This is the next post in my discussion on what will constitute successful law firm marketing in 2017. My last article offered an overview of this series and quickly looked at an important fact – successful marketing strategies in 2017 and beyond will be a departure from what attorneys have typically done. It’s important to understand that it’s time for your firm to change. Those who refuse to change will wind up looking like this:

Unhappy man

While those who make the right decisions will wind up looking like this:

Man holding money

I’m willing to bet that ol’ boy in the second photo is much happier than his counterpart. In this article I’ll be discussing an important issue – the fact that most legal professionals still don’t “get” the opportunity presented by that newfangled world wide web. Understanding the mistake that most lawyers are making is important to understanding how to go about things “the right way.” Let’s get to it.

I say that legal professionals don’t understand online marketing for a simple reason – they try to analogize it to other forms of marketing and then approach it in the same way they would those other mediums. This is a big, big, big, big (big) error. The correct approach is to recognize that the web is completely different than, say, the phone book and to adopt a new type of strategy. I’ll explain these two points in turn.

Attorneys make the mistake of analogizing internet marketing to other forms of media

In law school they pounded the idea of “reasoning by analogy” into our heads. Everything gets compared to something else so we can learn to make distinctions. This, in turn, means that anything you come across needs to be compared to something else. When attorneys first began marketing themselves online they analogized the internet to other forms of advertising. These other forms included the phone book, billboards, television ads, radio spots, and other print media. These are mediums in which one rents ad space for a defined period of time out of a hope that the advertising will generate revenue in excess of the rent expense. A lawyer who engaged in such transactions did so knowing they would never own the newspaper, the television station, etc. Owning one’s own billboard or print publication was prohibitively expensive. Legal professionals engaged in such advertising because it was the only option available to most firms. When the time came for one to move their law firm’s marketing online they analogized the situation to the forms of media they were familiar with. Let’s look at what I mean and why this was a mistake.

The overwhelming majority of attorneys view web marketing in the same way they do other media in that they “rent” space rather than recognizing the web’s unique opportunities. When you utilize pay-per-click marketing you’re renting ad space at the top of the search engine just like you would on the top of a billboard. When you pay for a premium directory listing, of any type, you’re renting space just like you would a page in the phone book. Just like with traditional media you don’t own anything at the end of the day. This locks you into an ongoing expense that you can never get rid of as doing so would force you to lose your stream of new clients. The big thing is that most professionals see that as normal. After all, it’s analogous to what they’ve done before and it doesn’t break from precedent. Here’s the thing – the internet and other forms of media are not analogous. A Judge of “smart marketing” would look at how law firms are conducting themselves online and hold that their following of past precedent is overruled. Now let’s look at just why the web is different than other forms of media.

The internet gives attorneys the opportunity to own their marketing assets

The big difference between the internet and traditional forms of marketing is that you own your website. This means that you don’t have rent ad space from third parties anymore. Those who follow this blog know that I’ve gone on, and on, and on, and regarding why attorneys should invest in their own assets rather than renting ad space. I won’t re-hash those well thought out and articulate arguments here (as I’m patting myself on the back). It is important to understand, however, that the attorneys who succeed in 2017 and beyond are going to be the ones who understand the importance of owning their marketing assets while those who continue to rent are destined to fail as the legal services market continues to deteriorate.

In my coming articles I’ll be discussing how investing in your blog is the path to success in today’s environment while spending money on ads is going to be a one-way ticket to a law office which looks like this:

bankrupt lawyer

My coming articles will also discuss a “smarter” why to network as well as how to convert more of your web traffic into consultations (which keeps your overhead down).

It’s a big mistake to view the web in the same way that you would other media sources. In spite of this, most attorneys continue to do so by renting ad space instead of investing in their own website’s blog. Why do you think most lawyers make this mistake? Please chime in through the comment form below.