Each day, more and more lawyers are leaving their captive corporate firms to venture into the realm of independent attorney. Rather than being locked into practicing only one area of law, they opt to offer a larger variety of services; coinciding with the demand of consumers wanting to have choices and options at competitive fees.
As we are well aware, this is no longer a seller's market, but an informed buyer's. People, in general, are armed with more information than ever before. So, how do you, the independent attorney, stand out from the other 100's of lawyers in your city? What marketing avenues are available to you so that you capture the consumer's attention and convert them into a client? And which ones work?
Regardless of your target audience, whether you have niched your focus to be law specific (i.e. divorce, bankruptcy, wills/trusts), or if you are targeting a certain population segment; you need to investigate the various forms of advertising available to you, the costs of such programs and the pros and cons.
Below is a breakdown of the most commonly used forms of advertising for the independent attorney, and the pros and cons of each.
As the average American spends more time in front of the television, it should be no surprise that this is one of the most sought after forms of marketing available.
· Ability to reach a larger and more diverse segment of the population
· You can specify time of day and network, reaching your intended audience easier
· Since most consumers are engaged by a combination of movement, color, what they see and what they hear, this gives most businesses a platform to achieve full sensory contact
· Gives a business instant credibility and prestige
· Cost for the commercial air time and multiple runs
· Cost for hiring a marketing firm to lay out and film the commercial
· Consumer expectation - no longer are we impressed with someone reading off a teleprompt, we want to be entertained
· Competition for consumer's attention
· Popularity of digital recorders has increased giving consumers ability to fast-forward the commercials when watching their favorite shows
Many experts would agree that if you have the extra capital in your marketing budget to incorporate television into your advertising that you should. However, it is important that you research different advertising firms to help you explore your options with regards to creating your on-air advertisement, the best way to target your audience and keep within your planned budget.
Newspaper advertising and local weekly shoppers:
With regards to print advertisements, some independent lawyers turn to local newspapers and weekly shoppers to advertise their services. Since many households either subscribe to at least one newspaper, or pick them up at their local newsstands, it is becoming a fast-growing and simple way to gain recognition by consumers.
· Ability to reach more than one target audience by placing various advertisements in the different sections of a newspaper
· Many consumers turn to the newspapers and weekly shoppers looking for advertisers who offer deals or bargains
· Multiple advertisement sizes to correspond with various budgets
· Newspapers and weekly shoppers are usually read once and discarded
· Smaller advertisements have a more difficult time standing out when placed next to a larger ad
· Quality of the print may distort images and photos in a way that can hurt your marketing rather than help
· Ads, regardless of size, have to compete for the reader's attention
Like television advertising, it would be prudent to consult a professional marketing firm to help you design an advertisement that best captures your targeted audience's attention, as well as fit within the ad size you have chosen. The smaller the ad space the less detailed and complicated the ad should be.
Also keep in mind the days the most sought after papers and weekly shoppers are printed. The rates for a large advertisement over the weekend will be greater than the same sized ad featured all week long.
Billboards and Signs:
While most forms of outdoor advertising are contained within billboards and large signage, some independent firms have broadened the term to include park benches, posters and seat rails at public transit stops. This form of marketing has become a popular, less costly way, when compared with television and print advertising, to reach a larger audience in major metropolitan areas.
· Potential clients cannot simply discard or “turn off” outdoor advertising
· Name recognition is higher with those consumers who walk or drive the same route each day
· Billboards and signs vary in price due to size and location, it is easier to find one in your budget
· More often than not, outdoor advertisements do not fully engage a consumer's attention for more than a few seconds
· Advertisements have to be simple and interesting enough for the consumer to remember
· Outdoor advertisements are usually contracted for a longer period of time than most independent firms had anticipated securing them for
· Posters and bench signs at public transit stops work well in major metropolitan areas where lower, middle and upper class alike share the same transportation systems, however, not as effective in areas where public transportation is not as common
If you feel various forms of outdoor advertising would be a compliment to your business and marketing plan, consider placement wisely. Consult many firms for input and advice on the best way to stretch your marketing dollar and how they can help you create eye-catching and simple designs for your sign.
Phone Book Directories:
Since exposure to the advertisements in phone book directories is voluntary, meaning consumers actually turn to the phone book for its ads, this form of marketing for independent lawyers has become an industry standard.
· Certain targeted audiences utilize the phone book regularly to find businesses in their area
· Many phone books also have an online directory giving firms a more broad exposure
· You can tailor your exposure to cover a large metropolitan area, or just the city you work in
· Traditionally, consumers will keep a phone book versus discarding it like a newspaper
· Cost – as more consumers turn to the internet, the cost for print ads in the phone book has increased to cover profit loss
· Marketing ineffectiveness – with so many lawyers buying ads, it becomes more difficult to capture the consumer's attention, and once again, stand out from the 100's of other lawyers in your market
· There are so many phone books in which to advertise, which one do you choose to feature your practice
As with any form of advertising, be sure to read all the features and benefits that come with your paid advertisement. Does it include a featured ad online, or is that separate? What is the target area or audience of the phone book you are looking at? Is the cost monthly, quarterly or annual? Is there an automatic renewal clause or will you have the option of not renewing your contract? Where will your advertisement be placed in comparison to the other featured ads? Will someone employed by the phone book assist you with an eye catching advertisement, or do you have to hire a marketing agency to do that for you, and what is the cost?
Roughly 90% of all the households across the United States have access to the internet either at home, at work or at school; making advertising on the internet the fastest growing marketing medium for independent attorneys. That household percentage goes even higher for those families with a combined income of $100k or more. However, internet advertising gaining its strength only in the last decade or so, there is still a lot an independent firm would need to research, as with any form of advertising, before making a financial commitment.
· Cost- you can spend much or as little as your budget allows
· Levels the playing field – the internet gives the independent lawyer a chance to compete with the large firms with regards to search engine placement
· Whether a web site, a PDF brochure, an affiliated network or a video; any and all forms of advertising can be featured and found on the internet
· Advertisement exposure is voluntary. Only the websites relevant to a consumer's online search will pull up for them to look at. Someone searching for lawyers in their area, are more often than not, looking for a lawyer to consult with
· People expect to be educated or informed by a lawyer's personal website – having out-dated information or graphics can actually hurt your online marketing ability
· The ever changing internet – each of the major search engines change what they search for on websites constantly with regards to how well they rank. Staying on top of these changes can be very time consuming or expensive if you pay a firm to do this for you.
There are so many options and services available to the independent lawyer to effectively market themselves and attract more prospective clientele. The form of advertising you choose will depend largely on the audience you intend to target, the area of law you practice, and ultimately your budget. Be sure to ask questions. Know what you are getting and what you are not with whatever forms of marketing you decide to go with.