The Law Firm Marketing Spectrum: Where Does Your Firm Fit In?

One of the biggest factors to consider when creating your marketing strategy is the value of the underlying goods or services you are selling. In the legal world, there is a wide range of services varying in value from hundreds, to millions of dollars. This creates a broad spectrum of potential marketing activities to consider. In order to get the most value from your marketing dollars, you need to understand the law firm marketing spectrum and know exactly where your firm fits in. Read on to find out!

The Law Firm Marketing Spectrum

We’ve divided up the law firm marketing spectrum into three general areas based on the nature of the legal services and their approximate value. Each region on the spectrum includes a discussion of the particular marketing activities which work best.

There is inevitably quite a bit of crossover (e.g. referrals tend to work well for everybody), but it’s important to take note of why particular strategies work better than others at each level in the law firm marketing spectrum.

It’s also imperative to have an understanding of basic metrics like your average client acquisition cost and client lifetime value in order to properly identify where your firm lies on the spectrum.

Putting all of this information together is the first step in developing a marketing plan and budget for your law firm.

The Low End: Word of Mouth, Lead Gen, Social Media

The low end of the spectrum consists of very common, consumer legal services. Things like business formation, simple estate plans, simple divorces, common criminal matters, and other “everyday” legal needs for middle class individuals and families.

These services tend to be relatively low in value, probably somewhere in the range of $500 – $2,500 in total fees. They tend to be widely accessible as well, with many law firms competing for clients, along with competition from non-law firms and technology companies.

At the low end, the average client lifetime value is obviously low, which means that not much money can be spent on acquiring clients. This leaves firms with somewhat limited options for marketing strategies.

Word of Mouth

This is probably the most common means of acquiring clients, largely because it’s free. But it also is effective because word of mouth inherently builds trust. Read our post about getting more law firm referrals for more ideas about how to utilize word of mouth to get clients.

Lead Gen

Lead gen is a form of direct marketing, often on a pay-per-lead or subscription model. There are many lead gen services online, as well as some that operate call centers. The good thing about lead gen is that a third party company is responsible for actually bringing in the clients, which makes it easy on lawyers. You simply get handed a qualified lead for a fee, which typically ranges from $20-200 per client.

Social Media

Social media is steadily gaining momentum as a client acquisition method. Not only is it free to use, but it also provides the ability to interact directly with prospective clients in a non-professional context. This is powerful for creating awareness, establishing credibility, and building trust. Learn more in our separate guides about LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp.

The Middle Ground: SEO & SEM, Advertising, Referral Networks

As you move up the spectrum, the value of services goes up, and in some practice areas, the net worth of the clientele as well. The middle ground consists more complex estate planning, family, and criminal law matters (often for upper class clients); intellectual property, bankruptcy, litigation, and other corporate work for small and medium businesses; as well as personal injury, employment, and other contingency based cases.

The average lifetime value of clients in this range of the spectrum is probably somewhere from $2,500 to $50,000, which gives the law firm much more leeway in its marketing budget. All of the low end marketing options are still viable and recommended at this level, but some new categories start to open up as well.

SEO & SEM

Internet based marketing gets a lot more interesting as clients become more valuable. SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing or PPC) may not be realistic strategies for law firms at the low end because these strategies require substantial, ongoing work. This means these activities are normally outsourced, and therefore expensive. But they are also highly targeted and effective, which is why keywords like “mesothelioma lawyer” can cost over $100 for a single clickthrough from a Google search.

Advertising

Many forms of offline advertising are common in the middle ground as well. For instance, ads for law firms can commonly be heard on the radio, seen on bus stops, or watched on television. These ads are most commonly for contingency based practices, where these mass-marketing approaches are most effective.

Referral Networks

For non-contingency based practices in the middle of the spectrum, forming referral networks with other professionals is an excellent marketing strategy. For instance, you can establish relationships with financial advisors, bankers, doctors, real estate agents, accountants, and other service providers that your target clientele would be likely to work with. Just be sure it’s a mutual referral relationship and that you send referrals their way too.

The High End: Networking, Events, Content

The high end of the law firm marketing spectrum consists of only the highest value clients. Law firms at the high end primarily provide legal services to large companies, although there is a smaller market for ultra high net worth individuals such as celebrities and professional athletes as well.

An average client is likely to be worth in excess of $50,0o0 at the high end, with clients normally forming an ongoing relationship that is lucrative to the firm for many years. Unlike the middle ground, where lower level marketing activities are still quite effective, at the high end, many lower level marketing activities become useless.

It’s all about who you know at the high end of the spectrum, so really only word of mouth, social media, and some forms of advertising are still worthwhile. Here are the other strategies to focus on:

Networking

Networking is the key to establishing the relationships you need to build up a book of clients at the high end of the marketing spectrum. But not just any kind of networking. You’ll have to find ways to put yourself in the same rooms as wealthy, well-connected people. You’ll also have to earn their trust, which can be difficult to do. It often requires a certain type of personality to succeed.

Events

Hosting and attending events is another great way to market a law firm at the high end of the spectrum. It’s essentially a form of networking, but throwing a party gives people a good reason to get together and mingle with you. It can also be easier to establish a relationship with someone outside of the professional setting.

Content

Content marketing is effective at any level of the spectrum, but it is one of the key marketing strategies for law firms that work with large corporate clients. By producing and sharing content on the latest legal issues that are likely to affect these businesses, you establish your expertise in the field and build up credibility and trust. It’s probably one of the only online marketing strategies that makes sense at the high end of the spectrum.

Summary

As you can see, developing a marketing strategy requires a thorough understanding of your target clientele. Not only do you need to identify and define the specific types people or businesses that are likely to become your clients, but also think about how much lifetime value each client brings your business.

You can still build an extremely successful law practice no matter where your firm falls on the law firm marketing spectrum. But it’s important to know where you fit in, because the types of marketing activities that will be most effective for your law firm will directly correlate with the area of the legal market you serve.

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