This is the next post in my series on common marketing mistakes made by law firms. My last article looked how lawyers often fail to consider the idea of return on investment. It’s common for attorneys, looking at a marketing option, to only consider whether that option will be profitable; they fail to consider whether other options may be more profitable. Doing an in-depth analysis of something can help your firm to be more financially secure while those who fail to do such an analysis……well…..are more likely to wind up flat broke. In this post I’ll look at an issue of equal importance – the failure of law firms to think long-term when it comes to their marketing. Taking a long-term perspective will help you to have a life which looks like this:

Wealthy people

While those who keep thinking-short term will feel like they’re running on a hamster wheel, no matter how much time goes by. In other words, they’ll look just like this poor chap:

hamster wheel

While the latter is getting a good workout, I’d rather be the former. Assuming you also prefer the first option, let’s get to it.

The difference between short-term and long-term marketing options can take on several meanings. For the purpose of this article I’m going to define the difference between the two with one simple concept – ownership. If you are paying for a marketing asset which you do not own at the end of the day then, for reasons I’ll explain in part two of this discussion, you’re taking a short-term focus. Conversely, if you’re paying for something which you do own, when all is said and done, then you’re taking a long-term approach. Let’s take a look at how these look in practice.

Attorneys who focus on short-term marketing efforts will struggle to get ahead in their practice

Attorneys regularly focus on short-term (as defined above) marketing approaches. Examples of those approaches include pay-per-click campaigns, television ads, paying for billboards, radio ads, or taking out some other type of advertisement on a platform that belongs to someone else. At the end of the day these are all the same in the sense that you are simply renting ad space from a third-party. Well, here’s what happens when you think that way – you pay $1,000 for ads this month and you get excited when those ads bring in $10,000 in revenue. The problem is that you have to spend another $1,000 next month to keep that revenue coming in. As soon as you stop paying then the flow of cases will stop. One of the problems (and there are many) with this approach is that it will lock you into a huge overhead structure. A second problem is that it will be difficult for your firm to grow – you’re operating on tight margins due to your inflated overhead so money is tight. You need more money, however, to pay for more ads in order to grow. This is why I talk to so many attorneys who have been chasing their tails for years wondering why they can’t get ahead.

The benefit of relying on third-party ads is that you can get some instant gratification out of it. By spending money on ads you can get some cases relatively quickly but you’ll be locked in to that structure for the reasons I just explained. To use a baseball analogy, think of this as getting to first base really fast but never getting past first.

Lawyers should take a long-term approach and focus on marketing assets which they will own

Now let’s look at what happens when you take a long-term approach and focus your dollars on assets which you own at the end of the day. If you follow this blog then you know I regularly talk about why attorneys should invest in their own marketing assets. The thing about an “investment” approach is that it is a sustainable path to long-term success. Let’s take a look at why.

When you invest your money into content for your website, such as blog posts and videos, you own that content and it can never be taken away. That content will then provide a continuous return over time. For example, in November of 2013 we wrote an article on how drug use impacts child custody for a client of our attorney web design and SEO services. That post cost the client $125 and she owns it forever. It has received 945 organic clicks to date and continues to get consistent traffic. If that client was using pay-per-click (one of the short-term options mentioned above), at a cost of $20 per click, then 945 clicks would have cost her $18,900. So for $125 the client has received a level of marketing that many attorneys pay roughly $19,000 for and, again, that post continues to get traffic. The difference in this approach is that you invest some money today to get a big return over time as opposed to the instant gratification of third-party ads. Attorneys taking this approach may not get to first base as fast but they’ll keep going past first and make it all the way home.

Let’s look at how this approach works, over time, as opposed to simply renting ad space. Let’s say Attorney “Joe” spends $125 per month to purchase blog posts and each post is going to average ten clicks per month. Joe’s clicks will obviously accumulate each month as he owns the content – meaning that the first post will average ten clicks each and every month, the second post will do the same, and so on. At the end of twelve months Joe’s twelve posts will have received a total of 780 clicks for a total cost of $1,500. This is an average cost of $1.92 per click. This is opposed to Attorney “John” who will spend $1,000 per month on pay-per-click, at an average cost of of $20 per click. John will get 50 clicks the first month while Joe only gets ten. John will get fifty clicks the second month, while Joe gets twenty, etc. At the end of twelve months, John (the attorney using pay per click) will have spent $12,000 and will have only received 600 clicks over the course of the year. I know lawyers tend to not like math – but I would rather pay $1,500 for 780 clicks than $12,000 for 600 clicks. The big thing about this is that those blog posts will continue getting clicks in year two, year three, and so on.

This is where a lot of lawyers will say “but I need clients now” and they don’t want to wait several months for their blog to build up steam. Those are the attorneys who are going to rent ad space and start digging themselves into a hole which they’ll never get out of. It’s important to not even start down the path. I’ll use part two of this discussion to get into some ways to bridge the first few months so that you don’t have to spend money on third-party ads.

Why do you feel so many attorneys focus on short-term marketing as opposed to investing in their own assets? Please chime in through the comment form below.