Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Generating Goodwill AND New Clients by Affiliating with Worthwhile Causes

In this day of digital marketing, one of the most underused and unappreciated marketing tools available to law firms is cause marketing – those efforts in which the law firm affiliates itself with a worthwhile cause, event or other type of endeavor.

Reasons for implementing such a program are several-fold. Affiliating with a cause or special event can:
  • Generate a great level of visibility
  • Facilitate interface between firm attorneys and prospective clients
  • Provide a means for building a contact database
  • Underscore the branding of the firm
  • Elevate the firm’s overall credibility in the eyes of the community and amongst its prospect groups.
Law practices must get creative in developing marketing programs that dovetail with what they are all about. For example, our agency worked with one PI firm (that was unable to compete on TV with more financially well-heeled competitors), to create a campaign directed toward high school juniors and seniors, encouraging them not to text while driving. Another marketing initiative for a full service firm involved promoting the arts among young people. In most cases, cause marketing programs are multi-faceted, with overall costs that are considerably lower than what a full-blown advertising campaign might entail.

In most such marketing initiatives, awareness is generated through a multiplicity of online, traditional and grassroots vehicles. This means looking for ways in which the same promotional material can be used in a multiplicity of ways (e.g., posted on the firm web site, on social media, via press release, as fodder for a feature article, on flyers distributed to the appropriate target audience) before, during and after a particular event. The key lies in looking for those opportunities that can extend the life of the effort.

In short, when it comes to cause marketing, a little creativity can often pay huge dividends for everyone – prospective clients, the community and the firm itself.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016 is Here! How to Budget For Legal Marketing in the New Year

Now that the holidays have passed, it’s time to tackle the inevitable task of determining how much should be allocated to this effort. Unfortunately, all too often, law firms make the decision to make no decision at all. While this can be a reasonable approach to a degree, it also runs the risk of missing some potential opportunities, or conversely, of overspending on initiatives that do not bear much fruit

The traditional approach has been to look at the industry benchmarks in which 2-5% of the firm’s revenue is allocated towards marketing and business development. However, much more effective is to take a task approach. Here, the firm’s marketing budget becomes a function of its objectives (i.e., the more ambitious its goals, the greater its budget).

In taking such an approach, it is important that several difficult questions be addressed, among these:

  1. Will marketing activities be designed to generate new clients over the short term only or should some of the funds be allocated towards the long haul. This will dictate the types of activities utilized and the relative costs involved. For example, a new firm brochure or web site may not get the phones to ring immediately, but can set the stage for significant success down the road. 
  1. How are “resources” being defined? If it only includes dollar outlays, then certain marketing vehicles that are labor intensive, such as search engine optimization and social media may make good sense. If the term “resources” is broadened to include “time,” then the drain on manpower of some activities may make them cost-prohibitive. (Of course, such services can be contracted out, but this then turns the cost of time into hard, out of-pocket expenses). 
  1. Is the concept of frequency being taken into account? Generating awareness and new business requires that prospects be continuously exposed to the firm, and often through a multiplicity of channels. In fact, it has been estimated that the average prospects must be exposed to a  message between 7 to 10 times before being spurred to action. 
  1. Will you consider a “better” year to be one that only involves obtaining new clients or must it also be a function of higher rates and/or the cross-promotion of firm services? Both initiatives may require investments of time and/or money. 

Ultimately, once the determination is made as to a) the firm’s objectives and b) the strategies it will employ to reach these goals, only then can the specific dollar amount (and/or internal costs) required to achieving them be determined. The budget allocation of 2-5% of firm revenue is really only a guideline – and one that may or may not make sense for you (particularly as you navigate through the brave new worlds of SEO and social media). Actual budgets must look at a wide range of variables, including the current image of the firm and the level of awareness it enjoys among its target group.

Les Altenberg is President of A.L.T. Legal Professionals Marketing Group , a full-service marketing firm dedicated to the business development efforts of law firms and those who serve the legal industry. He can be reached at 856-810-0400 or via email at laltenberg@legalprofessionalsmarketing.com