#032 – Avoid Spending Traps With Legal Marketing Agencies
Check Out The Podcast Sponsor, the bestselling, critically-acclaimed book: Click Magnet: The Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide For Law Firms
Avoid Spending Traps with Legal Marketing Agencies
Hi, I’m Annette Choti, an attorney of 20 years that created Law Quill, a marketing agency for small and solo law firms. Join me to learn how to grow your law firm through digital marketing strategies, SEO, social media, and more. Let’s get that law firm of yours more online visibility, a larger digital footprint, tons of organic traffic, and more clients. I’m so excited you’re here, click that subscribe button and join me in the Legal Marketing Lounge!
New Podcast Sponsor!
Hello, hello! Welcome back to another episode of legal marketing lounge. And I am so excited. I am so excited for today, let me tell you why. We have a sponsor, which is Click Magnet, the Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide for Law Firms. It’s my new book. I published this about a month ago in April of 2022. And it is already a best seller!
Listen to what some of the people are saying! “This book is an engaging breakdown of how law firms can create a comprehensive digital media strategy. It makes the concepts of SEO and online marketing easy to understand for even the most tech-averse.” And that is from Natalie who is a research project manager at Evolve The Law which is a division of Above The Law, which I am sure you have heard of. And actually, you may not know this, but I am a weekly contributor to Above The Law as their digital marketing expert for law firms. So again, our podcast is now sponsored by Click Magnet, the Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide for Law Firms and you can find it on Amazon.
Spending Traps Happen
So let’s get today talking about something that is really important. And it pairs really nicely with Click Magnet And that’s this. How can you avoid spending traps when investing in law firm marketing?
This is a huge issue because when a law firm is ready to hire, outsource their marketing, it feels overwhelming, right. And in many cases, my experience has been that law firms will pay large digital marketing firms to help them with their digital marketing. And then they don’t know what they got at the end of the month or the quarter or the year.
If you’re locked into a year-long contract and have been held hostage for a year, you don’t know what’s happened is your SEO better is your ranking better? What’s happened? All you know is that you have paid a lot of money, probably in the last month, quarter or year and you have no idea if your digital marketing dollars were invested effectively.
One great thing about my book is that I actually break down everything, it is not for the faint of heart. By the way. I mean, this is truly a guide, step by step, it’s over 230 pages or something. And it really breaks down step by step, what you should be doing. But also, it is a way if you already have a different marketing agency to keep them to account and say, hey, look, this is what industry-standard says you should be doing with my marketing dollars. And you can hold them to account you can say, Look, this book says you’re supposed to be doing X, Y and Z. Why are you not doing that? So let’s start talking a little bit more in-depth about the spending traps.
Because any law firm that wants to grow has to create a solid marketing plan, right? You’re with me on that, right? This obviously presents a set of questions. How do you spend your marketing dollars? Who are you spending them with? How do you know if you’re overcharged? How do you know if your investments going to pay off? And so sometimes law firms unfortunately just take a stab in the dark. They just hear a sales pitch. And it sounds really good because you know, that’s what salespeople do.
And ultimately, it ends up being unfortunately the wrong choice.
So let’s talk about these very specific and follow these tips:
Create a Marketing Strategy
The very first thing that you want to do is create a marketing strategy that you and your law firm can actually stick to. So before we get into all of the nitty gritty on it, the truth is that building an effective strategy if you’re going to do that yourself, okay, if you’re gonna hire a marketing agency or do kind of a 5050 Sharing thing, you need to understand that it’s going to take some work. And if you make a plan for a digital marketing strategy, and let’s say you are a law firm administrator, or you are an attorney within the law firm that is working to make this marketing strategy happen.
Perhaps there’s someone else in your law firm that wants to approve every post and Redline and edit it. Or perhaps someone else wants to say that they want to include their thoughts as well, in your article, whatever it is, make sure that your strategy is effective and efficient because your law firm can follow a plan for a while. But if something disrupts that routine, and consistently disrupts a routine, it’s not going to be successful, it’s just going to sort of fall away.
