Bothwell Marketing Print Article

Managing and Mentoring the Firm's Marketing Director

Tips for the Marketing Partner

Bringing a marketing professional on board is a critical step toward adopting a more businesslike approach to managing a law firm. Handled correctly, this appointment can be crucial to the development of new business and to the retention of existing clients. However, like everything else, it comes with its own set of unique challenges. As many firms have discovered, successfully integrating a highly creative and promotional person into a group of critical thinkers may not be an easy task.

First of all, get yourself a copy of the book "Peacock in the Land of Penguins," by B.J. Gallagher Hately, Warren H. Schmidt and Sam Weiss, which addresses this issue. Lawyers traditionally have had a general disdain for "selling" or even "promoting" their services. You and your partners must instead welcome this creative individual into the firm, as you would a new attorney. Learn to value the particular talents and skills that this person has to offer even if they are different from your own.

Managing expectations will be one of the most valuable contributions you can make. Does your director of marketing have a detailed job description? If not, create one. Work with her to define the key tasks of the job. Get her to write down her ideas of what a director of marketing should be doing and see if you can agree about short- and long-term priorities. Be careful not to micro-manage, however. If she comes from a big corporation, she will be used to managing large budgets and having a greater degree of autonomy than law firm managers traditionally enjoy.

What is she supposed to do? Well, this depends on the requirements of your particular firm. Her job description and priorities must be tailored to the firm’s needs. Below is a list of possible activities, divided into two categories.

1. Promotional

  • Firm brochures
  • Advertising
  • Writing marketing copy
  • Press releases/announcements
  • Website development/Internet marketing
  • Newsletters (online and print)
  • Event planning

2. Developmental

  • Contributing to the firm's vision and strategic planning
  • Defining a corporate identity/branding
  •  Client services enhancement
  • Market research/surveys
  • Pricing
  • Cross-selling
  • Practice area planning

Although firms generally feel more comfortable delegating the more traditional promotional activities, larger financial rewards may lie in giving her some developmental tasks.
Wherever you decide to start, set clear goals with timelines. Success or failure can be evaluated only by having something to measure against. Creative people, in particular, are results-driven and need to know what is expected of them in order to perform at their highest level.

Find out how much knowledge she has of the legal industry. There is nothing that will put off your partners more than somebody who is not familiar with the basic terms used by the profession – for example, calling a client a customer. A little bit of knowledge from you, in this respect, can go a long way in establishing her credibility. Also, give her enough responsibility so that her successes can be significant. In some firms, directors of marketing are given revenue targets and their performance is assessed according to how much new business they bring into the firm.

It is a good idea to make sure that she has your support when dealing with other partners in the firm. If there are problems, choose your battles together wisely and always be her advocate in meetings. When she makes proposals or presentations, have her present her arguments with enough evidence and data to convince your colleagues that they have merit. In the long term, she will have to earn respect through her achievements, but initially, a director of marketing needs a champion. You are the ideal person to take on that role.

Older influential partners may, like you, have no idea what a marketing person does and sometimes will weaken her position inadvertently by asking her to perform menial tasks. Being a staff member, she may find it hard to refuse requests, particularly if they come from a senior partner. In this instance, if the task is not part of her job description, she should feel confident in refusing to take it on, and be secure in the knowledge that you will back her up.

Set up regular meetings to discuss goals, plans and any problems. As you gain confidence in her work and other partners feel more comfortable with her performance, you might want to get her more involved in the developmental role. Her contribution to the future of the firm can be crucial. If you can show, over time, that her appointment has raised the firm's visibility, increased name recognition, and most importantly, helped bring in new business, everyone will be happy.

Assuming you have recruited a talented marketing professional, managing this side of the business can be fun and rewarding. We all want business to fall out of nowhere into our laps, but in the real world that rarely happens. If you manage her well and she is good at what she does, you will see results.

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