Advertising Legal Services (How to Go About It!)

Advertising is any paid-for form of non-personal promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identifiable organisation.

Advertising offers law firms a high degree of control for the design and delivery of messages and can be a cost-effective way to disseminate messages, whether to build a preference for an idea/good/service/organisation or to educate people.

The costs associated with adverting can be extremely high compared with other forms of marketing communications, arguably because of the vast audience reach and control over content it offers (though Advertising Standards Agency and Law Society rules of course apply).

For example, for law firms that see advertising as an important aspect of their promotional activities, expenditures of 5 per cent up to 30 per cent of business and sales generated are not unusual.

Advertising legal services – why? What’s the benefit?

If other methods of promotion aren’t attracting sufficient levels of new business, law firms could consider advertising. Not only can it reach target audiences quickly, organisations may find target audiences more receptive to their other marketing communications following exposure to the advertisements.

Depending on the types of service being promoted, advertising offers varying levels of impact. A law firm that provides highly specialised legal services cannot be described accurately in a short advertisement, and would be less inclined to advertise. But for law firms selling uncomplicated legal services to markets accustomed to seeing the advertising of competitors in areas such as personal injury, advertising may be a necessity.

Using advertising as a marketing and communications tactic

Using advertising as a marketing tactic calls for defining the target market (who do you want to influence?); the target response (what you want the audience to do), the target reach (size of audience); and frequency (how often do you want to advertise).

The organisation must start with a clear target audience in mind (see previous chapter). The audience may be potential buyers of legal services or influencers within the organisation’s target audience. The target response is likely to be influencing purchase behaviour. Finally, the organisation must determine the optimal target reach and frequency of the advertising.

Consequently your advertising should include:

  • Advertising objectives
  • Advertising budget
  • Advertising messages
  • Evaluating advertising

Advertising Objectives

The first step of advertising is to establish the advertising objectives. An advertising objective is a specific achievement level to be accomplished with a specific audience in a specific period.

Consider the following types of objectives:

  • Informative advertising this is particularly important when trying to introduce new legal services to the market. The purpose of informative advertising is to build demand by educating a market or by encouraging the formation of favourable opinions or attitudes of a legal service. Informative advertising may also help ‘mature’ legal services such as personal injury – where potential clients have false or bad impressions of whiplash claims.
  • Persuasive advertising this is particularly helpful to ‘position’ a legal service in competitive markets such as conveyancing or personal injury. The objective is to create demand by building preferences or promoting a particular attribute or benefits to differentiate a legal service provider from its competition. As part of this, legal service providers can compare their offering with those of their competitors. We often see ‘cash up front’ deals for personal injury claims.
  • Reminder advertising aims to stimulate repeat purchase of legal services. This is based on reminding clients of a law firm’s brand and services available.

When considering objectives for advertising, ask yourself:

  • What are the overall objectives you wish to achieve?
  • Are you conveying information? Developing attitudes? Providing a reason for buying?
  • Who is your audience? Who are they? How can you identify them?
  • What do they know about you? What do they know about your competition?
  • Where is your audience? What are their reading/viewing habits?
  • What response do you require from your audience?
  • What do you want your audience to know/feel or believe about your services?
  • Is there anything you wish to avoid conveying

Advertising Budget

How does a law firm know if it is spending the right amount on advertising? Advertising is an expense, but it should also be considered an investment to help achieve your marketing objectives. Either way, it is essential to take a prudent approach to setting an advertising budget, which could include:

Fixed percentage of sales – In legal service markets with a stable, predictable sales pattern, some firms set their advertising spend consistently at a fixed percentage of their sales.

Same level as competitors – This approach is widespread when service lines are well-established with predictable sales patterns. It is based on the assumption that there is an industry average spend that works well for all major legal service providers in a market.