Stay The Course
Another thing is pouring time and resources into one plan and then shifting before you find out whether or not it’s effective.
So the first marketing plan gets discarded, in favor of a bright, shiny object. And the second one that never gets executed, because there’s another bright, shiny object. And it’s easy to lose sight of the goal.
And I just want to say, again, that SEO and digital marketing take time, I mean, lots of time, six months to a year to see if certain comprehensive strategies are working. So it’s easy to lose sight of the goal. So then what happens is people resort to random or ineffective strategies, or postings on social media or articles on their website, just to have something. And it’s really important that whatever strategy you pick, well, first, it’s important to pick a strategy and then whatever strategy you pick, stick with it. And the best way to make sure that your plan is effective, is to create something, try to automate it as much as possible, and then stick to it for you know, give me six months, give it six months.
So after putting it into practice, after six months to a year, you can take time to revisit it, improve it, tweak it, and then keep going. So that is the very first thing that I would say, whether you’re doing it yourself, whether you’re hiring a digital marketing agency, just give it a little bit of time, and then stick to whatever plan you’re doing.
Have a Quality Website
The next spending trap is not having a solid quality website. Some law firms feel that their website is good enough as it is because they really are viewing their website as a business card. It’s just a static business card. That is telling people the basic information about their law firm, but that is no longer the case. If years have gone by and you have done nothing on your website, I guarantee you it is time for a facelift or maybe a complete overhaul on that website.
Listen, the green avocado green kitchens of the 1970s are out. And maybe they’ll make a comeback someday. But when you walk into a house, and you see an avocado green kitchen, even if you love that avocado green kitchen, it is still an avocado green kitchen. And you know that that’s from the 70s. And there are certain design trends that happen that just date websites. For example, if you have a website, where when you look at your website, it does not go all the way to both edges of your screen if it’s sort of just in the very middle. And there’s whitespace on both sides, your website is dated.
If you don’t have a very modern, eye catching website, at the end of the day, people will move on, because they will see that you have not invested in your website. And people don’t really know why. They don’t like your website, they can’t articulate it. They just know that your website does not look modern or fresh or updated. So along with just the visuals, your content on your website can also get stale and outdated. And it’s really crucial to keep in mind that your law firms website is the first introduction maybe the only one that you might have to potential clients.
So these days, a website needs to be mobile-friendly, and user-friendly, it’s gotta load as fast as lightning McQueen. And if your law firm’s website was initially designed with one of those free websites creating packages, I’m telling you, it is time to step up your game. The reason is that your competition is stepping up their game. I will also say right now that if you have a Squarespace or a Wix website, I love you. And I love that you have a website and I am certain that it is beautiful. I will just gently recommend that at some point, this is not critical, you know, emergency Will Robinson, but it is something absolutely to think about.
Consider A WordPress Website
And I will attempt to gently persuade you to at some point, look into moving your website over to a WordPress website. But let me explain why. The reason is because the content that you actually have on Wix or on Squarespace is not yours, you do not actually technically own that real estate on the internet, you own your domain name, you do own that. But you do not own that real estate. And if you ever want to update it to something else, and move it over to WordPress, if it is just a bit of a nightmare, you’ll probably have to have a company help you do that.
One of the other reasons that it is important to consider moving away from Squarespace or Wix is because the loading times are really high. And the reason is because you know, it’s easy, right? You have all of these options to choose one from and it’s what makes that website beautiful. Frankly, however, you’re carrying around a backpack full of a lot of tools that you’re not using, and you don’t need, maybe you don’t have sliders, maybe you don’t have videos, maybe you don’t have all of these extra things, but you’re still carrying them around. Because that’s how Wix and Squarespace are on WordPress, you only carry with you in your virtual backpack, the plugins that you’re actually using on your website, so it makes it more nimble and faster. So that’s just something to consider as you are moving forward with your marketing and your website.
Just remember that you can boost the functionality of your website by revamping its appearance, you know, moving around the furniture, inserting SEO and following the customer journey through analytics. And what that means is you can look at your data analytics on Google and see for free and see where people are entering your website, is it through one specific blog post, then maybe have a call to action or a pop up that shows up on that particular blog post. Just make sure you know how people are navigating getting to your website, navigating it, where they’re coming in, because a lot of times it’s not through the front door.
