I just got off an interesting survey call with BTI. I was pretty candid with my answers, so I’ll either throw the bell-curve off, or make for some interesting “comments.” At the end of the call I was asked if there was a question that they hadn’t asked? I thought for a few moments and came up with one:
What am I not doing today that was standard/common practice a few years ago?
Very quickly I popped out my answer: Advertising. I have lots of friends and colleagues who sell advertising in leading publications, and I feel for them. Personally, I just don’t see the point anymore. I no longer place articles in publications … that’s what the firm’s blogs are for. So why would I place ads there?? Face it. The reading habits of Americans, and, better yet, decision makers in the legal industry, have changed. Google is now the #1 research tool. And, honestly, how often do you pick up a newspaper? I live in LA and don’t commute on a train where a newspaper would come in handy, so I read my news online. The individual articles are delivered to my Google Reader, my Twitter stream, my Facebook Wall, and now I can have the whole newspaper delivered directly to my nook when I so desire. And then I thought about how many magazine subscriptions I have let lapse over the past few years. And, for those magazines I still receive (for work it’s The American Lawyer and Business Insurance), the majority of the articles I have already read online before the magazine actually arrives in my in-box. And speaking of magazines, has anyone else noticed that they’re more like pamphlets these days? Save for the AmLaw 100 issue of The American Lawyer (which is akin to the Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated, or the Fall Issue of any fashion magazine), we’re looking at about 100 pages … and the advertising is NOTHING like it was a decade ago. I used to flip through each issue of The American Lawyer, pulling out every law firm ad, and I had FILES. In the latest issue sitting on my desk, there are 10 full-page ads, and 4 half-page ads from law firms in the 110 pages. And, other than Perkins Coie and Winton & Strawn’s submissions, I’d have a hard time remembering any of the law firms … and I have a vested interest. I’m not saying I’ll never advertise … I just think the practice of advertising has changed. It’s no longer about full-page, 4-color placement, month-after-month. For me it’s about targeted and focused audiences, along with measurable statistics. I remember speaking with the Martindale-Connected folks a couple years ago as they were building out their social media/networking product. At the time they were still focused on the subscription model á la the MH Directory. I told them that social media/networking is free to the user; however, I’d be interested in banner ads that popped up when someone searched for a specific type of lawyer in a specific geographic area. That idea was originally rejected … but I am so grateful to see advertising on there not only from law firms, but I just saw an ad for the new Jaguar XJ. The same thing goes with companies like JD Supra, Mondaq and Lexology. The products are free to the end-user. I do pay a minimum fee to post articles (my entire budget is less than the cost of placing ONE ad in the local business journal). However, it’s the reporting that I receive which is so valuable. I can instantaneously see the views and click-throughs. I know the companies who are viewing our posts, along with the titles of the individuals (and, in the case of Mondaq, the actual names and contact information of the individuals). Via my blog and website stats, I can see the referrals and increased search result placement. The phone is ringing more. The recognition is increasing. The opportunities are getting better. Once again, those are the results I am looking for. And, especially with JD Supra and Lexology, on a daily basis my firm’s blog posts are right there, next to our AmLaw 100 competitors. Once again, my budget for all of this is less than the cost of ONE advertisement in the local business journal. Targeted, focused, immediate stats, the evening out of the playing field … that’s advertising that I can buy into. I’m sure that there are people out there who will jump to the defense of standard advertising, and that’s fine. If it works for you, great! Spend $10-20,0000 per ad (not including the pre-production costs). I just have a different approach that is working for my firm … today. So, Coolerites … what are you NOT doing today that used to be common practice??