it is, Where it fits in
About half of the attorneys we talk
to, and by extrapolation, presumably half the attorneys perusing this web
site, have an affliction called "advertising on the brain". Its chief symptom
is a form of word association syndrome. We say market research, they respond
advertising; we say practice development planning, they say we don't need
to advertise; we say data based practice development, they say clients find
us without advertising; we say ham and Swiss on rye, they say ... - you get
the picture. Advertising is the last part of the practice development process.
You should consider it only after the other fundamentals of your plan are
in place. To consider advertising early on in the process creates the risk
that it will be over emphasized.
There are three
elements in the definition of advertising:
1 - Stand where
they can see you,
2 - Tell them what they're looking at,
3 - Tell them what's in it for them.
Under this definition, when your
senior partner arranges a golf game with the general manager of a potential
client, how she introduces herself is "advertising". Consider how her conversation
during the round would be different if she was in a foursome with the managers
of three homeless shelters.
Keep advertising in perspective.
That perspective is defined by your practice development plan.
The idea of advertising is itself
"sold" to us. Law practitioners are customers for a media advertising industry
with a paradoxical reality about its inventory. The advertising industry's
inventory is almost infinitely elastic. (Contrary to our business, where we
can "sell" each hour only once.) They can stretch it out almost forever. If
this doesn't seem accurate, take a stopwatch to your local evening news and
time out sold ads, the teasers and everything that is designed to influence
your behavior as a viewer or consumer and is not the direct transfer of the
information we call "news". The more competitors advertise, the greater the
pressure we feel to advertise. And thus the "need" to advertise is sold. Under
the traditions of our profession, if no one advertised, no one would "need"
There are many forms of advertising
within our definition. For law practice developers, the best way to categorize
these forms is from the perspective of the person receiving the message.
For those in the business of selling advertising services, the best way to
categorize them is by what you have to sell. For example, the practice development
planner might categorize advertising based on whether the recipient has consented
to receipt of the message (example, newsletters) or not (example, television
spot) he or she is considering. The planner considering two forms of consensual
message advertising might weigh whether the firm should produce and send a
newsletter to a large group of clients or disseminate the same information
by posting it to a web site and then sending select clients shorter and cheaper
letters alerting them to a posted article of interest. Considering these two
options, if an advertising salespersons is promoting either newsletter services
or web sites but not both, they will follow human nature and likely see benefit
in the one they have to sell and not see benefit in the other. This is one
of the reasons why the practice development plan comes first and why advertising
salespeople are not good practice development planners.
Advertising goods and services
are usually sold by someone who sees advertising as part of the solution
to a lawyer or law firm who views advertising as part of the problem.
In this dichotomy there is the real
risk of confusion. This is true whether the advertising is in the form of
coupons on the back of supermarket receipts or sponsoring the libretto for
La Boehme. Look upon practice development planning as a continuum,
with one end called "efficient plan", the other end is "confusion". Advertising
serves those who pay for it to take the business they call their law practice
where they, not the salesperson or the market, choose it to go. This is why
the planning process must precede the implementation of any advertising programs.
Advertising advice from someone who
has not carefully considered your practice development plan has a less than
even chance of being cost effective. You may have revealed your plan in general
discussion but without substantial law practice experience, they likely won't
get it. The subtleties of law practice development greatly outweigh the presumption
that all lawyers are alike. Be as suspicious of a proponent of any particular
form of advertising who proposes before he or she listens and studies as of
a physician who diagnoses and treats before he or she examines.
As an exercise, tinker together and discuss a practice development plan
that doesn't use any media advertising at all. This means no Yellow Pages,
no television, broadcast or cable, no billboards, no radio spots and nothing
else that gets the attention of potential clients that didn't ask for the
information. In discussions of this imaginary plan consider alternative ways
that those who don't know you will come to identify who you are, what you
do and how your services can benefit them by the means available to you.
If you have enough people participating in this exercise, divide the group
into two segments and have one do a no media advertising plan and the other
do a plan that is media only. This group can't use newsletters, seminars
or public speaking, published articles, public relations techniques or the
like. Both teams must work toward the same practice development goals. The
only difference is the communications tools available to them.
The purpose of this exercise is to
put advertising in its place. Whether your firm provides white collar criminal
defense inside the beltway or personal injury services in Detroit, all advertising,
including media advertising, is only one of the tools your practice development
planners have to work with.
Create a form for distribution to all the stakeholders in your firm and
a select group individuals who match the demographics of a target clientele.
Choose friends, relatives of spouses, but not other lawyers or law office
stakeholders. Mail it out and ask that they fill out and return it as a favor.
This won't be especially accurate, but will suffice for demonstration purposes.
On the form put a single 10 cm. vertical
line. This line is your "advertising media comfort" continuum. Label one
of the lines "I feel comfortable" and the other end of the line is "Gives
me the willies". Somewhere else on the form create a list of advertising media,
methods and presentations. Try to include any advertising tool that pops
up in a brainstorming session. In addition to the obvious (TV spots, seminars)
include the not so obvious (little league sponsorship, articles in newspaper,
whatever). Put these in random order and label them with letters of the alphabet.
Ask the respondent to write in the letter for each idea somewhere on the
line corresponding to their feelings.
The line is 10 centimeters long so
you can easily score the answers. Take the metric side of a ruler and lay
it along the line with "0" at the "comfortable" end. Create a tally sheet
with a line for each element. On the tally sheet, write down each distance
in centimeters (score) for the corresponding letter. Keep one tally sheet
for the respondents who manage the firm, one for the rest of the stakeholders
and one for everyone else. When you've entered all the measurements, average
them for each tally sheet and for all the respondents. (Don't, however, do
an average of averages. This won't work.)
What you'll end up with is a ranking
of elements, overall and by your three categories of respondents. You'll
also end up with weighted comfort levels.
This exercise is not to validate
advertising media options. It is to examine how the views of the firm's
managers differ from its other stakeholders and potential clients. This exercise
does not tell you conclusively how effective these various options will be.
The benefit will be in the demonstration of the differences between the categories
Please call, mail, or
with your comments or for more information.
Advocates Management, Inc.
1332 South 26th Street
Manitowoc, WI 54220
Voice: (877) ADVOCATES (toll free)
Fax: (920) 684-4414
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