Some weeks ago we hosted a focus group lunch for Las Vegas solos and small firm lawyers. We wanted to hear first-hand from them the specific challenges they faced getting new clients.
We weren’t prepared for the degree of dependence on advertising they described, nor the amount of money they spend on it, nor the high percentage of their total marketing expenditure it represents. My partner and I both had an emotional reaction to this. We were sad to learn that they were wasting so much money for so little return and, by their own description, attracting a poor quality of client relative to what they need. (In many instances, “poor” was a literal term, i.e., those attracted to their ads had legal needs, but didn’t have any money to pay for them. While pro bono is a necessary and noble component of law practice, these particular lawyers weren’t in a financial position to help all those people.)
We were saddened because these very nice and earnest lawyers were wasting a lot of money and experiencing unnecessary frustration when there are so many other more effective and less costly ways to get found by the optimal client and establish a differentiated market position. In fact, most of these methods have a free, do-it-yourself version. It's easy to use editorial media to get found, and it's just one example of how to do this without spending a lot of money.
hugh macleod, of Cartoons Drawn on the Back of Business Cards fame, drew this acerbic, but apt, depiction of Word of Mouth expert Andy Sernovitz’s mantra on advertising:
“If people won’t talk about you for free, you have to pay them to do it.
There is a direct relationship between being buzzworthy — earning word of mouth — and how much you’ll have to pay to promote yourself through paid marketing.
Give people a reason to talk about you for free, or you’ll have to buy advertising to get the message out.
It’s easier, more fun, more rewarding, and more profitable to focus on being remarkable and earning the type of fans and followers who will promote you, for free, forever.”