And I’ll say this as a final note: outdated and low-quality websites have a really high bounce rate. And ultimately they don’t end up attracting new clients. So check what your competitors are doing. That’s always a great option and see how you rate visually. And also substantively what your content is doing compared to theirs and then sort out a marketing strategy to incorporate perhaps an update or a refresh of your website, or to enhance your actual content on your website.
Why is Good Website Important?
Before I get into the next spending trap, I want to for a moment digress and talk about why a website really is so important. Word of mouth referrals are a huge foundation of law firms and the law firm industry. And these referrals are frankly a powerful source of new business. But I would just like to say that you need to keep in mind that consumer behaviors have changed. So if you are working off of a model that includes word of mouth, that is great. But in today’s marketing, it is simply not going to be enough because consumer behaviors have changed. So even with a solid referral, prospective clients are still going to check you out before hiring you. So even if you get a potential referral, the likelihood is that they are going to go to your website, your reviews, your brand, your social media, just to check you out before they pick up the phone or schedule a consultation. So just realize that while personal referrals are an incredible resource, they really need to be boosted by your digital visibility. So make sure that what those potential clients see is a strong, positive online price.
So now let’s get into hiring someone outsourcing and the positives and negatives and maybe some mistakes that Some law firms make.
What I will say about this is, it is difficult to know who to hire, I feel your pain, I am also a small business owner. And the truth is, I outsource a lot of my business so that I can keep growing, so I feel your pain.
And many people will market themselves as specialists, especially law firm marketing specialists, but it’s important that they gel with your brand, and that their efforts are going to make a difference in the long run, you want to start always with a consultant or a marketing expert, who is going to give you a lot of advice and direction. One thing that I see that is a differentiator in marketing agencies is whether or not they are willing to educate you and explain transparently what they’re doing. I also feel like a differentiator is an honesty regarding the results, and how quickly you will get them.
Shady Digital Marketers and Their Tactics
I’m going to be very honest, a lot of marketing agencies over promise under deliver. But when you are talking about organic marketing, that is marketing that’s done social media, articles on your website, anything that you do not actually pay for advertising, Google ads, Facebook ads, whatever. Those metrics are difficult to track. And some marketers call it dirty marketing. Because people don’t really remember where they found you just think just think of it.
When was the first time you heard of “insert product here”? What’s your favorite product, your favorite breakfast cereal, or your favorite shoe or movie? When was the first time you heard of it? You you kind of can’t remember, right? You just start hearing about it over time. And then you decide to check it out. And maybe you don’t buy it yet. And then you think about it some more. And then you may see more, either actual paid ads, or people talking about it, or it shows up on your social media. And then you decide to purchase whatever it is. And it is the same with law firms. Frankly, you want to be kept top of mind and be really honest, I have a little questionnaire when people decide to get on my calendar. And in that little questionnaire, it says at the very bottom, how did you hear with me. And more often than not, it will say I don’t know, you’re just sort of everywhere.
It will say something similar to that. And that’s perfect. I don’t necessarily need to know, they saw me from Facebook, or they saw me from LinkedIn. And I don’t do any paid advertising. So I know it came from something organic. And that’s perfect. It means that I’m sort of everywhere. And that’s what you should be doing as well. You should be making sure that your marketing agency, either you or your marketing agency has you sort of everywhere. And then make sure that you understand what their strategy is going to be to get you sort of everywhere. Make sure that they are explaining to you what they are doing, how long it’s going to take. And then use your spidey sense
to see if it’s reasonable.
If they’re going to tell you that you’re gonna get on the top of Google in two weeks, you know, I got a bridge to sell you right? That is just not going to happen. So there are ways to work SEO and digital marketing quicker. That is true. But in the end of the day, just see if their promises seem reasonable.
Give Your Strategy Time To Work
Once you have found the right digital marketing agency, do not expect immediate results, cut them a bit of a break. Give them a little bit of time, six months to nine months to see if the needle is moving. Even a very well-crafted strategy takes time to work and progress is not going to happen overnight.
