Apr 28, 2009

Tips for Delegating Marketing on the Cheap

Many lawyers find themselves in a catch-22 situation in the economic downturn.  On the one hand, they realize that they need to step up their marketing efforts to attract more business.  On the other hand, feeling cash-strapped, they're loath to spend money unnecessarily.  And when business finally comes through the door, lawyers are more inclined to jump on it to earn some money and relegate marketing to the back burner.

Large firms have long dealt with the problem of yo-yo marketing efforts by maintaining professional marketing staff who can keep the machine running even while lawyers are busy.  But few solos have the resources to invest in full-time marketing staff, or even to hire a part-time marketing professional.  Moreover, many solos run a strong independent streak and are loath to delegate any tasks, including marketing.

Truth is, there are few tasks that are easier and more cost-effective to delegate than marketing.  Below, identify those marketing functions that lend themselves to delegation and find some affordable ways that lawyers can outsource some of those tasks.

1.  What you can delegate and what you can't.  Delegation can help lawyers with their marketing, but there are some functions which can't be outsourced.  For example, if your marketing strategy includes lunch or coffee dates with prospective referral sources, clearly, you can't send an assistant in your stead.  However, as I'll discuss below, what you can do is ask your assistant make the initial contact with referral sources, with you following up personally to issue the invitation. 

Some tasks fall in the middle of the line.  For example, you could hire a ghostwriter to write articles or a blog for you, or use a social media guru to Twitter on your behalf.  I don't recommend delegation in these circumstances because it's not genuine -- I prefer my readers to hear my voice in my writing because it conveys a sense of my personality.  Though there's nothing wrong with asking an assistant to help identify blog topics, edit posts, and every so often put up a post under your name during a busy spell, ultimately, you should avoid having someone acting as "the man behind the curtain".

Finally, as a lawyer, you alone are responsible for compliance with ethics rules governing advertising.  If you outsource preparation of an advertisement or marketing campaign, you need to review those materials thoroughly to ensure that they don't run afoul of ethics rules in your jurisdiction.

2.  Tasks suitable for delegation.  Now that we've covered those tasks that lawyers shouldn't delegate, what's left?  Plenty, as discussed below:

For seminars, delegate room reservation, set-up of online webinar software, scheduling, registration, marketing, materials reproduction, mailing campaign, registration and surveys.

For articles or e-books, delegate research of potential topics, potential publication sources, supporting research, editing, formatting, and distribution.

For blogging, delegate blog set-up, topic collection, gathering resources, editing and formatting posts, monitoring blog statistics, and blog publicity.

For cold calls, delegate organizing contact lists and numbers, making initial contact and scheduling the followup call.

For social media, delegate the setup of accounts or profiles (based on information provided by lawyer), identifying potential followers (on Twitter) or connections (on LinkedIn), sending requests for testimonials, and monitoring lawyer's online presence.

For general marketing, delegate identifying growth areas, preparation of white papers and surveys to support marketing efforts or circulate to potential clients, graphics and logo preparation, contact management, and sending news items in clients' newsletter.

3.  Who to delegate to?  There are plenty of professional marketing companies that can handle all of these tasks for you, but they can also be costly.  Instead, try working with virtual assistants, many of whom have experience marketing their own businesses and are highly skilled when it comes to social media and online tools.  Professionals students, such as law students or business students, can also help out on most tasks, particularly those requiring more specialized marketing or legal research.  Don't overlook your family either -- your spouse, parents, or kids can help fold or stamp fliers, or register attendees at a seminar.

As for cost, virtual assistants and students provide fairly cheap labor, while you can often consign friends or family for free! 

4.  Change your mindset.  Ultimately, to succeed at delegating, you need to change your mindset and build it in to all of your plans.  Start breaking down marketing tasks into lists and specifically identify whether you or an assistant will handle a particular matter.  Once you formally list an assistant as responsible, you'll be less inclined to take on the work yourself.

Just like yo-yo dieting, on-again-off-again marketing efforts aren't particularly effective or healthy for the growth of your firm.  By delegating marketing tasks, you can ensure that they continue to move forward even during those times when you're too busy to pay attention.