Most legal advertising is reactive, not proactive. It starts with a telemarketing call from a salesman wanting to sell you advertising space in their newspaper, on their website, in the local Yellow Pages, or another publication. The pitch stresses the tens of thousands of people who receive their publication or visit their website – and paints a rosy picture for how many eyeballs your ad will reach.
Surely, you will receive new business. It’s almost impossible for you not to with all those prospects reading, right? At least one must have a legal problem you can solve. And if you only get one new client, that ad will have paid for itself.
Fast-forward a few weeks. Your ad ran – but your website visitors didn’t increase and you didn’t get a single phone call. What happened? Why was this promising ad campaign dead in the water?
Should you leave the ad in a few weeks longer because the salesman keeps telling you “advertising requires frequency and repetition” to work? Buy a bigger advertisement? Go full color with pictures? Try a different publication? Or give up altogether?
For most lawyers, the answer is to stop, take a step back, and evaluate. Reactive advertising is a waste of your money. It doesn’t matter what the salesman pitches you, without taking some time to plan out your advertising strategy, your campaign will fail 99% of the time (the other 1%, you’ll get lucky.)
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Advertising can be predictable and measurable – if you do it right. Here are 9 ways to increase your legal advertising response.
Tip #1 – Use Direct Response Advertising
Like the name suggests, direct response advertising is designed to persuade your reader to take a specific action such as:
- Calling you for a free consultation
- Visiting your website for a free report
- Joining your mailing list
- Requesting free information
- Attending your seminar or event
- Connecting with you via social media
With direct response advertising, you put yourself in your prospect’s mind and make a case with facts and benefits for why your prospect should hire you over all other lawyers out there. In other words, it is salesmanship in print rather than an opportunity to be cute, funny, artistic or clever.
Tip #2 – Pick Publications Your Target Audience Reads
This may sound obvious, but just because a publication reaches tens of thousands of eyeballs doesn’t mean it is reaching the kinds of people who want and can pay for the legal services you offer. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I only need one new client to break even” but chances are, if you choose publications to advertise in based on which salesmen call you, you won’t be picking the best publications for your business. Instead, start with your target prospects:
- What publications (magazines, newspapers, newsletters, websites) do they read?
- Do they still use the Yellow Pages?
- Do they read your local newspaper, Church bulletin, or community paper?
- Which industry/trade publications do they read?
If you don’t think a high percentage of your target audience will read the publication you are advertising in, don’t bother. Often, salesmen use number of readers to get you to buy. They may say something like our publication is read by 100,000 people – so what?
- Ask how many papers they circulate (print and distribute).
- Ask what their subscribers demographics are.
- Ask clients if they’ve ever heard of the publication and if they read it.
You should be advertising in publications your clients actually read (& that includes specific sections of the newspaper – very few people read every section word for word). Also, ask how much people pay to receive the publication. People tend to read publications they pay for more often than publications they don’t.
Tip #3 – Have a Clear Objective
A standard, ineffective ad includes company basics like your name and logo, a laundry list of services offered, your location and hours of operation, your slogan, and a phone number to call to set up a consultation. These ads look like everyone else’s and do nothing to set you apart from other lawyers or grab prospects’ attention. Instead, they become background noise that prospects filter out as they read.
What does stand out? Ads that address a specific purpose and convey one message for one solution, problem, want or need. If you are planning a trip to Hawaii, information about Hawaii’s beaches, resorts, and attractions capture your attention whereas you overlook information about skiing in Colorado – because it’s not relevant to you right now.
Your prospects feel the same way. They don’t care that you offer services for divorce, personal injury, real estate, and business transactions. They only care about their one specific problem – and if your ad doesn’t address that one specific problem, they will ignore it.
Before you run an ad, ask:
- Who is your target audience?
- What problem, obstacle or need are they facing?
- What service can you offer that addresses that one specific problem?
- What is the biggest benefit you can offer in your ad?
- What do you need to include in the ad to capture their attention and interest?
