Legal Advertising and The Four Crippling Mistakes

Making Mistakes in Marketing Is Like Throwing Money Out The Window

With the extremely competitive nature of the legal industry, you need to get the maximum level of results out of every marketing dollar. Are you getting the most out of yours? Or are you making one of the four marketing mistakes we see legal firms make every day? Successful marketing requires more expertise than ever before. Marketing a legal firm has always required skill, but with the arrival of online marketing and even more ads and billboards popping up everywhere, it has gotten even harder. Legal professionals now have to deal with new mediums, increased competition, and fast changing consumer habits. As a result, marketing expenditures in the legal industry have increased by 265% in the last five years. Combine this with skyrocketing prices and the difficulties of a recession, and there’s absolutely no room for mistakes!

On top of everything, you still have to make the sale. In a world where we’re constantly being bombarded with requests to spend money, you’ve only got a maximum of three seconds to get someone’s attention, demonstrate your value, and convince them you’re the best legal firm for the job. You need to be in the right place at the right time while influencing others and staying in their minds –you need to be the first person they think of when they need legal advice.Unfortunately, this has led to most legal firms making some serious mistakes with their marketing. And contrary to what many people believe, it’s not about spending more and marketing harder. It’s about advertising smarter. We’ve identified four of the most common mistakes you could be making right now and provided some solutions that will fill your appointment books and make you money. In addition, we have added a brief discussion about the miracles of great research.

1. Creating the “Oh Great” Feeling Instead Of Delivering the “Wow” Factor

How many times have you gotten up in the middle of the night, found one of those infomercials on TV, and thought to yourself ‘oh great, another scam’? While that feeling might not always be something you notice consciously, it’s present in a lot of marketing. Unfortunately, it happens so often, it made number one on our list.

You have to “wow” your audience. You need to make them think that, if they want any chance of winning their case, they absolutely need to speak to you. This not only sells your service, but it also creates a buzz around your brand that easily spreads to others who might need your service. It almost becomes contagious (in a good way)! Here’s the tricky part: the only difference between the ‘oh great’ feeling and the ‘wow’ feeling you’re looking for is believability. Great advertising has to be believable and demonstrate value. This is the only way to build trust, loyalty, and awareness that will help you sell now and well into the future.

Years ago, a large accounting firm specializing in seasonal personal taxes came to us for help. They ran ads at Christmas time for years where the main company partner would deliver tax refunds on a sleigh while dressed as Santa. The company loved these ads and felt they were responsible for giving their business the boost it needed every year. One June, after going through a particularly tough year, the managing partner approached us looking for ways to grow their business during the non-tax season and launch their new corporate tax service. He mentioned the Christmas campaigns, but he also mentioned the campaigns had failed to attract any new corporate accounts. To make matters worse, they lost some of the regular business they had prior to the campaigns. Frustrated and tired of spending money on advertising that was costing them business, they asked for our help.

We instantly knew what we had to do. We did some research, spoke to some of their largest potential clients to find out how they felt about the accounting firm, and discovered where the firm stood in the current market. As we expected, we discovered large corporations wouldn’t hire Santa Claus or trust him to take care of their corporate accounting. Once we had this information, it was simple to rectify the problem and situate the accounting company in a position of authority within the industry. We came up with a brand new campaign and communication strategy that wowed potential corporate clients without alienating the clients they already had. The accounting business grew quickly, and everyone was happy.

In a world where perception of value is everything, your marketing and ads need to stand out, grab attention, AND meet the needs of your target audience, without alienating other audience segments. Just telling them you can help them isn’t going to get you the results you’re looking for. Every element of your marketing has to prompt the right impression and show your potential clients why you’re perfect for the job.

