Outsourcing Legal Marketing Functions: Small Firms Look Out And Plug In

My Simple Rules

Rule #2: Small Firms Should Look Out and Plug In.

With attention to managing overhead in the post-recession marketplace, small and mid-size firms are embracing innovative ways to achieve the benefits of comprehensive marketing programs without costly staff additions. One smart move is outsourcing. In the past, smaller firms often made the mistake of shortchanging themselves by hiring one or two mid- or entry-level marketing professionals and expecting them to have the full range of skills needed to support the full gamut of firm marketing and business development needs. Successful firms have come to recognize the value of a strong marketing infrastructure and are making strategic investments in higher-level staff and experienced consultants.

shutterstock_241675813Small and mid-size law firm leaders assert that their primary need is growth–i.e. developing new business. Assembling the right team to support partners in expansion of their business means hiring executive-level professionals for firm administrative roles. Law firms that have separated themselves from the pack have raised the bar in terms of hiring seasoned administrators. Hiring knowledgeable marketing professionals is part of raising that bar, but can be cost prohibitive.

Everyone knows better than to hire a commercial real estate lawyer to draft a custody agreement. Administrators, like lawyers, are not interchangeable either. An excellent event planner, for example, is not likely to be the best person to design your firm’s web site. As enticing as it may be, re-purposing existing staff is not always the best route.

“The effectiveness of outsourcing marketing functions is ideal for businesses that want to maintain focus on the bottom line without distractions. Outsourcing also allows for the predictability of solid timetables.”

When talking to law firm leaders, I often hear the refrain: “We know we need some help but we don’t know for what exactly.” Well, you don’t have to–at least not at first.  One clear path is to engage an independent consultant to conduct a marketing needs assessment. A formal needs assessment will help with priority setting. Perhaps the firm needs to focus solely on marketing–i.e. branding, web site, media relations, speeches, blogs and social media and social events. Or maybe the firm needs more client and prospect development coaching–i.e. business development training, competitive intelligence, pitch preparation, and client teams.

Some firms have already identified needs and established priorities, but know they lack adequate staff. Small and mid-sized firms often hire outside professionals who specialize in specific areas. Hiring a consultant for a discrete project can introduce partners to the concept and benefits of marketing professionals without the risk and cost that comes with creating a full-time position. While some consultants have diverse backgrounds, most have specific skills and strengths. Law firms can test the waters by hiring a consultant for a specific mission. Outsourcing can also relieve firm leadership of tremendous burden. Consultants offer flexible services and fees. They also bring flexibility to their clients in the form of testing or piloting programs. For example, do you need:

a coaching program?

an expert on social media?

an expert on event planning?

to start a blog?

If the answer to any of the above is “yes,” and you don’t know where to start, seek an experienced consultant who will be dedicated to the project. Tapping in to expertise without ramp-up time makes good sense.

Consultants are:

  • Plugged in to law firm technology and resources
  • Plugged in to legal industry news
  • Plugged in to competitors
  • Plugged in to buyers

Consultants need:

  • No training
  • No daily supervision
  • No politics

When internal resources are scarce or in-house employees have specific expertise, but lack the full range of desired experience, law firms look to outsource. Law firms have long outsourced many functions, from the mail room to travel services. However, outsourcing is no longer restricted to “back office” tasks. Employing a fully-staffed, in-house marketing team can be costly in terms of compensation, overhead and supervisor’s time. Outsourcing marketing roles can reduce overhead costs while the firm embarks on new territory.


With all this technology, why are face-to-face encounters so important?

My Simple Rules

Rule #1: Showing up is 80% of the battle.

Nothing can take the place of face-to-face meetings. It’s true that “staying connected” is crucial and most easily done through online communications. The next method is the telephone. Those who know how to use it, and use voice mail effectively, get much more done. Picking up the phone is more meaningful than sending an email. We’ve all done business with people who send emails or replies simply to log the “response” on the score card. We all know the “Hi, it’s me. I have a quick question for you. Can you give me a call when you get a chance?” If the question is so quick, why didn’t you just state it? I could already have the answer for you by now.

The simple truth is being in another person’s presence puts loyalty into play. Energy is carried with physical presence. Being in the same room with your counterpart provides opportunity to make impressions on the four other senses (aside from hearing). Standing in plain sight helps your colleague or prospect more clearly understand what you are trying to convey. You have a far better chance to persuade if you can tap into all of their five senses.

shutterstock_241650730In this age, you will distinguish yourself by simply showing up when so few people make the effort. If you do show up, do it on time, don’t bury your face in your phone, and don’t leave early. Such behavior sends out cues that whoever is emailing you is more important than the person in front of you, or you’d rather be somewhere else – which may be true – but there is no reason to sabotage the effort you just made to get into the room. Be present in the moment.

Reliance on email diminishes the engagement of each person in the group. Studies on the subject of email have been conducted for years. “…collaborative projects suffer when workers doubt colleagues will do their share, creating a sense of injustice that leads them to shirk their own responsibilities,” says University of Illinois Professor Gregory Northcraft. In the article summarizing his 2010 research, “Relying Too Much on Email is Bad for Business” in The News Bureau, Professor Northcraft discusses how

“…high-tech communication strips away the personal interaction needed to breed trust, a key ingredient in getting workers to pull together and carry their share of the load.”

He recommends that businesses take steps to balance communications modes and trust building amongst employees so that no one feels they can avoid ownership for the mission. The ongoing research and news, embraced by LinkedIn PulseForbes.com and TIME, all point in the same direction. But we didn’t need a business leadership expert to tell us that email ping-pong can be annoying can be considered lazy. And let’s face it, with or without Candy Crush, no one is listening on conference calls.

It’s truer today more than ever that genuine interest comes from personal encounters – especially for professionals in client service trying to maintain relationships and cultivate prospects. Professor Northcraft says “Physical contact has a half life.” Translated into client relationships, that means if you haven’t seen your best referral source in six months, it behooves you pick up the phone today and set up lunch. Companies may be creating a culture that is actually bad for their business, but that doesn’t mean you have to engage in behaviors that are bad for your career.

buffetMarketing yourself needs to be part or your daily routine. All of the components of marketing and business development work together. Limiting yourself to one-sided activities, while ignoring people won’t work. Trust me, meeting with contacts, going to lunches and attending receptions moves your career way farther, way faster. You don’t even have to call it “networking” anymore. If you would rather have a root canal than socialize the old fashioned way, you should use a good coach or mentor. Formal coaching programs are available and informal mentors can be found. Accidental mentors are all around you. Seek one out. Personal encounters mean interaction, interaction leads to connection, and connection means business.

  1. Be honest with your coach or mentor about your apprehension.
  2. Seek out a colleague in the office who can join you in a buddy system approach.
  3. Rehearsing helps and having a partner to run your lines makes a world of difference.

Showing up is 80% of the battle.