By now it's established: the country is in the midst of a major economic downturn. During tough economic times, marketing is frequently the first expense to go on the chopping block. But does this knee-jerk reaction really make good business sense?
While a law firm may find it difficult to sign new clients during a downturn, it still needs to reinforce its expertise and value-added with existing clients to keep them onboard. As everyone knows it costs far more to sign a new client than it does to keep an existing one.
A recession may also provide an opportunity to grab market share. Firms that boost marketing while their competitors are cutting back face less competition for the attention of prospects, and thus can more easily get their message out.
With these thoughts in mind, we recently reviewed two MarketingSherpa studies to find out how businesses are adjusting their marketing tactics during the downturn to maintain brand awareness and continue generating leads, and see what guidance we could extract for law firms in terms of online marketing strategies.
The studies show that marketers anticipate investing more in online marketing tactics while cutting back on traditional methods like print and tradeshows. One sample chart shows that 38% are increasing online investment while 36% are decreasing investment in traditional tactics.
What are the top online marketing tactics being pursued during the downturn? Email marketing (albeit to house lists, not rented lists), social networking (Web 2.0), and webinars (sample chart: 52% of marketers are increasing email marketing to house lists, while 47% are increasing Web 2.0 marketing efforts).
The case for law firms investing is email marketing is that it is low cost, targeted and measurable (for example, with email alerts, you can demonstrate how many clients (and which clients) are opening your emails, and clicking to read the full articles).
As far as Web 2.0, while it costs little more than a person's time to blog and participate in various social networks, the "buzz" generated can be substantial (see case study of H&R Block's social media strategy involving Facebook and Twitter), while the positive impact on search engine visibility can be significant over time. By the same token, devoting effort to SEO can dramatically improve site traffic (and increase new leads) with little outlay.
Finally, MarketingSherpa's research shows a shift away from participating in "live" events like tradeshows towards sponsoring online events like webinars. The logic is easy to see: while attendance at an "in person" event entails major transportation, lodging and other costs, running a webinar costs little more than the time of the people involved.
Some final recommendations from MarketingSherpa:
Upsell and cross-sell to your installed base - as noted, it's far easier to increase business with an existing client than to sign a new client
Focus your marketing on the best-performing industries where companies are less affected by the downturn - develop case studies of past successes in such industries to help with pitching new prospects