Objective based – The objective approach involves setting advertising budgets based on the ‘objective’ that the advertising has to achieve. These objectives could be financial in nature (e.g. achieve a certain increase in sales, profits) or related to the marketing activity that is generated by the campaigns. For example:

  • numbers of enquiries received, quoting the source code on the advertisement
  • increase in client recognition / awareness of the service line or organisation (which can be measured)
  • number of viewers, listeners or readers reached by the campaign

What the firm can afford – This approach, which is perhaps the worst, is to base the advertising budget on what the business can afford – after all other expenditure.

When working out budget requirements ask yourself:

  • How much will the planned advertising campaign cost?
  • When is the money going to be required?
  • How is the expenditure going to be monitored and controlled?
  • What is the cost justification for spending this amount?

Formulating the advertising message

The third step in creating effective advertising is to develop creative relevant message. This will ideally get attention, create interest and instigate action.

  • Generate and evaluate the message. It is important that legal service providers generate fresh insights and avoid using the same appeals and positions as other organisations. Market research is one way to do this. You should review what your competitors’ activity and that of other types of professional service organisations such as accountants..
  • Execute the message. The impact of your organisation’s advert depends not only on what is said, but often how and where it is said.

Selecting advertising media

After crafting the message, your next task is to choose the appropriate media to carry it, based on the reach, frequency and impact of each of the major media types. The major media types are television, radio, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, outdoor advertising and online.

As shown below, each medium has advantages and disadvantages for advertisers.

Media TypeAdvantagesDisadvantages
Television

Generally acknowledged as the most powerful advertising medium.

Reaches broadest spectrum of consumers.
Wide reach translates to low cost per exposure

Brings to life service/product attributes and benefits for consumers

Vivid depiction of brand intangibles eg brand personality
Creative elements may detract from key message

Sheer number television ads makes it a challenge to stand out, and ads easy to forget

High costs of media space and production

Impact is declining in digital age

Relatively weak audience targeting
Radio

Pervasive and immediate.
Media space and production costs relatively cheap

Responses usually immediate

Select station by audience demographic
Lack of visual

Relatively passive consumption

Brevity of ads means little scope to communicate great detail
Newspapers

Pervasive and perceived as credible.
Use readership demographics to select right publication and edition (eg the same newspaper may have a different readership on different days of the week)

Readers set the pace of consumption so advertisers can include more detail

Well executed design can lead a reader’s eye through the ad, tying in headline with imagery and body copy

Timely exposure due to high frequency of newspaper production

Printed publications still enjoy audience credibility
Consumption can be passive

Can’t use dynamic content

Poor design and layout of ad can affect results

Larger media space tends to attract more attention but not necessarily proportionate to the extra cost

Typically low audience recall rates- at the very best 50%
Magazines

Targeted with long shelf life.
Strong audience segmentation

Long shelf life, magazines often passed on to other readers

Readers set the pace of consumption so advertisers can include more detail

Well executed design can lead a reader’s eye through the ad, tying in headline with imagery and body copy
Consumption can be passive

Can’t use dynamic content

Poor design and layout of ad can affect results

Larger media space tends to attract more attention but not necessarily proportionate to the extra cost

Typically low audience recall rates- at the very best 50%
Direct mail

Targets audiences directly through outputs such as flyers, brochures, leaflets, emails
Maintain control over the message

Generally one of the faster ways to communicate with target audiences

Production costs relatively cheap

Target different segments with different messages

Measurable results eg by using an offer code

Responses typically less than 1%

Risk of being considered ‘spam’ or ‘junk’

Need to keep database/contact list up to date
Outdoor

argets audiences through more creative placements such as billboards, public spaces, product placement, and point-of-purchase.

Offers exposure to large numbers

Billboards increasingly offer dynamic and digital content

Billboards can be mobile eg placed on trucks and other vehicles for maximum exposure

Make use of unconventional places and public spaces eg event programmes, inside toilet cubicles
Message must be well-honed and succinct

Difficult to measure impact

‘Prime’ locations typically cost prohibitive

No real audience selectivity
Online

Can include advertising on search engine result pages, within social media platforms, on websites and emails. Pay per click.
Relatively cost effective

Sophisticated level of audience segmentation and targeting

Highly measurable impact eg click through rates, online enquiries made, leads converted

Typically flexible and fast to produce and adjust

Ad can be dynamic or static

Drives traffic to organisation website

Immediate response
Cost can vary depending on user and competitor activity

Space is not always ‘yours’, and can rotate with other organisations including competitors

Passive consumption

Can be considered intrusive by users

Remember

When deciding on which media platforms to use ask yourself:

  • What medium or combination of media are to be utilised for the campaign?
  • Why is your choice appropriate?
  • What criteria have been used to determine cost-effectiveness?
  • Does the media match the ‘quality’ of your service?

