How to create a ‘shock and awe’ marketing campaign for your law practice


An estate planning attorney in northern California liked my post about “shock and awe” marketing campaigns. This is where you deliver to the prospective client “an experience that is so compelling, they are almost powerless to say no.”

He asked how he might create one for his practice, “without seeming tacky or unprofessional or violating some state bar rules?”

As for bar rules, obviously you shouldn’t contact someone you are not permitted to contact or say anything you’re not permitted to say. Don’t send testimonials, for example, if they are not allowed in your jurisdiction.

As for appearing unprofessional, you need to put together a campaign you are comfortable with, given your practice area, your target market, and your individual style. All aspects of your marketing should be congruent with the image you have or are trying to convey.

A “shock and awe” campaign does two things. First, it heaps on benefits and urgency in a way that gets the prospect’s attention. There’s so much evidence in front of them, they cannot ignore it. Second, it compresses the time frame they might ordinarily take to digest that information, thus heightening the affect. In war, a shock and awe campaign is meant to demoralize the enemy, hastening their surrender. The objective is the same in marketing, that is, you want the prospect to surrender to the proposition you put in front of them. The difference is that in marketing, you don’t want to demoralize the prospect, only his apathy or objections.

One thing every attorney should do is to include as much,”third party documentation” as possible. If you say it, they can doubt it as self-serving. When someone else says it, it carries more weight. An estate planning attorney would want to include articles from consumer experts, for example, explaining, “what happens when you die intestate,” and advising their readers not to do-it-themselves, but to “always hire an experienced estate planning attorney.”

If you are allowed to use testimonials, by all means use them. Let your clients tell your prospects why they should hire you: how you explained everything up front, answered all their questions, helped them get peace of mind, and so on. There’s nothing more persuasive.

To create your campaign, I recommend the following steps:


Put together everything you have that could be construed as a marketing document, or could be turned into one. You might transcribe the audio of a talk, print several blog posts, or take quotes from longer articles, memos, or briefs and paste them onto a single page.

Examples of marketing documents include:

  • Brochures about your/your firm’s capabilities
  • Reports, articles, white papers, audios, written by you, about your core practice areas
  • Articles about you, i.e., feature stories, interviews, announcements of milestones or awards
  • Content from lawyers, CPAs, financial planners, consumer bloggers, and other experts that tend to prove the need for what you do
  • FAQ’s about (a) the law and procedure, and (b) features of your practice, e.g., practice areas, office hours, payment terms, staff, parking, etc.
  • Scripts, slides, bullet points, notes from presentations you’ve given to prospective clients or referral sources
  • Answers to common objections. See my post on the seven reasons prospective clients don’t hire attorneys.
  • Testimonials (from clients) and endorsements (from influential non-clients).
  • Success stories about people who hired you and got the benefits or solutions they desired. And tales of woe about people who didn’t hire you or who waited or made a poor decision and got hurt.
  • Anything else that makes the case for hiring an attorney for the services you offer and why that attorney should be you.

You’ll also want one or more “sales letters”. This is a letter from you that tells the prospect what you are offering and “what’s in it for them” (the benefits). If all they read is this letter, they will know: what you do, why they need you, and what to do to take the next step.

The more documents you have, the better. The sheer weight of your documents is part of the affect. If you don’t have many documents, get to work creating them. Not only will they help you create an effective shock and awe campaign, you will be able to use them for other marketing purposes throughout your career.


Not every client comes to you the same way. Some find your web site and fill out a contact form. Some ask you a question through social media that leads to a phone call. Some are referred by friends or colleagues and call your office directly. Others come via a professional who tells you they might have a referral and asks you for information they can pass along to their referral.

Each process is different and should be considered in putting together an effective campaign. Also, allow for differing levels of knowledge and “states of readiness,” such as:

  • Don’t know they have a problem/need
  • Aware they have a need, exploring alternative solutions
  • Starting to gather information on different attorneys
  • Currently represented but thinking of changing attorneys
  • Comparing attorneys/services
  • Already had a consultation with you, want more information
  • Former client, need to get them in for a review/update
  • Current client inquiring about one of your other services
  • Etc.


Eventually, you should prepare “shock and awe” campaigns for each of the most common client processes. Take a look at how your last ten or twenty clients came to you to get an idea of where to start.

There are three basic types of campaigns:

  • All at once. This is where you send everything in one package. It is the simplest campaign and can make a big impact, but consider what you will send or say to prospects if they aren’t ready to hire you right now. You might want to hold back a few items for a follow up.
  • Spaced distribution. This is where you provide a series of two to five or more packages, sent out over a period of a few days to a few weeks. Each package might deal with a different aspect of your services, i.e., tax advantages, liability, peace of mind, etc., or each successive package might build upon the prior one, turning up the heat until the final package makes “an offer they can’t refuse.”
  • Drip campaigns. This is where you dole out a little bit of information at a time over an extended period of time. This isn’t a typical “shock and awe” campaign because of the extended time line, but it could have the same effect if you build your “case” properly and include an effective “closing argument” towards the end of the series.

Also, consider how you will deliver this information. A package delivered by messenger will have a bigger impact than an email. A letter in the mailbox is much more likely to be read and responded to than sending them to a web page. You must consider these various methods and their relative costs in putting together your campaigns.

Include “fear of loss” elements, i.e., deadlines for special offers, limited quantities, or impending changes in the law. Adding these to the weight of evidence you have provided could be just enough to get fence sitters to take action.

Finally, always leave the door open to go back to your prospects with more information and new offers. You may have done everything right in your campaign to shock them into realizing why they need to act, but if they aren’t ready, they aren’t ready. Stay in touch with them, continue to deliver information, and one day, perhaps years later, they may shock you by giving you a call to make an appointment.