How to use sex in your legal marketing

There’s no denying that if done properly, sex appeal sells for the majority of businesses that choose to use it.  We’ve all seen sex-appeal used effectively to sell anything from beer and cars to fragrances and soft-drinks. But for lawyers? Come on. No way.  Can you actually use sex in your legal marketing strategy?

We’ve seen examples of this in years past. There was the all-too-famous billboard from Chicago divorce lawyer Corri Fetman showing well… not much. Here is the billboard for those of you who may have forgotten:

Corri Fetman Billboard

I honestly don’t know the specifics of how Ms. Fetman has done since launching this billboard, but her website indicates that she has had enough media exposure than most people have in a lifetime. She dedicates an entire page of her website to “celebrity representation”. My guess is that she is certainly making enough moolah off these billboards and media exposure to pay the bills.

The new kids in town

Late last fall, another sexy lawyer billboard hit the news, but this one is a lot less risqué. Meet Mona Patel and Dana Wares, from The Law Offices of Lady Justice in California:

ladyjustice

When I first saw this billboard, my gut reaction was to say, without judging the women that put up the billboard, that there is no way it would work. Evidently, I was not alone in my negative outlook. Here are some comments from other lawyers:

I would be very concerned that potential clients would not take me seriously as an attorney with those ads. So I would never use them. Heck, I worry about the simple fact of being a woman, with all of the many unfounded stereotypes. Tight skirts and sexy poses only make that worse IMHO… I’d be surprised if they attract good clients with that approach but please keep us posted if you learn that I’m wrong.”  Tina Willis, personal injury lawyer in Orlando.

Terrible idea for the profession.”  Jeffrey Lewis, a litigation attorney in California.

It’s an amusing but bad idea. I agree with Tina Willis, no way anyone will take them seriously.”  Scott Grabel, a criminal defense lawyer in Michigan.

I’m not sure how effective of a marketing approach it will be. Conversely, if it does work then the legal profession is about to get a lot more interesting!”  Todd Davis a commercial litigation attorney in Miami.

Seriously ya’ll? It’s another black mark on our profession which we don’t need any more of. Stiletto heals? C’mon.”  Matt Willens, of the Willens Law Office.

What is interesting about these comments is that they all focus on the “sexy” nature of the billboard as the reason for it’s projected demise. Frankly, the pictures of the Ms. Patel and Ms. Wares don’t concern me nearly enough as the language contained in the advertisement.

Sexy isn’t the problem with this billboard

There are a number of problems with this billboard, and the fact that it has two attractive female lawyers is not one of them.  Here are my major concerns and objections:

  • What is the unique selling proposition (USP) that they are trying to convey?
  • They want to be the lowest price in town.
  • The goal of the billboard is to generate calls to the firm, not lead generation.
  • Not focusing on one specific practice area.

My first major concern is that I can’t tell what makes these women different from any other lawyer billboard out there.  What is their unique selling proposition?  They should be able to convey what makes them different in one sentence or less, and this difference should be conveyed on the billboard.  This difference should be a reason that a prospect would want to call them over all the other lawyers out there that would offer competing services.  Do you remember who coined “Fresh, hot pizza in 30 minutes or less or your money back, guaranteed.”  I bet you do, because THAT is a USP.

Second, the “price match guarantee” scares me a bit.  This may actually be their USP, and if it is I suspect they will be working long hours for very little pay.  As lawyers, we should be competing on something other than price.  Offering the lowest price in town is a race to the bottom and will attract a poor quality of client.  Remember the post I wrote about striving for A and B clients and not C and D clients?  The price match guarantee is completely unnecessary and is more of a deal killer for me than the pictures. Here is what they say on their website about their price match guarantee:

We will beat the written price quote of any other attorney or law firm in California-based on the same terms and conditions. We already have the lowest attorney’s fees but we will beat any law firm’s prices! All you need to do is show us another attorney’s contract or fee agreement outlining the same services you want with our firm. We will provide the same services for the same fee – and possible a 10% reduction of fees!

Lady Justice will get a lot of calls from this billboard, and potentially will have a lot of work to do, they just aren’t going to get paid very much for that work. If you are looking for a heart surgeon, do you want the cheapest one in town?  Typically, the most expensive lawyer is going to be the most sought-after.

Third, I have to wonder – what is the goal of this billboard?  Is it to get folks to call up their law firm and hire them on the spot or is it to generate leads who are interested in what these women do and could begin to engage in a conversation with them about how Lady Justice may be able to help them in the future?  My guess, for reasons that will become obvious in a few paragraphs, is that it is the former.

