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In my last blog post, I discussed why “The biggest spenders win” isn’t always true. A lot of times, that concept is really a myth.

When you spend big, you may be spending big for no reason. That spending may come in the form of your money, your time, or both.

Because that concept is a myth, it’s important for attorneys to take a moment to assess the use of their law firm’s marketing budget. What are you investing in, how are you investing, and how much are you investing in your law firm’s marketing?

The best way to check if you’re spending your money and time wisely is to know whether whether you’re spending your time and money on assets or expenses.

But when it comes to law firm web marketing, how do you know which is which?

The two ways attorneys invest in their law firm web marketing

The two things you can invest in your law firm are your time and your money. Sometimes attorneys have more of one than the other. New attorneys, for example, often have much more time than they do money. (That may seem like a downside, but we’ll discuss later how an attorney in that position can use their time to benefit their firm.) Attorneys who have an established practice may not have time to spend on their marketing, but they do have the money to invest in it.

Whether it’s your time or your money that you’re investing into your practice, the question becomes: how do you invest it? How do you invest those things efficiently? Because, if you’re investing your time or your money into something that doesn’t move the needle for your law firm, you’re not just throwing away that time or your money. There’s also an opportunity cost.

For example, if you’re throwing your marketing budget into disposable advertising such as pay-per-click, it’s not as simple as the idea that you’re just spending money on those ads. You’re spending your money on something that doesn’t have any long-term value when you could be investing in something that appreciates, instead. It’s a missed opportunity.

The money is spent once it’s spent, whether or not the resulting clicks turn into qualified potential clients for your firm. You may also be spending your time on a form of advertising that has a high degree of uncertainty. PPC may not help you connect with potential clients. You could be using your time to invest in an asset that you can build on. The way that you invest your time and money has a cost that goes beyond the question of what you’re investing in. You may also want to ask what you might be giving up in the process.

The difference between assets and expenses in online legal marketing

So, before you start investing your time and money in your law firm’s marketing, ask yourself: Am I investing in an asset or am I investing in an expense? When you do, you can save yourself from making poor marketing decisions that are a waste of your efforts. Here’s how you can tell the difference.

What assets look like in online legal marketing

An online legal marketing asset is likely to have the following features.

It has long-term value. Unlike a pay-per-click ad, an online legal marketing asset has a value that goes beyond the moment in which it’s used (or, in this case, clicked on). A good example of this is a blog post. Let’s say you’re a DUI attorney and you write a blog post about, “The difference between a DUI/DWI/OUI.” You make a time investment to write it (or a money investment if someone else writes it for you). Once you’ve written and published that blog post, potential clients who are, for example, making related Google searches may come upon that blog post. If they read what you write and it helps them better understand the difference between those acronyms, they’ve learned something useful.They may continue reading other blogs that you’ve written. When they engage with that content, they may be more likely to contact your firm when they’ve decided that you are an authority, care about their problem, and are the right person to help them.

You own it. This is an important distinction as there are situations in which an attorney may believe they’re contributing to an asset. And they are — it just belongs to someone else, which often puts attorneys at a disadvantage when they decide to stop contributing to that source. When attorneys invest in something that they do not own, it allows others to take advantage of their hard work. An example of this might be an attorney who answers client questions on an online legal directory. Answering client questions can be useful for attorneys to build their client base, but attorneys need to make sure they’re doing it within a forum that they own to avoid the possibility of having the attorney’s work leveraged for someone else’s gain.

It has market value. Blog posts and substantive law firm website content continue working for your law firm long after you’ve created that content. (Keep in mind that to see the value of that content, it must be created and published on a regular basis.) Not only can that content keep working for your law firm while you practice, it can have an additional benefit for you when you’re ready to close your practice. When you invest in an asset like a law firm website and blog, and it drives business to your firm, it becomes something that you can sell because it may have value for other lawyers.

What online marketing expenses look like for attorneys

An online legal marketing expense, on the other hand:

Does not have long-term value. Expenses are often “one and done” investments. Regardless of the outcome of the investment (Did your firm get new clients?) the money has been spent. Pay-per-click advertisements are a good example of this, even when thinking about their name: You pay for the click, not necessarily for the client. Clicks can come from possible potential clients, they can be accidental, and they can even be your competitors. Regardless of what happens after that click, you’ll be spending money on something that may not benefit your firm.

Other examples of one-and-done investments include:

  • Print ads (Newspaper, Yellow Pages, magazines)
  • Television and radio spots
  • Banner ads and remarketing
  • Billboards

Does not have market value. Because it does not have long-term value or someone else owns it, you can’t sell it.

Here’s an infographic that sums up the differences between an online marketing asset or expense:

assets

The best way for attorneys to invest in law firm online marketing

Attorneys don’t have to spend thousands of dollars a month on their online marketing to make it work for their firm. And they don’t have to spend hours and hours with frustrating DIY website solutions, either. The best way for attorneys to invest in their law firm’s online marketing is to take a content-based approach that helps them reach — and resonate with — their potential clients. There are no secrets to online legal marketing. But, if you don’t understand how clients actually find attorneys online, you may take a reactive approach to your marketing. That can leave you investing in expenses rather than building an asset for yourself and your firm.

Want to learn more about effective law firm marketing?

If you’re tired of expensive or time-consuming online legal marketing solutions that don’t bring a steady flow of new clients to your firm, let’s talk. Visit our consultation page to schedule our call.