I love to run. Fast. But the reality is, sometimes I run too fast, too quickly, and that can lead to huge challenges for our businesses.

I got into talking recently with my friends at Innovative Attorney Marketing, a full-service marketing agency that drives new clients to attorneys and law firms and a Likeable Local partner. They've been working in the legal direct mail and digital marketing space for more than 15 years, so they know a thing or two about growing and maintaining a business. I asked them about their approach, and why "Crawl, Walk Run" works best:

It sounds like you have been a leader in the attorney marketing space for over a decade. What changes have you seen as the industry evolves?

For one thing, direct mail does not work on its own anymore. Potential clients used to receive a letter targeting their legal needs in the mail, open the envelope, and pick up the phone. These days, consumers are much more savvy. They will take the time to research a firm online prior to making a phone call, and will also shop other firms before making a decision. Because hiring a lawyer is such a personal decision, it is critical for attorneys to have a professional digital presence. Furthermore, a digital presence no longer means simply having a good website - you need to have social media accounts, blogs, reviews, be found on page 1 of search results, etc.

Yes, digital marketing is obviously a hot topic. What advice do you have for people who are entering into this area for the first time?

We look at digital marketing for attorneys in a "crawl, walk, run" approach. In the crawl phase, you are establishing a digital and direct mail foundation. You need a solid website which will serve as the backbone for a direct mail campaign. Your website should include your resume so that potential clients can see your accomplishments as well as practice area pages that explain what exactly it is that you do. It needs to be mobile responsive with clickable calls-to-action. In addition, using targeted and timely direct mail campaigns with optimized formatting and custom branding will set you apart from the competition and drive visitors to your firm.

As you learn to walk in digital marketing, you establish a social media presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Not only should you establish a presence, but you should begin to interact with others in the form of blogging, sharing, and commenting online. This will keep you relevant, establish you as a thought leader, and drive your SEO efforts.

Finally, when you begin to run, you start to engage in activities such as digital advertising through a pay-per-click campaign, paid social media marketing, and full-scale SEO efforts such as link building and website optimization.

Interesting perspective. What else would you add?

Law firms and other small businesses should not jump into digital marketing without a clear strategy - doing so could waste thousands of dollars and countless hours. In addition, small business owners should focus on what they do best - practicing law if you're a lawyer, or accounting if you're an accountant, or consulting if you're a consultant, etc.

Because successful marketing requires time, expertise, and effort, teaming up with an experienced marketing partner who understands the area is essential for success. Finally, keep in mind that not all companies can benefit from all types of advertising. As an example, consider Radio Shack, who spent $8 million on a Super Bowl ad and then closed almost all of their stores a few months later. Not all advertising is good advertising, which is why it is advisable to work with an experienced partner when planning your digital and direct mail marketing strategy.

Crawl, then walk, then run!