This is my second post on the current state of law firm marketing. My last article gave a quick overview of topics I’ll be looking at as well as the fact that attorneys are following an outdated business model. I feel that a discussion on the state of things is important as, a lack of understanding about the current state of things, is one of the reasons why law firms are struggling in 2015. This discussion is going to look at how attorneys have traditionally marketed and where things are going. Tomorrow’s post will delve into what you have to do to be successful.

The way in which one markets a law firm has changed more in the last twenty-five years than it has in the previous several centuries. Many attorneys are frustrated because they are attempting to apply old concepts to a new model. If you’re doing so then you’re feeling such frustration and probably look like this guy:

Man leaning against wall

Here’s the good news – it’s not that attorneys can’t change their approach. It’s that most don’t and won’t. By moving in the right direction you can jump ahead of your competition and wind up looking like this guy:

business man hug money

Let’s look at where things are currently and where things are going.

Attorneys have traditionally considered marketing to be about spending the most money – a strategy which no longer works

Yellow pages phone directoryDoing well in terms of marketing a law firm used to, primarily, be about one thing – spending the most cash. This was true before the world moved online and was also true in the early days of the web. Think about it for a second. In the days of the phone book (please explain to me why they still print such things) it was primarily about who paid for the largest ad at the front of the attorney section. The same was true for billboards, radio ads, etc. People would then see one’s ad and pick up the phone. Before calling they didn’t, for all practical purposes, investigate reviews of the lawyer, etc. Spending the most dollars equaled consults.

Lawyer advertising remained primarily about spending the most money in the early days of the web. It’s not a secret that attorneys are slow to adapt to change. While many businesses were getting a website in the 1990’s, many lawyers waited until the mid-2000’s to build a site (and a disproportionate number of attorneys still don’t have a website). So simply spending money to build the largest website, regardless of content quality and user experience, was likely to put you ahead of limited competition. Combine this with the fact that Google’s algorithms were not as refined as they are now, and simply “being the biggest” could go a long way towards doing well in organic search. Many attorney’s chose to “be the biggest” by writing a check to web providers who held themselves out as dealing only with law firms.

Many lawyers are still trying to handle marketing by simply throwing money at the problem – think of pay-per-click. In the days when lawyers could spend their way to the top of organic search, many attorneys relied on a mix of organic traffic and paid traffic. Now that dollars don’t equal organic traffic many attorneys are relying solely on pay-per-click. Combine this with the fact that more law firms are trying to market through the web (and jumping straight into pay-per-click) and you have a situation where PPC costs have skyrocketed. A family law attorney in Las Vegas, for example, could expect to pay around $5 per click on a PPC campaign in 2008 and today that cost has risen to around $25 per click.  PPC is the ultimate example of attorneys throwing money around.

I’ve written at length about why law firms should completely avoid pay-per-click advertising. I’m also adamant that they should avoid web design companies and consultants who wish to utilize PPC – a topic I discussed in my review of Scorpion Web Design. It’s not cost effective, it amounts to spending your money rather than investing, and it’s not going to get you to place you want to be. In spite of this, attorneys continue to rely on it as it fits into the old model of “whoever throws the most money at marketing” wins the client.

The days of “winning” by throwing money at the advertising, whether online or off, are over. Continuing that approach will leave you looking like this guy:

Man with empty pockets

My reason for saying things have changed is simple. In today’s world spending the most for website content isn’t what matters in organic search – it’s the quality and relevance of that content. Also, people no longer read your website and go straight to calling you. They are, first, checking out your online reviews on sites such as AVVO, Yelp, and Facebook. Finally, relying on PPC is already a non-cost effective waste of your money and is only going to be more so in the future.

The current state of law firm marketing does not include a “full service” option

Marketing your law firm in 2015 does not include a “full service option.” By this I mean that the day of just writing a check, to take care of your marketing, don’t exist anymore. The approach described above involved the calculus of “I can write a check for ‘X’ every month and get ‘Y’ phone calls without doing anything else.” Successfully connecting with potential clients in 2015 takes some work on your end. This work involves having an ongoing web content strategy which provides people with relevant answers to their questions. It also means giving those potential clients this information in the way in which they wish to see it and digest it as opposed to the way in which you want them to see it and digest it. It means providing a good client experience and in turn, properly managing online reviews. Finally, it means properly leveraging social media. These are things that simply cannot be done without some work on the attorney’s end. This is why I say the day of a full service marketing option is over for firms.

Tomorrow I’ll begin discussing specifics on how to be successful going forward and will look at what kinds of services you should be utilizing in getting there.