Articles Posted in Ask The Marketing Attorney Mailbag

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Dear MAM: It is budget time at our firm. How do you go and ask for more marketing money? Sincerely yours, Cynthia L., San Francisco, CA

Dear Cynthia: First, make sure you ask about your salary increase. Worry about the firm budget later. The most important thing is to provide a concise overview of the previous year(s) spending and how it impacted the firm. I’m not talking about pure ROI, but simply showing what you spent and what you got. I also always assume that I will not get everything I need. So, break down and prioritize-showing everything you must have, would love to have, and in a perfect world would have. Let them see the menu and choose. If you do it right, they should give your budget a bump. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

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Dear MAM: We are a small firm. How much should we spend on getting a logo designed? Sincerely yours, Ellen M., San Diego, CA

Dear Ellen: I’ve worked with firms on logo/brand development budgets that range from $199 to tens of thousands of dollars. You need to keep a few things in mind – this is your identity (so if it looks cheap or chintzy, so do you); it should last forever, or close to it (Sears just changed its logo for the third time in about 120 years); keep in mind when and where you will use it, and how much it will cost to replicate; have outside forces help you (you are too close to the action); and make sure the decision-making process includes multiple people within the firm, possibly clients, your marketing team, and the logo design people (who generally know design, not how it incorporates into your business model and strategies). Also keep in mind that most law firms do limited advertising, meaning that the chances of a symbol or too-clever graphic being truly branded is slim and usually none. During a recent logo exercise, I asked a senior partner which law firm logo-anywhere in the world-was his favorite. He said that absolutely none came to mind. I told him his answer was correct. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

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Dear MAM: We are putting together a marketing plan and budget for next year. How important is public relations in the overall scheme of things? Sincerely, Monica S., Arlington, VA

Dear Monica: I have preached for many years that PR is one of the most underutilized and valuable components in any business development arsenal. Now, I have a slight bias in that I started my professional career as a public relations person–long before law school came calling. However, I’ve always argued that a strong PR effort will have a greater impact than any advertising or promotion–be it print, electronic, speaking or otherwise.

While good PR still ends up costing some coin, in the long-term it allows for some level of ROI (i.e. is our firm getting play? Did a press matter generate a lead?) for evaluating whether your effort is successful. The flip side is that truly good PR takes some time. The company that offers quick hits is usually more “fly by night” than those that put training, strategy, preparation and proper placement into play.

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Dear MAM: The partners at my firm allow me to attend one major marketing conference per year. Which one should I choose? Sincerely, J.C., Washington, DC

Dear J: If you are like most law firm marketers, you will choose the best location and lie about attending the sessions. Hmmm…Florida, Arizona, California, London? If you really care about learning something, you will probably forego the vacation and look for a good educational experience. You are unlikely to learn anything great at the LMA Conferences. I attend, but only to schmooze. It is the same re-packaged elementary techniques year after year. They try, but LMA is losing steam and ground-both in local chapters and nationally. The new PM Forum North America has lots of programs and offers an alternative to LMA. I used to recommend the Marketing Partner Forum, back in the day when Julie Savarino ran one of the nation’s premier events. However, it slipped when it became a Glasser Legal Works event and Glasser is now owned by Findlaw, so it has slipped even further (product pitches!). There have been some decent events put on by North Star Conferences and by Mealeys of late. I saw an excellent program coming up in Australia, but that might be pushing your budget. Of course, I always push my non-profit programs on behalf of the ABA Law Practice Management. At the ABA Annual Meeting in Atlanta, I’m doing a marketing ethics program. Our section is also doing an outstanding PR Crisis Management program. These are designed for CLE and all the time and money is donated. Many of the best overall events are not geared toward law firms, but general marketing programs put on by the likes of the American Marketing Association. As a matter of fact, the best programs I’ve attended this year were webinars that cost absolutely nothing! So, here is my advice. Attend a few free webinars and look for some cost-effective programs in your backyard (lots of good ones in DC) to learn. Stay away from those designed to sucker law firms and learn from real marketers. Then take the boondoggle “marketing conference” of your choice in a nice location and relax. After all, those partners are tough. You’ve earned the break. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

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Dear MAM: A I recently went out on my own as a solo. I’m trying to decide whether it is worth ponying up for an ad in my local yellow pages. What is your take on yellow pages advertising? Sincerely, James S., Milwaukee, WI

Dear James: I know many attorneys that have continuously spent big bucks on yellow pages advertising. Trust me, if they were not getting results that made the purchase profitable, they would not be re-upping for annual commitments that can run close to six-figures in certain markets.

Yellow Pages advertising for lawyers are pricey and competitive. The sales reps for many of these outfits (there are now so many yellow-papered directories with choices and options that you need a rocket scientist to figure it all out) rarely make it easier to compare apples with apples, not to mention get a listing of price quotes and options. I recently dealt with a Verizon rep in one of my law firm customer’s markets that never gave me a straight answer on deadlines, prices or options. When the proofs arrived, they were wrong. Yet, in many markets, the books have the lawyers convinced they have no choice but to do as they are told! Pay up, shut up and be happy you get in the book. If it was up to me, he would have lost the business. Lucky for him.

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Dear MAM: An attorney I work for recently was named to Philadelphia Magazine’s Super Lawyers list. He thinks it is a big deal and wants me to heavily promote it. What are your thoughts on this, and what would you do with it? Sincerely, Name Withheld, Philadelphia, PA

Dear Nameless in Philly: Aaahhhh, the great lawyer ego stroke. It is big, big business. There are so many great honors for lawyers to buy advertising and books for-super lawyers, top attorneys, super-duper lawyers, unbelievably great lawyers, Who’s who of “name your practice” in “name your state”…I could go on and on, and I’m sure you can check today’s mail for a related solicitation of some kind. The attorney probably has at least one ballot on his desk to nominate peers and cast a vote as well.

I certainly do not want the folks at SuperLawyers to think that I’m picking on them. They are doing what you can find in those special advertorial sections of almost every legal magazine these days. Putting together a survey, naming as many lawyers at as many law firms as possible, and selling those great self-congratulatory ads. One colleague told me how he personally called everyone on the nomination ballot to make sure he got as high a score as possible on this recent PA SuperLawyers survey. I perused the list and saw plenty of people that I know are very good and some that are very lame. It is not that exclusive a club-for Pennsylvania, 1500 lawyers in 50 practice areas were named SuperLawyers. You’ve got to make sure you get a bunch of lawyers from every big firm, so you can get a big ad sold.

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Dear MAM: How do I determine what percentage of my advertising budget goes to yellow pages, radio, tv, cable, newspaper, billboards, etc? Is there a proven formula that works for attorneys? Can you show me what works? Sincerely, Connie P., Parts Unknown

Dear Connie: First of all, anyone that gives you an answer to this question is as a fortune cookie might say, “one without clue.” While people throw around percentages ranging from 2-5%, the reality is that appropriate budgeting is going to be based on more factors than I’m willing to discuss. You do not tell me how big your firm is, how long you’ve been practicing, what the practice areas are, the types of clients you are looking for…I could go on and on. To give you another example, in the “real business world”, the amounts spent on advertising in the first few years can be more than your total revenue. It is about building buzz, a customer base, name and brand recognition. For my law marketing business, I spent more than I took in during the first year. The goal was not revenue, but establishing the business. In year two, I cut back on marketing spending and focused on revenue. In year three, I now look for a balance. Anyway, my point is that you need to develop a short and long-term plan, and then decide effective ways to spend the allotted budget. Thanks for writing. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY