In response to legal association question about what yields most ROI for communications investment …
My experience running a marketing department, public relations departments and after consulting for many law firms shows that you should use a blended approach to get on the prospective client’s short list. You absolutely need to get noticed, enhance credibility and develop relationships. Leverage all the communications tools you have. Accomplish your sales goals through meaningful and repetitious methods in all personal settings and through all kinds of media platforms.
1) Personal referrals are no doubt the most productive action and have the best ROI. People believe other people they trust who can provide personal evidence that buying from one firm over another is the best choice. There are scientific and sociological reasons referrals are most effective ways to get business.
2) Public relations and earned media come in second with a much better and cheaper ROI than ads. People believe and act upon information they perceive to be credible and, to a degree, objective. A placed news story or balanced white paper or interesting seminar can be a call to action that gets you on a short list of candidates. PR is the second best use of your time and money.
I’ve worked for CEO’s who, during meetings with the GC, pointed to a newspaper article quoting a particular lawyer. The attorney who was quoted generally gets researched and called because a lawyer or firm in the news naturally has solid bona fides or they probably wouldn’t be chosen as a news source. That dynamic works even if the attorney’s quote isn’t the greatest but is in a credible news outlet.
Haven’t we all heard a partner complain about a competitor who is quoted in the news and your attorney says something like, “This really isn’t a very good story about the case and (my competitor) had a lousy quote.” Shocker, the next thing your attorney says is, “I know more than he (or she does) why am I not being quoted. Why aren’t we in the news?”
Print, web-based or broadcast news are credible, tangible and reusable collateral materials.
3) Advertising comes in last but is a valuable tool nonetheless. People can remember consistent and distinctive messages from ads but will question those messages and the advertiser because ads are seen to be completely self-serving. A way to make ads more effective is to have them appeal to basic and simple emotions. Use objective and credible testimonials and/or empirical information to bolster those ads. Using only ads is not the best use of your money. I’ve never seen my general counsel ask to meet a law firm based only on an ad. I agree ads can be door openers but they are not the most efficient methods for getting attention or sealing the deal.
My media psychology PhD professors would agree with both Doug and John. You do want to impact the cognitive and emotional parts of the brain together to induce action, in this case, cause a prospective client to choose you. So, a distinctive ad can appeal to the emotional, the primal limbic part of the brain, the part that touches basic needs, like fear or safety. To create a more powerful call-to-action you should include information and reason which combine that limbic reaction with cognitive reasoning in the forebrain and in that way convince or persuade an individual. Take a look at books on advertising, propaganda and persuasion by people like Edward Bernays, Kevin Hogan, even Donny Deutsch. Their proven theories work in professional services or consumer settings.
Summing up: Ads are expensive and ads alone are simplistic and less effective but should be used in conjunction with other forms of persuasion; PR communications and earned media have better ROI, more uses and are more effective; personal contact is the most effective, takes the most imagination and chutzpah but not everyone is a rainmaker although everyone can improve those rainmaking skills or be taught tools to be a better communicator.