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What A $100,000 Law Firm Marketing Plan Looks Like
by: Raj Jha of Practice Alchemy  -  
Monday, April 9, 2018

Ambitious firms want more clients, better paying clients (or better cases), or they want to expand geographically. The firms that have looked into marketing as a serious source of new business often end up with a new marketer on staff, but internal marketing hires come with their own set of issues.

A social media savvy millennial straight out of college will cost your firm $35-55k for their first year. A hardened veteran marketer with the expertise to plan and execute a marketing strategy will cost you $80-110k their first year, not to mention the software and other tools that they’ll need to do their job. In that first year, you’ll maybe get nine months of relevant work, and only six months of true quality due to the time it takes to onboard. Additionally, you would be responsible for accurately gauging your marketing executive’s success. That means you’ll have to understand and evaluate their key performance indicators. Have you considered using that 100k to execute an entire customized marketing strategy for your firm?

As a former lawyer who grew my own boutique law firm to service some of the largest names in Silicon Valley, I understand your pain of choosing how to spend marketing money and deciding how to grow a law firm. As the founder of a marketing agency that exclusively serves law firms, I’ve found the answers to the budget question.

Here is how I would spend $100,000 on a year of law firm marketing.

First, let’s set the scene:

A marketing strategy should fit like a glove. Any looser and there’s no difference between your strategy and the same cookie-cutter strategy your competitor is using. Let’s say I’m creating a marketing strategy for an estate planning lawyer in South Dakota. The law firm has five partners, they’ve been in business for seven years, and they have recently noticed a lull in growth of client revenue. The partners are already working at a comfortable capacity, but they could take on more work … And want to increase their take-home income. The only way they are going to get higher paying clients is if we’re more selective. The only way they are going to get more selective, is if they drive higher quality opportunities through our doors so they can increase what they charge.

The spend begins...

Strategy and Analytics Owned Media

Strategy” has become a term that people use to describe anything from their life goals to a 5-minute brainstorm. At its core, a strategy is the plan and means to achieve long term goals. Let’s say the law firm I’m working with wanted to achieve a 3x return on marketing spend. So, the goal of my marketing strategy, since we’re spending $100,000, is to increase the law firm’s revenue by $300k after a year and a half of my marketing initiative.

Let’s assume that every partner is in favor of increasing their revenue per billable hour. After agreeing that we are moving forward with a marketing strategy of some kind, and agreeing that our goal is a 3x return on deployed capital, I then need to decide how exactly I’m going to turn $100k into $300k.

Since the hypothetical law firm I’m working on in this example is an estate planning firm, and I know from my market research that the firm’s clients spend quite a bit of time online (this firm has younger parents as their primary client base), I’ve decided on a plan that will combine a lead capturing website with owned media and digital video content. I’ll also supplement the content with paid advertisements through search and social channels as well as organic social posting and referral optimization. Let’s unpack that:

  • Lead capturing website: A website optimized to turn ideal visitors into potential clients by capturing contact information and interest.
  • Owned media: Evergreen content that my team produces and puts on the firm’s website, usually in the form of blogs.
  • Digital Video content: Videos produced about the firm, partners, and other information that starts building a relationship with potential clients before they ever meet.
  • Paid advertisements: Instant access to motivated visitors, but as soon as I stop paying, the leads stop coming (so I have to manage this carefully)
  • Organic social posting: Giving the firm a pulse with consistent interaction with my online community.
  • Referral optimization: Using analytics and a firm-wide strategy to increase referrals from past, current and future clients.

This mix of marketing channels, or ways to reach potential clients, is just a start. However,  it’s a great way to build my firm’s authority in the community, and cement ourselves as leaders in our practice area. If I compare the hours I spent creating this strategy to the amount of money I could bill for those hours, I’d have a more concrete idea of how much this strategy cost me.

