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Marketing: Some advertising sums

Every Issue

Cite as: (2007) 81(7) LIJ, p. 95

Firms need to do their maths on whether advertising will give a good return on investment.

Anyone who has ever worked in marketing knows that when you tell someone outside the profession that’s what you do, the most likely comeback is: “Oh, so you mean advertising?”.

It’s not, I realise, an attempt to be reductionist but more a case of trying to find some common ground – a way in to working out what it is that marketing people do.

So it’s not surprising that on first meeting, many lawyers expect a marketing person to tell them about advertising.

But the opposite is generally true. Advertising is not the first tactic a professional marketer will think of, and certainly not the one they’re most likely to select for a law firm trying to market itself.

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about.

Advertising is paying for space to place a designed advertisement into a media outlet. This media outlet can be print, radio, television or Internet.

It is one of the marketing tools that affords you a high level of control over where, when and how your firm is promoted.

The key problem with advertising is that it costs a lot of money.

Partly because media outlets know the value of the space they provide (based on who reads/listens or views their forum) and that advertisers want to reach that same group.

But that’s not the biggest problem for a marketing budget.

The biggest problem is the knowledge that successful advertising campaigns require repetition, which means committing to spending on that space over and over again.

Some services and products rely on heavy advertising as their key form of promotion.

This is true of “fast moving consumer goods” (FMCGs).

Legal services are not FMCGs. They are usually purchased by a client after a great deal of thought because of the seriousness or sensitivity of the matter or because of the potential cost involved.

From the provider point of view – the lawyer or the law firm – there is only so much work the practice can handle at any time.

So less general promotion is needed to bring in the clients (or files) to sustain a reasonable workload.

Advertising, as it’s relevant to law firms, can be broken into two types – brand advertising (which aims to establish or maintain the law firm as an entity) and “call to action” advertising.

Both will only have any impact if they are:

  • repeated; and
  • in forums where the target market will see them and think well of the connection (that is, the media outlet featuring the advertisements).
  • Brand advertising is more useful for large, national law firms or those who are “heavy hitters” in the corporate sector. Basically in areas where prestige is a factor in the decision about what law firm might be engaged.

On a different level, if you are in a specialised practice (or a boutique practice) you may need to assert your brand against a finite group of competitors and the same can be applied to law firms in communities that have a number of local competitors.

However, the thing to keep in mind is that with both these groups there are probably more gains from adopting other marketing tactics to reach their respective target markets.

“Call to action” advertising prompts people to do something as a result of the ad.

For a law firm this can be as simple as “go to our website to download a free fact sheet on powers of attorney/making a will etc.”.

The advantage of a call to action advertisement is that you build in a way that you can tell if it has worked – at least to the extent that people saw it and took notice of it.

In the area of personal injury, it would be wise to check regulations and restrictions in the state/territory of your practice. In NSW some advertising restrictions have been imposed on firms which work in the personal injury area.

There is another reason you may advertise your practice which has nothing to do with either of the above and that is to appear in a media outlet because it is featuring a cause (or client) you want to be seen to be supporting.

This can include advertising in charitable or community newsletters or providing some other form of community service announcement through advertising.

When it comes to advertising, do your calculations and work out what you’re prepared to spend and what you expect to gain. If the maths squares up, go for it.

ALICIA PATTERSON is the Director of House Communications. She was previously the LIV Head of Marketing and can be contacted on ph 8611 8188 or

To do this month

  • Have you ever advertised and if so, what impact did it have?
  • Are there media outlets or publications you know your clients and potential clients read? Have you considered
    the benefits of ensuring you’re in that space?
  • If you have done advertising for your practice, was it a “brand” or a “call to action” campaign and did it have the effect of strengthening your brand or getting people to act?


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