs to form part of an integrated campaign plan. Stop doing random seminars and mailers and start doing focused measureable activities.
Consider what budget and staff you have available to complete all the necessary steps in the campaign and then build in each of the elements above paying particular attention to the characteristics of the market you are targeting. Each of the marketing mix elements needs to be appropriate to the market and carry very clear messaging.
The campaign plans and messages need to be communicated right through chambers. Every member should know what’s going on and have the correct messaging to hand. It is everyone’s responsibility to market. Together you will build a strong brand, retain clients and generate business.
Catherine Bailey is Managing Director of Bar Marketing which helps chambers find the right marketing mix to secure more business and grow. The firm can provide long term strategic advice related to marketing or just assist with a particular marketing project.