Many court reporting firm owners are realizing the importance of being more proactive and strategic with their marketing. They know the market has changed. It’s not as good as it used to be when they were able to grow without proactive and strategic marketing.
When they started their firm, they had a few good clients and did quality work. They started getting some referrals. The phone rang. Business just seemed to come to them. But, at some point, the phone stopped ringing as much as it did.
Every year for the past few years, the NCRA (National Court Reporters Association) has released statistics showing that firms who grow are more likely to be proactive with their marketing than those who are not growing.
In the March 2014 edition of the JCR (Journal of Court Reporting), the NCRA concluded from their 2013 Firm Owners Economic Benchmark Survey that: “Those firms with substantial growth were just over four times more likely to suggest that their marketing efforts were a factor to clients’ hiring decisions than those with severe revenue decline.”
In some of our recent blog articles, we’ve discussed the importance of court reporting firm owners:
- Being more proactive with their marketing
- Staying focused and two major obstacles keeping firms owners from marketing success
- Having a good marketing strategy that is consistently followed.
In Marketing Fundamentals for Court Reporting Firm Owners, we discuss ten common marketing and sales mistakes firm owners make (some are costing thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars a year) and what to do instead. In this article, let’s think about one of those ten mistakes:
Chasing Marketing Tactics
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 or attend a webinar or seminar discussing a specific tactic you’ve never tried.
When you’re looking for ways to improve your marketing, you might think, “Let’s try this new marketing idea/tactic and see if it works.”
Your intention is good.
Maybe you get really focused on this one tactic and think it will increase your firm’s business. However, if that marketing tactic is not executed properly (in conjunction with other tactics executed within an overall marketing strategy), after a period of time you will start to doubt if it’s even working and will usually give up.
Chasing the latest tactic or trend doesn’t typically work well and it will usually result in you being frustrated and having wasted your own money that you worked so hard to make.
Let’s think about eight marketing tactics this commonly happens with:
- In person networking events such as luncheons, conventions, and association events – You hear you are supposed to go where your market is. You know some of them are at the events put on by bar associations, paralegal associations, court reporting associations and other legal groups. So, you go or you send employees to go. You may even pay for an exhibit booth or table, pay for travel expenses, stand there for hours, and hopefully get a chance to speak with some of the attendees. You could easily spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, per event. Afterwards, other than knowing your firm was able to be seen at the event, you might not sure what your firm got out of it.
- Print and online advertising – You know your market reads certain publications. So, if you have enough money, you decide to put an ad in a publication. After you spend the money and the ad runs, it can be difficult to track if your firm received any new business from it and decide if it was worth the investment. Then, there is online advertising such as search engine ads (Google, Bing, Yahoo), social media ads (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), and ads you can have on specific websites. It’s a little easier to track the online ads because they involve a link to your website. Ads can work but getting a positive ROI (return on investment) can be tricky.
- Prioritizing SEO (search engine optimization) as the most important thing to do for your court reporting firm’s website and internet marketing. It is not. It is important to be found when someone does a search online for what you do. There are likely improvements that could be made to your firm’s website to improve how many different online searches it ranks for. While it is a great idea to have your website show up number one or two in search results for variations of court reporters and your city or state name, there are hundreds of other related search phrases that would be good for your website to rank for as well. With Google constantly changing their search algorithms and other websites competing for the same one or two main phrases, no one can guarantee you’ll get that number one or two spot. However, ranking in search results is only one part of what can and should be done to generate good marketing results online. And, marketing online is only one aspect of what can be done to improve a firm’s overall marketing and sales. Great marketing strategies focus on what you can control. Is your marketing strategy designed to help you grow your business without counting on Google?
- New website development – because you want a better looking one. Having a better looking website is good but will the new website be designed to create a better marketing result than your current one? Will the new website be more than a better looking online brochure? Recently (in 2015), we researched over 200 court reporting firm’s websites and their online presence and found that the strong majority are not utilizing their websites as a marketing engine. The majority of websites are not set up in a way that produces the best marketing outcome. In other words, most websites are set up like an online brochure. They say some nice things about the firm, may have some SEO elements in place, may have links to their social media accounts, may even have a deposition scheduling form and link to an online repository, but they aren’t doing a good job of consistently growing the number of new visitors, leads and clients. (Are you thinking, or starting to think, you need a new website? Download the New Website Planning Checklist for Business Owners to help ensure that you, as the business owner, receive the most value with your website.)
- Hiring a sales and/or marketing person – While having someone at your firm dedicated to sales and marketing can be a good idea, many firm owners have lost thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars with this tactic. It may seem that having a sales or marketing person will produce a good return on investment. After all, they’ll be helping your firm increase business, right? Sometimes they will but it is not always the case. If the position is not well-defined, the owner is not prepared to manage the position before the person is hired, the right person isn’t hired, or the position is not set up to work within an overall sales and marketing strategy, the results will never be optimal. But, having a sales and/or marketing person can be really good for your firm when it's handled well.
- Social media – Social media is a great place to expand your network online and attract more visitors to your website. However, it is extremely easy to be active but not productive with social media. Which networks should you be on? Where should you focus your efforts? How do you create business from your social media connections, fans and followers? These are all important questions to answer before investing your precious time in social media marketing.
- Email newsletters – These are only as effective as the content in them and the actions email recipients take because of them.
- Blogs – Many firm owners will just start blog section of their website and may even create some blog articles because they heard it helps with their marketing. Of the court reporting firm websites we researched, we’ve found that over half of the ones that have a blog section stopped posting articles months ago. This tells us that they probably didn’t see the value in doing so or just did not have the right strategy to come up with new content. At the same time, we know that there are firm owners who are benefiting from blogging. Are the articles actually effective in contributing to your overall marketing strategy? Are they written to the right audience? Is that audience resonating with them? Do the blogs attract more website visitors and lead them to a deeper level of interaction with your firm that will eventually lead to new business?
All of these tactics can be good when executed as a part of a good sales and marketing strategy and if you know what to do with each tactic. However, each one could easily be a way to be active but not productive.
Remember the importance of a strategy. Once you have a good marketing strategy, it is okay to consider adding in or altering the tactics you use. Just make sure that those tactics that are in line with your strategy and you learn enough about them before jumping in and being unproductive.
If you’d like to access more information like this article to help improve your court reporting firm’s marketing and sales, we’ve created Marketing Fundamentals for Court Reporting Firm Owners for you. In it, you’ll discover the 10 common marketing and sales mistakes you should avoid (some of them are costing firm owners tens of thousands of dollars a year) and what to do instead. Learn more about it here.
If you’d like to speak with us about your specific marketing or business challenges and how you can start addressing them now, go here.
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).