Behind dealing with demanding clients and putting in long hours, the biggest concern for most lawyers is finding new clients. For small law firm owners, getting new legal clients is their biggest challenge. Investing in law firm advertising is a wise choice to get your name out there and connect with possible prospects for legal services.
But advertising is tricky. You have to spend money to make money. Deciding on the best ways to advertise for your law firm is extremely important, and it's a big reason why plenty of lawyers turn to attorney marketing experts for help crafting their strategies and campaigns.
In connection with other components of your law firm’s promotional strategy, like content marketing through organic social media marketing and law firm SEO, advertising can help you grow your bottom line and serve more clients.
Steps to Start Advertising Your Firm
Most attorneys turn to advertising when they have an immediate need for more potential clients, are unsure of how to get started with law firm marketing, or because they've heard about some recent advertising wins achieved by competitors or colleagues.
Before diving in, you need a clear strategy. There are a few steps to start advertising in your law firm, including:
- Incorporate advertising in your formal lawyer marketing plan
- Understand your audience
- Set your budget
- Define your goals
- Track and measure results
Include Advertising in Your Marketing Plan
Advertising is only one component of your strategy to reach new prospective clients. This means it's part of your broader attorney marketing plan. If you don't yet have a lawyer marketing plan in place, you need to develop this before setting a budget or setting up advertising initiatives for your law firm.
Research from good2besocial and the Legal Marketing Association showed that in 2018, law firms only allocated 6.7% of their average revenue to marketing, with advertising a smaller piece of that pie. Failing to invest in marketing and advertising could slow a law firm's new client numbers to a screeching halt. Every law firm should have some money earmarked for advertising.
There are multiple components in a law firm marketing plan outside of advertising, including:
- A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis
- Data on the target market's needs
- Financial goals for the firm
- Marketing goals for the firm
- A month-by-month marketing budget
- How you'll measure results
Knowing these details gives you a deeper understanding of the challenges you might face entering the market and how you'll address those in the moment.
Understand Your Audience
Before committing any dollars to advertising, you must understand your audience. You need to know:
- The demographics of your typical clients
- Their biggest needs and fears about their legal issue and hiring a lawyer
- Where they spend time
Too often, lawyers invest in advertising strategies before they deeply understand their target audience. The result is a lot of money spent in various areas that may or may not reach your prospective clients.
For example, a Denver DUI lawyer who takes many cases of people pulled over after a home Broncos game might look for advertising options that get him in front of that audience.
Similarly, a personal injury lawyer who takes a lot of truck accident cases on a major highway might want to advertise on a billboard to build brand awareness with people who commute on that road every day as a way to separate yourself from the competition. If that lawyer's target audience is most concerned about being steamrolled by the trucking company's insurance carrier, the copy and feel of the billboard should resonate with that need, too.
Set Your Budget
According to the ABA, only 46% of law firms have a clear marketing budget. Determine the percentage of your annual revenue or a flat fee amount you'll set aside specifically for advertising. This can be spread out evenly over the entire year or include a higher or lower spend in certain periods.
For example, most people get divorced at the beginning of the year or early fall, so a family lawyer might increase their spending to account for those seasons.
Define Your Goals
One of your top goals is getting more clients and revenue in the door. But get more granular than that by setting key performance indicators that you can track regularly. These key performance indicators should show steady growth over time based on your marketing activities. If you need to adapt marketing tactics as you go, use these metrics to make data-driven decisions.
Advertising key performance indicators worth tracking for law practices include:
- Number of new leads from ad spend
- Average fees per client
- Cost of client acquisition (what you have to spend to bring in each new client, on average)
- Number of intake calls compared to signed clients
Nearly 26% of law firms don't even track their leads, leaving a huge opportunity to learn more about where your clients come from. Lead generation is a critical KPI to monitor regularly.
Track and Measure Results
Tracking and measuring results for law firm advertising can be as simple or as complex as you need. Many platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads include reporting directly on their dashboards, allowing you to get an instant look at how things are working.
You might also incorporate that data into a weekly or monthly marketing report to see changes over time.
Use those results to reflect on your advertising initiatives. What's getting traction? What's performing poorly or requires too much money/time investment to yield valuable results?
Even though you've earmarked money for your advertising budget in your attorney marketing plan, you can adjust tactics or reallocate spending based on what you learn when you're tracking.
How Much Should Law Firms Spend on Advertising?
There is no one right answer for how much all law firms should spend on advertising. It depends on existing marketing channels, your region, goals, practice area, and revenue.
For example, if you rely heavily on referrals, investing in other traditional and online advertising plans can help you diversify your sources of new clients, but it might take more money than you're used to.
According to the American Lawyer, large law firms spend 2-5% of their revenue on advertising, whereas law firms spend 5-10% of revenue when trying to market a small law firm. Use those as a starting point, but adjust for unique considerations.
For example, personal injury law is one of the most competitive practice areas, which is why many lawyers in that field spend more on advertising.
Other factors to evaluate when setting your law firm’s marketing and advertising budget include:
- Age of the firm (newer firms often have a bigger percentage of their budget going to marketing and ads)
- Number/strength of competitors in the area
- Current marketing context (if you have no digital presence, there will be some upfront costs to getting started in that arena)
- Aggressiveness factor (spending more to get results based on the goals you've set)
These budgets are typically divided among digital advertising and traditional advertising options.
