The way Terrie Wheeler tells it, "I've downloaded my brain into a Web-based tool" that is growing into a thriving business.
Hers is a brain crammed with 25 years of experience as a marketing manager, consultant and coach, largely with a focus on promoting law firms. The result is a company dubbed MarketYourLawPractice.com (MYLP), started in 2007 to offer affordable marketing assistance to small to midsized law firms across the country -- and, given a recent addition to her client list, in the United Kingdom.
The service comes via an interactive website that offers more than 1,000 pages of tools, tip sheets and checklists, in addition to a roster of templates that can be downloaded as Word documents to guide production of proposals, news releases, ad copy, client surveys and more.
"The website she's created is an amazingly effective tool -- videos, exercises and tools to keep track of how you're progressing," said Dawn Isackson, an attorney at the Minneapolis law firm of Messerli & Kramer.
Whether we're talking a marketing novice or a veteran, Wheeler's website "is so flexible even an experienced person can benefit," said Dorothy Cleveland, chief operating officer at Walling, Berg & Debele in Minneapolis. "It identifies weak areas and fixes them," she said.
Not to mention a plus that is uppermost for many of Wheeler's smaller clients: "She gives you all the marketing tools you need, and she made it affordable for solo and small practices," said Dean Gavin, a single practitioner based in Chaska.
Cleveland seconded the notion: "Her service is ideal for us because we can't afford a marketing person," she said. Yet, marketing savvy is crucial for a firm that specializes in family law -- the divorce, custody and adoption cases that largely involve short-term clients.
The cost of Wheeler's online service is not insignificant, mind you: She charges $800 to $1,200 a year per attorney signed up for the service, depending on the size of the client firm. But it's a bargain compared with fees that can run "$8,000 to $10,000 per attorney for a one-on-one consultant to assess, design and implement a marketing plan," said Wheeler, 49.
The payoff: Started in 2007, which Wheeler spent developing the website, MYLP grossed $68,000 in 2009, its first full year. But the business exceeded that in the first half of 2010, reaching $83,000 by the end of June, nearly triple the level in the same period of 2009, So she is "conservatively" estimating that 2010 revenue will exceed $150,000.
Which is not bad, considering that Wheeler also is operating a successful marketing consulting business that's on track to top $520,000 in revenue this year.
Three years ago I introduced you to Wheeler and her Progressive Services Marketing (PSM), a consulting firm with one employee -- Wheeler -- and 20 independent contractors who chose to work flexible, part-time schedules providing affordable marketing services to small to mid-sized law and accounting firms, community banks and health care organizations.
All of which adds up to a pair of virtual businesses based in Wheeler's New Brighton home and the homes of her consultant contractors. Hers is a business model designed to "let you grow a business and still have a life," as she put it.
Pillars of marketing
The MYLP focus on the legal community is a natural outgrowth of Wheeler's 12 years as a marketing director at three Twin Cities law firms before starting PSM in 1996. Those 25 years led to a website built on what Wheeler calls "the four pillars of marketing: client relationships, name recognition, business development and communication," each of them designed to benefit users no matter the level of their marketing experience.
Under each category are a handful of "mini-marketing courses" that guide users from assessing marketing needs to developing and implementing marketing plans to measuring success. Also built into the website is a contact management system that helps subscribers keep track of client issues and reminds them via e-mail about various follow-up requirements.
"It's all a process that I know works, a system that has been successful," Wheeleer said.
If all this isn't enough, subscribers can send questions to a "virtual marketing coach," who turns out to be Wheeleer or one of the marketing specialists who serve her PSM business.
Wheeler, who has more than 250 clients, sees a huge potential for MYLP: "There are more than 1.2 million attorneys licensed to practice law in the U.S., and I'd be happy with just 1 percent of that number," she said.
I'd be happy, too, given that it would amount to about a $12 million revenue stream, by her estimate.
Nonetheless, Wheeler has her eye fixed on other avenues. She already has launched a website aimed at helping financial consultants market their wares, but has licensed it to a Plymouth management consulting firm while she keeps the other two businesses running.
Farther down the road she figures to add other websites and has registered domain names for sites she's planning to help small to midsized banks, CPAs and dental and medical consulting firms sell their services.
Dick Youngblood • 612-673-4439 • firstname.lastname@example.org