It’s like weight loss.
The more effort you put in, the longer it takes, but it’s better than a crash diet for you overall because frankly, I’ve always said that advertising pay ad advertising is like a crash diet, you get immediate results, but it’s not long lasting, organic marketing, when you are putting in time, or effort or money with a digital marketing agency, over time Google’s gonna look at you and go, what’s going on over there? Just like when you’re losing weight for, you know, a couple of months and someone looks over and goes, Hey, have you been losing weight, and you’re like, Yeah, I’m working on this for months.
Now, it’s the exact same thing with a great digital marketing strategy. They take time, consistency, and repetition are crucial components of a marketing plan. So just make sure to allow that that time for your digital marketing agency to allow them to try to get the results for you. Because I just mentioned ads, we’re going to segue right into there.
Do Not Only Rely On Paid Advertising
The next marketing mistake that many law firms make is thinking that paid ads are the only way to go, and that they will pay off. It is true that paid ads work. If they didn’t work, nobody would pay for ads.
However, as you may already know, paid ads for law firms are exceptionally expensive because Google AdWords like lawyer and attorney are expensive. And ultimately, once you turn off that financial spigot, once you turn off the money, everything turns off with it. If you invest in organic marketing, I have a client that still get clients from a blog post written five years ago.
So it is important to understand that while organic marketing takes time, the payoff is also much longer. Paying for ad content also doesn’t guarantee an eager audience or instant results. The people that are coming to your law firms website because they found a piece of content or a link from a social media blurb, they are ones that are interested in being on your website. ad clicks may just be a general curiosity. And success with online marketing is a bit of a science, it’s a bit of an art. And it can take trial and error. And the financial investment that you probably are going to need to make on paid ads is substantial, to find out what works.
So at the end of the day, it is really important to understand that if you are going to invest in paid ads, that’s fine. But do it with open eyes and understand that it’s a very expensive investment. And it’s great if you can do it, but also know that there is no long term value from it. Once you stop those ads, all of your dollars and investment is over instantaneously.
The next spending trap is investing in something either time or money. So either your own time, or investing in a digital marketing agency that is doing something that is not authentic. So that word gets thrown around a lot now authenticity. But it’s really true people are just sick of it online, right? Aren’t we all just sick of the airbrushed images and fakeness that we see online, consumers are smart potential clients are smart, and they can smell a scam, a spammy email, whatever it is a mile away. And we are all just numb at this point to the same familiar strategies that show in authenticity.
And consumers potential clients can also sense an automated funnel coming at them in the form of unwanted emails, or spammy content or spammy messaging to them. They can just sense it a mile away. Authenticity is now the true currency, I believe in the cyber world. So if your law firm is authentic in its marketing, it will stand out and people will remember you.
So what does that mean to be authentic as a law firm? It means that you find within your branding, and I have some content on this in my website, but also there’s a podcast on it as well. Find out how your law firm differentiates itself from every other law firm in your niche. And that’s your branding.
Branding Your Law Firm
So perhaps you do flat fees, or maybe you are the kinder, gentler divorce firm, whatever it is, that is what is going to make you stand out from your competitors. And your potential clients want to resonate with your company on a deeper level. And the truth is, they have a lot of choices, right? So you want to connect with them as early and as quick as possible in the decision buying process, and showcase an authenticity. There is a DUI attorney that I know. And this attorney actually received a DUI in law school, if you can imagine, it was absolutely crushing both emotionally and potentially professionally.
And as this lawyer went through this entire process, which was excruciating, they learned that they really wanted to create a law firm that handled DUIs and also helped people rehabilitate themselves, and their professional careers after it happened. And that is how she differentiates herself from every other DUI attorney that’s out there. So it is important to find exactly how you are different, authentically, and then showcase that on your website, on your social media throughout all of your marketing. And if you are going to hire a digital marketing agency, make sure that they understand how you are different than all of your competition.
