Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series. This part covers frequently asked questions for the mid-stage buyer.

The decision to retain a marketing partner is typically a three-legged journey. The previous article in this series discussed the initial, or early-stage, buying cycle and the common questions that law firm managers and decision-makers ask to determine if they should hire an outside marketing firm to help them reach their business goals.

This article will address the majority of questions that come up during the mid-stage buying phase – once firm management has a thorough understanding of what marketing truly is, and a marketing firm’s primary functions, compared to the roles of in-house administrative staff. At the mid-stage buying level, the key question is, “Will marketing really help our law firm, and is it worth the cost?” This is a valid question indeed, and following are several FAQs that come up when weighing the benefits and costs of marketing services.

Q: Why should our law firm spend money on marketing?

A: For the most part, law firms seek out marketing services to overcome challenges and/or seize opportunities by utilizing one or more of the following tactics:

  • Branding: Raising or strengthening the firm’s brand.
  • Generating leads: Increasing new business leads at the top-of-the-funnel.
  • Niche marketing: Tapping niche market segments.
  • Differentiation: Distinguishing one law firm from another.
  • Cross-selling: Generating additional business from existing clients in other practice areas.

A marketing partner can assist with all of the above services, and here is a deeper look at how each one can work for your law firm:

Branding

Whether your law firm is new to a geographic location or niche market, or perhaps it has simply gotten lost in the competition shuffle, marketing can elevate your firm’s position. Some tactics and tools that might be integrated and deployed are email campaigns, direct mail, social media, public relations, advertising, events, community involvement, sponsorships and more. Prior to any targeted outreach, a marketing partner will ensure that your law firm has clear, consistent and compelling messaging, and a memorable visual brand (logo, tagline, fonts and colors).

Leads

Top-of-the-funnel leads are realized when you become aware of a client prospect that is interested in learning more about one or more of your law firm’s practices or services. Marketing can drive these client leads through a wide range of initiatives and campaigns. A very effective and recommended technique is content marketing. Through providing online content of value, such as legal news and alerts, articles, blogs, etc., law firms and their attorneys become trusted, go-to resources that lead to the capture of information about the client prospect. This enables law firms to carefully guide these client prospects through the business development or sales cycle.

Niche Marketing

It’s critical to ensure that a marketing firm clearly understands the demographics and needs of your law firm’s target audiences. Effective marketing can position your firm to speak to and successfully meet the needs of these niche markets. This involves doing market research, developing detailed niche-specific marketing plans, driving those plans forward, and measuring results. Niche marketing is a highly effective strategy for competing with larger industry players as well as more general practice law firms.

Differentiation

Across the legal market, many law firms tend to look and sound the same. However, there is something unique about each and every firm; it just needs to be uncovered. A marketing partner can help identify what makes your firm and its attorneys stand out from the competition. If this point of differentiation is something that your clients value, then your firm is well on the way to differentiating itself from the crowd.

Cross-Selling

Many law firms have a roster of loyal clients; however, these clients are usually specific to particular attorneys in a certain practice area. These clients trust their attorneys and the firm, so why shouldn’t they trust the firm’s other practice areas and services for their other legal needs? Perhaps they just aren’t aware of all of the firm’s capabilities. Marketing a law firm’s full range of services will ensure that your clients are aware of all the firm’s offerings and the value that each one provides.

Q: How much does marketing cost?

A: Marketing is a core business function that is customized to meet the market dynamics, growth objectives and budget of a law firm. Higher competition and projected growth rates will require more marketing power, including people, collateral, campaigns and tools. An approximate rule of thumb is that law firms should invest between 2 percent and 5 percent of top-line revenue into their marketing programs. Law firms that are new to marketing will need to be more aggressive, so will likely need to spend more money in the beginning to build a solid infrastructure.

Q: How long does it take to see results from marketing?

A: Marketing is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s possible that law firms could realize new business immediately because there is often low-hanging fruit just ripe for the picking. Marketing’s impact, however, is typically longer-term with the benefits being cumulative over time. Various initiatives and campaigns laid out in a tactical marketing plan will work together over a certain time period to achieve a return on investment. One year is a reasonable amount of time to see measurable results. However, it is important to remember that the return on marketing investment will be contingent upon the budget, market dynamics and the quality of the marketing plan and program.

As these FAQs covered the mid-stage cycle in purchasing marketing services, the final article in this three-part series will offer specifics surrounding the late-stage buying cycle.

Debra Andrews is president and owner of Marketri LLC, a Doylestown, Pa.-based full-service professional services marketing firm specializing in inbound marketing solutions that focus on lead generation through integrating content marketing with social media and search engine optimization. Marketri provides results-driven marketing solutions for small to mid-size B2B and professional services companies, including law firms.