When it Comes to Implementing Your 2017 Marketing Plan, Go Bird by Bird

This is the time of year that many lawyers and legal marketers are deep into planning for 2017 business development initiatives. It’s the time of big dreams and grand ambitions. The problem is, while the plan is transformative, it rarely gets implemented. As almost all of us know through painful personal experience, one of the biggest issues with planning is that it can be overwhelming – it’s easy to be ambitious on paper, but in practice that ambition can lead to paralysis.

One of my favorite books is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. It contains many lessons on creative thinking and ways to approach your work. One of my favorite passages deals with the issue of paralysis – specifically, how to overcome the tendency we all have to get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task or challenge we are facing. Here’s Lamott’s advice, gleaned from a childhood family experience:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

We all want change to happen right now. But it doesn’t work that way. You have to put in the work if you want the plan to work. Because the amount of change we seek often overwhelms us, we procrastinate and equivocate.

But by doing something – consistently, habitually – change happens. Step by step, and action by action, your marketing activity will begin to build momentum. Little victories will pile up, which will soon turn into big results. You can’t accomplish everything today, but you can accomplish something. Just take it bird by bird.


The key takeaway is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to legal marketing and business development. If planning works for you, keep planning. But for those seeking an alternative, try experimenting this year. Pick an activity to engage in this month and dive in. Write a blog post per week, or make 12 phone calls to clients, contacts and colleagues. Whatever marketing experiment you commit to, give it your all.

If you’re doing something you’re excited about, and in the process getting your name and expertise out there, good things will happen. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for progress. Once you’ve learned through experimentation what works for you, then you’ll be in a position to create, and more importantly stick with, a marketing plan that works for you.

Best of luck to you on a successful, prosperous 2017!