This is the next post in my series on common marketing mistakes made by law firms. 

My last article looked at how lawyers fail to consider returns on their investment

Unfortunately, it’s a common issue for attorneys. When they look at marketing options, they might look into whether it’ll be profitable, but they fail to consider whether other options may be more profitable.

Due diligence is the difference between the firms that thrive and those that stagnate, or worse, end up flat broke. And in this post, I’ll look at an issue of equal importance — the failure of law firms to think long-term for their marketing. 

So without further ado, let’s get to how you can do just that.

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’re paying for a marketing asset that you don’t 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 you do own, you’re more than likely taking a long-term approach. 

Let’s take a look at how these approaches work in practice.

Why The Short-Term Approach Holds Your Firm Back

Attorneys regularly focus on far too many short-term marketing approaches. Like we defined above, this means marketing through means out of your control.

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. You’re renting ad space from a third-party. And here’s what happens when you operate that way:

You pay $1,000 for ads this month, and understandably, you get excited when those ads bring in $10,000 in revenue. 

The problem? 

You have to spend another $1,000 next month to keep that revenue coming in. 

As soon as you stop paying, the flow of cases stops too. 

One of the problems (of which there are many) with this approach is that it locks you into a continuous overhead cycle. The second problem is that it’s much more difficult for your firm to grow this way. 

You’ll be operating on tight margins due to your excessive overhead, so money is tight. You need more money, however, to pay for more ads to grow. This is why I talk to so many attorneys who’ve 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 into that structure for the reasons I just explained. 

To use a baseball analogy, think of this as getting to first base immediately but never getting past that point.

Taking The Long-Term Marketing Approach For Your Firm: Focus On Assets You Control

Now, let’s look at what happens when you take a long-term approach and focus your dollars on assets that you own instead. 

If you follow this blog, you probably know I regularly talk about why attorneys should invest in their own marketing assets

The thing about an “investment” approach is that it’s a sustainable path to long-term success. Let’s take a look at why.

According to a HubSpot survey, 60% of marketers agree that inbound marketing, including SEO and blogs, is their highest-quality source of leads.

When you invest your money into content for your website, such as SEO-focused blog posts and videos, you own that content. It can’t get taken away. 

That content will then provide a continuous return over time. For example, way back, we wrote an article on how drug use impacts child custody for one of our clients. 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 were using pay-per-click (one of the short-term options mentioned above), at the cost of $20 per click, then 945 clicks would have cost her $18,900. 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 significant 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. To better illustrate this point, let’s take one more look at some numbers.

Meet our friend Attorney “Joe,” he spends $125 per month to purchase blog posts, and each post is going to average ten clicks per month. 

Once Joe puts out the content, it’ll just keep generating clicks on standby — even as he puts out more posts. 

This means that the first post will average ten clicks every month, and so will the second post, and the third, 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. 

And when you break that down, it comes to an average cost of $1.92 per click. This is opposed to our friend, Attorney “Bill.” 

Rather than invest in content, Bill spends $1,000 per month on pay-per-click, at an average cost of $20 per click. 

Admittedly, Bill will get 50 clicks the first month while Joe only gets ten, so he’s got a better start. The problem is that he likely won’t grow from there.

In the second month, he’ll continue to get 50 clicks, and Joe will get 20.

And then the third it’ll be 50 vs. 30, and Joe will continue to catch up until he passes Bill.

If that rate continues, Bill (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. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

But I hear you asking the question:

“What if I need clients now?”

The Best Ways For Law Firms To Get Clients Quickly (and Cheaply)

Understandably, plenty of lawyers don’t want to just wait around for these long term results to kick on, so I’ve got some short term solutions too.

And to that, I’ve got two solutions for you.

Craigslist and LinkedIn

Today I don’t plan on rewriting full blog posts that I’ve written before, so I’ll just say this: Even when I was first starting my firm, I was able to land 1-3 clients per week purely from Craigslist. And the great thing?

I didn’t have to pay a dime.

These two platforms are some of the most underutilized marketing avenues in the legal world, and if you aren’t using them yet, today is the time to start.

And to do that, check out my guide on how to use Craigslist to advertise for free.

As well as this definitive guide on social media for lawyers.

Investing in Long-Term Success Over Short-Term Wins

Don’t get me wrong; short-term wins aren’t bad by any means. But they shouldn’t be your focus.

And if you are working towards them, you don’t have to get stuck in the overhead cycle we discussed before if you make use of platforms like Craigslist and LinkedIn.

But here’s the thing: The most critical part of investing in the long-term is that you actually start doing it.

I recall a few years ago, I spoke with a young attorney who was beginning his own practice. My advice to him? Immediately start a blog. 

Roughly a year later, I get a call from him asking for more advice. His practice was struggling. And guess what? He hadn’t started the blog. 

So, I again suggested that he do so, and I will never forget his response. He said that he didn’t have six months for a blog to start yielding a large return.” Keep in mind; he made that statement twelve months after I had initially suggested a blog to him.

If he had started right away, then he wouldn’t have found himself in such a predicament. 

You can’t walk 100 miles without taking that first step. 

If you haven’t started investing in your own assets yet, then you should do so immediately after reading this article.

And in my next article, I’ll discuss another critical point — why your law firm website gets no traffic and how to fix it. Stay tuned.