There's no single perfect marketing plan that will work for every single law firm in every specialty area. However, there are many ways to create a marketing plan that will never—or almost never—work for your firm. In this guide, we'll take a look at seven different ways that many law firms mess up their marketing plans. These common pitfalls can bring down even an otherwise good marketing plan, so make sure you check this guide before deciding to implement a new strategy.
#1: Set Unrealistic Expectations
One of the worst things that attorneys can do in their marketing plans is to set expectations that they have no way of achieving. Unrealistic expectations are almost always caused by attorneys who don't take the market into account. This is 2013, not 2007—you can't expect to have the same business levels today that you might have had if your firm started out years ago. Right now, many attorneys are competing for a limited number of clients, and you'll need to understand that to plan effectively.
Unrealistic expectations can also be reflected in attorneys who think that they can outcompete much more experienced competitors without anything value added. You'll need to work extremely hard to build your business at the start—it's a very unrealistic expectation to think that you can implement a marketing plan at a new law firm without working long hours.
#2: Do It All Yourself
There's no need to do all of your marketing work on your own. It can often be a good idea to consult with a marketing firm to help you implement your marketing plan. If your firm is too small to hire a part or full time social media coordinator or marketing director, you should consider discussing your needs with marketing firms that specialize in helping attorneys market their services.
Doing everything on your own may seem like a good way to save money, but the truth is that it can often end up costing much more in the long run. The difference is in lost business. While you're still using trial and error to figure out how to make your marketing plan work, a firm that used a marketing firm to help them will already have taken off and will be well ahead of you in search rankings.
#3: Use Puffery and Overselling
New attorneys are often tempted to oversell their experience, making a few months of a law school clinical experience seem like a full time job with extensive experience. In addition to being unethical, this kind of puffery is likely to lead to clients being dissatisfied.
There's nothing wrong with just starting out—you're better off being honest about being young and new than having it found out later. You can't fool all of the people all of the time, and you're better off underselling yourself and impressing your clients beyond what they could have expected.
#4: Rely Exclusively on Paid Ads and Paid Search
When attorneys begin using online marketing techniques, they often initially rely on paid advertisements through search keywords. However, if you rely completely on these methods for your marketing, you will soon find that they may not be as fruitful as you had hoped. Only a small number of people actually click through paid search advertisements. Organic search results are much more effective over the long haul.
However, they're also harder to get. This means that the ideal strategy involves initially buying a larger number of paid ads, and then slowly ramping down your paid advertising keyword presence as your website becomes better in organic search results.
#5: Keep Your Website The Same
One of the ways that Google can evaluate a website for quality content is by checking when the website was most recently updated. If your website is kept the same for a very long time, you'll have several problems. For one thing, clients may see an older website without recent updates as being, for all intents and purposes, dead—they may wonder if you're even still available to call. It's also important to make sure that you're updating any time the law changes, so that you're not giving potential clients outdated or possibly misleading information.
Second, when Google sees that someone has not updated their website in some time, it starts lowering your search rankings in favor of content that is more recently updated. This means that you'll slowly decline in popularity compared to your competitors—and that's a surefire route toward a law firm that can't remain competitive in the increasingly tight legal market.
#6: Be Boring and Generic
The best way to have a marketing plan fail in 2013 is to look and sound exactly like everybody else. Without any kind of brand presence that makes you unique, your marketing plan will be dead on arrival. You need to focus on something that makes you who you are, whether that's your specific experience, a legal specialty that you focus on, or the great customer service and business practices at your firm. Boring websites and boring marketing won't attract customers—don't waste your time or money creating something uncreative.
#7: Bury Your Head in the Sand
You should routinely do analytics on your web marketing strategies so that you can see what's working and what isn't. If you're burying your head in the sand, rather than trying to listen to the feedback you're getting both implicitly and explicitly, you'll be setting yourself up for a failing marketing plan.
Burying your head in the sand can often take the form of simply assuming that your fantastic marketing idea is working, even without any direct evidence that this is so. Don't let your confirmation bias get in the way of the facts—the sooner your analytics prove something is or isn't working, the more confidence you'll have in the next decisions you make about your marketing plan.