A couple common questions we hear from court reporting firm owners are:
- How do I increase sales?
- How do I improve our marketing?
Generating business has become more of a challenge for court reporting firm owners in the last 5-10 years. The market has changed. There is more competition. The way people do business has changed.
Many firm owners are realizing that in order to grow or even maintain their revenue, some sort of marketing and/or sales efforts will be necessary. It is not enough anymore for them to rely on the quality of their work, reputation or the relationships with a select group of their top clients.
This can be an incredibly difficult challenge for a court reporting firm owner to address. Most firm owners were court reporters who had the opportunity to purchase the firm they worked for or decided to start their own. As discussed in a previous article, it is a challenge to transition from court reporting to firm ownership.
Most firm owners are excellent at the technical aspects of what their firm provides. They have technical training and years of experience that helps them provide quality court reporting services. However, they are often not as good at the business side of the business, including sales and marketing.
This is common and understandable. If they worked for a firm who had enough work for them to make a good living, why would they have focused on learning sales and marketing strategies? For those who’ve been firm owners for years, even decades, they might not have had to think about sales and marketing 10-15 years ago because the market was much better and there was plenty of work available.
While sales and marketing may seem like a daunting task for some, it doesn’t need to be.
For this article, let’s think about the most important foundational element of court reporting marketing and sales.
A Typical Conversation with Firm Owners about Marketing
When a firm owner asks us about how they can improve marketing or increase sales, we often ask them, “What have you been doing so far?”
They often answer by telling us specific activities or tactics they, their internal staff, reporters or some outside agency have been doing. Some of the more traditional activities we hear are:
- On-the-job networking with attorneys
- In person networking events such as court reporting conventions, paralegal or bar association events
- Calling on potential clients by phone or in person
- Hiring a sales or marketing person
On occasion we will hear that a firm is trying some internet marketing tactics such as:
- They have a website
- Social media
- SEO (search engine optimization)
- Google Ads
After asking a few more questions such as:
- How have those activities been working?
- What kind of results have you been seeing?
- How are you tracking and measuring your marketing efforts?
- Would you explain your overall sales and marketing strategy?
- How does your strategy tie all of these tactics together in a way that works well?
…we typically find that their efforts have been disjointed, not working together to accomplish an overall strategy and goal. Often there was no marketing strategy created. If they did have a strategy, it was either incomplete or outdated. When this happens, it’s easy to understand why an owner might be frustrated, especially when they’re not seeing progress.
Sure – some of their activities may produce something positive. However, tactics without a good and consistently followed strategy will not produce the best results.
When a court reporting firm does not have a marketing and sales strategy that is consistently followed, the firm is subject to external forces and/or individual people to determine how much business they receive. This is a dangerous position to be in. There are far too many external factors that are beyond an individual firm’s control. We refer to this reactive marketing and sales approach as waiting for the phone to ring.
We recommend a more proactive and strategic approach to marketing and sales.
The most important and foundational element of marketing for court reporting firms (and any other business) is a good marketing strategy that is consistently followed.
Why is a Marketing Strategy the Foundational Element for Court Reporting Firm Marketing?
Have you ever tried to bake a cake without a recipe or tried to put a puzzle together without the picture on the box? Not only is it difficult, if not next to impossible, to accomplish the best result; but, the process of baking the cake or putting the puzzle together is confusing. There is no guide to follow or concrete goal in mind. Tactics without a good strategy in business is no different.
It starts with your goal. What do you want to accomplish?
Then, the marketing strategy should include how you will align your business resources, the tactics your firm will use and how they will work together to accomplish your goal. It should be designed to be something your firm can realistically execute within your constraints. Depending on your goals, it may not even need to take tons of time to be effective.
A comprehensive marketing strategy should include how your firm will:
- Increase brand awareness – Who knows about your firm and what you do?
- Increase interaction with your firm to build relationships with those who are not yet clients
- Increase sales
- Increase repeat sales and referrals
It should also include a way to track, measure and analyze the results so you have the opportunity to improve upon your strategy and tactics over time.
The tactics are the actions you and your firm will take to execute the strategy in order to accomplish your goals. Only use tactics that are in line with your strategy.
A good marketing strategy for your court reporting firm may be different than the strategy another firm of the same size in the same city is using. And, it’s probably going to be quite different than a different sized firm (whether it’s much larger or smaller). The ownership’s goals may be different. The resources, both human and financial, will be different.
With the internet and the speed of communication in today’s world, it can be easy to get distracted and even confused by all of marketing tactics people are discussing. You might see your competitor doing something and you wonder if it works. Or, you read an article discussing a specific tactic you’ve never tried. Chasing the latest tactic or trend doesn’t typically work well.
Taking the time to develop a marketing strategy based on your goals will help you and your firm to stay focused on the tactics/activities that will help your firm accomplish your goal.
Once you have a good strategy, make sure it’s being consistently followed. Planning without execution is useless.
Most court reporting firm owners don’t have a consistently followed strategic marketing strategy that is producing what they want.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chris Nesbitt is a small business consultant and managing partner of Strategic Business Directs. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+. He has also been a continuing education instructor for the Stenograph Prince Institute Center for Professional Development (a court reporting school).