Have you ever noticed how some professions seem to advertise very little? When is the last time you saw an ad for a doctor? What would that ad even look like? Consider all the things they can’t say in an ad. They can’t promise that they will heal you. They can’t promise that they will order a single test. They can’t guarantee the amount of time they will spend with you. Nor, can they warrantee any treatment they provide or prescription they write. They can’t even imply that they are better than any other doctor. There is not a lot that doctors can advertise. Yet, the physician business seems to be doing just fine.
The legal profession is a bit more cutthroat, but with all the same marketing challenges of the medical industry. An attorney cannot advertise that she is better than any other attorney. She cannot promise that you will win your case, how much money you will win if you do win your case, whether or not she will even take your case, or any indication about the time frame for your case’s completion. When a person is looking for an lawyer, these are some of the things they want to know.
The Customer’s Dilemma
If you think attorneys have a hard time advertising, normal humans have an even harder time deciding how to choose which attorney to hire. Turn to the Yellow Pages, and they will often choose the one that appears first, or the one with the biggest ad. On television, the situation is even worse. It seems they are supposed to choose the one who yells the loudest.
The Internet offers consumers a more organized option, with Yelp reviews and testimonials for companies in virtually any city. The detailed reviews and customer opinions are out there for all to see. Some are good. Some are bad. No amount of artifice can hide what people really think about a particular product or service. An overall positive rating in that context is more valuable than a full-page ad in a directory.
Still, even online reviews are not perfect. There are many ways to game the system that can never be fully addressed. Positive comments can be commissioned by the business. Recruiting friends and family for this purpose is a common practice. It is also common for negative reviews to come from competitors with an axe to grind. The rating does not tell the full story. A person still has to read the comments and be discerning about which are useful, and which should be tossed out. Still, online reviews are among the best ways to know which product or service to try.
Customer-Centric Advertising Means Solving the Customer’s Problem
Many businesses make the mistake of advertising to solve their own problem. This is understandable, but fatal. Some of the problems that might prompt you to advertise are:
You need more clients
You are not making enough money
You want to build your resume and make partner at a big firm
All of these are valid concerns. Unfortunately, your potential clients could care less. They will not choose you to help you with your business problem. They will choose you because they need help with theirs. Among those problems:
They are afraid, confused, desperate, and emotionally vulnerable
They don’t know the first thing about their legal rights
They stand to lose a lot of money
They know they have a problem. But they don’t know where to turn
Focus your advertising energy on addressing your potential client’s problem for a better return on your advertising investment. If attorneys did more of this, they would find less reason to yell at a TV camera.
You Are the Real Product, Not Your Legal Services
In marketing, it is axiomatic that the goods and services you sell are not your real product. It is usually a fatal mistake to think otherwise. If you really believe that the only thing you have on offer is legal services, then you will never be able to advertise effectively. Everyone in the legal profession has legal services to sell. You have to have something more than that.
Fortunately, you do. With or without your help, your prospective client is going to get legal services. The only thing in question is if those services will come from you. The difference between your services and the services of the attorney down the street is you. In the end, you are the only thing you are really selling. What is it about you that would cause someone to hire you? That is the question you should be answering.
Do you inspire emotional stability and serenity? Perhaps you should, because your clients are emotionally vulnerable. Talking incessantly about your many wins may be less effective than you think. Everyone wants to win. But initially, what they need more than a win is emotional centering, reassurance, and confidence that someone has their back. Try selling that.
While their expectations may be low, the customer would like to believe that they will find someone who cares about them. For some reason, doctors are assumed to have gone into medicine because they care about people. This perception may not represent truth. But it is definitely the perception. Attorneys are not gifted with this perception. No one assumes that an attorney cares about them. The attorney that does care, and who successfully conveys that is the one who wins the hearts of customers. In the end, that win count may be more important than courtroom wins.
This is not to minimize the problem. Marketing for the legal industry is tough. But better marketing is definitely possible when the customer’s dilemma informs the marketing, and when the legal professional remembers the real product. Oh… and no more yelling in TV ads.