Advertising: An essential investment in your practice

By: Rich Sierra

It is surprising how many of my colleagues tell me that they can’t afford to advertise or that they advertised once online and, when it did not work, stopped advertising altogether. This is the wrong approach to advertising a legal practice.

I believe that advertising is an investment in my practice. It is a source of visibility and a way to get prospective clients to call my office for legal services. Whether the prospect “converts” into a real client is based on other factors, such as the ability of the prospect to pay for services, the type of legal services required, my ability to convey the value of my service, etc. Advertising is not a vehicle to convert clients; it is simply a lead generation tool. Here are five rules I adopt when considering advertising campaigns.

1. Must be targeted

The legal field is one of the most saturated and competitive businesses I have ever been involved in. We are faced with colleagues vying for the same limited business and with quasi-legal services such as Legal Zoom, which have chipped away a significant market share of legal business traditionally performed by attorneys. For this reason, the decision regarding where to advertise is important.

Before you decide where to advertise, you must have a clear picture of the type of client you would like to attract. Regardless of your practice area, you should be able to develop a concrete description of this client that includes the client’s geographic location, gender, income, occupation and other relevant demographic information. Second, determine if the potential advertising source has any data on its ability to reach this potential market. For example, I practice business law in Coral Springs, Florida, so if I were to evaluate an online advertising source like Avvo, I would be interested in the number of online searches performed during the last two months for “contract attorney in Coral Springs.” If you are considering advertising in a print publication, you can ask for the demographic profile of subscribers and for samples of past issues in order to evaluate content and see if other attorneys are advertising. Whether online or offline, if the advertising source has some history, you should be able to obtain this information. It is not a perfect science, however, so do not over-analyze the data.

2. Must be consistent

Consistency is key to a successful advertising campaign. It is completely unrealistic to expect any advertising campaign to work 100 percent of the time or on the first try. My approach is to make a long-term commitment to maintaining visible, repetitive ad exposure to my potential target audience. Over time, the frequency of the ad will make my brand more familiar to the prospect, which could turn into a phone call when the need for legal assistance arises. If you are not willing to make a long-term commitment to the advertising campaign, it may not yield the results you expect.

3. Must be effective

In my opinion, an effective advertising campaign reaches the desired target audience and generates potential leads for my practice. The number and quality of the leads is another metric, but this analysis involves other factors. My first snapshot look at the success of a campaign involves determining how many people saw my ad and, out of those viewers, how many contacted my office. If there is a large gap between the number of people who saw the ad and the number who called my office, then I may need to change my ad copy to generate more inquiries. Advertising is part art, part science, and you have to be flexible and make corrections when needed.

4. Must be measurable

As part of a small practice, you’re likely to have more advertising sources to choose from for the funds allocated in your advertising budget. My recommendation is to evaluate the effectiveness of your advertising sources once a year and make changes accordingly. I don’t have a hard and fast rule on this. I follow my instincts.

5. Must be significant

Last but not least, advertising is not an expense but an investment in your practice. Your results will be proportionate to the time commitment and financial resources you’ve invested in the campaign. You can’t expect to secure a $100,000 client from a $50 ad. If you do or have, it is pure luck, and that is OK. However, if you are in this for the long haul and want to succeed in the business of law, you have to be prepared to invest significant financial resources to advertise your practice and stand out from the competition.

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