And so some of the practical ways you can do that other than coming up with a tagline or some branding that actually differentiates yourself through colors, or a logo or tagline or all of that is simply being conversational in your marketing voice. When you are talking on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on Instagram, in your blog posts, you want to be professional, but also be conversational, and approachable and authentic.
Personalize Your Marketing Connections
You also want to personalize your marketing connections wherever possible. So that means that when you are connecting with people on LinkedIn or on Facebook, don’t just start shilling your wares. Get to know these people, find out how you can help them or engage with them without just simply attempting to sell your services. Make sure you always tell your audience who you are, and what you stand for.
And if you don’t already have a very solid business vision for your law firm, about what your values are and what your vision is, then make sure you know that because you really want to be telling your audience all the time, how you’re different, and what you can offer them that, frankly, other law firms don’t try to avoid jargon or talking down to your audience. Now, we want you to obviously look professional, but you don’t want to ever appear that you are talking down to an audience or potential clients that are not in the legal industry.
Another way that you can be really authentic is to show your audience what causes you support or philanthropic efforts that you have. This really does humanize you and may connect you with other people who have similar points of views. So again, you really want to just have an authentic voice. And that’s either if you’re doing it for yourself, or if you are investing in a marketing company, and a spending trap that you might have is investing in a marketing company who’s not listening to you, who’s not listening to what you are saying and who you are.
And if they’re not doing that, then they can’t represent you. Well, they can’t write content that is applicable or appealable to your potential clients that showcases you in the way that you want to be showcased. And it is true that digital marketing agencies do have strategies, but they need to be in line with your vision and those conversations need to be happening with a marketing agency and if they are not, or if you feel like what you’re getting is very generic, then you need to have a conversation with them or maybe move to a different marketing agency.
Stop Chasing Every Trend
Another spending trap is to chase Every trend that comes along. Again, if you’re hiring a marketing agency, make sure that they are doing foundational marketing first before jumping to some trend. An example of that is you want a marketing agency to be very focused on the SEO for your website, the content on your website, and to make sure that your real estate on the internet your website is solid and built out correctly and strongly before they start encouraging you to go on tick tock, okay, there is a strategy, it’s a recipe, I didn’t make it up. This works for everyone. It works for law firms, it works for businesses, it works for plumbers, okay, like if a plumber has a website and wants to grow online, this is the same recipe.
If you just jump to tick tock and follow that trend and don’t have everything else in place. First, you are building your virtual real estate, on sand instead of stone. So look at other businesses, look at your competitors that can all give you marketing inspiration, but do not be tempted to chase every trend that comes along.
Also, I will say a marketing trap is to just follow trends that do happen to be working for other law firms because those may not work for you. Your niche audience your brand may not need to be on tick tock frankly, it probably doesn’t need to be on tick tock. If I’m being honest. Maybe your brand isn’t going to do well on Instagram.
Instagram does great for intellectual property attorneys because their clients are artists, musicians, actors, influencers, they all need their intellectual property protected. So trademark and intellectual property attorneys do very well there. But consider whether or not if you’re a criminal defense attorney if you need to be on Instagram.
Just because another law firm is diving into Tik Tok or Instagram, or, or is doing something that seems like the hot new trend, it doesn’t mean that it’s an ideal path for you. So examine new platforms examine new trends wisely. If you have everything else in place, and you are looking for some spice to your marketing, then great test these new areas, these new social media platforms, see if your audiences there, see if it resonates with your message, and then potentially invest in them.
But I would say that if you’re hiring a digital marketing agency, and they’re saying to you, you don’t need a website, you just need to be on TikTok, I would highly suggest that you consider looking at other marketing agencies before you make that decision to spend your marketing dollars with that particular agency.
Stop Considering Price Only
The next spending trap actually fits perfectly with that and money, which is considering only price. I understand that marketing and SEO. And anything that a digital marketing agency would do is often expensive, depends on depends on what you get, right? A website cost is different than weekly content. That cost is different than social media marketing, which is different than a backlink strategy. And all of these are very important for a marketing strategy. But it’s very important to consider to use your marketing dollars wisely. One of the most common traps though, is to shop only based on price.
