You’ve worked hard to build your law firm and its reputation. Your case portfolio is solid, but you want to continue to grow your practice. So when you decide it’s time to expand and take your firm to the next level, you’ll need to give serious consideration to a side of your business that may not typically be at the forefront: marketing.
There’s a decision to be made—should you take on an in-house marketing person (or team) or outsource with an agency? There are upsides and downsides to each option, so before you start down the road, take time to break it down and assess what will work best for your firm and the resulting growth.
Here are 4 aspects to consider when selecting an in-house or outside marketer:
- The learning curve
With all things in life, there’s a learning curve when starting down a new path such as marketing.
Do you want to foster the development of the novel promotion of your services in-house or out-of-house? If you hire an employee to head up your marketing and advertising initiatives, then you’ll likely cut down on the time it takes to get that person up to speed. This is because they’ll be stationed in your office full time and exposed to all aspects of your firm. Typically it’s easier for in-house marketer to portray your brand and reputation to your target audience because they’re firmly ensconced in it themselves.
Conversely, hiring an agency will require some time and effort to help them become familiar with your brand and be able to accurately translate your firm’s reputation and culture into an ad campaign. You want your potential clients to see the firm as you see it—your brand is an extension of your firm’s reputation and people. It’s not always easy for an outsider to first grasp that, and then turn around and relay that to others. That said, an agency may have a wide array of past experience working in the legal industry and potentially for other law firms. Further, their ideas and marketing initiatives may be more cutting edge then an in-house team, which wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to all of the latest developments in the marketing industry.
- Turnaround time
How many times have you asked for a deadline and have been told “yesterday?” Consider your anticipated timeframe for your marketing projects—agencies are known for working to meet deadlines, no matter what. You can probably expect to start receiving deliverables rather quickly, if you set that expectation. That said, you can reasonably expect the estimated cost to rise if your turnaround time is short.
Having marketing functions in-house at the firm might slow down production slightly, but also allows you to better control costs, make changes quickly and on the fly, given the team is very accessible (perhaps even right down the hall!). You’ll also avoid paying for each minor revision you make—in an agency setting, this could create incremental costs that add up rapidly when you’re not expecting it.
- Bulk discounts
Once you’ve created your ad campaign and corresponding materials, such as mailers, brochures or video clips, you next have to tackle production of those items. Your in-house marketer can certainly source local vendors who can provide you with the services needed, but you may find the prices to be higher than anticipated, due to lack of volume discounts.
On the other hand, an agency may be able to leverage bulk-order discounts to bring the cost down. Bear in mind, however, there’s usually an agency mark-up tacked onto the final bill. Pricing to consider may include printing services, shipping and/or postage expense and media buys (for radio, television or print advertising).
- Eggs in one basket
Another angle to consider is whether or not you want to, as they say, put all your eggs in one basket. You can take the plunge and hire a marketing expert for your office and potentially reap many benefits for an extended period of time if all goes well. You’ll have someone that becomes a fixture and expert in your firm and can help see you through many projects and new ventures—especially helpful if/when your firm needs to pivot quickly and change tactics. Having someone entrenched in a close-knit environment can give you a greater level of control over the entire process, including the budget.
However, hiring an agency will likely give you access to a full team of experts, who have perfected a channel in the marketing world: print, digital, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), collateral pieces and more. Many different people working on your account can translate into a symphony of ideas coming together to create the best campaign for you. There are so many avenues through which to market your firm, it’s difficult to expect one person (or a small in-house team) to be knowledgeable and capable enough to fully utilize them all.