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The Mad Clientist

Law Firms to Add Big to Marketing Budgets in 2018—Here’s How to Get Yours

By November 1, 2017April 16th, 2020No Comments

13% of law firm CMOs are trying to hide their smiles. They snagged big increases in their budgets—just over $1 million per firm.* Their goal is simple—keeping clients, growing clients, and getting new ones. Their success in justifying their new budgets comes from emphasizing the risk of not spending the money. They made the elusive risk of opportunity cost real by:

  • Presenting a detailed year-over-year growth analysis of each major client going back 3 to 5 years, highlighting the clients where revenue is static or has slipped. These CMOs calculated the lost revenue as a percent of total revenue, and a few estimated lost profits. Each CMO analyzed at least 50 clients and some more than 100.
  • Calculating total new business developed per partner and per attorney over time. These CMOs were careful not to track names but wanted to show their firm was either becoming more or less productive in developing business.
  • Using strategically designed client feedback to uncover how often the firm is considered (or more importantly not considered) for new work—using the outcome to estimate new business sitting on the table—and the cost of not winning the work.
  • Surveying firm partners asking them to assess their own business development prowess and probing for the obstacles preventing improvement. In almost every case you end up with low self-evaluation of skills and many obstacles to success. This is your business development training outline and justification—especially when you present your results in conjunction with the client retention and business development productivity in the bullets above.

The Real Secret to Adding Big

The budget gains are based on way more than good analysis alone. The CMOs have been working on their efforts for 2 years or more. They sought out advice and counsel from friendly partners and were evangelists for their cause—able to preach at every available moment without crossing the line to being a pain. They lobbied hard within the firm. And, these CMOs presented the needs in digestible chunks which all fit neatly into a strategic framework when put together.

The budget increasing CMOs jumped all over their firm’s strategic planning process. They made their voice heard so it could not be ignored—trying to own as much of the process as possible—even if it meant working outside the process and feeding their thoughts and data to key partners.

What’s Happening to the Rest of the Marketing and Business Development Budgets

Overall, the legal marketing budget outlook is stable and continues a very slow path forward. The typical law firm will spend 2.53% of firm revenue on marketing and business development up from 2.5% of revenue in 2017. This is an almost stunning contrast to the law firms making the big investments.

The pace of change is slow. But as long as a measurable number of firms change their approach to investing in business development—everyone else has to worry. And the firms boosting their budgets have to execute while the race for clients throttles up a little bit more.


*This new research is based on more than 159 in-depth interviews with law firm marketing leaders conducted from May 1, 2017 to October 20, 2017.

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