At the beginning of each year, it’s important to sit down and map out how you want your business to grow. We do this by planning marketing efforts in advance, and slotting them into each quarter based on the level of importance. I thought to myself “who better?” than to bring Michelle Hunter, my Strategic Partner, back onto the podcast to give you insight on how to plan your marketing efforts in advance. Michelle is a content strategist and copywriter who believes proper positioning is the key to converting prospects into clients.
Michelle gives listeners actionable tips on:
- How to get clear on your marketing goals, even if you don’t enjoy marketing
- The triage approach to mapping out tactics
- Why copywriting isn’t the same as legal writing
- How to know if your website is converting and how it can impact your goals
- The benefits of outsourcing your marketing efforts
Mentioned in This Episode
[00:00:26] Michelle: Hi Karen. Thank you for having me on your podcast. I’m really excited to be here. My name is Michelle Hunter and I am an experienced content strategist working with. Corporate, um, organizations as well as law firms and other professionals to set marketing strategy and align messaging around the things in a business that are the most important and then develop a plan to get more leads, more business, more clients.
[00:00:53] So I’m excited to talk to you.
[00:00:55] Karin: Well, I’m always excited to talk to you. And you’re our first [00:01:00] repeating guest on our kind of baby podcast that we’re just kind of getting under our wings. What is the phrase I’m looking at getting our wings? Uh,
[00:01:11] Michelle: whatever that, yeah.
[00:01:14] Karin: Anyway. Michelle is also one of our partners in the firm where we always talk about strategy and setting, uh, all the positioning and messaging for our clients.
[00:01:25] So today the big question that we’re going to talk about is how do you plan a year of marketing? Because this is coming up a lot lately. Clients are really starting to think about, okay, how do I, how do I do all of this stuff? There are so it’s so noisy. There’s so many messages coming at you that you should be doing this.
[00:01:46] You should be doing that. You should be on tick-tock whatever. Uh, the thing, the latest and greatest thing is. So how do you figure it all out and plan for a year of marketing? What’s [00:02:00] step one.
[00:02:00] Michelle: Well, I think step one part of this to really think about where you want to go in the new year, I find that there are a lot of messages out there.
[00:02:08] Just like you said about, should I be a tic-tac et cetera. Those are all about tactics and they don’t have anything to do with strategy. And so what happens is that a firm might decide, I need to have SEO. I need to do all these different tactical things, but without a strategy to.
[00:02:24] Guide those efforts, really nothing sustainable habits. So what I recommend is that you step back and start thinking about what your goals are. do you have a relatively new firm or you’re adding new attorneys? And what you’re trying to do is just get established to get your name out there, or are you established in a local area?
[00:02:42] And you really want to just take it over and kind of become the go-to firm in your practice area, in your location. Or is it time to really expand and go out nationally and make sure that you’re, you’re a player in some of those more meaningful cases that happened nationwide? the [00:03:00] reason I mentioned those three buckets is that’s where I typically find firms fall.
[00:03:04] When you, they think about what they want to do in terms of growth and exactly. And that’s really the starting spot. You have to determine where you want to go. In the next year, in the next three years, even in the next five. And then, yeah. And then,
[00:03:19] Karin: yeah, go ahead. Sorry. I was saying that I was just thinking, uh, over this holiday break, my kids.
[00:03:27] Learned to cross country ski for the first time. And so we went to this awesome, um, little park where they had groomed trails and one of my kids was over onto the side and she is the one that doesn’t really like to follow rules. And so it was very kind of the slippery, icy area where a lot of the more experienced skiers will do that kind of skate skiing thing.
[00:03:51] And it’s kind of slippery, really icy snow. And the other one. I saw that there was this grim trail and took off. No [00:04:00] problem. Skiing was fun. The one who did not take that trail was sliding all over the place. She was so mad and she was mad at me because skiing was my idea. Not mad at the snow choices. Yes.
[00:04:18] My fault because I’m the mom, but this is what I’m picturing when you’re describing, having that goal in place, getting into that groom trail, taking off. And then it’s, it’s, it can be fun if you think marketing is fun, but you’re not over there sliding around, trying to figure it out and trying to basically reinvent the trail on your own.
[00:04:40] Angry, absolutely angry, you know? Yeah. Okay. So I just want to know that,
[00:04:46] Michelle: you know, marketing you and I find marketing fun marketing. Isn’t fun for everyone, but you know, what is fun, true, getting results, achieving your marketing goals. So if your marketing goal is to become the go-to. [00:05:00] Uh, from, for your practice area, in your location.
