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5 Red Flags to Watch for When Choosing a New Marketing Company

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Education is key when choosing a new marketing company for your law firm. Learn to spot 5 of the biggest red flags when making the tough decision of choosing a new law firm marketing company.

by Bobby Steinbach 22 October 2023

Selecting the right legal marketing company to promote your law firm can be a critical decision that impacts your firms’ success or failure in the market. A marketing agency plays a pivotal role in crafting your practices identity, reaching your target audience, and driving growth.  Making the wrong choice can have serious consequences, including wasted resources and a damaged brand reputation. While finding the right marketing agency is a nuanced and highly personal decision, there are some universal red flags to look out for regardless of preference. In today’s post, we’ll dig into 5 of the most insidious of these flags, all of which you can spot (and ask about) during the initial proposal process when considering making the switch to a new marketing agency. Let’s dive in.

1. Platform Lock-In: The Danger of Being Tied to Custom CMS

The first and perhaps most concerning warning sign when evaluating potential marketing partners is the issue of platform lock-in. This occurs when a marketing provider insists on using a custom Content Management System (CMS) that you become tethered to indefinitely. The consequences of platform lock-in can be severe. You risk becoming dependent on the provider’s proprietary system, making it challenging to switch to another agency if the need arises.

A far more flexible and sensible approach is to work with a marketing provider that builds on widely used open-source technologies such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. These platforms offer greater versatility and ease of transition between service providers. Open-source CMS options empower you to maintain control over your website and its content while ensuring that you’re not locked into a hostage/kidnapper relationship with your agency.

2. Long-Term Contracts with No Accountability: Flexibility Is Key

Another red flag to watch out for is long-term contracts with no built-in mechanisms for accountability. While many marketing providers offer annual contracts, being locked into such agreements can be detrimental if the relationship doesn’t work out as planned. It’s important to have some degree of flexibility when it comes to contracts.

Ideally, you should choose a marketing company that offers month-to-month agreements. This arrangement allows you to assess the effectiveness of the partnership on an ongoing basis. In cases where long-term commitments are necessary, consider a compromise, such as a three-month trial period followed by an annual commitment. This way, you can evaluate the working relationship and performance before committing to a more extended partnership.

3. Vague or Opaque Reporting: The Need for Transparency

Clear and transparent communication is the cornerstone of any successful business relationship, and marketing is no exception. If a marketing agency provides vague or opaque reporting, it’s a definite warning sign. Timely and accurate reports are essential for tracking your campaign’s progress, understanding its impact, and making data-driven decisions.

Reputable marketing providers should utilize industry-standard tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Google Analytics to provide you with detailed, easy-to-understand reports. These tools offer comprehensive insights into website performance, keyword rankings, traffic sources, and more. You should expect regular reports that show your campaign’s progress, explain any changes or adjustments made, and provide recommendations for future actions.

4. Lack of Specialization or Niche Expertise: The Industry-Specific Advantage

Specialization and niche expertise are critical factors when selecting a marketing provider. It’s a fact that legal is just too complex an industry to work in with a non-specialized provider.

Corey Quinn is an evangelist of niche specialization

Issues understanding the nuance of bar ethics, complexities around legal terminology and definitions, and the hugely varied user journeys across practice areas are all common obstacles when working with a non-specialized provider. And those are just the surface-level challenges. Launching marketing for a new case type, for example, requires a high-level understanding of working side-by-side with lawyers to define the audiences being targeted, criteria for case quality, and numerous other factors necessary for a successful campaign. Working with a marketing agency specialized in legal means avoiding the situation of someone else “learning with your money”. 

5. Guaranteed Results: The Illusion of Certainty

Lastly, it’s essential to be cautious of marketing companies that promise guaranteed results. Marketing is not an exact science; it’s a dynamic, ever-changing field influenced by numerous factors, including market trends, consumer behavior, and competition. Therefore, any provider claiming to guarantee specific outcomes should be viewed with skepticism.

Trustworthy marketing agencies understand the complexity of the field and set realistic expectations. They work diligently to achieve the best possible results based on their expertise and your specific goals. While they can’t guarantee a particular outcome, they can provide a roadmap for success and adjust strategies as needed to maximize your marketing ROI.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, choosing the right marketing company is a pivotal decision that can significantly impact your business’s success. By being vigilant and watching out for these five warning signs—platform lock-in, long-term contracts without accountability, vague reporting, lack of specialization, and guaranteed results—you can make a more informed and empowered choice.

Remember, a successful partnership with a marketing agency is built on trust, transparency, and a shared commitment to achieving your business objectives. Take the time to research potential providers, ask questions, and carefully evaluate their track record and expertise. The future success of your business hinges on making the right choice, so prioritize due diligence and choose a marketing company that aligns with your vision and goals.

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