Our marketing agency offers a free, half-hour consultation to family lawyers interested in using our marketing services. During this initial consultation, we ask a lot of questions before making any recommendations. Having talked to hundreds of family lawyers annually for 20 years, we have learned that the majority of family law firms need help with marketing their practice – yet, for various reasons, they do not seek it. Of the firms who do spend money on marketing, many of them end up basically throwing their money away.
Here are 15 warning signs that your family law firm may be at risk of throwing away its marketing money.
1. You respond to emails that guarantee you will be on page one of Google.
Almost every month, if not every week, you receive spam emails from companies offering SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services that will put your law firm on Page One of Google search results. These companies often charge “one low fee”, and promise results within a few months – plus a guarantee! Most family lawyers who talk to these companies do not know what SEO is, let alone how complicated and nearly impossible it is for their 15-page website to get on the first page of Google.
Google does not give out the formula to beat its secret and ever-changing algorithm to any company so they may achieve and guarantee such success. Don’t be dazzled by what you read in these emails and commit to even a short contract.
2. You respond to emails guaranteeing thousands of visitors through a pay-per-click campaign, or a listing on a directory.
We have several clients who had previously been unable to resist such tempting offers and wound up spending tens of thousands of dollars while receiving little in return. You might be surprised to learn that some of these service providers are well-known, major companies – not fly-by-night operations.
We have reviewed the online reports these companies offer, and have contacted them to inquire why the traffic was not even 5% of what was promised to our client. The standard reply is that they do not promise anything, and only provide estimates. Secondly, when asked what percentage of the budget was actually spent on buying the ads versus the fees for managing the pay-per-click campaign, two of these service providers stated that it was “industry standard” to not disclose such information.
There was one client whose report indicated a large volume of calls from the pay-per-click campaign, yet our client had no recollection of this. A closer look revealed that all phone calls made to our client’s office were under 10 seconds in duration. When this issue was raised with the provider, the duration of phone calls on the reports immediately became much longer, and a reporting error was cited!
3. You do not check your marketing results even when they are measurable.
Not all marketing efforts produce specific and measurable results, and you may be doing it more for branding purposes. But, if you can measure your results (and these reports are available online), you should definitely review them. If the reports seem too confusing, or you don’t have the time to review them, it is well worth hiring someone to analyze them for you.
4. You pay thousands of dollars every year for website hosting.
We cannot fathom why so many law firms are okay with paying thousands of dollars every year to have their website hosted. (By comparison, our firm charges a few hundred dollars per year.) Imagine the amount of marketing you can do with a few thousand extra dollars a year!
5. Your website is not mobile-friendly.
These days, more people are accessing the internet from their mobile devices than from desktop computers. This trend has been developing for years, and as a result, responsive websites have become increasingly popular. (“Responsive” and “mobile-friendly” are not the same thing: you can have a mobile-friendly site without redesigning your entire website.)
If your website is not mobile-friendly, mobile visitors are likely to leave for competitors whose websites are. Furthermore, since April 2015, Google has been favoring mobile-friendly websites when displaying search results. So if your site is not mobile-friendly, then there is not much point to spending marketing money on SEO, pay-per-click, and online listings.
To learn more about this, and to test if your website is considered mobile-friendly by Google, please read this article: www.familylawyermagazine.com/articles/is-your-website-smartphone-friendly.
6. You do not add fresh content to your website regularly.
Google likes websites that add fresh content on a regular basis. The majority of law firm websites are stagnant – and some of them have not been touched since they were built! This is bad for your Google ranking.
7. You pay to have mass-produced blog posts added to your website.
Many family law firms think they have #6 beat by paying to have blog posts automatically added to their website “on their behalf”. The problem is that these blog posts are manufactured by someone who does not know you, they do not showcase or represent your knowledge and personality, and they are irrelevant to the law firm’s current and prospective clients. Why throw your marketing money away in this manner when you could use it to create highly unique and relevant content for an entire year using podcasts and videos? You wouldn’t even need to write a single word.
8. You do not have a website.
This is 2016. If you still do not have a website, and you are spending money on marketing, you are definitely throwing your money away.
9. You cannot be found online even when your name is Googled.
Most prospective clients – even those who were referred to you – will Google your name before calling you. If you cannot be found online, and you have no social presence (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or a blog), you won’t make a good first impression – and it may cause your prospective client to call a competitor who does have a good online presence.
10. There are bad comments, poor ratings, and inaccurate information about you online.
You are your Google results. You need to spend some of your marketing budget on finding web pages with poor reviews and information about you. We have come across many web pages showing our clients working for their previous employers with old contact information – all unbeknownst to them!
11. You do not have a plan that ensures you get regular referrals.
The majority of family lawyers rely heavily on referrals. A good marketing strategy that nurtures your referral sources and helps you stay top-of-mind with them can prove to be more cost-efficient and effective than chasing after new clients on your own.
12. You have done marketing but on an ad-hoc basis.
Many family law firms do not create a marketing plan, and so they often end up buying from the most aggressive salespeople who call on them the most often. They might end up doing an online pay-per-click advertising campaign for a while, then switch to Search Engine Optimization, and then try advertising in local publications.
Good salespeople will have prepared pitches that make a compelling argument for you to purchase their products or services – and in most cases, what they are selling will benefit your firm to a greater or lesser degree. Some of them also offer huge discounts with tight deadlines. “If you commit within the next 24 hours, your advertisement will be half-price!” When you assess these offers one at a time – under time pressure and without an overall strategy or goals – you really cannot tell if what they are offering is better than other marketing opportunities.
13.You do not know how effective your marketing campaigns have been.
We have heard this innumerable times during our initial marketing consultations: “I have no idea how much I have spent, on what, and whether it worked or not.” We think of this as throwing your marketing money against the wall, and not bothering to see what sticks.
14. You keep changing your ads and service providers.
Your marketing message needs to be consistent across all of your marketing efforts: your website, firm brochure, blog posts, enewsletters, and all the advertisements you may run in multiple publications and websites. Most family law firms do not have a big enough advertising budget for their ads to suffer from fatigue due to overexposure, so you do not have to keep changing your ad. And if you keep changing your service providers, then you need someone to help you make intelligent choices.
15. You do not have a marketing strategy based on your business goals.
There is a saying: “If you don’t know where you want to end up, just start walking, because any direction will do.”
We recommend that you take the time once a year to plan your marketing for the next 12 to 24 months. Begin the process by looking at your business goals, review what kind of clients you wish to attract, then create a marketing strategy and budget that will move you towards those goals. Because so many family lawyers prefer lawyering over marketing, we suggest that even if you have found a service provider you want to trust your marketing with, you should consider hiring a marketing agency – and designating someone in your firm to coordinate with your marketing agency – so that decisions can be made and acted upon in a timely manner.
Martha Chan and Dan Couvrette are marketing experts to family lawyers. They are co-owners of Divorce Marketing Group – a marketing agency dedicated to promoting family lawyers and divorce professionals. They publish Divorce Magazine, Family Lawyer Magazine, and several divorce related websites including FamilyLawyerMagazine.com, DivorceMag.com, and DivorcedMoms.com.