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The Client Game: Five Successful Ways to Market Your Firm

By Bob Matthews

In the “Hello World” series, marketing guru Bob Matthews, WCW publisher and Advertising/Graphic Designer, explores how to represent your practice using the power of visual communications and the Internet.


Once upon a time, a successful strategy for promoting a legal firm was to have a big Yellow Pages ad with a grainy black and white smiling photo of the lead lawyer. Even today, a Yellow Page ad is a good thing – except now it’s the online version. But, it’s one piece of having a successful marketing plan. And as always, budget is a major factor. Start with a general idea about a budget for the year. The rule of thumb is to maintain an established business, you need to spend between 3% to 6% of your yearly gross earnings. For a more aggressive approach, newer practices should spend 6%-15% of gross earnings. Your mileage may vary depending on your goals.

I recommend hiring a professional for marketing help. They practice their profession while you practice yours.

The following is a list of the ways firms are having success.

1. A Strong Web Presence
2. The Radio Connection
3. The TV Channel
4. Banner Ads
5. Out of Doors Media

Start with a general idea about a budget for the year.
1. A Strong Web Presence

It doesn’t matter if your firm is small or large, the web has become a great equalizer.
Some larger firms may have spent a lot of resources well, but many have not put in the effort to connect with potential clients. The sites can be overloaded with content, confusing and poorly laid out or look very clinical and unfriendly. Your site needs to connect verbally and visually to the people you want to reach. Smaller firms can win out with maximized Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques and a presence on social media sites.

If you are starting a new site, here are some guidelines you may want to follow:

Decide who your audience is. It seems obvious, but this basic discussion can bring out clarity in developing what the site will communicate with words and images. Try to differentiate your site from your competitors.

Hire professionals with a good track record who can be responsive to your needs. The inexpensive one-size-fits-all web services can be problematic in developing a unique message and resolving technical issues. It is crucial to be able to speak to a tech expert who can work directly from the hosting service instead of someone who just relays the info - especially in the chat format!

A web professional will help bring out your main messages and organize the site in a logical structure. Without this, the site will most likely turn off visitors and the one chance you may have may pass for good.

Web Basics. Generally people find you through a search on Google or Yahoo. They may find you through other media, but for most it is a web search. The goal is to rank as high as possible on the search results so clients can find you quicker. Some practices spend thousands of dollars to maintain their high ranking. Why the added cost? Because of the complex nature of a constantly changing set of preferences for keywords, metatags, link backs and content set by Google and others.

To get to the top rankings and keep it there, your web team can use a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) service (if they don’t already have someone on staff) tailored to your budget and needs. To understand the process further, search engines use “spiders” to scan and index your web pages. Search engines track keywords, metatags (invisible to the viewer – it’s in the page code) as well as page content, and links to your site all add up to where your page will end up on the search results.

To add strength to your site, use quality links back to your site to add relevance.
These include articles written by you or someone from your firm on other sites, press releases for company additions/changes, email blasts, social media sites including Facebook, Yelp, Google + and more. Create a blog with current topics and practice expertise.

Advertise on Google
Google AdWords can help by getting prime top or side bar placement on search pages. You create the wording in your ad, pick your category and upload to the AdWords interface. You pay for a cost-per-click with a limited budget you set to not exceed. Here's an example:

Your daily budget: $10,
Your maximum cost-per-click bid: $0.50
Your average actual cost-per-click: $0.40
Approximate number of clicks per day: 25

The selected link then goes directly to your site. Getting the right set up entails some complexity. To get the best results, have it set up by a web professional with Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or a Pay Per Click pro.

Add videos to your site. Once again, I recommend a professional service to help with putting videos together. Many outfits will come to your office. You will look better with good lighting, a prearranged script and competent video/sound editing. You can do separate videos with different topics during a single session to save costs. If you are going to do them yourself, get some decent pro lighting and a tripod. The other advantage to videos is posting them to YouTube, Avvo, LinkedIn, Facebook and others creating more traffic and links back to your site.

Add a “Get Help Now” form on your homepage to help generate contact info that visitors can respond to. You can contact and add to them to your database (must opt in) for eblasts or other mailings.

Your site needs to connect verbally and visually to the people you want to reach.

2. The Radio Connection

Another way lawyers have found success is by using radio advertising. Lawyers working in Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injuries are good candidates for radio. It is less expensive than TV and can reach many people.

The key is identifying a station that fits the type of audience you are trying to reach. If you are an injured worker, it might include sports radio, talk radio or a contemporary music station. Possibilities also include a talk radio station that has a legal or medical advice show.

Hire an advertising copywriter and you can read the script yourself or use someone with a voice for radio. When writing the spot, describe a situation your clients can instantly relate to and make it memorable. Have a call to action – like responding to an upcoming seminar or to get relevant literature. Make sure to mention the phone or web address at least twice. To further track the response accurately, you can use a separate phone number or web address.

To get the best rates avoid the early morning and late afternoon times as they are the premium rates. Check the stations' ad rates to find where the best times and frequency breaks are. They will also give you an idea of who their audience is and how many listeners they have during what times. You can find some more detail on Nielsen Audio and how to interpret the ratings.

Radio is less expensive than TV and can reach many people. The key is identifying a station that fits the type of audience you are trying to reach.

