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A playbook for bootstrapped advertising

When it comes to marketing strategies, the internet has tons of advice to offer – from advertising on social media to which automation platform you should be using. However, much of this information is aimed at marketers: people who already understand the core concepts, techniques, and applications that modern marketers use for branding, lead generation, and analysis.

Unfortunately, small to medium sized law firms often struggle to market themselves effectively. Hiring an in-house marketer can be costly and difficult to justify, but agencies are usually not the answer either. Finding a company that really understands the industry, from its driving factors to the ethics of legal advertising, presents its own challenges. Moreover, managing the relationship can easily become a drain on time and focus, and when all is said and done the cost can be as much as that of working full-time.

However, there is another option. An entrepreneurial, team-oriented, daring approach. One that lawyers may not have considered in the midst of all of the litigation and practice management.

Bootstrapping your internal marketing department

At first glance, it may seem impractical or even impossible, but in fact, a small to medium-sized business can be perfectly successful at DIY marketing, provided three key elements are in place:

  • A corporate culture that is firmly anchored in teamwork, respect and continuous learning
  • Clear, measurable goals
  • Commitment to providing the necessary resources and acknowledging success

The premise is simple: your lawyers and administrative staff form a project team or committee that deals with marketing. The team uses the strengths, talents and interests of the locals and develops a marketing strategy. Then iterate and learn as you go. It won’t always be perfect, but like most things, it gets better with practice.

Roll Your Own Marketing: A Small Business Playbook

First, decide what you want to achieve. Make it specific and measurable and make sure it is reasonably achievable. For example, you might want to gain five new followers on social media every month or three new leads every quarter in a target industry.

Next, create a team. Identify the strengths and talents of your employees and assign them to your goals. Perhaps one of the partners can start a blog and another has graphic design experience. These skills can aid a content engine that attracts customers by demonstrating your expertise. Or maybe one of your employees likes to go live on Facebook. Video is a powerful medium of communication – and for most situations today, amateur videography is fine. Thirty minutes to script and thirty minutes on camera and you have a compelling piece that shows prospects who you are and what you can do. Round off the team with a project manager so that you have your goals and schedule under control and are on your way to DIY marketing magic.

Third, invest in execution:

  • Estimate how much time it will take your team to achieve their goals and determine if it is appropriate and practical. You may need to adjust your expectations, add resources, or both. Be ruthlessly honest about this part.
  • Give your team the time, tools, and training they need. Self-guided courses, YouTube demos, tutorial blogs, and webinars are great free resources. And don’t overlook your bar association – it’s a great source of information and ideas.
  • Invest in the tools. Whether it’s a graphic design platform, WordPress site, or a light kit and clip-on microphone, a small amount of money goes a long way in preparing your team for success.

After all, be realistic. One person is unlikely to be a writer, videographer, brand ambassador, and social media manager at the same time – especially if they are already doing double duty. In addition, you cannot expect someone to be successful in tasks that they have absolutely no knowledge or skills in. Just like you wouldn’t ask a patent attorney to handle divorce cases, you can’t expect the introverted office in front of the camera to be a given.

Playbook 2.0: Beyond the Bootstrap

As your team gains experience, you can set your goals higher. Try turning transcripts of your videos into blogs, asking your lawyers to post LinkedIn stories at the conference they’re attending, or even starting a podcast. Hire outside experts as your strategy expands. Ad hoc support from freelancers is a great way to access talent and expertise with minimal cost.

Bootstrapping your marketing program may seem like a huge challenge, but everyone in small and medium-sized businesses knows that success means wearing more than one hat. For the determined company, a successful marketing engine is within reach. All it takes is time, commitment, and a little creative thinking.

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