Finally, by listing 4 different practice areas, it seems that Lady Justice is trying to appeal to 4 different demographics. What DOES their law firm really do? Estate planning attorneys are a completely different breed than personal injury lawyers. What type of cases do they really want to handle? Before they even consider renewing the contract for this billboard, these women should look carefully at the cases coming in the door as a result of this advertising and focus on one practice area above all others.

If you subscribed to my email course on the six deadly mistakes that lawyers make when starting a law firm, not focusing on one practice area is one of the biggies.

What is the problem with billboard ads?

If done properly, a billboard ad can be effective.  The problem, however, is that most lawyers don’t know enough about marketing to make the billboard cost-effective. Unless you run a high-volume, quick turnover practice, for most lawyers that don’t know what they are doing, a billboard will be a losing proposition. (Full disclosure here – I’ve never used a billboard in my own practice). A billboard is an extreme form of “interruption” marketing that, generally speaking, has a very low return on investment. However, if done properly, a billboard could be effective.  Here are five issues that I typically see with billboards (and lawyer ads generally).

1. What is your goal? Most lawyers that put up a billboard have no clearly defined goal other than “we want the phone to ring”. Unfortunately, this is a short-sited goal of a lawyer that doesn’t really understand marketing. Marketing is about building a relationship with people so that they will come to know, like and trust you as a legal advisor.

2. You are casting a huge net. When you put up a billboard, you are throwing out a huge net in the hopes of getting a huge influx of business. This, again, is not how marketing works. When you throw out a net this big, you may end up with some big fish, but you will also end up with a lot of junk and trash. That junk is going to eat up your staff’s time and resources while they take phone calls from tire-kickers looking for free legal advice or hoping to sue someone without really having a case.

3. Most of the people who see your billboard don’t need a lawyer when they see the billboard. How many thousands of people drive by that billboard everyday and don’t think twice about it? Most of them. That’s because they don’t need a lawyer right then and there. The goal of most lawyers that put up a billboard is that someone is going to drive by the billboard and think, “you know what, I really do need that divorce, I’m going to call this law firm.” Unfortunately, it just doesn’t happen that way. And in more and more states, it is illegal to even make a phone call while you are driving (California included).

4. They can be costly, depending on how long you leave it up and the location. Billboards can run from several hundreds of dollars a month in rural locations to several thousands per month or more in highly trafficked urban locations. In addition, you have to pay to have the sign printed and put up. It’s not a cheap form of marketing, so you want to make sure you are able to track the calls that come from the sign, leading to my last point.

5. The phone number/web address on the billboard must be unique so that it can be tracked. The best way to track a billboard ad is to use a unique phone number on the billboard, or include a special web address so you can track the exact number of calls or web visits that come from that unique billboard. This way you can determine whether the billboard is effective or not. If you can’t track results, you might as well throw away the thousands of dollars you are spending on the billboard every month. You can use a service like Vonage Business Solutions or Callfire to track your phone numbers and calls.

Fortunately, if you choose to run a billboard ad, with a few quick tweaks, you can have an effective lead generation tool. What if, instead of pasting up a big picture of yourself on a sign with a phone number, you instead advertised a special report or book that you wrote that would help people with a specific problem?  This would be an effective method of lead generation or permission-based marketing.  You could direct callers to a pre-recorded message that collects their personal information and sends them the report.  If you used a simple-to-remember web address on the billboard, visitors to the site could opt-in to your email marketing list and get a copy of the report immediately.

What Lady Justice did right

I don’t want to completely knock on Lade Justice. There is definitely some merit to this ad. They have generated some national publicity (in the lawyer community anyway) that is always good for a law firm. I was happy to see that Ms. Wares joined a Google+ community that I am a member of and reported some surprisingly good results as a result of this billboard.

Ms. Wares says, “I had the same concerns that all of you shared and much to my surprise the marketing worked! We have received a substantial increase in business and the best part is the substantial increase in women clientele! The billboards are our only source of advertising and they generate more than enough business.”

My only concern is in the quality of the client that they are getting. But that’s another story for another day.

Frankly, I don’t think this billboard is nearly as bad for the legal profession as many other lawyer ads that are out there. For a little fun, I took the liberty of scouring the web for some other great lawyer ads. Here is what I found.

Do you have any thoughts on this issue?  Please feel free to post a comment below.