The American Bar Association says that the marketing budget of the average law firm is between two and 16%. Well, thanks American Bar Association, that doesn’t tell me very much. But if you average that out, it’s about 8%. And that’s off gross. So you can know your numbers and you can know what your gross is. And you can take eight to 10% of that and figure that your competitors in your law firm bracket are probably spending that much.
But you may not have the ability to spend eight to 10% of your gross and if that’s the case, then you may be looking at digital marketing agencies based only on price. And while you want to stay within your budget, obviously your law firm must make a proper initial investment, it’s like anything, if you are going to get quality work, then you will probably have to pay a little bit more for that quality.
Now, unfortunately, the marketing industry knows that law firms don’t know necessarily how to gauge whether their marketing dollars are being effectively used. And that is unfortunately, a way that many marketing agencies will take advantage of law firms.
Do Proper Research Before Hiring Agency
So it is important to do your research: experts who truly know their business who truly know the marketing business may cost more than inexperienced, low priced options, a customized plan is probably going to offer a better return than an off the shelf solution. One way to look at this is see whether or not your marketing agency has very high ticket packages that have no room for modification. So perhaps you want to do your own social media right now. Because you can’t afford someone to do your website and all of your content weekly, and social media.
So look to see whether or not a marketing agency is willing to customize plans. As you grow. I just think that that’s really important. Instead of putting a square peg in a round hole, they are growing with you over time. Additionally, I think it’s very important that you don’t look just at price, because the least expensive digital marketing agencies are probably not going to afford you the same kind of results. Let me give an example. If you only have two blog posts a week on your website, the truth is, that is probably not going to move the needle.
Again, going back to the weight loss analogy, if you went to the gym two times a month, versus someone who’s going to the gym eight times a month, and someone who’s eating right and you know, doing additional exercises, strength, aerobic whatever, that person is going to get better results, healthier results and faster results. And that’s what you want. So you really want to look at your marketing agency to see what they’re coming up with.
And sometimes, the truth is that you have to spend a little more backlink strategy is exceptionally valuable, and can bring extraordinary results, legit, extraordinary results. But backlink strategies frankly, cost more. So it just really depends where you are at. And you need to be with a digital marketer. If you’re going to invest in a digital marketing agency, you need to be with one who’s going to really listen to you and then want to grow with you over time. So make sure that you ask the right questions regarding not only just now, but how they plan on looking at your marketing strategy six months a year, two years from now, if your law firm just settles for a very average solution, you may just get an average return and then you’re not really getting your money’s worth. So choosing a qualified marketing firm that really understands the legal profession may bring about a better solution than just an average or a really low priced budget plan.
Ultimately, to avoid marketing traps, you really need to start considering your strategy as a crucial investment in the growth of your law firm. It is an important part of your law firms overall growth. And it really is something you should be focusing on even if you do not have the budget of the large Goliath law firms online. Make sure to budget your plan carefully. Consider quality besides price.
Once you have a plan, stick to it, and patiently watch it work. And then measure your success. See how your domain authority score is going up. See what your organic searches are and whether they are going up. Always be authentic, because your potential clients are going to be scouring your online presence, looking to see who you really are. And avoid the temptation to follow every trend that comes along. Just stay true to who you are. We all love you. So stay true to you and your brand’s message.
Of course, if you ever need any help with any marketing, I would be more than happy to visit with you I would welcome the opportunity to chat with you for free regarding your marketing plan. And you can find me at lawquill.com/calendar. That’s how you can get a hold of me and get on my calendar. And we can visit. And again, I want to say thank you to the sponsor, click magnet, which is my book that you can find on Amazon. It’s Click Magnet, the Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide for Law Firms. And I hope that today, you were able to understand a little bit more about some of the spending traps that can happen when you are investing in law firm marketing. And I really hope that you got some practical tips out of this, and that you’re going to be able to use them and share them with other law firms as well.
The best way to make sure that this content gets out to other law firms is to leave me a little review on iTunes. I would love that. I would really appreciate that if you would just take a little hot minute and go do that. And in the meantime, I will see you next time on the next Legal Marketing lounge.