[00:05:03] And then you are like, you realize one day that that six or eight, nine months of marketing got you, where you wanted to go. That’s pretty darn fun. So, you know, I think another thing to think about is that marketing isn’t a short game. It’s a long game and you have to, it is. Long-term with it.
[00:05:23] Karin: Yeah. And in terms of getting angry, I will w you and I will both often talk to firms where they come in and they’re not happy with their current agency.
[00:05:34] And I don’t immediately. I assume that that firm is in the right. So I, you know, we’ll ask some questions to see, is that a red flag that I should know about? Is this a client that doesn’t want to listen to their agency that doesn’t want to do the work or do whatever that firm is asking? Or is it truly the problem on the firm’s side?
[00:05:57] Right. So. If you are [00:06:00] assuming that if you’re not giving over the strategy and, uh, you know, the assumption is that the, that agency should be doing all of it and laying it out. And you’re not being a mutual partner in the whole process. Um, that can be frustrating for one thing, but it, it also can be a problem if you’re kind of micromanaging the word,
[00:06:19] Michelle: you know, and I think what we find that we do differently, and it’s really what I would, if even if you’re doing your marketing on your own.
[00:06:27] Not really something I recommend, but if you are, um, one of the things that other marketing firms do that I would say as a misstep is they do plan out a year’s worth of marketing, and then they just, they just set it to roll. So we’ll let all these tactics roll. We’re not going to evaluate, we’re not going to pivot.
[00:06:43] We’re not going to be agile. And when we get to the end of the year, It’s time to renew your contract. We’re going to look at what worked and look at the latest, hot topic and see how we can shift you. And I’m not trying to throw shade on other people. I just want to point out that I recommend something different.
[00:06:57] And in fact, we do as well as a [00:07:00] firm, um, which is set out your goals. With an annual lens, but then look at your tactics with a quarterly lens. And the reason I say that is that first of all, rather than doing everything all at once and doing it halfway or poorly, you want to execute well. Each component and that takes some time.
[00:07:22] So maybe your website messaging is off or something else that needs to get dialed in your positioning. Isn’t right. Let’s fix that in Q1. Let’s get that aligned with your goals. And then in Q2, we’ll let. Something like SEO or something like blog content, assuming that the positioning we developed to Q1 is actually getting you some results.
[00:07:44] You’re getting some traction. You’re getting noticed. If you’re not getting attraction, you’re not getting noticed, then we can pivot from there. And so we tend to, and what I would recommend once you get through the goal setting area is to map out for [00:08:00] yourself. Tactical buckets. So like, um, I like to think of it and this is a bad, well, it’s a less than pleasant example, but I like to think of it like triaged, right.
[00:08:11] So I might have broken my arm, but if my carotid artery is bleeding, I’ll probably deal with that first. ’cause so
[00:08:21] Karin: it’s true. So
[00:08:22] Michelle: look at your goals and figure out where you’re bleeding, frankly. What do we need to fix first? Yeah. And then can we build on it from there? Um,
[00:08:33] Karin: And I think that’s, that’s a really good way and a good first step, because I think a lot of people will get frozen at that first step.
[00:08:41] And a lot of people that we talk to say, oh, you know, my, my website, isn’t really doing anything as though that’s a normal okay. Thing. And so to realize that, okay, if your website’s not doing anything and it’s really not bringing you business, That’s probably where you need to start, [00:09:00] because it should
[00:09:00] Michelle: be, have you ever gotten a flyer in the mail or got a Groupon ticket or had someone recommend something to you or a restaurant and you you’re excited about it.
[00:09:10] You think it’s going to be great. You go there and you walk in and it’s nothing like what you expected. Like the atmosphere is poor. The lighting is poor. They bring you your food and it’s called you order coffee and they bring you tea. Like it’s just horrendous. The bathroom is just the waitress has a bad attitude.
[00:09:28] Are you ever go back? No. And so I see firms and other people as well, do that with marketing. They spend all their attention and time and money drawing people to a website that’s really kind of a crappy restaurant. And then they wonder why nothing converts. Yeah. So. If your website isn’t doing anything for you, there are two reasons for that.