After identifying and getting to know your target audience, you need to find out where you are in the current market and what you need to do to become the best choice in the minds of potential clients. Once you know what your potential clients are looking for and how they see you now, you’ll instantly get the perfect marketing formula. Then, you simply need to use this formula in your future campaigns. Simple! You’ll have the ‘wow’ factor we all want in our advertising, without suffering the loss of your existing clients. This leads us to marketing mistake number two…

2. Not Matching Marketing Messages With Your Target Audience

Because you likely offer a number of different legal services, you know that everyone will likely need your services eventually. So, you naturally want to get the word out to everyone, right? Wrong. Would you advertise a tractor to a big city investor? Would you try to sell a new hamburger to a vegetarian? Of course not! So why would you spend money trying to sell your services to someone who doesn’t think they need your help? When you think about it that way, it’s easy to see that you shouldn’t be marketing to everyone.

Blanket advertising sends everyone a diluted marketing message instead of sending out a powerful, targeted message that gets the attention of the people most likely to hire you. If your current ads are trying to attract everyone, you’re making the mistake of not getting familiar with your target audience. Defining a specific audience segment and getting to know them is one of the most important things you can do to improve your marketing. Sadly, it’s not always that easy.

The other issue is confusing buyers when your advertising overlaps. Here’s how it works: Your office is in one physical location, but you actually serve several areas. So, to make sure you have all your bases covered, you advertise in each of those service areas. Great, but the problem comes in when someone sees more than one ad for your services. If these ads send conflicting messages, it could do you more harm than good. As an example, let’s say one of the partners play the role of a Superhero character in one advertisement, attracting a particular audience. Then, in another, you’re a conservative looking legal professional speaking to someone who has been critically injured in an accident. Chances are, the person who would hire the conservative professional, isn’t going to be comforted by the idea of a guy in a Batman costume handling his case.

Solution: Take time to find out exactly who is hiring you and where your most profitable customers are. Once you have that information, you can create messages that speak directly to them, improving the effectiveness of your ad. These messages will still be seen and heard by those who might be interested in your services, but you’re capturing the attention of the ones most likely to give you money. It’s a win-win situation.

As for overlapping, you need to ensure all of your marketing including radio, television commercials, jingles, print, and Internet ads convey one solid message, delivered in different ways. It is imperative to do the research and test ALL ads before they run. This is for many reasons; the least of which is making sure one advertisement isn’t destroying the effectiveness of another. They should all work together for one common goal. Think of them like pieces of the same puzzle. If each piece belongs to a different picture, you’ll never get to see what the picture is. Coordinating your marketing does take effort, but the result is a much stronger brand overall.

3. Ineffective Ad Placement

One of the most common mistakes we find law firms making is confusing the number of placements with increased effectiveness. Sadly, this is what the guy selling you the ads wants you to think. Advertising experts, psychologists, and many others have done thousands of studies proving that repetition can be a bad thing. People should definitely see your ads more than once, but eventually, they begin to block it out. Even worse, they begin to think you’re marketing frequently because you’re having difficulty selling your products or services, and any good marketer knows this is one of the worst results possible. After all, if your audience has tuned you out and formed a negative opinion of you, you might never have the opportunity to change their minds.

This is not a new phenomenon. In a 1989 study, Kirmani and Wright told one of their test groups that an ad for a hypothetical athletic shoe brand would run 10-15 times during a three-month period, and another group that the ad would only run once. Then, they asked those participating what they thought about the brand’s quality. Subjects felt the brand advertising 10-15 times in three months was of a far lower quality than the respondents who were told the ad would run only once. This means, you could actually do more harm than good, and lose business by over-advertising!

Solution: Instead of buying even more impressions, spend wisely. Whether you do it or someone else does it for you, you need to find out where your target audience is and where they’ll be the most receptive to your message. This might be a banner ad on parenting sites if you specialize in helping young families deal with birth defects. Or, it might be an interactive display in the lobby of an office complex that houses several doctors’ offices, if you specialize in personal injury law.

