We here at Skunkworks have been slow to jump on the Display Network bandwagon. The reason being that many of our law firm clients are transitioning away from Yellow Pages listings and search marketing is the logical next step. For example, someone is looking for a lawyer, they do a quick Google search and they are provided with a list of lawyers from which to choose. If the Whole Earth Catalog became the Internet, the Yellow Pages simply became Google (rumour has it that the YP continues to exist).
The business case is also fairly clear. Every dollar invested in search ads buys visits from people who are currently in the market for your professional expertise. You paid $A for B# visitors to your site, C# of which converted into clients and generated $D in revenues. This form of direct response advertising is increasingly the bread and butter of modern marketing.
What has been less clear is the business case for professionals investing in brand awareness. In other words, exposing people to your brand with the hope that somewhere down the road they’ll need your services and remember your name. When someone buys a print ad in a general interest magazine, this is what they are trying to accomplish. Due to the costs associated with a print media buy, brand awareness campaigns have traditionally been the domain of very large firms. Not any more.
Display Network – Cheap, Cheap, Cheap
By acquiring DoubleClick in 2008, Google secured its dominance for both search advertising AND display advertising. By display advertising, I mean text, banner, and video ads that make-up the commercial surface of the web. Display advertising is the primary driver keeping the “free” web commercially viable (although “commercially viable” may be an overstatement for many sites). By displaying ads on a site, the site owner receives a share of the advertising fees (generally through Google’s AdSense Program).
Now back to search marketing for lawyers. In Canada, the cost-per-click of many law-related keywords ranges from $3/click to $30/click depending on a variety of factors. A keyword like “Personal Injury Lawyer Calgary” can easily run in the $25/click range. These costs can add-up. Even a budget of $200/day can be easily exhausted.
We have experimented with some law firm campaigns on the display network. In one case, a targeted banner campaign for a personal injury firm cost approximately $30/month. The cost was based on 9 clicks and 32,334 impressions. As my mechanic would say, this is cheap, cheap, cheap. The banner ads appeared 32 thousand times for $30? Because the pricing is based on clicks and because most visitors weren’t looking for a personal injury lawyer at the time, it was a very affordable way to build the brand. The equivalent circulation in a magazine would be several orders of magnitude higher. While we won’t know the dividends immediately (unlike direct response advertising), it was a very affordable investment in the firm’s brand.
Social Media Advertising – Facebook + LinkedIn
On a related note, we have been achieving much the same thing with social media ad campaigns. Do you rely heavily on referrals? For minimal cost, you can run ads on the LinkedIn accounts of relevant referrers in your region. Again, while these are longer term investments, their low cost makes them well worth a try.