[00:09:56] One reason could be that you’re not getting any traffic to it. So it’s [00:10:00] beautiful. It’s gorgeous, but no one sees it. What we find though, more likely is that the website needs to be refined maybe. Yeah. Often you’re you might be using stock photos. That are a little dated. The messaging might not flow. You might be that guy at the party that leans in and talks about himself instead of really talking about the needs of your client.
[00:10:25] Uh, there are lots of little mistakes that if you’re not an expert, you don’t see them. So attorneys love to write. They know how to write. You go to college to learn how to write, but copywriting and messaging is different than a legal brief, like significant.
[00:10:42] Karin: Let’s dig into that just for a second, because I literally just had a conversation today about why, um, when you’re talking about especially blog content, why should it not be legal advice?
[00:10:57] I mean, and obviously, you know, legal advice that, [00:11:00] you know, I’m not talking about the illegal stuff to, to not say on it, but the person I was talking to was saying, uh, I don’t know if I’d really trust somebody else to, it should really be coming from me. Cause I’m the lawyer. Why, why should it not.
[00:11:14] Michelle: Um, well, if you think about blog content and what blog content it’s designed to do, it is, it is really a lure to draw the right types of clients into your firm.
[00:11:25] So those P and it’s search-driven right. So I’m not going to search what are the tort laws for the state of mission? Like, I’m not going to search that. I don’t know that I’m going to search something like, or how to spell torch. I’m going to search something like my neighbor is suing. Over this tree that I don’t want to cut down, I’m going to search yet.
[00:11:49] And so the blog content, instead of getting deep into the law, it needs to get deep into how the perspective client feels. So, so my [00:12:00] son has just been arrested for DUI. What do I do? Yes. So my grandfather just asked me to be the one to help him redo his. Where do I go next? Right. You know, these are the kinds of things that people are Googling and
[00:12:17] Karin: that, and so playing devil’s advocate, why should that not, why is it a bad idea for the lawyer to still write that?
[00:12:26] So let’s say they’re even answering that will, um, I guarantee this person I talked to still feels like, Nope, I know. I know the law better than, uh, whoever your writer is. And so, um, I really need to write that.
[00:12:42] Michelle: I think that the attorney absolutely should think about specific bullet points that they want included, but I don’t think the attorneys should ever write.
[00:12:52] Blog content, unless he or she should have been a creative writer. And they just got sucked in to being an attorney because their mom had a goal for [00:13:00] them. And the reason I, the reason I think that is because of two, two things. Number one, when we start talking about our area of expertise, we always go too far.
[00:13:12] And we get dry because we’re talking about what we understand and what we know, and we go way past the level of anyone’s need to know. We tend to just be very emotive. We all do this. If I talk to you about how copywriting works, I would not be a motive. I would get into the nitty gritty. So if I just need it to be critical, it’s just natural.
[00:13:36] And the other thing that happens is that if you, as an attorney, we’re sitting at a pub with. A relative and they over a beer, they said, Hey bye. So my neighbors suing me over this tree. What do I do? You’d have a conversation. Dialogue,
[00:13:54] Karin: what time of the story? Tell me what happened.
[00:13:56] Michelle: And you sit down at a blank computer screen and try to [00:14:00] tell someone that’s not right in front of you.
[00:14:02] You’re going to default to legal, brief language. You’re not going to be conversational. You’re not going to be a motive. And the reason I know that is because that’s what everyone does when they write. The reason I don’t write that way is because I’ve been trained not to write that way, but believe me, it took a long time.
[00:14:20] Karin: Yes. Yeah, no, that makes so much sense. So I think, um, the other fear that a lot of attorneys have, especially not even just when they come, it comes to blog, content and blog writing and all of that. And their, um, the, the reason they kind of lean towards doing it themselves is because it’s, it’s scary. They don’t know where to start.
[00:14:40] So we talked about kind of step one, but how do they figure out how to plan out if we’re in January, we’re looking. All of 20, 22, how do I, you know, figure out how to plan out that whole year of, of all the marketing there’s the blog posts and the social media, and maybe my website [00:15:00] needs, you know, now, now that you’re saying all that stuff about the messaging, I think, and maybe my website needs to refresh, how do I, how do I schedule that all out?
[00:15:07] Like that just seems, that seems overly.
[00:15:10] Michelle: I really recommend that you don’t try to do it yourself, that you reach out to a consultant and you get some expert advice, because if you, if you picture a wheel in your mind, a wheel with spokes, your website is at the center of that wheel. And then all of marketing is, is driving traffic to that website through a variety of spokes.
