Choosing a law firm marketing agency can feel a little like buying a car, especially when you’re unsure if you’re making the right decision from the start. It can feel as if there simply isn’t an option to “just look” or “just research a little”, before making your decision.
No one wants the stereotypical, used-car-sales-experience, but when it comes to choosing (or even simply researching the possibility of hiring) a marketing agency, the internet bombards you with various sales pitches. Agencies employ the “Get Our Free Opinion Report” popups and similar tactics, in order to build their client roster. Meanwhile, no one has asked you about your practice and goals.
The right agency should be a partner, not a vendor. Don’t fall for the gimmicks.
Why do law firms choose to use marketing firms at all? Let’s start with you.
You’ve spent many years filled with long hours–studying, practicing and refining your craft, to become the legal expert you are today. I suspect that you would advise against a decision to represent myself in court. (Hypothetically speaking, of course. Trust me, no one wants that!)
Why? Because I simply do not have your skill set.
Like you, I have spent countless years studying marketing strategies, applying various techniques to fine-tune my abilities for each client, and adjusting as needed, in order to surpass digital marketing goals. I continuously refine my skill set, as this industry is ever-changing.
Because digital marketing isn’t a skill you can simply learn and sit on, likewise, I would not recommend that you represent yourself, in this space.
Simple enough. However, once you’ve made the decision to choose a marketing agency, you must then decide which agency. And, choosing the right team is vital.
Where to start?
Have you ever heard the saying “You don’t know what you don’t know?” This often holds true with digital marketing. So, first, you’ll need a trustworthy and competent partner who can help you understand which areas of the marketing strategy that will benefit you, as a client, most.
Opt for the agency that takes the time to educate you on their process, before they start reaching for your pocketbook.
You work hard to maintain your reputation as a legal professional. Likewise, your online reputation isn’t an area that you need to approach with a “trial and error” mentality–let me see how this agency works, and if i’m not happy, I’ll try another agency. This can be extremely dangerous, especially considering the strict stipulations set by the bar for lawyers’ online marketing representation.
Making the wrong move can not only burn precious budget dollars, but also negatively impact your image for years to come.
When choosing an agency to help your business grow, here are a few things I’d recommend, as someone with an extensive background in the field:
Take the time to define who you are, what your goals are, and how much you’re comfortable spending, in order to reach those goals.
Foundational marketing strategies exist, across the board, for every law practice. But, your goals will determine how an agency will build on this foundation–the pace in which an agency manages marketing efforts, the types of strategies used, and the budget will vary depending on these goals.
So, here’s a quick list of what to have ready:
What would you like to see out of your business this time next year?
The more you’re able to answer these basic questions and really hone in on your specific goals, the better your chances will be of having a great dialogue with your prospective agency.
Don’t worry. As an attorney, you’ll conduct research to confirm statements, a skilled agency will do the same. This process of internal research will drive an agency’s direction and further questions.
If an agency doesn’t bother to ask these types of questions or seems dismissive of your attempts at an open dialogue, they aren’t the agency for you.
So, how will your goals affect the marketing team you choose? The blanket answer is, you guessed it, it depends. But, here are a few questions that marketing agencies consider, when pricing your campaign:
Are you new to the market and recently opened the doors? If so, foundational efforts, such as website development, content marketing and search engine optimization may be all that you need, at this moment in time.
Or, maybe you’ve been practicing, but are now looking to establish your role in the community as the leading expert in your field.
Your prospective agency should ask these types of questions, but if they don’t, it’s worth expressing. By their answer, you’ll be able to gauge whether or not the agency has staff skilled in public relations, press releases and skills communicating with local media.
Now, for the elephant in the room, budget.
I would recommend that you establish an annual amount that you’re willing to invest into your marketing, with the understanding that nothing is accomplished overnight.
I use the word “invest” on purpose. Online marketing isn’t a physical transaction, where you walk away with a tangible item in hand. There are long term and short term goals every agency should establish with your budget.
