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The Mad Clientist

Surprise: Directories Not the Most Overrated Marketing Tactic

By May 17, 2017April 16th, 2020No Comments

Who knew?

Common wisdom would tell you the annual holiday card and rankings are the bane of a CMO’s existence. Not true. It turns out broad market outreach is the single most overrated and underperforming trend in marketing today. Our research with law firm marketing leaders shows broad market outreach must be especially unproductive as they see this as more overrated than rankings, which come in 2nd, with social media coming in 3rd. Here’s why:

1. Broad Market Outreach

Shouting out to a wide range of potential clients is tiring and deceptively expensive; yet, it’s 43% of the legal marketing budget. CMOs will tell you it has to be done because partners demand it (and it is easy to confuse having a large crowd on a webinar with marketing success). CMOs know this is not success—it is the tip of the iceberg in the work required to actually attract a new, meaningful client.

But let’s not pick on webinars solely. Broad market outreach includes brochures, sponsorships, monographs, and email alerts. If it’s nonspecific outreach it’s in here.

CMOs who have managed to limit their broad market outreach do so in small steps. They’ve found ways to convert practice leaders and partners to their way of thinking—one at time. These law firm marketing leaders keep detailed records on outreach bringing in clients versus outreach generating attendance. They then argue the partner is better off with clients than attendance. It may be a slow approach—but this is the long game which will win. And, once you persuade one partner to convert broad outreach to something more targeted, your 2nd conversion will be less difficult—and the 3rd will be less difficult yet.

2. The Biggest Surprise: Rankings Are Only the 2nd Most Overrated Trend

Rankings will haunt CMOs for their whole career because of the level of preparation required. Partners like to send the listings to clients to help branding. Firm leadership use rankings to show attorneys where they stand and how things may have changed. Attorneys especially relish having rankings in their bios and for proposals—the winners see them as one more point of differentiation.

Rankings can make certain clients feel better about hiring your firm or an attorney; however, rankings will rarely drive the hiring process. A number of clients may check attorney bios after they have made the hiring decision and feel a bit better when they see some sort of distinction. Rankings will increase a client’s confidence before they get to know you, and will also confirm they’re smart once you have the relationship.

3. Social Media

21% of CMOs can’t see a way to break through the clutter of content flying through the legal ether. These CMOs don’t believe clients pay attention to social media. They also don’t believe their attorneys have the discipline to implement the kind of systematic program which can break through the clutter in a meaningful way.

Social media is still the Wild West for attorneys and corporate counsel alike. We also see more small firms embracing social media as a way to gain a big voice.

Overrated Trends Point to New Thinking

These overrated activities reveal new insight into CMO thinking. Law firm marketers are looking for ways to up their game—including finding places with better odds of generating business. A number of CMOs tell us the primary reason these activities are overrated is they play too big a role in their marketing mix. They want to move their firms to embrace more effective, innovative approaches to developing clients and marketing the firm.

On the other side of the coin, law firm marketing leaders share their underrated trends—strategies which don’t get enough airplay but deliver better returns. We will discuss these next week—stay tuned or subscribe now.


*This research is based on interviews with more than 180 law firm marketing leaders conducted over the last 12 months.


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