Don’t Interrupt: Ask Before You Advertise

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Law firm marketing as we know it has changed radically.  While the landscape may look the same, certain forms of advertising and marketing your firm are simply no longer as cost effective as they used to be.
Traditional law firm marketing relied on interruption based marketing models to get the word out.  Times have changed.  Permission based marketing is now one of the most effective ways to market a small law firm or a solo practice.  Understanding these two marketing models can truly make all the difference in how successful you are at marketing your law firm and its attorneys.
There was a time, long ago, when potential clients had no choice but to listen to a law firm’s advertisement.  However, with massive technological advances, the world of law firm marketing has changed and it has changed dramatically.  It used to be that a powerful, far reaching ad campaign had to include television, radio, and print.  Today, however, the Internet has provided law firms with a myriad of marketing options that include ways to speak to potential clients without annoying them.  This is good news for solo practice law firms and small firms, because many of the new marketing models can be fairly inexpensive to utilize.

All forms of marketing, including law firm marketing, used to rely heavily on interrupting the consumer.  To really understand the value of permission based marketing it’s important to understand how traditional marketing models worked and why.
As the name implies, interruption based marketing is a way of communicating with customers at times when they may or may not want to hear from you.  For example, television ads are interruption based marketing because most people watch television for the shows not the ads.  Commercials interrupt what the potential client is trying to do.  When television advertising first became popular, people were more likely to watch a commercial in its entirety.  This was due in part to the fact that there were so few channels to choose from, and also because people were not bombarded all day with advertisements.
Today, most people have several hundred channels to choose from.  DVR’s like TIVO have also made it tough for television advertisers to get their commercials seen.  Most people zip right past the commercials, only stopping if they recognize the face of a favorite actor or see a product that they want additional information about.  With television ads getting more and more expensive every day, you may not get the most bang for your law firm’s buck in today’s market because people are less likely to let your ad play through to the end.

Radio is another form of interruption based marketing that is starting to lose its value.  If someone is listening to a radio station, they usually don’t want to have their programming interrupted by advertisements.  That is one of the main reasons why more and more people are deciding to spend a few extra dollars for satellite radio.  With well over 100 channels to choose from, more and more consumers are making the switch to satellite, which happens to be commercial free.
Even print ads are interruption based.  When you turn the page of your magazine or newspaper, you are looking for a story, not an advertisement.  Online articles are also interrupted by advertisements that cut into the text to get their message across.
The more that companies and law firms relied on interruption based marketing, the more that consumers and potential clients found ways to avoid the noise of too many commercials and advertisements.  One of the main problems with interruption marketing is that it’s everywhere.  If you drive in your car you see advertisements on billboards, benches, and buses.  If you’re on the Internet there are pop up ads banner ads, and more.  People have learned to simply tune them out.
What is the solution? 

Law firms have many more marketing options today than they did even just 10 years ago. Traditional law firm marketing relied on interrupting potential clients in order to get their attention.  The new trend in law firm marketing is permission based marketing.  The basic idea behind permission based marketing is that potential clients make the choice to hear from you and your law firm.  Building a strong permission based law firm marketing campaign is not difficult.

When you use permission based marketing to grow your law firm you will still need to rely on some traditional forms of marketing to get consumers to know that your law firm and its website even exist. 
For example, banner ads on the Internet are a form of interruption based marketing that can be effective when done well.  If you include a giveaway or a contest of some sort, potential clients are more likely to click the ad and supply you with their email address.
Law firms can give away anything from a free hour of legal consultation to a $100 shopping spree at the local grocery store.  It can be anything at all.  Your goal is to give potential clients a reason to give your firm their contact information.  Potential clients will only give you permission to contact them if there is something in it for them.  They give you their attention, if you give them the chance to get something for free.  Once you have their contact information, you can maintain contact and build an online relationship with prospects and potential referral sources by providing valuable web content.

Once you have someone’s information, use it to get them to your website.  Every time anyone visits your website, whether it is a client, a referral source, a potential client, or a journalist, they are having a marketing experience.  Permission based marketing for lawyers has everything to do with developing a strong, user friendly, interactive website.
Time spent building a strong website is time spent building your practice.
You can spend an hour and a half reaching out to a referral source over lunch, or you can spend that hour and a half crafting web content that will be accessed by hundreds or even thousands of people.  You do the math.
When people visit your website to get information, they’re giving you the opportunity to market yourself to them.  Not to market someone else by having ads all over your site, but to market your law firm.  Take them up on it by giving them quality content and proving that you are a step above the competition.

When you build a website that seeks to utilize permission based marketing, it is important to remember that people want to be educated.  As an attorney, you are in a unique position to offer people information that is not so easy to find on the web.  Your firm’s website should be a great place to get information related to your legal specialty.  It should include a database of cases in your field of law that interested readers can access.  These can be your cases or those that are considered to be benchmarks in your niche.  People facing legal battles often want to read up on other cases that may be similar to theirs.  Make your website the place to go for information on cases in your field of law.
Use your website to keep people informed.  Changes in the economy, political representatives, and more can often make people wonder how those changes will affect your area of law.  Your firm’s website can be the place where people go to get the answers.  A great way to use permission based marketing is to have a blog that is useful and interesting.  Ask other lawyers to write guest posts on your blog.  Use your blog to inform potential clients and current clients about what you’re doing, what you value and why you chose to go into this field of law.

Clients love to feel that their attorney has been bitten by the public service bug.  Let clients know what drives you and what your passions are.  If you’re involved in any charities, talk about it.  Include photos and video on your website of events you have attended or sponsored.  These types of things will make people want to do business with your firm.

Another great way to provide value on your website is to have a discussion board.  Allow anyone from past clients to prospects to friends and family the chance to log in and discuss or debate anything related to your field of law.  If there has been a controversial legal decision, write a short introduction about it and invite people to discuss it.  You can send out a weekly email with that week’s discussion topic to encourage people to post.  After a few months, you can stop sending the emails because people will be coming to your site on their own to get into interesting legal discussions.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, a website is no longer an option, it is a must.  In today’s fast paced, over stimulating environment, a strong website, coupled with an interesting permission based marketing campaign, can be the difference between having potential clients pass over your ads and having them go to your website on a weekly basis to check your blog, get tips, and more.