Posted by: johnocunningham | October 29, 2015

ROI: Content Marketing vs. Advertising

I noticed in one of my Google-alerts a story about law firm advertising budgets exploding over the last seven years (story at

This development is shaping up just as other commercial enterprises are shifting their marketing dollars to social media and content marketing rather than continuing to invest in increasingly fragmented traditional advertising markets. (See e.g., “This Week in Content Marketing“).

While there are all kinds of research and analyses on the ROI of content marketing and advertising (see, for example, “The Reach, Engagement and ROI of Content Marketing vs. Native Advertising“) the crux of the decision on where to spend dollars is all about what you are willing to do, what it will cost you, who you will reach, and what impact you will have on them.

There is no question that consumers trust advertising less and less over time, and advertising has become mostly about increasing “top of mind” brand awareness.

Unfortunately, in a professional services field, brand awareness alone is not going to get you very far. Furthermore, in the practice of law, the vast majority of corporate clients choose an individual provider more than they choose a brand (although they may “qualify” an individual service provider, in part, based on the institutional acceptance of the brand).

Thus, a practice group or an individual practitioner at a recognized brand name law firm will do better to invest in lower-cost, effective content marketing that resonates with clients rather than slick and expensive advertising.

Of course, if your content is just another stale newsletter full of boilerplate regurgitations of new regulations or statutes that you are slow to deliver, then it will not stand out from the clutter any more than another tombstone ad in a trade magazine for lawyers.

But if you develop content that shows a little of your personality, while being quick and easy to read, informative, and useful, then there is a good chance that a sizeable portion of your target audience will save, share or comment favorably on that content. Some will even bookmark the content and call you when the need arises for your demonstrated expertise.

My own surveys of sophisticated corporate clients indicate that they will not hire you solely because of your content, but they will take notice of you and sometimes begin the process of “qualifying” you as a potential service provider as a result of your demonstrated ability to communicate essential information about a topic of concern to their business or industry.



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