The research required to find the perfect location and medium is time consuming and tedious. To get the juicy results and hard-hitting impact you’re looking for, you’ll need to use a discerning eye to analyze at least ten years worth of research. Then, you’ll need to do the same harsh analysis after your campaign is over. As David Ogilvy said, “don’t be fooled by agencies that won’t do the research before and after campaigns.” Once you know where you should be marketing, you can choose a format and marketing message much more easily. In fact, you can get much more granular in your approach and really intensify the effectiveness of your marketing message.

4. Not Making Your Legal Firm Memorable

Did you know the average toddler can identify 400 different brands? Did you know 43% more people are able to recognize a brand when it’s displayed during an emotionally engaging television program? Still not sure how important brand recognition is? Let’s try this: What do you think about when you see these words: Kleenex, Ginsu, Apple, McDonalds? The instant you hear them, you know exactly what to expect as well as thoughts on their quality and whether or not you’d be interested in it. Let’s try these: Watch, Car, Jeans. You can instantly name a company associated with each one, right? That’s how strong a brand can be and that’s where you want your legal firm to be.

Unfortunately, much of the advertising we see legal services use today all has one thing in common: it’s forgettable, and if people can forget about your ad seconds after seeing it, was it worth the time, money and effort it took to produce and display it?

Solution: Advertising not only needs to be visually stimulating, but it also needs something that will give your company value, longevity, awareness and positioning. This way, when people need a lawyer, you are the first thing that enters their minds. There’s no better way to do this than with a catchy jingle or tune.

Not sure what we mean? Do you remember the Big Mac commercials of the 1970s? “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.” How about the Oscar Meyer wiener song? Jingles like these have been around since the early 1900s. They’ve withstood the test of time, and here’s why. Each were entertaining. Jingles are fun and sometimes annoying, but they add appeal that a sales pitch could never summon. All were memorable. According to studies, brands will be revered for years to come due to the memory etching that takes place with jingles. Why else would we teach our children the alphabet with song? Music and clever words make memory recall lightning fast. Great jingles create brand establishment. Over the years, countless large and small companies have put their money on a catchy tune. Examples range from the sleazy used car guy in a clown suit, to multinational soda companies, and have become a consistent means of delivering the identity of a company to the public. Infectious tunes often plays in our mind like a broken record. At times, we desperately want to stop hearing it in our head, but the repeat button has been super-glued in the “on” position. What advertiser wouldn’t want their brand on “repeat” in the mind of the consumer? It’s free advertising, right? Jingles are like ninjas. They slip in without knowing it, and as someone in our industry once said, “there are no mental defense mechanisms for jingles”.

While your jingle might never reach the same level as a certain soda brand or hamburger franchise, it can stick in the minds of those you’re marketing too, and that’s exactly what you need. Best of all, they can be inexpensive and quick to make.

Addendum: The Miracle of Research

Research increases your knowledge and power. The most powerful business tool any executive can have is more information than the competition. Lawyers know this better than most! Research will set you free. Whether you are creating a complete campaign or simply looking to put together your collateral marketing materials, everything is more powerful with research. The more knowledgeable you are about your industry and the trends going on in it, the more strategic you can be in taking market share.

Advertising agencies and media providers don’t like research. No one selling you ad space, or marketing services really wants you to know whether their services are really paying off, and to exactly what extent you are reaching your target audience. In most cases companies accepts what the media outlet says is their market share and demographic. For instance, most radio stations have no way of knowing if anyone is listening, and make up their market share and listening numbers. We did some research here in Las Vegas in 2008. We bought advertising space on two local AM stations that say in their literature they have over 40,000 daily listeners. Because there is no direct way to evaluate how many people are listening to the signal we decided to do an experiment and give money away. The ad basically said “Be one of the first 10 callers and we will give you $10.” We also tried this saying, “be the first caller and win $100 cash. Not one single call. Anyone spending money at these stations is wasting time, energy and resources.

If you read this and realize your advertising is making these blunders, and there is NO research to prove it’s driving sales, it’s time to find a new advertising firm!

Some More Cool Posts From Creative SEO Marketing

Free Website Audit Report!

Know Where You Stand


Website SEO Brand Audit Report!