Monday, February 27, 2017

To Market Consistently or to Do So in Bursts: Assessing Your Practice Area’s Purchasing Mindset

There’s a reason why disparate practice groups require different marketing approaches and it has a great deal to do with the context in which each operates. By this, I mean that the very nature by which potential clients go about deciding with whom they wish to contract for a particular kind of legal service has, or at least should have, a big influence on the types of marketing vehicles that are best to be employed. Not only that, but the practice area to be promoted may also determine when marketing activity is to be scheduled and for how long.
Allow me to explain.
Consider two examples. In the first, an estate planning or wealth management firm decides it wishes to engage in a multi-faceted marketing effort designed to generate new clients relatively quickly. Even casting aside the requisite web site and related activities for a moment, there is a wide range of marketing options available to this firm. It can invite target prospects to a seminar, offer white papers on its web site or run short bursts of advertising to suggest prospects contact the firm regarding a service the firm touts as being essential. Its message is relatively simple: “In order to create or maintain wealth, you need to do a number of things. We will advise you on what to do.”
Now consider a personal injury practice that wishes to also generate new business quickly. Here, the options to promote over the short term are much more limited. This is because no one needs (let alone thinks about) a PI attorney until that moment when one has been injured due to the fault of another. There is very little, if any advanced planning involved in the decisionmaking process. Who to hire only becomes a critical question at that moment. That is why PI firms and attorneys must implement ongoing marketing efforts so that the client is aware of them when that moment arises. And it could be at any time. Their message is basically, “We’re here when and if you need us.”
In many ways it is akin to how one goes about looking for a physician. I know before my first child was born, my wife did a lot of homework as to which pediatrician best suited us. The same can be true for an internist, an OB-GYN or a dentist. Yet, one typically doesn’t question which urologist, heart specialist or orthopedic surgeon to visit until one has a need to visit one.
This is one, albeit critical reason why marketing personal injury services usually requires greater financial outlays than a similarly sized estate planning practice. The same holds true, though perhaps to a lesser extent for criminal law. Unless you are planning to commit a crime and to being caught, you probably have not given much thought to who your defense attorney will be. Conversely, as with estate planning, a tax attorney may be able to “push” inquiries from potential clients. A family law practice? I would suggest it lies somewhere in between. Individuals considering a divorce may do considerable research into their options – but it is difficult for family lawyers to target those “considering” divorce.
Where your particular practice area falls on this spectrum of being able to promote for the short vs. the long term impacts not just the financial resources you will need, but may also determine when you implement your marketing initiatives. Going back to that tax attorney for example, the time between the end of January and April 15th usually makes sense. Family lawyers may wish to consider the period right after the holiday season. For that poor PI or criminal law firm however, there may be no especially good time to pursue such cases.
By the way, the same holds true for business-to-business practices. There are certain legal services that a business knows that it will need (e.g., transaction matters), while there are others that may make sense only at a particular moment in time (e.g., bankruptcy).
The point is, that when determining the marketing vehicles to use, how much and when to use them, as well as the kinds of costs that may be involved to effectively implement a program, it is important to have a good understanding as to the inherent nature of the client’s decisionmaking process.