- What unique advantages can you explain for why they should choose you?
Tip #4 – Stress A Benefit in Your Headline
Your headline is the most important part of any advertisement because its sole purpose is to grab your prospect’s attention. Your headline is the “ad” for your ad because your prospect will decide whether to read your ad based on whether he is interested in what your headline says. Good headlines convey:
- who your target audience is
- a brief description of the benefit you offer in the ad
- an appeal to your reader’s self-interest
As famous adman David Ogilvy once said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
You have two seconds. If your headline doesn’t capture your prospect’s attention, your ad has failed.
Tip #5 – Make a Compelling Offer
While your ad’s headline may be the most important part of your ad, your offer is the second most important component. An offer is comprised of two parts:
- what your prospect gets
- what your prospect has to do to take advantage of the offer
The greater the perceived value of your offer – and the more risk-free and easy to obtain it is – the better your response will be.
Offers can include special reports, free brochures, tip sheets, information kits, white papers, case studies, free subscriptions, seminar invites, free consultations, introductory offers, discounts, and anything else you can think of that your prospects will find valuable.
Tip #6 – Tell Prospects How To Take Action
The second part of your offer involves what your prospect has to do to get your offer. In other words, you have to tell them exactly what they must do to take action.
Tell them. In marketing terms, this is a “call-to-action” where you clearly tell your reader what, exactly, they should do, how they should do it, and why they should do it right now.
This isn’t a matter of talking down to your reader. You aren’t including this because you think your prospect is dumb. Rather, your reader most likely isn’t giving your ad his/her full attention.
As your prospect is reading your ad, he or she is thinking of other things, multi-tasking, wondering what to make for dinner, when to pick up the kids, how her first date will go with the new guy, listening to her coworker’s phone conversation in the background, petting the cat, and so on.
Your prospect won’t study your ad carefully, re-reading it several times to make sure he/she understood every word. So it’s up to you to make your ads simple and unmistakably clear – so your readers do understand what action to take next.
Tip #7 – Use An Attractive Layout
The purpose of your ad’s design is to draw attention to your headline, offer and call-to-action. Graphics are usually the first thing people notice about an ad, so if your graphic doesn’t reinforce your message, or it’s just a bit too ‘cute’ or ‘comical’, your ad won’t be as effective. Here are a few ways to improve your ad’s layout:
- Make your ad visually appealing
- Use bullet points and break up large blocks of text
- Make your contact information and call-to-action stand out
- Keep it clean and easy to read
- Create a distinctive look that stands out from other ads
- Make one single element the dominant visual feature – either the headline or a striking graphic
A good ad layout uses graphics and verbal placement to move your readers into the ad rather than away from it.
Tip #8 – Test Your Ad
Test and track the effectiveness of each ad you run so you collect real-world data to base future ad purchases on. Tracking ad response can be as simple as:
- Having prospects call a unique phone number
- Sending prospects to a unique web page
- Providing a coupon prospects must bring with them to redeem
- Enclosing a self-addressed stamped response envelope
Assume your ad should get responses after its first run. Continue running – and potentially tweaking – the ads that get the best response to see if you can improve upon results. Ads that get little to no response should be scrapped.
Tip #9 – Why Didn’t My Legal Advertising Work?
For ads to work they must get the reader’s attention, entice him to read the ad, and motivate him to take action now. If your ad didn’t work, it could be because of the following reasons:
- Your prospects don’t read the publication you advertise in
- Your headline didn’t grab your prospect’s attention
- Your ad’s body copy wasn’t convincing enough
- Your offer wasn’t valuable enough or was perceived as too risky or too hard to take advantage of
- Your call-to-action wasn’t clear and your reader didn’t know what to do next
If any of these are the case, going with a bigger ad, continuing the ad for a longer time frame, or adding color probably will be a waste of money. It’s better to scrap the ad and try something new. Start small and keep testing your responses until you get the formula right. Then, you can experiment with size, color and frequency.