What Was the Return on Investment for the Couch in Your Office?

 

You just opened a new law firm office. Or remodeled an existing one. You spent $500 on a couch to go in the waiting area and another $500 for a second one in your private office. The sign that boldly shouts the firm name cost you around $750 and the two new paintings you purchased set you back another $1,200. Add in the guest chairs, the plants and the reception desk, and you probably put in close to $4,000 on the furniture for this move alone.

Now, tell me…

What was the ROI?

What? You don’t know? You can’t measure it?

I don’t understand. Shouldn’t everything you do be accounted for by the return it produces? Note that I’m not talking about desks or conference tables here. These are items you will need to actually do your job. But couches, plants and paintings are hardly requisite items. Their purpose is merely to generate a “feel,” or mood and yes, an “image.” Yet, somehow you feel that they are critical. You may have pondered their expense, but you probably did not try to measure what revenue that expense will bring in.

Why not?

Don’t worry. You are not alone.

Creating the proper professional image is deemed as a prerequisite for any law firm. And the expenses involved to achieve that image are viewed as merely a cost-of-entry. You “need” certain elements in your office to make your clients feel good about you and your firm.

So why then do so many lawyers and law practices balk when it comes to investing in marketing programs that will make prospects feel good about them as well? Why is an office couch seen as an investment; but a web site, a magazine campaign, or a PR initiative seen as an expense?

There is no one who has preached the importance of generating a return on one’s marketing investment more than we have. In fact, our tagline actually states, “Marketing is an Investment. Reap a Return.” And I do believe that ultimately, everything you do must be geared towards achieving a positive, tangible result.

Yet, there is a point where law firms can take this point to the extreme – in fact, so much so, that they miss out on the vast array of opportunities right in front of them. They are so busy chasing the next, great lead that they are neglecting the larger and more important task of actually building their practice.

We recently had a situation in which a client developed a new web site and implemented a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. Now, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, while PPC efforts can generate quick response, they nonetheless are most effective when they are monitored and constantly tweaked. It is important to ascertain which ads are working, which keywords are generating interest, how the landing pages are being rated, and whether other marketing activities (e.g., fresh web site content) are in the works as well. It takes time to discover the exact ingredients for what will be the “secret sauce.” Our client was impatient however and grew anxious before even the first month of activity had transpired. He was adamant in highlighting how the firm had not as yet, recovered all of its marketing expenses. We explained to him that while it was way too early to “panic” over the PPC initiative, the results of the effort would only be hastened if the firm was more diligent about adding content to its site, getting its social media posts out, working on PR, etc. – activities of which none would require any significant financial outlays.

Unfortunately, the client could not see the forest for the trees, or in this case, the fact that marketing works in an integrated fashion– activity in one area invariably enhances the results in another. The social media posts, the web site content, and the PR were seen as “expenses,” rather than as investments of time that might make all the other elements of the marketing program (including the PPC campaign) work that much harder. Unfortunately, because this client viewed marketing as an expense (versus an investment), they never realized the ROI for which they were hoping.

By the way, did I mention that this client had had no problem paying for an incredibly, large gold-plated sign that hung across the waiting room wall?

Now consider another client of ours, but with a very different story, This one involved a multi-practice firm with an office in the center of Philadelphia that was looking to increase the visibility of its satellite office in the New Jersey suburbs. After exploring various options, the marketing approach ultimately selected was hardly traditional. Rather, the firm chose to generate awareness through implementation of a student art show in which third through eighth graders throughout the area were invited to submit original artwork that addressed the question, “What’s great about South Jersey?” The winning entry for each grade received a savings bond for themselves as well as a cash prize for his or her school. Over 300 entries were submitted and the competition, which culminated in an art show at the satellite offices attended by the students, their families and prominent members of the community, received substantial pre and post event publicity.

Why do I tell you this?

Because as I mentioned, the firm’s goal was to increase its visibility in the area. It did not ask what the expected short term ROI of the effort would be. It understood that this initiative was an investment in the relationship between the firm and the community. It wasn’t necessarily chasing the next client or the one after that. It was investing in a program that would pay dividends over time.

And with all that being said, you know what happened? Although it had not been their objective, the firm actually garnered four new clients from contacts made at the show. Needless to say, the success of the program prompted the firm to continue the contest in subsequent years.

There are two morals to take from these two case histories. First, while it is certainly okay, in fact, highly recommended, to measure marketing allocations by their potential to yield a positive ROI, it is definitely not okay to consider those allocations as expenses rather as investments simply because the yield did not come as quickly as one might like.

The second morale? Value your marketing efforts as much as you do your new couch.

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