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Law firm marketing post-COVID: In-house or outsource?

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We first wrote about this topic in 2019. Back then, we noted that we were speaking to more law firms with in-house marketing staff than ever before. I have an in-house marketing background, and it was great to see law firms recognising the value and importance of specialist marketing support.

This article looks at the various marketing options available to your law firm. Whether that is hiring in-house marketing support, outsourcing or a blend of both.

During times of business stress, marketing budgets are usually among the first cut because they are often viewed as non-essential costs. The recession of 2008 or Covid-19 and lockdown being good examples.

A recent Marketing Week survey suggested that more than two-thirds of UK marketers felt unable to achieve their goals because of business decisions made during the coronavirus outbreak.

This statistic is borne out by our recent experience. Several conversations with prospect firms stalled because they furloughed their marketing team, or because they viewed marketing spend as non-essential in these conditions.

Why you shouldn’t cut your marketing budget in 2020

For me, and for many of the law firms with whom we work, lockdown has highlighted the value of specialist marketing support.

Cost cutting when times are tough isn’t unreasonable. Everybody should do what they feel is right for their business, after all. But spending on marketing is vital for steadying the ship when the storm passes. So, I would suggest that it’s important not to pull the plug on your marketing budget.

For many firms, the right marketing support has enabled them to focus on practice areas and services that are more resilient to negative trading conditions. This has been key to bringing in new business at a time people and money aren't moving.

Whether your firm is re-tooling its marketing post-Covid, or lockdown has made you realise that marketing is essential, here's our guide on what to look for in a marketer.

How to hire a marketer for your law firm

Not every firm has the budget available to create an in-house marketing team. This often means that an in-house marketing team constituting one or two people are expected to keep many plates spinning.

Finding someone with in-depth and wide-ranging marketing ability can be difficult, meaning some of those plates will be harder to keep spinning than others.

A quick search for "legal marketing jobs" shows that the modern legal marketing role has never been as broad or as varied. A straw poll of some in-house marketers and ex-colleagues backs this up.

Modern firms require their marketing support to bring expertise to many activities, including:

It can be feast or famine for the law firm marketer. When managing tenders and events, there isn't much time to eat or sleep. There's even less time to keep up with SEO, to analyse data, to develop a community or to manage advertising campaigns! And these are only a selection of the jobs expected of marketers.

While Jacks and Jills of all trades do exist, even agencies use specialists. Our team keep an awareness of marketing trends and best practice, but we also hire specialists. We have people skilled in distinct digital marketing disciplines, such as content marketing, PPC, analytics etc.

The reality is, when considering in-housing versus outsourcing your marketing, there is no right or wrong answer. You need what’s best for your law firm.

If this issue is currently on your radar, we’ve listed some pros and cons of each approach below:

Outsourcing your law firm’s marketing resource

Pros

  • Agencies are used to working to deadlines and sometimes several deadlines at a time which is easier to manage within a multi-disciplinary team environment.
  • Your agency should have relevant legal-sector expertise. This means no learning on the job and the ability to generate results quickly. If the agency doesn’t have legal expertise, do you want to be the ones who pay for them to get up to speed?
  • Access to a broad cross-section of experience and team members with diverse skills can bring a unique view and perspective to a particular challenge.
  • Agency relationships are performance-based and accountable to results.
  • Agencies need to remain at the leading edge of technology and tactics to remain competitive.
  • An agency resource should be flexible and scalable to suit your changing needs.
  • Your agency spend gives you access to a team of marketers for a fraction of the cost of building a similar sized team in-house.

Cons

  • Any agency worth their salt will view their client relationships as partnerships. This means they can push back when asked to do certain activities they feel to be unnecessary or counterproductive to the success of the account. This can lead to occasional conflict.
  • If you don't hire the right agency, unravelling yourself from your agreement and starting again will mean unnecessary cost and time.
  • Most agencies will have their employees working on several projects. This can be valuable in bringing perspective to your firm, but you might find it difficult not being the sole focus of their attention. Likewise, it can be frustrating if requests aren't carried out right away. (N.B when choosing an agency, always ask to see SLAs as part of your due diligence)

In-house marketing resource

Pros

  • An in-house team will have an in-depth understanding of your business culture, aims, mission, and goals.
  • In-house teams can provide marketing resource on site and the ability to have face-to-face conversations regularly can help speed projects up.
  • Many of the marketers we know have reached the ‘top-table’ within their firms. That opportunity for career growth can lead to engaged employees in it with you for the long term and who have a stake in the growth of your firm.
  • Taking your agency activities in-house can negate any potential conflicts of interest with your agency working with other firms in the same space.

Cons

  • Do you have the resource to build a team? If you are relying on one or two people to cover all bases, there is a risk that their effectiveness becomes diluted
  • If you hire a great candidate, it’s unlikely they will match the wealth of skills, resources, and experience available within an agency.
  • When integrated with the daily reality of an in-house marketing role, seeing the woods for the trees can be hard - especially when you’re stuck in the weeds!

Getting the most out of your marketing budget

For many of the law firms we speak to, hiring one or two marketing professionals is usually the limit. But, given the wide-ranging remit of your average in-house law firm marketer, covering all of a law firms’ marketing needs can be a challenge.

In our experience, effective in-house marketing teams contain someone who can:

  • lead projects;
  • has solid marketing & business development expertise;
  • set the strategy;
  • hold people accountable;
  • coordinate teams;
  • remove obstacles, and;
  • communicate with stakeholders.

These people will often hire external agencies and build a team of people that can deliver different services tailored to their needs - rather than trying to be all things to all people.

Dedicated to Your Law Firm’s Success

If you would like to find out more about what a team of outsourced niche legal sector marketing experts can do for your firm, please contact Chris on 0808 501 5369 or email

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