Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Legal Marketing Support: Choosing an IT versus a Full Service Provider

It is always fascinating to learn how individual law firms go about hiring legal marketing vendors. I say that as much because we ourselves are legal marketers as I do because who a firm ultimately contracts with is largely a function of the questions one asks. 
Allow me to offer two different examples of two law firms going about this task quite differently.
In the first case, law firm A determines that it is not getting enough new client inquiries or calls. The management team makes the assessment that the firm is not being readily found on the search engines. It decides to hire an outside provider to address that objective. It reaches out to various IT outfits including some of the larger, well-known legal organizations for bids on developing a new web site and/or maintaining an SEO effort. 
Law firm B makes a similar determination. However, unlike law firm A, it does not conclude that the lack of new business inquiries is a function of lower search engine visibility. In fact, it makes no conclusions at all. Instead, it simply asks, “How can we generate more new business?” For answers it turns to a range of legal marketing providers including full service advertising/marketing agencies, other organizations that focus on specific types of vehicles (e.g., direct marketing, public relations, pay-per-click, broadcast, etc.) as well as the aforementioned IT companies – again including some of the larger, well known legal organizations. 
The responses each firm might get can be rather revealing. Law firm A will typically be promised high search engine rankings for a range of keywords that may or may not match the keywords of a competitive practice. 
Law firm B on the other hand will receive a wide assortment of bids purporting to address the problem of new business by leveraging the unique benefits and features of that particular firm. Amongst these proposals will be those that propose single solutions (e.g., the aforementioned higher search engine ranking) or a multi-faceted approach that may or may not include SEO. If not more important, the firm will probably also receive requests to have a detailed discussion about its marketing exigencies even before the provider(s) submits their proposals. 
Hence, we have a case where one firm has diagnosed its challenges, and seeks a specific solution, while the other understands that the bottom line is about generating new business and thus seeks out different approaches for making that happen.
Which way is better? 
I would suggest that it comes down to accountability. In the former approach, the outside provider (in most cases, an IT provider) is responsible for getting the firm listed high up on the search directories. If that happens – great. But in and of itself, this is no guarantee that the firm will experience a substantial uptick in new business inquiries. In the latter, the outside provider should become vested in generating new business (i.e., the ultimate metric). Without being wed to a single medium or vehicle, its recommendations must bear fruit… or else. 
Hence, in seeking out legal marketing support, it is important to ask the right questions. If you know exactly for what you are looking to generate new business, then by all means, contract with that single-vehicle provider. But, if focusing on your legal services precludes your accurately diagnosing new business challenges with confidence, then a marketing perspective (versus an exclusively IT) will probably make more sense and yield more tangible results.