Law Firms Trying to Win the Marketing Lottery

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Law Firm Marketing LotteryIf you look around you will undoubtedly see law firms marketing with an approach similar to a desperate man, in his fifties, playing the lottery as his retirement plan.

What does this mean?

These law firms are looking to make one big, wild, bet on something they hope will be successful.

The distorted lottery logic goes like this:

“Even though millions of people enter the lottery, someone always wins.  Why can’t that someone be me?”

With law firm marketing lottery the logic goes like this:

“Joe Smith’s law firm has billboards all over town.  He does well.  If I take one billboard on this high traffic corner, I’ll a get at least a couple of clients.”


“The web directory sales guy tells me lots of people get lots of calls with his service.  I see my neighbors in the directory.  I’m bound to get a couple of clients.”


“The Daily Legal Journal guy came to the office and showed me all the successful law firms advertising in his paper.  Just one client will pay for the ad every month.  So many people read that paper, I have to be successful using it.”

This distorted thinking motivates good lawyers to make bad business decisions.

Are billboards or web directories or daily legal papers bad marketing decisions?

It depends upon your strategy.

If you want to receive the best return on investment from any law firm marketing campaign, there are three essential steps to take:

Step 1:  Research

Look at the demographic and psychographic information for any advertising vehicle you are considering.  Understand who reads, views or participates in it.  Find out age, spending habits and lifestyle information about the target.  What do they do?  Why do they do it?  When do they do it? How do they do it?

You must be able to think like your target audience things.  This will help you determine if this form of media will work for your target market.

If you cannot get “inside the mind of the target audience,” don’t use this marketing vehicle.

Here’s an example:

A billboard on the side of the highway is a terrible marketing investment.  Although a large number of people pass by, the people are too diverse to target with a specific message.  There’s no way to communicate effectively with a crowd as diverse as mass traffic speeding past at 70 miles per hour.

A billboard at NASCAR track is terrific.  You know what these folks all have in common.  They love cars and they love racing.  You can enter their thought process easily and tailor your marketing message to them.

Demographic and psychographic information from drivers on a highway is all over the place.  But because a NASCAR race sells tickets and products and services, you can obtain exact information on the people who will be viewing your advertisement.

Step 2:  Test

Never invest in advertising for a long time period without conducting a short term test.

People who sell advertising make mistakes and sometimes they lie.

Never make a long term commitment until you test the return on investment from any advertising media.  If the representative tells you that a short term test is not possible – run as fast as you can.

Advertising that works will work in the short term or in the long term.

The only way to know is to test.  Tell the representative you will run an advertisement for a short period of time and see if it works.  If you receive a positive return on your investment, keep running it.  If you do not, stop immediately.

Take the online law firm directory as an example.

The representative will tell you that the listing will work and he will quote you facts and figures.  But the only way to know for sure is to test it out.

Offer to take a listing in the directory for a one month.  If you receive calls and convert one of those calls into a client, then make a long term commitment.

If the advertising representative says “no” to this request, you should pass.

Step 3:  Request One Action but only one Action in Any Ad

Image advertising is for large companies.  If you have less than $100 million to spend on advertising, never, ever, invest in an ad for “branding purposes.”

Each ad must have a call to action and only one call to action.


Consider an advertisement in a Daily Court Journal paper with a message like:

“Refer Investor Fraud Cases to me because I went to Harvard.”

This will not work.  Nobody cares where you went to school.

But this advertisement may:

“Call me for my free report:  Five Factors in an Investor Fraud Case that Lead to Positive Outcomes. This report was developed during my 25 years working for the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

The small action of requesting a free report is something that most people will not hesitate to do.  Referring a case to someone they do not know, like, or trust is something most people WILL NOT do.

If you are serious about law firm marketing, you will follow these guidelines each time you place an ad.

Advertising can be highly effective when it is done scientifically.

Law firms taking any other approach to marketing are simply playing the law firm marketing lottery.