The more you articulate your goals, along with your budget, the better an agency can provide feedback on potential success.
Note: A skilled agency will tell you if your budget is appropriate, or if you need to revise either your investment or expectations. This is also a sign of an ethical agency.
Speaking of ethics, lets discuss transparency and credibility.
As an attorney, we probably don’t need to explain the age-old, “if it’s too good to be true..” analogy.
Even if you’re shaky on the online or marketing terminology, use your gut instincts. Don’t fall for the “50 new leads per month” trick. Is there a guarantee? If so, that in itself should be a red flag. If the end result seems too good to be true, despite the verbiage used to get you there, run.
We’re experts in our field, and nobody works for free.
Marketing is the process of reaching an audience, supplying that audience with whatever it takes to gain their trust, then providing that audience with a compelling offer, in order to convert what was originally a complete stranger, into a paying client.
Agencies can accomplish these goals by a variety of methods. The methods used to accomplish these goals will depend on the industry, current market, and your budget. But regardless of the strategy used, efforts should constantly be measured for success and optimized for performance.
Ok. So, what?
So, for a marketing agency to write a “guarantee,” out of the gate, is a red flag. This leaves the door open for unethical practices to meet the guarantee.
Ask for transparency– no, demand it.
So many of our clients have come to us, after having a bad experience. Oftentimes, they’re left with no answers or even halfway tangible evidence of where their money was spent.
Media spend vs. service fees should be disclosed. You have every right to know what you’re paying someone to do their job. You wouldn’t take your car to get serviced and blindly foot the bill without knowing what was fixed, would you?
Demand transparency, demand a game plan, and demand reports.
Any agency that makes you feel as if you won’t have access to all of these, isn’t an agency who truly has your best interests in mind. More often than not, these are the same agencies that don’t bother asking about your specific goals, in the first place.
Well, how will you know if an agency is credible?
Clearly, experience in law firm marketing is a must, but bigger is not always better.
The larger an agency, the greater the need to scale efforts, resulting in a lot of rinse-and-repeat methodology. They’ll do the work, sure, once. Then, they’ll replicate it, across the board, for all their clients–sometimes even in the same market!
So how on earth can you stand out amongst the competition if your website and ads look exactly like the lawyer’s down the street? Easy, you don’t–or they’ll play the auction game, and whoever pays most, gets most.
Side note: ALWAYS ask if they’re providing services for other lawyers with your same concentrations in the same area. A good agency won’t take competitors, as it’s a conflict of interest.
Large scale operations typically result in customer service challenges, personnel changes and inconsistent experience. When you consider a smaller agency, they are more ingrained and invested in your actual business. They operate more like a remote, on-staff, marketing team instead. A loss of you as a client has a direct impact; you’re not a drop in the bucket.
Don’t forget your due diligence. It’s totally fair to ask for references and case studies.
Here is a quick list of questions you may want to ask:
What are the contract terms?
Now that you’ve narrowed down your list to the couple of agencies you’ve vetted, it’s time to take the next step.
You’ve provided them with all the information noted, answered their additional questions and confirmed your comfort level with their company, overall. It’s time to get down to brass tacks.
What do they truly recommend as strategy, implementation, performance expectations and final budget?
It would be wise to ask yourself how you feel during this presentation. Do you feel pressured? Uneasy? Like something isn’t quite right? There is nothing more telling than a good gut-check during a meeting.
For clarity’s sake, ask yourself the following questions:
Can you be candid with the points of contact at the agency? Be yourself? If not, pick another.
Take your time, ponder the ideas, and once you decide, commit with confidence. Marketing is a journey with great responsibility and reward. A good marketing team will make the experience a positive one. It’s ok to have fun and feel excited about the future!
We’re an experienced agency that specializes in marketing attorneys! We’re well-versed in what it takes to grow private practices, as well as, larger firms.
If you still have a few more questions about general marketing or how we can help your firm specifically, contact Tessa today by calling 318-455-2516 or feel free to provide some basic information about your practice here: