Monday, August 24, 2009

In Print or On-Line? Where Should those Directory Dollars Go?

One of the questions that consistently comes up these days is how law practices should allocate or rather reallocate their advertising funds between print directories versus directories of the on-line variety.

The issue is a rather complicated one and much depends on the nature of the firm, its areas of emphasis, the types of clients it is seeking to attract, the amount of funds available, competitive activity, etc.

Having said that, it is important to recognize that the pendulum is certainly shifting towards on-line usage (up approximately 70%) vs. print directory usage (down up 40%). A look at one’s own media consumption habits would probably reveal that if you’re a baby boomer or younger, you use the internet more often when seeking contact information about a company. It’s usually more accessible (computer’s right there), and quicker (not to mention a whole lot less heavy). If desired, you can also immediately find out a great deal more information about a company or firm. In addition, for law firms with a business-to-business focus, or for those who enjoy a broader geographical service area, the print directories may be less influential.

Yet the world is filled with highly successful Personal Injury attorneys for example, who have done quite well for themselves through traditional “yellow page” advertising. Their track record speaks for themselves. But analysis of that track record needs to ascertain at exactly what level that advertising effort paid out. Individuals perusing through what are largely indistinguishable full page or double-truck ads for what should be a serious purchase may be “fishing.” Print directories may offer more prospects, but are they “qualified” prospects? There is a cost in screening out the wheat from the chaff.

In addition to the PI area, print directories may be useful for some of the more consumer-oriented practice areas such as family law and in particular, elder law, where one of the target groups (the elderly) may not be as comfortable with the new technologies.

Probably the best advice one can give is to test, test, test. Determine the cost vs. benefit scenario for alternative scenarios (including maintaining print presence, but perhaps reducing ad size). This may take some time (and effort in terms of tracking), but it will allow the firm to move forward more confidently with its directory program.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Do Your Firm’s Marketing Materials Stand Out from Your Competitors?

It always amazes me to see the same attorneys who spend sleepless nights developing unique, creative arguments for their clients turn around and agree to have a gavel as their logo, the scales of justice on their web site, or the firm brochure littered with photos of court house pillars.

The business card, the web site, the brochure . . . each represents valuable communications real estate. Gavels, pillars and the proverbial scales of justice may indicate you’re a law practice. But they do virtually nothing to suggest why someone should retain your firm.

It is a difficult task to accomplish, but creating any effective piece of marketing material requires creative executions that truly reflect the uniqueness of the firm. The strongest marketing communications are those that convey why the firm is different from its competitors.

Getting at that point of difference involves a great deal of internal soul-searching akin to putting the firm on the analyst’s couch. Law practices that are willing to take an objective look at themselves invariably find that there are distinct aspects about their organization that makes it what it is. Most often, it’s not just that they offer great service, are the largest, the most accessible, the cheapest, the best “value,” etc. These are cliché features and benefits we’ve all seen hundreds of times before. Rather, the firm’s uniqueness can be found in its culture, it’s approach to law, it’s approach to its clients, it’s special expertise, its perspective on issues based on extensive experience, or a vision of how the business of law should be practiced.

Once that uniqueness is uncovered (though when working in committees, don’t expect an “Aha!” moment), the challenge of turning that concept into an ad, onto a web site, etc. becomes surprisingly easier. More importantly, the executions that evolve also are more compelling, more engaging and more convincing as to why the firm is the “best” choice.