3. The TV Channel

TV is a powerful medium that needs to be handled with care. The results if done well can generate more than enough new clients to cover the cost. Or not. According to the Council for Research Excellence, TV is still the king when it comes to total exposure ahead of social media according to the latest figures. In the Bay Area, most people would recognize ads for Habbas & Associates and Steve Moskowitz. These two represent the most active in the area of full scale marketing: it is truly high risk and high reward. Their approach also includes radio, billboards and online ads. They use themselves in their ads and use real-world cases to gain credibility with the audience.

To do it right, use a professional TV ad copywriter to help with the script and a good video production house. You could also go with an ad agency to get a more creative direction to help differentiate yourself and make the spot more memorable. They will also have good tracking techniques to see where your responses are coming from. The agency will most likely buy the media spots (they take the 15% agency discount from the station bill) plus bill you for both the creative and production. They will also put together a budget where you decide how much will be spent – usually a 6 month to a year commitment. Agencies can also negotiate with stations better because they have more weight as they carry other accounts with the media.

Of course there are many different levels of marketing exposure, so you can use TV advertising without breaking the bank. As with radio, running the ads on non-prime time is more affordable. To see what the rates are call the channel’s sales representative if you don’t have an agent.

As an example of how to determine the best times to buy TV space, KNTV Channel 11 in the SF Bay area provided us with an Excel spreadsheet to show audience breakdown. The total audience for the demo was a projected base of adults 18 and older of 5,886,456. The people who were polled and had specifically inquired or used legal services totalled 5,712. The spreadsheet starts with a 100% viewer assumption and is weighted above or below that line. So a rating of 123% means 23% more people in that demographic had a higher response. Lower means fewer people than average responded.

One takeaway was the Monday to Friday 9 am to 4 pm viewers are 93% more likely to have used a personal attorney in the last year.

TV is still the king when it comes to total exposure

4. Banner Ads

This type of marketing is trackable and can be effective in the right venues. Work with an agency or web design service to create the ad. Such an ad should be part of an overall campaign to highlight your strengths, but it must be able to attract attention on a page with other banners. Animation can also help get attention, but it needs to be quick and not take away from the main message.

Ad placement costs can vary widely. A large banner on a site with a lot of traffic will be priced accordingly, especially on the home page. Many times the ads are placed on a revolving banner with 4-5 or more other banners. The other linked pages cost less and may not have the revolving aspect. Sometimes revolving ads are used in various places so the ad may need to be in different proportions - landscape, skyscraper. Typical places for a banner for legal services would be the local online newspaper, online area magazines and social media sites.

Typical places for a banner for legal services would be the local online newspaper, online area magazines and social media sites.

5. Out of Doors Advertising

These include billboards, bus shelters, mobile wraps, etc. Billboards can be a great buy for getting quick recognition by a working public. Placed on a major freeway or expressway where known traffic jams happen, a billboard can be seen by millions of people a month, 24/7! Those sites are at a premium and can run from $6K – $20K a month. Other sites off major surface roads are more affordable. Usually smaller and called “Posters,” they can go for $2K - $6K a month. So less traffic but placed in the right area such ads can be effective. Many legal services use this form of media. A freelance designer or ad agency would provide the creative and production services needed.

Rotary bulletins move your message from one location to another usually every 8 to 12 weeks — long enough to capitalize on commuter and pedestrian traffic habits before moving on to a fresh audience and expanding the reach of your message. Rotating your bulletin can even make your message appear as if it’s in multiple locations simultaneously.

Permanent bulletins provide long-term, dominant coverage in fixed, high-traffic areas. Location selection is key for permanent bulletin board advertising and is determined according to your geographic or demographic targets. Strategically placed permanent bulletins can be used to direct consumers to your location.

Posters, smaller than bulletins, are a cost-effective alternative on lower-speed secondary roads.

Wallscapes are large, visually arresting, and frequently used as the signature piece of an outdoor campaign. Wallscape advertising creates a lasting impression and is used in metropolitan areas or landmark locations. Digital billboards or bulletins use colorful, eye-catching broadcast media in the same hard-to-miss, high-traffic locations as traditional bulletins.

Some links to check out: clearchanneloutdoor.com and cbsoutdoor.com

Billboards, bus shelters, and mobile wraps are some out of doors advertising spaces to consider.

Check Out These Valuable Links

Tracy Watson has more detailed information on marketing on the web for lawyers. Also see Marketing Zone, a good resource to help understand the real world marketing details for small businesses.

Be Aware of Compliance Issues

Make sure you comply with the State Bar of California's advertising guidelines. Workers' compensation practitioners have additional rules: See Business & Professions Code §5499.30, Labor Code §5432, and 8 CCR §9823.

Where Do You Want Your Practice to go?

If you want faster bigger growth, use online Google ads and web banners, social media, some TV or radio and bulletin billboards. For medium growth use a combination of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media, local online newspaper web banners and add videos to your site. Also review your site design and message to see if it is up-to-date.

Make sure to choose a marketing professional to help meet your marketing goals. But, no matter what, you need to be involved in helping to gather the information your marketing professional needs, and to be available when issues come up. Pick the media wisely and use memorable messages and images to break through the clutter to play the best game.

Please feel free to call Matthews Design Group at (408) 410-9943 if you need professional advertising services.

Make sure you comply with the State Bar of California's advertising guidelines and the special rules for workers' compensation advertising.

Bob’s experience in high-level creative communications has spanned 30 years and included Fortune 500 companies.

Bob Matthews
Matthews Design Group
(408) 378-0878
Email: Bob matthews<bobmatthewsmdg@sbcglobal.net>



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