Superbowl commercials: spending millions and getting pennies

Last night, I watched almost all of the Superbowl commercials back to back. I had heard that they were mostly a poor lot, with a handful of standouts, and that’s pretty much what I found.

But I didn’t watch merely for entertainment value. I wanted to see if any of these multi-million dollar creations did something that is essential in advertising. On this, they all failed miserably.

Toyota ran a good ad, about a man driving his daughter to the airport. Visually and emotionally effective. If they asked for my opinion before they ran it, here’s what I would have said:

Okay, Toyota, this ad is going to be seen by hundreds of millions of people all over the world. Many viewers will associate your name and brand with a positive message (what it means to be a father), and that’s good.

In addition to that, how would you like to have the names and email addresses (and zip codes) of a million future car buyers who saw that spot and wanted more information about your vehicles?

That would be cool, wouldn’t it? You could send them an online brochure, more videos, and an invitation to come in to their local dealer for a test drive.

You could also notify them when their dealer is having a sale, remind them when the new models are in, and send them special offers on maintenance and accessories.

On holiday weekends, you could invite them to come get free hot dogs and hamburgers and balloons for the kids. While they are in your dealer’s parking lot, they can get a free assessment of the trade-in value of their current vehicle, and take a test drive of the new model.

If you had this list and did these things, do you think you might sell more cars?

I think so, too.

So, here’s what I suggest. Instead of ending the ad on an emotional note and hoping for the best, put an offer in the ad. Offer viewers something they might want, like a 0 discount coupon on their next Toyota, and tell them how to get it. Tell them to go to a specific page on your site, provide their name and email and you’ll send it to them.

You’ll easily spend 0 per head on newspaper and TV ads to bring in prospective customers, but that’s money down the drain if they don’t buy. With a coupon offer like this, it costs you nothing unless someone buys a car.

Alas, they didn’t hire me and there was no offer in the ad. They missed out on a prime opportunity, and so did all of the other advertisers.

Many ads had a website, but in small letters at the bottom of the screen, almost as an afterthought. None had an offer. No incentive to visit the website and no call to action telling viewers what to do, and why. I watched the Victoria’s Secret spot several times, just to make sure I didn’t miss it, but no dice.

A few ads came close. They said things like, “To see more. . .”, and directed viewers to a specific page, but didn’t provide enough specifics or incentives to get anyone to take action.

I saw a lot of hashtags. Great. More people who know your name but don’t go to your website or sign up on your list.

These are billion dollar companies who spend millions on ads that don’t accomplish a fraction of what they could.

Why? Is it because they don’t know what they could do? In many cases, yes. They are so caught up in image and brand, and so far removed from actually selling anything, they are clueless about how to increase their bottom line. Others know but think that direct response advertising is beneath them.

Foolishness.

The lesson is simple. In every ad, in every piece of marketing collateral you circulate, offer something prospective clients or customers would want enough to identify themselves to you, and tell them what to do to get it.

It’s okay to use puppies and beautiful women to get their attention, but once you have it, get them to your site and onto your list so you can stay in touch with them and actually sell them something.

The quickest way to grow your law practice

We’ve been talking about social media marketing lately. If you embrace it, and it’s working for you, I’m all for it. But there are two things you need to know.

First, social media may do everything it’s supposed to do for you, i.e., build your list, improve your reputation, bring you leads and clients, but it usually won’t do it quickly. It can take months or years to bring in meaningful results.

Second, you have no control over what happens. Yes, you can see that you’re getting more results on Twitter than LinkedIn and direct more energy to Twitter (and if that’s what’s happening, you should), but whatever is going to happen on a given platform, or all platforms, is going to happen. You can’t make it do more or do it faster.

The same is true of other marketing techniques lawyers typically use–networking, articles, speaking, blogging, publicity, and referral marketing. They all work, but slowly, and you have very little control.

True, you might get lucky. You might meet and sign a huge client at a networking or speaking event. Your blog post may get noticed and linked to by a major publication, sending you a swarm of traffic. And while these things do happen, they are unpredictable. They may happen next month, five years from now, or never.

One marketing technique is different. It gives you tremendous control. You can try it on a small scale and if works, leverage your results into sequentially bigger results with nearly scientific accuracy.

You can also get results much quicker. In fact, I know of no quicker way to bring in business.

Oh, and there’s another advantage: you don’t need to spend time on this marketing technique. You can just write a check.

By now you may have figured out that I’m talking about paid advertising. But I’m not talking about any kind of advertising, I’m talking about direct response advertising.

Most attorneys who advertise don’t use direct response. They use “general awareness” or “branding” style ads, and they are often a giant cash sinkhole. They might work just enough to keep running them (e.g., yellow pages), but not enough to make a difference in your bottom line.

Plus, there’s almost no control. You can ask new clients, “where did you see our ad?” (and you should), but this doesn’t give you the degree of control I’m talking about.

Direct response advertising is different. You include a response mechanism in the ad (call this number, fill out this form) and measure the response. If you get enough response, if the ad is profitable, you run it again. If it continues to pull in sufficient response, you continue to run it, and in more publications or websites.

So, you start with a small, inexpensive ad. If it works you buy more ads, and perhaps bigger ads, and you continue your campaign. If the ad isn’t profitable, you pull it and try something else.

You don’t risk big money unless and until you know you have something that’s working. And then you test some of the variables (e.g., headline, offer, list, copy) to see if you can make it work even better.

Lead generation ads are direct response, and often work better than “one step” advertising (i.e., “Call for an appointment”). In a lead generation ad you offer something other than your services, in order to get people to identify themselves to you so you can add them to a list. You might offer a free report, a book, a “planning kit,” a checklist or a set of forms. The quality of your free information “sells” the recipient on hiring you.

Instead of giving away your book or kit, you could sell it. Everyone who buys your book or paid seminar is likely to be an even better prospect for your services, and their purchases help you pay for your advertising and fulfillment.

Advertising isn’t easy. It requires expertise and some money to start. But unless you are precluded from doing so (by your bar or firm), if you want to grow your law practice quickly, I suggest you consider adding direct response advertising to your marketing mix.

Because there’s no faster way to grow your law practice.

If you’re getting started in marketing, start with this.