In The Art of War, Sun Tzu discusses strategy vs. tactics:
All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
I often find myself speaking with attorneys about their online marketing only to become mired in discussions about tactics and logistics. Now don't get me wrong, understanding the tactics someone will use to market your firm is important. However, if you do so while ignoring your overall strategy than your odds for success are minimal.
You Need A Clear Strategy From The Start
You can evolve and change your tactics as you move along, but you need a sound strategy from the start. For example, simply getting your website to rank for a few keywords is a tactic, not a strategy. Unfortunately, I speak with lawyers everyday that treat this as if it's the entire marketing plan. Rankings mean nothing if those rankings don't produce traffic. The traffic means nothing if it isn't targeted and producing leads. The leads mean nothing if they aren't eventually turning into new clients and business for the firm.
Don't make the mistake of looking only at the tactics your competition uses. Think about how those tactics fit into an overall, web marketing strategy. Getting a ranking, starting a blog, creating a Facebook page, producing content, etc. are all tactics. These tactics, when executed with a clear strategy, can mean a lot of new business for your firm. Once a strategy is in place, the tactics you use can shift and adjust. You can figure out what's going on and how to make it better. But without a strategy, you will not have a cohesive effort....just a bunch of profiles online and a top ranking for the name of your firm.