Every successful marketing strategy begins with goals and analytics setup. It’s an easy litmus test: if a strategy has concrete measurable goals and metrics, it might be successful, if a strategy does not have goals or metrics, it will be unsuccessful.

I’d set up my Google Analytics tracking code inside of my website in Week 1. Google Analytics tracks website and visitor information at a very granular level, and will act as the central hub of all of my marketing reporting. With it, I’ll be able to provide monthly reports to the partners showing them exactly how our marketing efforts are doing, how much we are spending on the efforts, if our metrics are on target, and what we need to change month-to-month. Most of the other channels I’m using for my strategy will have their own metrics, like digital video views, social media interaction, and blog comments, but the majority of these metrics will integrate into Google Analytics, or will have their own reporting feature. Additionally, I would set up the firm’s pipeline tracking.

A “pipeline” is a model for tracking a prospective client from a lead to a paying client. Keeping track of where these prospective clients are in the firm’s pipeline would not only allow the firm to forecast future revenue, but it would also tell the partners where they need to improve their process. For example, if they know that many of their potential clients stop communicating after they have their initial consultation, there may be an issue with what the partners are telling them, and they should work to improve that situation. If there’s not blatant issues with the firm’s pipeline, then it will at least allow the lawyers to know where prospective clients are in their acquisition process, who they need to reach out to to move them to the next step in the pipeline, and how much revenue they are worth to the firm. Being able to prove progress and change what isn’t working will be vital to our marketing success.

SEO and Owned Media

SEO and owned media have a close relationship. Search Engine Optimization is, in a nutshell, translating your website into a language that appeals to search engines. SEO can become an entire career in itself, but it all revolves around the idea that search engines want to deliver useful content to their searchers. The more valuable your content is to visitors, and the easier it is for a search engine to read your website, the higher your website will rank in search engine results pages. Owned media is the content that both your visitors and the search engines are reading. While technically the estate planning firm’s entire website would be owned media, owned media is usually focused around concise, but valuable, blog posts. Creating valuable owned media will interest visitors, guide them into reaching out to the firm, and will eventually boost the law firm’s page’s position in search engines.

With $20k, I’d contract a SEO expert, a veteran developer, and a copywriter to change the website from an online brochure to the smart hub of lead collection it should be. Almost all marketing channels point back to the law firm’s website, so it is entirely worth the investment to make sure they are capturing the lead information that they need.

The beginning of my marketing spend would also contain short form, evergreen content and social media optimization. Short form, evergreen content consists of blog posts, checklists, broad advice, commentary on events and more. (It’s “evergreen” because a blog post I write now will generate leads and authority for my firm for as long as it exists.)

Social media posts are a great way to activate and promote content. I need to create a visible social presence to build brand recognition for the law firm, and boost the firm’s rankings in search engine results pages. But, the partner’s time as a fictitious South Dakotan estate planning attorney is valuable. After all, they didn’t go to law school to write blogs and they can make more money practicing law… as long as they are attracting the right clients. So with my $100k I’ll also be hiring a freelance social media guru for $5k for 4 posts/week across 3 social platforms and a writer to churn out two blogs a month at $10k/year for the firm’s website.

With my analytics structure in place and my content creation moving, it’s time to move to paid advertisements for this law firm.

Paid Marketing

The wealth of information that social media platforms collect on users makes their advertising extremely valuable if the right targeting is in place. Precision tools require precise expertise, and with the right attention, social ads can create massive return.

I would allocate at least $30k (or $2.5k a month) of my $100k towards a variety of social media paid advertising channels to attract highly targeted potential clients. The majority of this fund would go towards buying that actual ads, and the remaining portion would go towards an advertising expert who can work to continually optimize the money that I’m spending on advertisements.  

Additionally, another $20k would go towards localized search advertisements through major search engines. Search advertising is expensive, but with a well thought out strategy, a firm can outlast local firms who are going to throw money at Google until they fail to get a return and give up.

