November 17, 2017 Dialogue

Marketing the Smaller LRS: What Works? What Doesn’t?

By Lida Sideris

As the director of a smaller sized Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), I have one item perpetually on my mind: marketing. How can we raise awareness of our program in the community so that (ideally) we're the first place someone will call to find legal assistance? As you may imagine, this is a constant trial and error, and work-in-progress.

Our competitors consist of private attorneys with deep pockets to spend on promotion, as well as larger entities (think NOLO) with even deeper pockets. Where does that leave those of us who fall in the modest pocketbook category? Besides providing flyers to the local courts and nonprofits, here's a sampling of what's worked:

  1. At least once a year (as time permits), we hit the pavement. We're located in a downtown area, which means we're surrounded by private businesses, government offices, etc. We visit these places, hand out cards/flyers, and introduce ourselves and our service. This usually generates calls immediately, then slows. Hence the need for repetition.
  2. We created an LRS display case in the foyer of our public library. These library cases highlight nonprofits. Our month-long display generated quite a bit of activity, which means we'll be doing this again in 2018.
  3. Local social security offices insert our LRS info into their resource handouts. We've received many calls as a result of this effort. Inclusion involved finding the head of each social security office and making direct contact.
  4. We were featured as nonprofit of the week a few years ago on a local, web-based news service. It cost nothing and we still receive calls.

What hasn't worked:

  1. Letters to targeted neighborhoods: we sent about three hundred short letters, an experiment in "soft" branding where we didn't include our logo, but explained our program in a friendly, informal tone, and included a business card/flyer. Callers periodically tell us they have our card/flyer, but don't recall where they got it. Maybe the letters were the source? Hard to know for certain.
  2. Radio ads: Our first ad was done in a smaller community for two weeks and generated a handful of calls. Of those, one had potential, but was ultimately declined by the LRS attorney. The following year, we tried again with an ad on a local NPR station. There were no noticeable results.

Unfortunately, there's no one, push-button marketing strategy that works. It takes multiple strategies to spread the word.

Lida Sideris

Executive Director, Santa Barbara County Bar Association

Lida Sideris is the executive director of the Santa Barbara County Bar Association and the author of Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters, a light-hearted mystery novel.