Why Law Firms Struggle With Marketing (and How To Succeed)

Legal Advice

To succeed, law firms need to attract new clients, and the only reliable way to ensure a steady stream of new, interested parties is through marketing and advertising. Unfortunately, most law firms struggle with marketing. They don’t know which strategies to use, they aren’t sure if their strategies are working, or they end up spending lots of money with no real measurable return.

So why is it that so many law firms struggle with marketing, and what can they do to succeed?

Lack of Expertise

First, law firms tend to have limited marketing expertise. Their leadership and staff members have a background in law and/or business, and may be exceptional in those fields—but without a marketing background, it’s hard to be successful in marketing.

This is especially true of complex strategies like search engine optimization, SEO for law firms, which relies on thousands of independent ranking factors working in harmony to facilitate higher search engine rankings. There are only a few ways to navigate this challenge, but many of them have significant drawbacks. For example, you could invest the time to learn marketing yourself, but this takes away from your core business. You could hire a full-time marketing expert, but this can be expensive. For most law firms, the best approach is to hire a professional marketing agency, specializing in whichever strategy you want to favor.

No Balance of Inbound and Outbound

Is it better to use inbound or outbound marketing to market your law firm? While some industries favor one strictly over the other, in the legal world, it’s best to maintain a balance. Inbound marketing strategies like content marketing and SEO are highly valuable for long-term results; they return your investment over a period of years and support similar strategies in a complementary fashion. Outbound strategies are faster and can help you get more visibility in the short-term, but their long-term ROI isn’t as good. Too many law firms focus exclusively on one of these categories, rather than balancing them and using them together.

Insufficient Budget

Law firms that are new to the marketing game are often cautious about investing in marketing and advertising. While this is, to some degree, understandable, it often leads to a less-than-favorable investment. Spending too little on marketing and advertising will yield poor results; either you won’t spend enough money to reach the visibility threshold you need, or you’ll get low-quality designs, articles, and other marketing materials, which might hurt your brand reputation more than they help.

You get what you pay for in marketing, assuming you’re working with a reputable agency. Don’t be afraid to spend a little more, if it means getting a higher ROI.

Indiscriminate Budget

That said, it’s also not a good idea to spend money recklessly. Law firms at the other end of the spectrum have massive marketing budgets, but spend nearly all of it on strategies that don’t work—or strategies they haven’t thought through. While a substantial marketing budget can be helpful, it’s only going to be effective if you have a high-level strategy to back it. Make sure you understand the nature of your brand and the highest-potential strategies before you start spending money.

Competition and Differentiation

There are something like 50,000 law firms currently in operation in the United States. That means there are probably at least a dozen in direct competition with you, and they might have marketing budgets bigger than yours, or a much longer history of marketing their business. This makes it extraordinarily difficult for new and emerging law firms to gain traction.

Fortunately, there are many ways to navigate this hurdle. Most of them depend on finding some way to differentiate your business, such as finding an alternative branding strategy, appealing to a different niche demographic, or marketing using new channels. No matter what, you’ll need to be aware of the strategies your competitors are using, and come up with a plan to counter them.

Lack of Measurement and Analysis

Just advertising your business isn’t enough. You need to measure and analyze your efforts if you’re going to get a decent return on your investment; otherwise, you’ll never know whether your efforts were successful, or which elements you could improve upon. The only solution here is to invest in a robust marketing dashboard or work with an agency, so you can measure your key performance indicators (KPIs) and accurately dissect your results.

Marketing is difficult for law firms, but it’s still a necessary element for their long-term success. Finding ways to compensate for, mitigate, or even eliminate these key challenges can put your law firm substantially ahead of the others—and the more experience you get, the more advantages you’ll gain.

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant from Olympia, WA. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, iMediaConnection.com and more. Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. You can follow her through the buttons below.