Referral Marketing

I’d say 80% of the lawyers who contact my marketing firm say that their most successful channel for clients is their referral base. That’s not particularly surprising… hiring a lawyer is a very large decision and personal recommendations from trusted friends and colleagues can mean quite a bit. That being said, referrals are extremely important and are often overlooked when it comes to analytical optimization. The partners at the fictitious firm that I’m assisting should be spending all of their time doing what they do best as estate planning lawyers and representing their clients, so I would hire a consultant that specializes in referral optimization for $10k to make sure that I have a formula to boost the firm’s referrals by at least 10% per year. It takes quite a bit of analysis to quantify referrals, but having an on-demand consultant ensures that my referral strategy will adjust as the law firm’s client base grows.

Email Marketing

The worst thing you can do to your firm with an email is to send hundreds of low value messages to past, current, and potential clients. Email marketing should be used to maintain a relationship with your client base and build trust in your firm as an authority in your field. A good email marketing campaign will cost time and money, but a hasty email campaign will send your firm straight to spam folders. I do not recommend treating email marketing as a “freebie” advertisement; instead, I’d spend $10k/year ($833/month) on contract designers and copywriters to make sure the South Dakotan estate planning firm looks current, informed, and sharp when it reach the inboxes of their client base. Remember, as an expert in estate planning, the partners need to be taking care of their clients and only providing input into my marketing strategy when their expertise or executive decisions are necessary.

Video, Digital Collateral

The last bit of my budget would go towards video production, webinars and digital collateral for “sales” enablement. Everything that faces their potential clients from the firm should have consistent branding and a consistent design. Although that requires design resources and diligent organization, I’ve found that time and time again the work pays off significantly. If a law firm is going to charge top-dollar, it needs to look put together. Why bother wearing anything more than a tshirt and gym shorts to work if the informative paperwork I hand to potential clients look like an 8th grader put it together in the 1990s? Additionally I would be investing in video resources. Although there likely wouldn’t be a flood of sign-ups for the live webinar, it’s a good chance for the partners to demonstrate their expertise and record the video to put on their firm’s website. Not only does a webinar look natural and build trust with visitors to your page, but it’s also a raw demonstration of knowledge in the practice area. Video resources should include professionals and professional equipment. After all, I don’t want to skimp on a permanent and widely engaging part of the law firm’s presence. All together, video production, webinar writing and digital collateral design would cost $15k.

The Bill

$20k - SEO expert and ongoing development

$5k - Social Media management

$10k - Blog Drafts

$30k - Social media ad spend combined with design and copy resources

$20k - Google Adwords and copy resources

$15k - Video Production, webinar writing, digital collateral design

Granted, this is just an example of a marketing strategy put together for a fictional firm with a fictional background. You don’t really want to “purchase” marketing initiatives as line-items, because every action is connected to the effectiveness of your other marketing initiatives. Picking and choosing what you want to implement shouldn’t be based on the associated costs, but instead on the associated benefits according to your strategy. Really you’d be spending $100k and adjusting the allocation as necessary.

$100k may sound like a lot of marketing spend, but for an established firm that’s considering hiring staff, it’s worth evaluating how much money and time you’d really be spending on a marketing specialist (plus the inevitable costs of the program they develop). This $100k in marketing spend is purpose-built from Day 1 to net the 3x return on deployed capital.

Granted, that $100k isn’t taking into account the massive amount of time that I would have to invest to keep this initiative running. Having the experts is one thing, directing them is an entirely different job. If the partners decided to take on this marketing job by themselves, every hour they spend managing these freelancers is another hour they can’t spend working with the personal injury clients their marketing efforts are bringing them. Do you have the time to spare to manage your own marketing?

Outsourcing your marketing to a legal marketing firm frees up your partners’ time, gives you immediate access to a broad array of specialists, and avoids the onboarding cost of hiring an internal marketing manager. If you’re considering implementing or improving marketing for your firm, see what an outsourced marketing firm can do for you.

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