For many solo and small firm lawyers, the end of the year is a slow time, with prospective clients off on vacation or too preoccupied with the holidays to think about drafting a will, filing for bankruptcy or other legal matters. And while a slow-down can be nerve-wracking, it’s also an ideal opportunity to start planning for next year. Here are a couple of ideas that you can still implement even as the clock ticks down towards the end of 2010.
1. What can you finish in the next four days? Before you start planning marketing activities for next year, determine whether there’s anything you can finish up before the end of the year. For example, perhaps you outlined an e-book, then set it aside when more pressing client matters came up. Can you find three or four hours to finish the e-book, convert it to a PDF file and have it ready for distribution when 2011 rolls around?If an ebook seems too time consuming, what about activities that won’t take more than an hour or two? That’s really all the time you’ll need to add a form or Google Voice number to your website to make it more interactive. Or, you could polish up your website bio. Finally, have you received any gifts or holiday cards from clients or other attorneys? Pick up the phone or even send an email to say thanks.
2. Make some dates for 2011 After you’ve cleaned up any obvious loose ends for 2010, it’s time to start planning for next year. Most lawyers don’t schedule time for marketing, so when they get busy, marketing falls through the cracks. Then, when the work ends, these lawyers find themselves scrambling. By planning marketing activities at the beginning of the year, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of the seeds that you planted steadily throughout the course of your practice.
So what’s the most effective way to plan for 2011? Drawing up a list of activities is helpful, but that’s only part of the process. In addition, you should calendar those activities right now to hold yourself accountable. Thus, if you’re planning to launch a newsletter or webinar series for 2011, select the dates for getting the newsletter out the door or conducting the webinar and mark them on your calendar. Then, break the tasks up into different components, and list those dates on your calendar as well. For example, if you’re planning a monthly newsletter that will go out on the first of each month, you’ll want to set a mid-month reminder to start gathering materials for the newsletter, and another reminder a week or two later that the deadline is approaching.
Select a calendar system that will send reminders by email to make it less likely that you’ll ignore the dates. Google’s free Calendar application is ideal – you can synch the calendar to your phone, receive reminders by email or even text and share the calendar with colleagues or staff.
3.Suggested Calendar Items Below are a few suggestions for items that you might calendar, along with the different components involved:
Get togethers with colleagues You can start scheduling a few lunches or coffee dates with colleagues for January right now. But it’s tough to schedule dates more than a month out – after all, your colleagues might think that they’re not high on your list, if you contact them in January to meet for lunch in May. Still, you can block out certain days each month – maybe the third Friday or first Wednesday – as dates when you’ll have lunch or coffee with a colleague. Then, block out a date a week to ten days in advance to invite someone to meet. Once you have the days set aside for meetings, you’re more likely to keep them those dates open and plan a meeting.
Conference attendance If there are trade shows or other conferences that interest you, mark those on your calendar now. Include related dates as well – such as a date pre-conference to get in touch with potential clients or colleagues who may also attend and set up meetings, as well as a date post-conference by which you’ll send out follow up emails.
Writing activities In addition to creating a written newsletter, you might calendar dates for completion of written articles. Also be sure to include the publication’s submissions deadline for particular topics.
Even the best laid plans may go astray. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you let some of your calendared dates slide due to work or events beyond your control. My guess is that even if you follow through on half of the marketing activities that you’ve calendared, you’ll be doing twice as well as you did last year. Happy New Year to all – and get busy!