Deciding on reach, frequency and impact

To select media, base your decision on the reach and frequency needed to meet the objectives.

  • Reach: the percentage of people in the target market who are exposed to the advertising during a given period of time.
  • Frequency: how many times the average person in the target market is exposed to the message.
  • Impact: the value of exposure offered by a particular medium. For example, advertisements in national newspapers tend to carry more ‘weight’ than those in local paper.

In general, the more reach, frequency and impact the advertiser seeks, the higher the advertising budget will have to be.

Hints and tips

Timings are essential for advertising. Ask yourself:

  • When is your advert to be displayed/conveyed to your audience?
  • Is your advertising going to in isolation or a combination of a number of advertisements?
  • What is your reasoning behind your advertising scheduling?
  • How do your timings coordinate with competitor advertisements? Seasonal trends? Special events in the market?

Evaluating advertising effectiveness

The final step is to evaluate the impact of your advertising.

Looking at the outcomes, this could include effects on sales figures, and less tangible factors such as awareness, knowledge, or preference.

Most firms are generally interested in finding out whether they are overspending or under-spending on advertising. Refer to the objectives to be achieved. For example:

  • numbers of enquiries received: how many enquiries quoted the source code on the advertisement?
  • number of viewers, listeners or readers reached by the campaign: the media company should be able to provide this data as part of your package
  • increase in client recognition / awareness of the service line or organisation: speak to people and carry out some market research before and after to gauge shifts in perceptions

Other forms of testing and measurement include:

Communication-effect research Does the ad itself do what you need it to do? Test it, or variations of it, with a sample audience. A sample audience will be selected on the basis of its similarity to the intended audience (e.g. age, sex, demographics).

Questions to ask your sample audience could include:

  • What is the main message you get from this ad?
  • What do you think the advertiser wants you to know, believe, or do?
  • How likely is it that this ad will influence you to undertake the action?
  • What works well in the ad and what works poorly?
  • How does the ad make you feel?
  • Where is the best place to reach you with this message? Where would you be most likely to notice it and pay attention to it? Where are you when you make decisions about this action?

Portfolio tests Here you ask your sample audience to view a suite of advertisements, and then ask them to recall content, messages and other key details. This gives insight into the ability of the ad to stand out, be understood and of course remembered.

Once the ads have gone live, firms can test to assess the overall impact. If the objective was to increase brand awareness from 20 per cent to 50 per cent, and the result was only 30 per cent, then it’s likely the budget isn’t big enough, or its ads are poor, or some other factor has been ignored.

A further measure is sales figures. Sales are influenced by many factors, such as features, price, and availability, as well as competitors’ actions. The fewer or more controllable these other factors are, the easier it is to measure the effect of advertising on sales. The sales impact is easiest to measure in direct-marketing situations and hardest to measure in brand or corporate image-building advertising.

Remember

When measuring expected results ask yourself:

  • How do you intend to measure the results?
  • Have you established any benchmarks required?
  • Are all objectives sufficiently quantified to be measurable?
  • What are your criteria for success/failure?

If other methods of promotion aren’t attracting sufficient levels of new business, law firms could consider advertising.

  • Advertising is any paid-for form of non-personal promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identifiable organisation.
  • Advertising offers legal service providers a high degree of control for the design and delivery of messages.
  • The costs associated with adverting can be extremely high compared with other forms of marketing communications.
  • Using advertising as a marketing tactic calls for defining the target market (who do you want to influence?); the target response (what you want the audience to do), the target reach (size of audience); and frequency (how often do you want to advertise).
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