[00:15:29] Now there’s so many options. There’s really very little way to know, unless you’re an expert, which option is going to be best for you for your type of audience, for your location, for the way that you engage. But a consultant can talk to you about your goals in the best way for you sustainably to drive traffic to your website.
[00:15:51] It could be that blogging is perfect for your firm. It could be that blog is not perfect for your firm, and you’re not going to know on Facebook. [00:16:00] Um, right. Someone with the experience that we have and truly that other firms have to. We are, we are unique and special, but also of course,
[00:16:14] Karin: so where do they, so they get started by figuring out, like you were saying earlier, like where your goals are kind of where you’re starting out.
[00:16:21] Uh, you talked about those three buckets of, you know, knew from experience from or vastly experienced from. So, you know, that’s, that’s kind of an easy box to check in and kind of evaluate. And then when they’re sitting down, let’s assume they’ve hired maybe us, maybe an expert or whatever. Um, so what kind of questions should they be asking to figure out, you know, okay.
[00:16:44] If we’re going to plan this out, how do I, how do I, how do I know it’s working? I see, you know, what kind of questions should they be asking?
[00:16:52] Michelle: Uh, first of all I ask people, is, is your website converting? Are you getting leads off your website? Can you track them? Do you know how many you, you [00:17:00] have are getting, if you can’t track them and you don’t know that we need to assume you’re not getting any, because if you’re getting a lot, you’ll know you’re
[00:17:08] Karin: you are, you would know.
[00:17:09] Yeah. You don’t need a report to tell you that you’ve got money in your bank.
[00:17:12] Michelle: Exactly. And then I typically will. So, what have you done before to attract in the past to attract new clients? How is that working for you? And I will tell you nine out of 10 times, the first thing I hear is referral. Yes. And you know, referrals.
[00:17:29] Wonderful. Um, reputation is important and I certainly don’t want to throw shade on getting referral business, but the thing about referral businesses that you can’t control growth. Right.
[00:17:42] Karin: Yeah. You’re counting on your neighbor to basically do your marketing, right? It’s like, Hey buddy, can you go and get me some more
[00:17:52] Michelle: clients?
[00:17:53] So then I will start to ask questions, like, um, what do your peers say about. [00:18:00] How do you rank with others in your practice area? Do you have any cutting edge ideas or do people call you for a consultation when they’re working in difficult case? If so, we might want to pursue a thought leadership role for you where you can share some of those ideas.
[00:18:18] Yeah. Actually, you know, I said, referral business, isn’t controllable. It sort of is though, in this way, if you market aggressively to other attorneys or referral partners, you can grow your referrals. Um, if you’re in a local area and your goals are local, then we might talk about how to connect with that local area.
[00:18:38] And, um, that kind of thing. It’s, it’s really hard to give a pat answer card because you have to. Dial into what’s
[00:18:47] Karin: different for every, yeah. Yeah, yeah. It’s good. I mean, and I feel like that’s the default. Um, I don’t really have an answer answer, like it depends, but, uh, when you look at how different [00:19:00] affirm and a business is, that is just starting out versus.
[00:19:03] That high-level firm, that’s going national and looking for PR and, you know, posts and media and PR you know, appearing in media and things like that. It’s it couldn’t be more different. It’s two totally different kind of business plans. And so you should have a different marketing plan. And if you’re looking at a, at a firm that has just one.
[00:19:22] Templated thing for everyone I would run for the Hills from that to that is very scary.
[00:19:28] Michelle: Well, and I think, I think that’s why, and I know sometimes when we’re talking to people who might want to work with us, we get a little pushback on this, but that’s why we will start with a strategy call and we’ll really drill into some of these topics.
[00:19:43] I don’t have an agenda or a map I’m trying to push you to when we have those calls, I’m listening to what your goals are, to what your unique situation is. And then I go away and sit with that and come up with a, a custom or a bespoke plan for you. And I think that, [00:20:00] yeah, that’s another thing that differentiates us from maybe some other firms who have like, well, we have this plan, this plan, or this plan, which one do you want?
[00:20:09] Karin: Yeah. And I think it’s it’s you did a good job of clarifying that it’s once we get that strategy in place, it’s not, it’s depends. It’s very class and it’s very defined and we do have a plan and then we continue to come back to that plan. And that, that strategy is what gives us the answer. And so that for us, even when it comes to like picking stock photos, All of a sudden, when we have the, the language of that strategy, we know it needs to align.