One in three clients starts their search for a lawyer online. If you're not using search engine optimization marketing and online advertising, you're leaving high-quality leads on the table.
Digital advertising includes social media ads, paid search advertising, and display ads. These can enhance your online presence and attract new clients with the right implementation. Most lawyers don't have time to keep up with all the trends in digital marketing and instead turn to an outside expert for help.
Social Media Advertising
Social media advertising is a mixed bag for lawyers because it's a platform you don't own or control entirely, but it’s still worth considering as part of your broader advertising plan.
Most social media platforms, including Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn, allow you to purchase ads to show to their users. Each comes with pros and cons. Your target clients probably aren't spending time on Pinterest to be hit with a lawyer's ad, and LinkedIn ads can be expensive and tricky to figure out without a marketing agency's help.
The frequent go-to of social media ads are Facebook and Instagram, but they come with challenges, too.
Here are some things to keep in mind with Instagram and Facebook ads for lawyers:
- Not every practice area makes it easy to target your ideal audience. An elder lawyer can filter for the average aid of a Medicaid applicant, but a divorce lawyer has no way of knowing which Facebook users are currently shopping for family attorneys.
- Facebook ads can be seasonal with pricing, which means that advertising costs increase significantly during times like election season or the holidays.
- Many people don't want to be tracked on Facebook or when using the platform from their phone, making it harder to hit as many people in your target audience as in the past.
The above images are examples of compelling Facebook ads for workers' compensation because the colors are attention-getting, the copy is clear, and each ad is targeted at a particular audience. Match your social media ads to your brand tone, voice, and colors.
The colors, sharp copy, and clear message in the image above resonate with the target audience, which is why this Facebook ad has so many shares, comments, and likes.
Paid Search Advertising
Paid search is a solid way to connect with people searching for your practice area in your local region, too. There are two main options for paid search:
Pay-per-click ads and pay-per-lead ads both target specific keyword searches. Attorneys use a bid and daily budget option for the chance to show up these search results. You can also include important contact information like your phone number. With PPC, you pay for each click whether or not that person is a potential client. With PPL, you pay for potential consumers.
Pay-per-lead ads are attractive because of the additional option to use a picture and to show up before any pay-per-click ads or organic Google search engine results.
Google isn't the only place to get traction with marketing efforts. You can also consider video marketing ads on YouTube. Bing ads are another option for search engine ads, but since Google gets the most traffic, many lawyers focus on PPC and PPL there instead.
A PPC ad offers a short piece of header copy under a URL for a law firm’s website. Most lawyers write an overview with primary keywords, like in the images below.
These pay-per-lead ads show only a handful of firms with their years in business and overall Google reviews at the top of organic search results.
Display ads mix text, images, and a website address. These follow viewers from your website to other sites on the Internet.
Display ads can work for some lawyers but tend to be hit or miss compared to other advertising methods. While search ads get an average clickthrough rate of 1.91%, display ads convert much less at .35%. These ads are usually focused on limited text and a clear image since they may be resized for display on other sites.
Even when you're investing a good amount in your digital marketing strategy, don't neglect the possibilities with traditional advertising. Examples of common traditional advertising include TV and radio ads, billboards, and print advertising.
TV & Radio Ads
Even though radio and TV habits have changed with more people using streaming services, both of these marketing channels are good places to get your message across to your local target market.
Review some of the best lawyer commercials and our guide on radio advertising for lawyers before drafting up your law firm marketing ideas for an ad campaign. Take note of what resonates with you and what got your attention early on in the ad, then follow that model on your own.
Lawyers are no strangers to billboards, especially personal injury law firms. But getting someone's attention on the road requires some strategic thinking. You want your message and imagery to stand out if someone's driving by it quickly, so think about that before getting a design mocked up.
If the demographics of the readers of certain publications match up well with your target clients, print advertising is one avenue worth exploring. You could advertise in:
- Community events
- Theater programs
- Local or trade magazines
For example, a real estate lawyer or an estate planning lawyer might put regular ads in a popular local magazine every month to improve brand awareness.
Digital Ads vs. Traditional Ads
Your primary goal is to get your name out there and generate more potential clients for your law firm. Depending on your region, budget, and practice area, some tactics might work better than others.
Digital advertising has certainly increased in popularity as more people use the web, specifically their smartphones, to search for help and make decisions. Traditional advertising can still work, especially when it's hyper-targeted to your ideal clients.
Digital ads can be tracked and measured more easily than traditional ads, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should eliminate traditional ads. A mix of traditional and digital advertising often works best for law firms.
Many law firms recognize the value of investing in marketing and advertising but aren't sure where to start. There are many different options available with both digital and traditional advertising.
Spending your money wisely and using strategies designed to reach your ideal clients is key for drawing in new business and more revenue. To get the best ROI, work with an outside marketing agency that knows the legal industry and what works for lawyers in your practice area.
Contact Rankings.io if you need help with law firm marketing plans, including SEO and advertising. Lean into our experience and get the most out of your marketing and ad spend.