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Traditional vs. Digital Advertising: Striking a Balance

By Mike Ramsey

It isn’t always easy for law firms to keep up with constantly evolving marketing trends. Time spent researching the latest channels and strategies means less time focused on cases and clients. For many, this results in sticking with familiar advertising strategies that have worked in the past.

This is a risky strategy because the way consumers research and purchase legal services has changed.

We’ve worked on marketing strategies for law firms across the spectrum: Some spend most of their marketing and advertising budget on TV commercials or radio. Others are convinced that billboard advertising works for them, and spend most of their budget there. Some law firms have never used digital advertising, or have invested very little in it compared with traditional advertising.

In the interest of helping your firm stay visible, let’s explore the pros and cons of traditional and digital advertising, as well as the benefits of a balanced strategy.

Traditional Law Firm Advertising

Traditional law firm advertising includes:

  • Broadcast (television, radio)
  • Direct mail
  • Outdoor (billboards)
  • Print (newspapers, magazines)

Pros of Traditional Advertising

  • Access. It allows for easy access to a local audience.
  • Tangibleness. People may keep items like newspapers or magazines and see your ads again later.
  • Memory retention. Retention for messaging in tangible items may be greater due to the engagement of spatial memory networks.

Cons of Traditional Advertising

  • Targeting. It can be difficult to expand beyond the local area for some mediums. Demographics, interests and behavior targeting are also limited. With billboards, for example, the strategy is mostly “spray and pray.” With a visible placement, the hope is that a few of the views turn into clients and a positive ROI.
  • Tracking/Attribution: How many clients have you definitively received from your billboard or radio ad? It’s likely you have received some, but nearly impossible to nail down the ROI for traditional channels.
  • CPM (cost per thousand impressions). We’ll outline a comparison later. (Spoiler alert: Traditional ads are expensive.)
  • Cost to update. Did your firm recently begin offering free consultations? Bring on new hires or make staff changes? Receive a prestigious award? The cost of updating your existing marketing and advertising materials can be high.

Traditional advertising will always have its place in a solid marketing strategy. The local exposure helps your branding. Direct mail and print media likely improve brand memory. However, the limitations are considerable. By now, it should be obvious why it’s not wise to put all (or even most) of your eggs in the traditional marketing basket. These channels come with a hefty price tag while severely lacking in ROI data and targeting abilities.

Digital Advertising

Digital advertising includes:

  • Search ads (Google Ads, Bing Ads)
  • Social media ads (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn)
  • Display ads (Google Display Network, banner ads)
  • Video (YouTube)

Pros of Online Advertising

  • Targeting. You have local and national targeting options.
  • Interaction. Individuals can click on your ad and be taken to a webpage of your choosing, or they can comment, like or share your ad.
  • Direct intent. With platforms like Google Ads you can display ads to individuals at the very moment they are proactively looking for legal services like yours.
  • Immediate results. Digital ads can be launched on the same day if desired, and you can begin to see measurable clicks, views and engagement almost immediately.
  • Tracking. Unlike traditional mediums, digital allows you to see exactly how many people viewed your ad, at what rate they are engaging with it, and the ROI data.
  • Agility. As your services, brand messaging, team or anything else changes, so can your ads. The ability to change ads as frequently as needed is huge for fast-paced firms. And while it’s not free, the cost is significantly lower than traditional advertising.
  • Virality. Viewers can easily share your ad, video or website with friends or family in need of your legal services.

Cons of Online Advertising

  • Time-consuming. Managing digital campaigns is no joke, not least because data is real-time and bids are constantly changing. Staying on top of these campaigns is rewarding but a properly managed account is not for the faint of heart.
  • Fast-paced evolution. Google, Facebook, YouTube and others are constantly releasing new updates to their ad platforms. As the rules change and features improve, so must advertising strategies. It takes constant monitoring and attention to stay on the leading edge of each platform.

More on Targeting and CPM

The demographic, behavioral, geographic and interest targeting — as well as the amount of data generated by digital advertising — is unprecedented. Targeting can be controlled at a national or local level, which can lead to some pretty creative campaigns for lawyers. For example, we have seen fantastic results for a family law attorney who advertises at a national level to people who need to resolve their cases in his hometown.

A final comparison to address is the CPM of traditional versus digital ads. According to statistics from the Outdoor Association of America (source), digital ads have among the lowest CPM available. If you consider the fact that the percentage of qualified customers viewing your digital ads is exponentially higher (due to targeting abilities) than that of traditional ads, the contrast would be far greater.

It should be clear why we think digital ads should receive an equal, if not larger, investment than your traditional channels.

Your clients consume a wide variety of media every day. Where billboards and newspapers were commonplace in the past, phones, tablets and computers have quickly taken the spotlight. Within these devices, consumers are spending enormous amounts of time browsing Google, social media, YouTube and other websites.

Take a look at your current marketing budget. Are your ad dollars focused primarily in traditional marketing or a single advertising channel? How confident are you in the ROI of each strategy? Deploying channel diversity and maintaining an agile stance on advertising strategies is the way to ensure your law firm stays relevant and visible to potential clients.

More Digital Marketing Tips from Mike Ramsey

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Mike Ramsey Mike Ramsey

Mike Ramsey is President of Nifty Ventures and founder of Nifty Marketing and Nifty Law, which brings digital marketing, website design, SEO and content marketing to firms nationwide, and Managing Partner of Bold+Stone investments in Burley, Idaho.  One of the foremost authorities on local search, Mike is the author of “Winning at Local Search: The Nifty Guide to Digital Marketing for Lawyers” and a top-rated speaker at events such as Mozcon, Smx, Pubcon.

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