There's a whole heap of BS out there about what people should and shouldn't be doing with their branding or marketing (note they are different and neither are sales). Just have a look through LinkedIn and you will come across the marketing hero who, while they make a fresh piece of content a day, will sell you on a half day workshop so you can “easily” do it all yourself (in all that free time you have!!). Or, you might have the unfortunate experience of being flogged an “SEO” package which basically entails someone telling you every month what to write, and charging you for the privilege.
Ok so maybe a lot of people are trying to sell magic beans and I get it, people overwhelmingly want to believe there are easy solutions. The problem I see is that this has created a level of misplaced expectations and a magic pudding (double magic!) mentality where people seem to think that you can get a lot from nothing.
Or, they simply don't understand what they should get at all.
I'm here to tell you that you get what you put in.
There is a lot of low hanging fruit, and if you're smart you can spend your time and money and get great results, especially if you make “hero content” like a podcast, but the base line of investment is dependent upon what you want to achieve.
For this reason many people's expectations vs their spend (whether time or money) are way out of whack. Actually, they aren't even in the same ballpark.
What we did
If you've been following our blog and anything we have said around consistency and volume of content you might have picked up that we have always had high expectations around the results. We wanted to create an international brand that meant anyone was happy to have a coffee with us and ultimately help us grow the credibility and trust to build a business.
A strategy like this which is a brand first, sales second approach requires significant investment to work. But so does a sales first, brand second approach, just with more ad spend (or BD people spend) instead of content. Without going too much into the merits of either our strong ethos is in the power of long term brand trumping short term sugar hits. This is not what some people will tell you who are all about short term leads. The leads approach is great, but only if you use the profit from the short term to invest in the long term. The problem is, most firms don't and have to keep shelling out for ads.
Brand is very valuable, but intangible. It opens doors. It is not about leads today, but having opportunities to convert now or in the future. Brand and sales are not the same.
This is a problem for lots of “left brain” types who want to put everything into little box's and get results yesterday. The thing with brand though is that ultimately, being able to have a door opened for you, being remembered or being referred is far more valuable in the long term than a single sale today. It's that “trusted” bit of the trusted advisor that lawyers love to aspire to.
So what does this have to do with expectations? It begs the question.... what should you expect from your time / spend? What results should you expect at each level? And therefore, what shouldn't you expect!
Time & Money
This where most businesses start out. It's the classic “dipping your toe in the water” level to start to see if you get traction. You have limited time and money and try and get the most for it. This makes complete sense, but the key is to make sure you understand what that time and money is going to achieve and what it won’t.
Starting out you are probably spending 5-15 hours a week or up to $2000 per month on content, engagement and services.
At this level each month you are probably creating 10-15 pieces of content for your social profiles, maybe 1-2 blog pieces that will go on social, and are spending a few hours a week engaging. Engagement time is real time so factor every sneaky check of your Insta stories and every time you are on Facebook as well as producing the content itself.
What to expect
This level is all about long term brand building. It's your chance to start to make a name for yourself within your network and the extended network you can engage directly with. It is the best time to learn and to start to understand what works for your business on the micro level.
If you make great content you can certainly start to stand out in your niche, and this will have positive referral affects. If you are smart about it you can convert people into clients but it is highly unlikely to create consistent leads in large numbers just on its own.
Short of one piece of content going viral or putting all your eggs in only one basket it is all about long term brand building and setting the framework you can build on.
At this level put aside thoughts of analytics and numbers. You are not investing either the time or money to make that happen in the short term.
It is all about the power of brand and opening doors for the long term by starting to stand out for something.
Time & Money
At this level you are either spending 15-40 hours a week or anywhere from $2000-$10,000 a month on agency spend and anywhere from $2000-$5000 a month on ads. It's certainly a big range, but you can achieve big things!
This is the level where people tend to invest in either Facebook or search ads as well as better content. In our experience this is hugely important now on social because organic reach is next to non existent so you simply can't rely on organic if you want to increase numbers and reach a larger audience.
At this level you will be putting out content across all social platforms regularly. You will likely have a hero piece like a podcast, events or consistent video. You are usually producing at least two blog pieces a month, social copy and are running ads campaigns (with landing pages / ad design and copy / management). What you are making obviously impacts on the spend, as does your total ad spend. You can focus down on specific content and run ads to it and be at the bottom of the spend, or do more and have a slightly larger budget and be higher up the spend chart. Generally speaking if you are after leads you are going to be spending much more on ads (and more overall) vs content to grow your brand.
Either way you are moving the needle with either consistency of content and / or ad spend.
What to expect
This is the level to expect to grow your brand, grow your website traffic, grow your list and ultimately get some leads. How you go about this and the mix really just boils down to what you want and the quality of your content. If you want to drive traffic and grow an email list to ultimately nurture them into sales you can do it. If you want to run ads that are focused on the short term you can do that too. As for content at this level you can get to a consistency that means you are noticed and your brand stands out.
Again, what to expect depends on your strategy and where you are investing the dollars. If it is more search ads it will be short term results that are leads focused... if it is more and better content it will be better overall long term brand results.
Let's put spend into perspective. For many law firms the lifetime value of a new client is huge. Sure, there are lots of conveyancers and other firms who churn large numbers with lower value leads, but a classic family law file, insurance file or dispute will be between $15K and $30K for those who might be higher in short term “intent” and be the focus of a leads approach. For anything above that you probably need to build trust and authority over time with your content (and ultimately relationships) as they are lower down the intent scale and take more time to choose a provider. So firms who average larger files are not going to be focused on leads from ads per se, but much more of their spend will be on branding (the ads strategy can obviously be brand focused though like with FB ads). Sounds complex? It is. That's why having a tailored plan suitable for your business and understanding where your money is going (and why it is going there) is so important.
For a lot of business owners that rode the wave of free leads that was the start of google (or incredibly cheap ad spends), it is frustrating for them that they can’t simply sit back and have free leads roll in like they did for a decade. I’m sorry to say the free lunch is over. There is still a heap of money to be made though with your investment in content and brand, but what once was free to play is now pay to play. And if you’re not paying and your competition are, you will miss out.
Time & Money
Usually this space is filled by large firms and teams that want to very specifically target a part of the market and grow. You will either employ a couple of people to do so for you, or have a marketing spend in excess of $15K++ a month inclusive of ad spend.
For that you would want to be making multiple forms of hero content (video, blogs, podcasts), be across all social platforms and have a reasonable ad budget (or create some great content and be spending a lot on ads!!.. there are plenty of firms out there that invest $15K a month in ad spend) The sky is the limit of course on ads especially (if they are working) and depending on the volume of video and other media content you produce.
What to expect
You should expect a flow of direct leads, to stand out as a market leader and to have a brand you can be proud of across all platforms. At this level you will have very specific analytics that tell you what is working and what isn't, and what you can do better. What you ultimately spend will depend on results... if you are making 3 x your ad spend it is a no brainer to keep increasing it to the point where you can still manage the work coming in. Many firms make way more than this which is a secret that is rather tightly held for good reason.
Again, it all boils down to your target client, their level of intention when looking for legal services, and your brand strategy.
When we speak about consistency, content and everything that goes into it, we do it from a place of wanting great things and knowing magic beans (or puddings!) don't exist. We do it from having created a brand and business from scratch having made a tonne of content, run lots of ads and built a great big list.
So that's it... consistency means time or money. If you want results from your marketing it's really important to understand what they will be so you know how to assess them.