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Andy Cullwick

Head of Marketing, First4Lawyers

Successful marketing comes at a price

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Successful marketing comes at a price

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Competition in the legal market is getting fiercer; Andy Cullwick discusses why investment in marketing, analysis, and managing your firm's message are key to turning

Much has changed in the 30 years since law firms were first allowed to market their services. Data-driven targeted multi-dimensional marketing campaigns have replaced adverts in the Yellow Pages and local newspapers.

But, while tactics and strategies may have changed to make the most of the many routes to market, there is more competition than ever, with over 10,000 firms in England and Wales all competing for clients.

In a crowded marketplace, differentiation is key. Clearly providing a great service is a good start, but every firm needs to market itself and not all can rely on word of mouth in an ever-competitive world. Equally, not all firms have a bottomless pot of money for marketing services and people. So, what can be done?

Who are you?

As a starter, firms need to begin with their key messages to the market. No-nonsense decisions need to be made about what the firm is, what it wants to be, and what its unique selling point is. Is it the biggest local firm; the largest regional firm; the best corporate firm; the friendliest family firm; the expert firm, focused on a particular sector or practice area; or the no-nonsense corporate firm? Is it regional with big city expertise at local prices, or international with local knowledge and expertise?

Decisions also need to be made about what is being offered and to whom. Sometimes the trickiest task is identifying how to differentiate the firm from all the others offering similar services to the same potential client set.

With consumers changing the way they research products and services, firms need to mirror this in how and where they present information and how prospective clients can communicate with them to find out more. There's no point advertising locally if your clients are multinational companies. And what's the point in a full-day conference if your target clients are more likely to attend a webinar or after-work seminar?

Marketing comes at a price, regardless of whether services are provided in-house (by a specialist or partner), by an agency, or by a marketing collective. And then there is
the issue of where marketing budgets are kept. There are variations between firms
with the luxury of an overall marketing budget that is managed, driven, and overseen by a marketing director, all the way through to a managing partner who wears a marketing hat, along with many others, and assigns marketing spend according to need. Whatever
the setup, marketing is a cost to the business and partners want to see a direct return on their investment, usually in the form of new business leads.

Our personal injury (PI) marketing whitepaper showed that the amount firms spent on advertising grew 182 per cent from £27m in 2010 to £76m in 2014. Put another way, this was £208,000 per day or £2.41 per second. TV and digital marketing topped spend with newspapers and radio in third and fourth place but collectively accounting for a third of TV marketing spend.

The average spend per business went up 147 per cent in just four years from £128,117 in 2010 to £315,810 in 2014. Unsurprisingly, a small number of organisations dominated the market in terms of amount of money spent. The ten highest- spending firms accounted for 85 per cent of the total and law firms represented 30 per cent of the overall pot. Marketing collectives spent an average of £2.5m a year each.

A key message from our research was that marketing requires much more significant investment to ensure you stand out. To become a top ten advertiser in the PI market, firms need to spend in excess of £1m a year. To compete at all in the PI market requires a minimum £350,000 investment, and that's before adding production and delivery costs. But not every firm has access to such budgets.

Profiling consumers

At the heart of any successful marketing activity is the ability to measure and attribute results. Solicitors are increasingly looking for cost-effective marketing solutions and value for money. 

Over the past two years, we reviewed our website presence, TV campaigns, and digital marketing structure and fundamentally reviewed how and where we go to market.

The lesson here is that you can clearly articulate specialist areas of practice and profile the right people to say how you can help a client, but appearing in the right place, at the right time, and with the right product can be the big difference. It's a matter of being clever about how you manage your messages, your marketing budget, and where you invest. 

Andy Cullwick is head of digital and marketing at First4Lawyers @andycullwick www.first4lawyers.com 

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