Law firms want budgeting guidelines for advertising and marketing. Their question is like the one brokers and financial planners ask at the outset of the planning process: “What’s your level of risk tolerance?”
Things change—this isn’t the economy we had pre-’08—but still, you’re in the law firm business to make money. You need a budgeting plan process. Not another gut-estimate.
Here’s what you need to consider:
Typical regional defense firms with less than one hundred attorneys charge in the range of 3-4% of gross fees for advertising and public relations. They can get away with such a slim number because:
- They know their targets.
- They have referrals from other law firms.
- They have insurance companies and claims executives for clients.
- Their marketing universe is small. Their clients read the same journals, belong to the same local clubs and attend the same charity fundraiser dinners. They don’t have to advertise on television or in digital advertising media.
Your law firm faces a different challenge with its marketing.
Your focus is to advertise your personal injury law firm—and/or bankruptcy, social security/disability, criminal, family law group of attorneys. The marketing challenge is more complex. And the advertising budget will be greater:
- You’ve got to achieve certain levels of reach and saturation with your television media-purchase planning. Underachieve these levels and you’ve not just bought less advertising, you’ve bought
- You must meet these levels for the message to stick in the minds of your firm’s prospects for that day when they’re injured or become disabled; when they are facing bankruptcy or criminal prosecution.
- On that day—possibly for the first time in their lives, when they need an attorney—when they need your law firm:
- They call the phone number from the TV screen or
- Submit a form to your website or
- They tweet you on Twitter or
- They send a message on Facebook or
- They connect with you on their favorite social media.
Consider Digital Advertising. It’s a key medium for reaching law firm clients.
There’s a new, hyper-effective advertising medium available to you in “digital advertising.” That’s the good news. The not so good news is that it must be carefully managed daily. That means hours. Hours mean money. Which means you must allocate budget from an advertising strategy for it. (Note the word “must”.)
Digital Advertising and TV
Digital advertising must work in concert with television advertising media. This is an especially important factor when your law firm is advertising for personal injury cases and bankruptcy cases. A situation that causes financial collapse, or a debilitating accident with an eighteen-wheeler is going to be a life-changing event. Your law firm’s personal injury prospect has to be reminded or “piqued to interest” with Television advertising, the short media. Digital Advertising, “the take-all-the-time-you-need” advertising medium can seal the deal when the personal injury prospect goes online, does their homework on your law firm and your attorneys, and gets educated—ultimately inspired to chat, fill out a form, or give an attorney a direct call. It’s a medium in closure when that firm prospect makes that first key contact with you.
Measure the Cost
Digital advertising isn’t just “posting a web page about the firm” anymore. It requires time, money, management—it must have budget allocation.
- Measure, via database analytics, EVERY advertising medium your firm may purchase—every commercial, every white page and yellow page ad.
- No database = no effectiveness analytics
- No analytics = sloppy “feel-good” advertising spends.
(Does this sound familiar to you?) Your law firm “feels like business is good and getting better…” Trust me, your firm manager wants concrete numbers when building a marketing and advertising budget. They’re dealing in reality… hard numbers, not “feel good…” gut numbers.
- Build a database measurement process.
- Pull analytics from it.
- Make real budgetary decisions based on real data.
So, what’s the number?
How many new clients can your firm handle? Expect some serious prospect response for your law firm’s case load when you deploy 15% to 20% of gross annual fees for advertising, marketing and public relations plans. (And again, the key watchword here is to “plan” from a strong foundational perspective—a database yielding analytics for client prospect response, historically pulled and scrutinized month by month.)
Law Firm advertising costs vary tremendously by market — advertising in New York is more expensive than advertising in Little Rock. The universe of people reached is exponentially larger. So the percentages are good guidelines, but only guidelines.
You hustle for your clients; you should hustle for your law firm.
- Commit to sit down with your firm manager and build a budget.
- How aggressive do you want your firm to be?
- What should your law firm expect in new clients caseload in return for these dollars?
- Commit to sit down with your telephone desk people and deploy a mandatory process for measuring each law firm client prospect’s response.
- When did the call come in?
- Where did the prospect hear of the firm?
- In which area of practice is the law firm prospect seeking counsel?
- Commit to processing the data.
- Data accumulates quickly.
- Commit to process the data gathered into a manageable spreadsheet.
- Commit a monthly meeting to pull and review your marketing response analytics for comparison against your advertising expenditure.
- Commit to negotiate media expenditures. USE YOUR numbers, not theirs.
- If those television advertisements aren’t producing, they may not be worth the “ask” for their price… ergo they should be negotiable.
- Maybe you should ask for sixty second spots for the price of the thirty second spots you’re buying.
- Maybe there are value-added sponsorship and media mentions that can help boost your firm’s presence. You’ll know you deserve these negotiable extras when you know your data.
You’re making a commitment with the hard-earned money of your Law Firm. You want this money to work for you, pull response, Use it to build your caseload for your attorneys or you don’t spend it. Period. Database analysis is an investment for the law firm. “Feeling good about your advertising” because somebody told you they saw your ad last week just won’t cut it. You want clients, not feelings.
And yes, you should consider working with a law firm advertising and marketing agency. You sell time. Consider that they’re experts, professional, efficient, and probably worth it when you consider their ability to return time – billable time back to your law firm. You want an advertising firm that understands the simple business premise that your advertising must be efficient, accountable and productive. A firm that is willing to live and die by the numbers.
This is what we do. Kirkpatrick Creative began working with law firms with a simple data collection processes for measuring response by prospect clients to determine which media is the most effective and most productive. We have grown our advertising agency business by clinging to this same accountability principle—and developing sophisticated, proprietary software for harvesting important production and response analytics for the law firm clients we represent. We take the “agent” in Advertising Agency part very seriously. We act by the legal definition of the word — as if we ARE the Law firm — as if those ARE OUR dollars. We are an advocate for the Law Firms we work with in advertising and marketing and we don’t buy anything for our clients that’s not pulling its weight.
If you would like to learn more about these processes for the effective build-process for a law firm advertising budget, we’d be happy to discuss these with you. Call Kirkpatrick Creative at 501-663-6364.