Diane E. Hamlin responds:
It is tempting to succumb to the theory that if Firms A, B, C and D are advertising in a particular publication, than we, Firm E, need to advertise there as well. In the inimitable words of comedian Jon Stewart, "Not so much."
Here's the thing. Your competitors are, undoubtedly, all well-intentioned and well-respected colleagues in your community of peers. Having said that, you need to ask yourself why Firm C is advertising in this particular publication. The scary, honest answer? It may be because they met with an advertising sales representative who was eloquent about the importance of being in this publication because Firms A and B were in there. This is a favorite tactic of salespeople who, when hanging out with you and not trying to sell you something, will tell you that individuals buy for only two reasons: They either want to gain something or they're afraid of losing something. Sales representatives are preying on your fear of losing mindshare or market share to these "hipper, slicker" competitors. Don't drink the Kool-Aid, folks.
Here are some questions you want to ask yourself in considering advertising in a particular publication.
- What are my objectives in placing these advertisements?
- Do I have, or can I develop, creative materials that support those objectives? Far too many advertisements, placed with the best of intentions, suffer from "development by committee," or worse, development by a well-intended non-advertising professional who "has a flair for design." This is not the place to be penurious with your marketing dollars. If you're going to go the advertising route, you and your firm deserve the advantage of pursuing it with the best possible materials that you can develop.
- Do I have any evidence that other law firm ads have been effective in this publication? I'm not suggesting that your firm should only consider booking ad space in a publication where other law firms are buying, too. I am suggesting that you should absolutely do your homework. Get a media kit from the publication and spend some time analyzing the circulation, geographic penetration and demographic. Be especially wary of free, or controlled circulation, publications that have not performed an audit on their circulation and readership.
- Can Firms A through D track any new business inquiries that have resulted from being seen in this publication?
- How will I feel when the only result of six months of advertising every other month is that two of my colleagues from Firms F and G say, "Great ad, we're talking about doing that"?
I don't mean to suggest that you should only consider the "usual suspects" when considering buying advertising. You can gain market share and differentiate by advertising in a new publication that is target-rich for your practice, or in an industry publication that similarly mirrors your potential client base. Geographic publications may also hold some promise for your firm depending on what law you practice and where. To plan, execute and place a successful advertising campaign, you need to be fearless, committed, passionate and smart at every single turn.