[00:20:39] And so you can easily say, okay, here’s what the strategy says. Here’s an image we’re looking at. Does that go together? No. Yeah, no, that doesn’t have anything to do with each other or no. Oh, that might, that might work. I think. So you have this framework for answering all those future questions and so it all kind of pauses,
[00:20:58] Michelle: you know, and typically we will map out [00:21:00] like, this is what we want to do in Q1.
[00:21:02] This is what we want to do in Q2. And then these are the options for three and four. And the reason for that is because we don’t know a hundred percent how that strategy is going to land. And so, right. Expect a certain level of results. But if we’re five or 10% off, we’re going to make some pivots and we’re going to take what we learn and hone it.
[00:21:25] Yeah. And so, um,
[00:21:29] Karin: There’s no way to read the future too. And so no one should be pretending to know what might happen. And after the last two years, we should all have some recognition for, uh, not being able to read the future. I mean, people who are making marketing plans at the end of 2019, all of a sudden, just this giant grenade landed and there was no way to really plan.
[00:21:51] For a global pandemic. So, and that changed everything that changed everything about how we meet with our clients, how we approach [00:22:00] everything. And, and I, I remember having conversations with you about even how our language around speaking to clients about what, what matters to people at that at that point.
[00:22:09] So you definitely, you need to kind of be aware and paying attention to what matters to people throughout the life of your marketing plan. Awesome. So tell me, Michelle, you know, our audience is full of tireless lawyers who don’t have a ton of time to read a book. That’s not worth it. So tell me what a book that you think is
[00:22:30] Michelle: worth it.
[00:22:31] I agree actually currently rereading essentialism by Greg Macallan. I read it a few years ago and I I’ve had. Stuff go out in my life in the last year. So I picked it up again. And what essential wisdom is all about is actually really similar to what we’re talking about with marketing only applied to personal life.
[00:22:49] It’s about figuring out what is essential to you. Like what makes you happy? Aligns with your philosophy or your values or your goals, and then [00:23:00] ruthlessly cutting out all the things that aren’t aligned with that, if you can. Uh that’s. So I love that, you know, is this, is this essential. To something that’s important to me, or is this just fluff or something I’m doing because it’s expected or someone wants me to this.
[00:23:18] And so I’m really enjoying it and looking at my planner and my schedule with kind of a critical eye. You know,
[00:23:28] Karin: that is such a good way to think of this marketing plan. Like you said too, because you do get bombarded with these other ideas. And it’s like, I love the idea of the word essential too, because way back when I was in.
[00:23:42] Uh, grad school, we did these strengths finder, uh, Gallup, put it out and similar idea, like find out what you’re really good at and then do not do what you’re weak at, you know, delegate for that or whatever, but the idea of like strengths and weaknesses, it makes it [00:24:00] sound, uh, not quite as clear as this.
[00:24:03] Essential, like, is this really an essential thing for me to be spending my time on or doing or, you know, whatever. Yeah. I like that. That sounds great. Um, well we will link to that book in the show notes and, um, and have the link to Amazon for that book. That sounds awesome. I’m going to add that to my, uh, library list.
[00:24:21] Michelle: worth the time.
[00:24:23] Karin: Awesome. So what’s one big takeaway you want listeners to get from this episode?
[00:24:28] Michelle: one big takeaway. I would say, make sure that you’re doing what is truly essential in your marketing and that you’re not allowing yourself to get blown about by someone’s advice or someone else’s expectations.
[00:24:42] It’s not true that every law firm needs SEO. It’s not true that every law firm needs to blog. It’s not true that every law firm needs to. XYZ. You need to determine what is essential for you to achieve your goals. And when you do that, that’s when you’ll [00:25:00] be most efficient and that’s when you’ll get the best results.
[00:25:04] Oh, that is
[00:25:06] Karin: so good. I feel like that was just, I was just like at church for a moment.
[00:25:14] Okay. Michelle Hunter is a content strategist. She is our esteemed partner and strategist for our, our clients as well. Part of our marketing co-counsel plan that does lay out all these years, this year of marketing for your firm. And it was such a pleasure as always, Michelle, thank you so much for your time.
[00:25:33] I really appreciate,
[00:25:35] Michelle: and I love it.