A common question I get—especially from small and mid-sized law firms—is how to get started with a marketing campaign. “Should we run ads on TV, transit, or online?” they often ask. Effective marketing doesn’t come with a one-size-fits-all tag, unfortunately. Beginning a marketing campaign requires a few initial considerations and conversations. By first understanding what makes successful marketing work and evaluating your brand recognition and budget, you can pave the way for your law firm’s natural growth potential and make strategic decisions and adjustments to accomplish your monthly case goals.
Evaluating Brand Awareness
Do people know your law firm’s name and brand? Name recognition and knowledge of your brand provides the shortest bridge between someone needing your firm and calling your firm. There is a direct correlation between case volumes and the branding/awareness of a firm. You can see it in how prospective clients conduct online searches, navigate and engage social media, and share information with family and friends. Successful firms get it, and their actions (marketing) demonstrate it through the level they’re investing in their branding.
We’ve all seen the big-name attorneys with three consecutive billboards on the highway or whose slogan is repeated ceaselessly on local TV or radio ads. The brands who are out there the most—who have a large share of voice—are top of mind for people who suddenly need those services. This repetition and continuous effort positively affects case volumes. If people don’t have much awareness of your firm, this may be the first issue to tackle with your advertising.
What is the cost per case that you’ll spend on marketing to get a client in the door? Marketing is business, and looking at the numbers is a necessary part of strategizing your campaign. Let’s start with an example. If a case earns your firm $7,500, how much are you willing to spend in advertising to get that case in the door? Let’s say you’re willing to spend $2K to get that case in the door, netting your firm $5,500 after advertising. Now, let’s work backwards from there. How many cases can you afford to bring in per month? If your advertising budget is $10,000, that could mean five new cases per month. Does that make business sense for you? Do you have the bandwidth to take on more cases at $2,000 per case?
This is, of course, a simplified example with some deeper considerations that we work through with our law firm clients. Does your brand have the recognition it needs to net enough phone calls to convert five cases? (A strong conversion rate can help with this equation.) You’ll also need to factor in that you may not get those five cases in the first month—it takes momentum to build awareness and generate calls. The less a brand is known, the more momentum is needed; the greater a brand is known, the less runway will be required for take-off. These are considerations we walk through with law firms before we begin campaign strategy, planning, creative, and media buying.
Tips & Tactics
Understand the Uniqueness of Your Market
There are 210 TV markets in the U.S., and each has its own nuances and differences. The idea that a law firm’s ad campaign requires a “unique” approach to match its “unique” market is true, but this can also be said for each of the 209 other markets in the US. In the experience of our industry, no market is any more or less unique than any other. Each has nuances—industrial, blue collar, urban, rural, etc.— and for that, there are tried and true strategies proven to work regardless of what market your firm operates in. These strategies are at the basis of the recommendations we generate, taking into consideration the dynamics that exist in your city and surrounding area, including audience, competition, brand positioning, areas of practice, and investment tolerance. The strategies work when crafted for a specific market.
Don’t Choose a Tactic on Cost Alone
Marketing of law firms has gotten competitive and therefore expensive. Too often clients are swayed on cost and choose to go in the direction they deem is the affordable one. But inexpensive isn’t always a great fit. A small law firm in a big-city market that wants to start with TV won’t do well with inexpensive TV advertising. They simply won’t have the effective reach needed to position the brand in the minds of potential clients.
When starting your campaign, you need to first assess your means and tackle the issue of brand awareness that lead to calls. Not everyone can start with big TV budgets, so what smaller steps can we take? Perhaps enter the digital world first, or take a billboard approach. Don’t succumb to deciding tactics solely on cost—campaigns need to be customized to implement an effective strategy that generates cases on your budget.
Do One Tactic Really Well
Whether your advertising budget is large or small, if you’re going to invest in a marketing campaign, choose the best-fitting tactic for your area of law and do that one tactic very well. For some, it’s TV. For others, it’s digital ads. When firms choose too many tactics, they can easily spread their budget too thin—this leads to their message being diluted and lost in the noise. Investing your legal marketing budget into the appropriate amount of channels will give your firm a presence that is noticeable in that space. As your firm grows, so will your budget, and so will your advertising channels. At the beginning, choose one tactic and do it well.
You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure
Observing, measuring, and adjusting your advertising is crucial to understanding what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve marketing performance. By paying attention to the impact your campaign is or isn’t making, you will be able to definitively say whether your strategy is working. Tracking the numbers—calls, social media likes/follows, cases, conversion rate, cost per case, case revenue, etc.—allows you to hold your advertising team accountable and determine where adjustments should be made.
As an ad firm, we are big proponents of telling our clients what information we need access to for success to be measured and adjustments made. Sometimes the creative needs a change, sometimes the media buys. With information from a firm’s in-take process, we can easily observe, measure, and adjust to ensure the campaign continues its natural growth potential.