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5 Red Flags When Hiring a Marketing Agency

by May 10, 2022

Do you have a marketing agency (or are you considering one) that seems to “do it all” with little to no involvement on your part? Lawyers are a busy bunch, and a one-stop-shop for marketing makes for an attractive solution to generating more business for your small law firm. But, at what point does a marketing agency become too good to be true? Read on for five red flags that should have you running the other way when considering a marketing agency.

Red Flag #1: They’re a “full-service” marketing solution

Let’s do a little exercise. First, consider the “nutrition label test” you may apply while grocery shopping: if you’re reading a nutrition label and can’t pronounce half the ingredients in a product, you probably shouldn’t put that in your body. Now, consider the laundry list of services your marketing agency is promoting. If you don’t understand or have heard of half of the services, you probably don’t need most of them. While packaged foods may be very different from your firm’s marketing, the message is the same. It’s important to care about what exactly is going into growing your business and what actors are involved.

Marketing agencies are really good at selling themselves– not only are they in the business of marketing, but they are also often in the business of positioning marketing as complicated and inaccessible. To create a dependency relationship with their clients, marketing agencies promote their one-stop-shop business model that often requires lawyers to surrender control by weaving themselves throughout all areas of their marketing. This often ends in frustration for attorneys when they realize the agency isn’t delivering on their numerous promises.

Red Flag #2: They offer a “link building” service

If your marketing agency rep tells you they can help your website rank on Google through “link building” or other “off-site optimization” tactics, run for the hills. Link building is not a viable SEO solution and can make your website vulnerable to punishment from Google by violating its guidelines.

Marketing agencies apply link building by linking their clients’ websites to each other or, unfortunately, using spam websites to link to your firm’s website. The idea is that if your firm’s website is listed on other websites, Google will recognize it as an authority. However, link building is an outdated SEO strategy that has long been debunked by Google. 

When making decisions about your firm’s marketing, focus on what you can both control and quantify while avoiding anything that is sold to you as a quick fix to ranking on Google.

Red Flag #3: They overcomplicate SEO and performance data

Marketing agencies can sometimes oversell attorneys on the difficulty of understanding and maintaining search engine optimization, convincing you that your business may fail without their help. 

If your marketing agency has ever made you feel as if SEO is an unbeatable beast, they aren’t interested in giving you the tools you need to grow your firm without a large stack of expenses. The two major elements of successful SEO are website content and user experience– the information on your website and how easy it is for your web visitors to consume them. Marketing agencies who overcomplicate this or try to sell you on expensive “solutions” that don’t specifically cater to either of those elements are unlikely to get you the results that you want from your website marketing.

Agencies might also cherry-pick or gatekeep your website’s performance data to keep you clueless as to whether your website is producing better leads and more cases. Ask your rep for your website’s Google Analytics data, which is data collected from your website by Google that gives insight into your traffic, bounce rate, what web pages are most popular on your site, and more. Attorneys, and more importantly their marketing agencies, should be monitoring this data to make informed decisions about their marketing. 

Your website data can help you make informed decisions about content creation: Let’s say you practice family law, and you discover that you have a high-performing blog post on the topic of alimony. The performance of this page could signal to you and your agency to create more content around the topic of alimony to drive traffic and leads, saving money, time, and resources. If your agency takes several days to provide your Google Analytics data or can’t provide it, this is a major red flag. Your website’s data is yours to review, and there should be no roadblocks to accessing it. In addition, your marketing agency shouldn’t require you to rely on their pre-packaged data “breakdown” to monitor your website’s performance.

Red Flag #4: Their price tag is high or fluctuates 

Most small law firms need to be strategic with their marketing budget to maximize their impact. This rarely aligns with the steep cost of marketing agencies that go beyond what’s needed for your website to be a successful marketing tool for your law firm. 

Beware of agencies that try to lock you into a long term contract with the promise of instant new business and a top ranking on Google, or that requires you to pay for services that go beyond your firm’s needs and the marketing goals you have set for yourself. 

Marketing agencies sometimes fluctuate their pricing, convincing you to increase your monthly spend to “boost” your SEO. The reality is, they already had full capability to make your website Google-friendly and consistently optimized and the extra spend isn’t likely to bring you any additional long-term ROI. 

Red Flag #5: You don’t feel prioritized

Haven’t heard from your marketing agency in months but you’re still paying a monthly retainer? You should be able to check in on your agency at any time to audit their progress and course-correct your strategy. If your agency provides social media marketing, they need to be in touch consistently to make sure the right messaging is delivered to potential clients. If you have any PPC (pay per click, paid advertising) campaigns, your agency needs to report the performance of these monthly and give context to your data that shows measurable impact of your spend.

Marketing strategy should reflect the current environment of your local market. For example, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were significantly fewer drivers on the road. If your marketing agency was still funneling your PPC budget into keywords for road collisions, they didn’t have their finger on the pulse. And if they didn’t even broach the subject with you about adjusting your PPC spend allocation, they probably aren’t giving your firm’s success much thought at all.

Another issue: agencies tend to have high turnover for their marketing reps. Even if they’re specialized in legal marketing, it can be hard for lawyers to keep their marketing goals on track if their account is changing hands too often. Good marketing is consistent and works best with a long-term mindset that doesn’t align with quick fixes that agencies often advertise. Constantly realigning your agency with your firm’s marketing goals or repeating your onboarding process can be counterproductive and frustrating. 

LawLytics makes marketing easy and puts you in control

Many attorneys lack the control over their websites that is necessary to make it a reliable tool for converting leads. LawLytics helps you develop a content-based SEO strategy to meet your firm’s goals efficiently all while using a platform designed specifically for lawyers. As a result, your small law firm will be able to ditch the expensive, limiting structure of marketing agencies. 

To experience LawLytics yourself, schedule an interactive 20-minute demo.

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