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4 Law Firm Marketing Spending Traps

4 mins

pricing, law marketing, Marketing, marketing strategy

If you’re a law firm, how do you know you’re not over (or under) paying for marketing? And how do you know that what you wind up paying for will actually make a difference for your firm?

There are a number of common spending traps for law firms - and some don’t discover them until they’ve made the wrong choice (or not made any choice... which is choosing not to grow). Discover what spending traps you can potentially fall into when it comes to law firm marketing.

Trap #1: Shopping for marketing based on price

The most common mistake we see is shopping based on price. This is “budget-based” thinking and yields budget results. The partners think “we have $X to spend on marketing”… then go about trying to find a vendor based on that budget.

Seems sensible, right? You feel fiscally prudent thinking in terms of a budget… but there’s a flaw in that thinking.

The flaw: marketing that works isn’t a cost, it’s an investment. Budget-based thinking makes sense for buying office furniture. But marketing, if it’s done right, should have a return on investment. 

Think about it this way: if I told you that by investing $100, you’d get $150 in return, how many times would you take that deal? You’d (hopefully) invest all day long.

Law firm marketing done properly can be the same thing, except…

All of the law firms exercising budget-based thinking are looking at the wrong things. They’re choosing vendors based on what they have to spend, not on what the return will (or what they want it to) be on the marketing program. Marketing programs don’t have linear returns. 

This means, that for some firms, spending less than a certain amount will yield little to no result. The program won’t have enough traction to get clients. If your budget is less than that threshold amount, you’re just throwing money away. In practice, had you spent just a little more, you would be playing the “rigged slot machine” of positive return on investment. Each practice is unique, and therefore their budgets should be as well. We work with our clients to understand their business and discover what will work best for them. Learn more about what you should look for in a law firm marketing vendors.

Trap #2: Not realizing marketing is highly specialized

If someone came to your firm and said, “I'd love you to represent me for one month to do something absolutely critical for me. It will take your years of expertise, and dozens of hours of your time. Oh, and I'd like to pay you $500. After all, there are over a million lawyers in the USA.” 

How would you feel if that happened? Would you be interested in accepting the engagement? Would you be able to staff it well? Do you think this would be a good client? The likely answers are “no” across the board.

That’s what we see firms asking of their marketing vendors too often. Oddly, as lawyers, we make our living on intellectual capital. Yet, somehow we have this disconnect and think, we can get a good marketing solution for a nominal fee.

Maybe, if you’re only looking for an off the shelf solution (more on that below), you can hire someone to simply "go through the motions" for a low price. But if you’re looking for experts who will truly understand your business, they’re simply not going to be interested in working with firms that do not value their expertise. Just like you aren’t interested in terrible clients that think you’re a commodity. 

Marketing - like the law - is its own area of specialty. In fact, it’s evolving at a rate far faster than the law. Good law firm marketers need to understand the cutting edge of marketing in addition to the nuances of ethical legal marketing.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by thinking that marketing isn’t an area of specialization.

Trap #3: Settling for “off the shelf” solutions

Average firms settle for average marketing. If you’re considering an “off the shelf” solution - usually offered by marketing vendors as a program that doesn’t start with an extensive deep-dive into your practice’s unique aspects - then you’re going to get average results.

We may be biased as a marketing firm founded by lawyers, staffed with lawyers, and for lawyers, but in our view, there are only a handful of marketing firms that really understand what it’s like to actually run a practice – what the real nuances (and ethics) of legal marketing are.

If you’re looking for average, any number of vendors (large and small) are happy to take your money and put you into their SEO program, their content writing program, or whatever else they are selling that day.

Exceptional firms need exceptionally specialized law firm marketing. Isn’t that what you should be looking for?

Trap #4: Walking away from marketing that actually works because of sticker shock

And now, the part that makes most firms (or firm management) squirm. It’s the fact that most of them aren’t prepared to spend what it takes to succeed.

As lawyers, we’ve had the luxury of running businesses where there aren’t many significant costs compared to other businesses. Yes, there’s office space, and staff, but compare that to a company that stocks inventory, and our complexity is significantly lower.

That simplicity comes at a real cost.

The cost is that we’re not used to spending significant sums. One of those expenses being marketing. When you’re spending $0, anything more feels expensive.

Non-legal businesses sometimes spend 30% or more of their revenue on marketing (did your heart just skip a beat there?).

Here’s the point: if you’re properly thinking about marketing from a return on investment standpoint, the cost doesn’t matter as much as the value. See the investment analogy above.

You see, that (non-legal) business is fine spending 30% of their revenue on their marketing because they’re getting more than they’re paying for.

Now, fortunately for you, it’s very unlikely your firm will need to spend that much. However, remember that the right question is “what’s my return on investment?

Avoiding The Traps

The point is this: consider your marketing an investment in the future of your firm, not as a cost. Marketing is a key business function. Invest accordingly.

If you’d like to discuss what a custom law firm marketing solution looks like - one created specifically for you by a marketing firm that’s for lawyers, by lawyers, request a complimentary assessment here.

Ross Yellin