By: 8 March 2017
Marketing: Turn up the volume

National versus local – can you really have it all? Nick Delaney looks at the marketing challenges for small and medium sized claimant firms

In the world of legal services, business development budgets can often be tight and deciding how best to spend money for maximum results can be a real challenge when there are so many competing priorities within a firm.

Bigger spend, however, does not always means bigger or better results. Rather, it’s a case of being canny in allocating budget, knowing which activity will result in some quick wins, identifying the areas that need longer term investment to yield results and, perhaps most critically, ensuring you have the resources to achieve the objectives and deliver on new work that comes in as a result.

In a consumer-driven market, brands need to be known, be seen and be able to adapt and respond accordingly to changes in the way consumers engage with services or products. Brand-driven consumers often want to deal with familiar names and take comfort from national brands. Of course, in legal services these are limited to just a handful of names.

Last year’s Legal Services Consumer Panel research showed that consumers are slowly shifting towards transacting with law firms online, particularly in personal injury. This makes it even harder for business development teams to create the personal touch so expected by consumers of law firms. So, what can firms do to reach brand-driven consumers who know what they want and how they want it?

Firms have to push harder to make their business stand out from the crowd. These differences need to be identified and articulated to provide a key differentiator over the competition. It may be a particular specialism, a niche area of practice, a truly unique approach to doing business or a price innovation, for example.

You then need to make a conscious effort to decide on which market you are going after and hone your efforts accordingly. Some firms will choose to focus on local or regional markets, while others will decide to focus nationally.

We hear from many firms that have fully capitalised on their local or regional market but then struggle to gain national recognition because of the cost per acquisition. Yet given consumers’ increasing willingness towards arms-length servicing, a national consumer base has never been more within reach of law firms.

The downside is that national recognition requires deep pockets and real insight into the right channels to deliver ROI and this is where law firms can get their fingers burned. It is also why many turn to national brands who have vast marketing experience in what does and doesn’t work and will ultimately stretch any investment much further.

Those PI firms currently advertising on TV spend, on average, £837,000 per year. Well out of reach of all but the largest law firms. And that’s not including the cost of actually making the advert. They do so because, when done correctly, it works. Yet our own analysis shows that in 2015 there were 29 legal brands on TV. This fell to 20 in 2016, three of which were new advertisers, meaning 12 legal advertisers left the market last year. It can be a difficult medium to crack alone.

Further, the personal injury and medical negligence sector spends over £30 million on Google Pay Per Click and has some of the highest cost per click keywords in the world. If you were to bid on the various iterations of No Win No Fee solicitor, claims or lawyer – there are about 140 different ways to have this phrase – and wanted to appear in top position every time, then it is likely to cost you £7,812 per week. This assumes a fairly modest conversion rate and that you have the right quality score with Google to secure a top of page bid.

Of course, national brands have had their ups and downs. Criticisms of QualitySolicitors are well documented with early adopters citing a disparity between perception and delivery but, the network, which has spawned a number of copycat models, has its fans and has promised an increased focus on lead generation. After all, that is what it is all about.

Nick Delaney is head of business development at First4Lawyers