The 3 Most Common Ways Law Firms Waste Money on Marketing

Getting distribution for your products or services is usually the single most challenging aspect of building any business, including a law firm. Anybody with a law degree can open up a solo practice. But how will you reach enough clients? And more importantly, how will you do so in a way that costs less than the amount of revenue you can generate from serving each one? Answering those questions is the very foundation of your business model. Here are 3 common ways law firms waste money on marketing to help you cut down on unnecessary expenditures, and set your business model up for success.

Law Firm Marketing: The Holy Grail

The legal industry is highly fragmented, with big firms at the top serving large corporations, and thousands of smaller firms competing for all the individual and small business clients. This fragmentation makes the market highly competitive, and drives up the cost of marketing and advertising.

Just look at this list of 2015’s highest priced search terms through Google advertising, and notice how many of them are related to finding a lawyer. That’s a lot of advertising dollars being directed at your target clientele by your competition.

Given the tremendous competition and high advertising costs, it’s clear that finding a way to effectively market your law firm without breaking the bank is the holy grail for your continued success and growth.

The particular marketing approach that will work best varies from one firm to the next. But, here are 3 common ways that many law firms waste money on marketing to give you a good idea of what not to do as you implement your law firm marketing plan.

The 3 Most Common Ways Law Firms Waste Money on Marketing

1. Not reaching the right audience

As we have written about before, the key to establishing a strong law firm brand is having a well-defined target audience, and positioning your law firm to create awareness within that group. If you are spending your marketing dollars aimlessly, without a clear target audience in mind, there’s a very high chance you will be wasting money.

Many law firms just throw up a billboard or bus stop ad with a phone number and hope for the best. But hope is not an effective marketing strategy. Before you put up a physical ad, you need to be absolutely sure that your target clientele will not only see that ad, but also be in a position where they would be likely to contact you after seeing it.

This is quite difficult to measure, which is one reason why online marketing can be more cost effective. Unlike physical ads, you have a much better ability to gauge the intent of a prospective client at the time they are interacting with your ad or marketing message (e.g. via direct search advertising, SEO optimized articles or blogposts, etc.).

But regardless of where and how you plan to market your law firm, it’s critical that you have first identified the demographics of your target audience. Think about the types of people that become your clients most frequently – age, sex, religion, ethnicity, location, social class, etc. are all factors to consider. Each of these data points will correspond closely to the marketing methods and channels that make the most sense.

Identifying your audience is one of the most important steps to take before implementing a marketing plan, so don’t overlook it, or you’ll be setting yourself up to waste money.

2. Using the wrong marketing strategy

Marketing is a game of different strokes for different folks, as they say. But it’s not about preference as much as it is about what strategies work, and why.

We covered this topic in detail in our post about the law firm marketing spectrum. The general concept is that the marketing methods available to you are largely determined by the type of law practice you run, the average cost of your services, and the lifetime of an average client.

You’ve got to carefully consider key performance indicators such as average client acquisition costclient lifetime value, and ROI when deciding on your marketing strategy.

Failing to pick the right marketing strategy is a surefire way to waste money, so here are some general guidelines about the types of marketing strategies that work for various types of practices:

High Volume, Low Value: typically one-off legal matters such as traffic, criminal, basic business/real estate transactional work, etc.

  • word of mouth
  • referral partnerships
  • social media
  • blogging

Medium Volume, Medium Value: typically more complex matters such as estate planning, family law, civil litigation, or contingency cases like personal injury and employment

Low Volume, High Value: typically longer term clients such as high net-worth estate planning/family law, corporate law, etc.

There’s not a formula for picking the best marketing strategy for a law firm, and it may require some trial and error. The right marketing strategy will be one that enables you to reach your target audience and communicate your message to them in a cost effective manner.

3. Not tracking the results and adjusting over time

Marketing is anything but a “set it and forget it” activity. The world is constantly changing, and marketing strategies that worked in the past will eventually become obsolete as competitors catch on to trends, and new technologies change the landscape.

Not understanding the numbers and continuing to spend money on channels that don’t produce results is one of the biggest ways law firms waste money on marketing.

You’ve got to keep up with the trends, or your marketing efforts will gradually become less effective, and the costs will go up. You should constantly be tweaking your approach, maintain an open mind, and utilize technology to analyze the results.

Here are some basic guidelines about what data you should be collecting, how to capture it, and how to interpret it in order to continually improve your marketing strategy with time:

What to Track

The most important things to track are the number of leads each marketing channel produces, the total amount of money spent on each marketing activity, and the conversion rate for each of those channels over a given period of time.

How to Track It

In order to track these things, you will want to employ a combination of strategies.

For phone based lead channels, it’s important to have different phone numbers assigned to each particular advertisement or marketing method so that you can identify which channel produced a call.

For web based lead channels, you should set up Google analytics to track how many visitors you received, how they got to your website (e.g. from search, from social media, from an ad, etc.), and what percentage of them completed a goal (such as filling out your contact form, calling your office, or signing up for your newsletter).

You also need a good system in place, such as a law firm CRM, in order to track every lead and identify the source from which that lead came to your law firm.

How to Interpret It

With this data in hand, you should look at the total cost to acquire each paying client and compare that number across each of the channels.

If any channel isn’t producing good results, eliminate it immediately so you’re not wasting money. Next, create an action plan for ways to decrease your client acquisition costs and increase your conversion rates wherever possible.

For instance, strive to improve your SEO ranking so that you get more organic website traffic, rather than paying per click. Use the suggestions in this post to maximize your website conversion rate so that there is a higher likelihood of each visitor contacting you. And don’t fall victim to this bottleneck which costs many firms clients when getting engagement letters signed.

Continue to measure the results of your marketing on a monthly or quarterly basis, keep doing more of the things that work, and toss out the things that don’t. It’s that simple.


Creating an effective marketing plan is not going to be easy. In fact, it is often the hardest part of growing a law practice. Understanding the 3 biggest ways law firms waste money on marketing is an important first step. The three biggest mistakes many firms make are:

  1. Not identifying and targeting the right audience
  2. Not utilizing the right marketing channels for your audience
  3. Failing to track the results and adjust your strategy with time

The good news is, if you avoid making these money-wasting mistakes, you’ll give yourself a good shot to implement a marketing strategy that’s destined for success from the start.

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