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Marketing whiz

By: Carol Lundberg//June 17, 2011

Marketing whiz

By: Carol Lundberg//June 17, 2011

Walk into the restroom at the King Street Grille in downtown Charleston and you’ll find an ad for a local legal firm with a drunken driving practice. Photo by Anne McQuary

When it comes to marketing his law firm, Ken Harrell, managing partner of the Joye Law Firm, has tried just about everything. Some campaigns have worked well; others have failed miserably. The trick to making it work is simple, though, says Harrell: Have a lot of money, and know when it’s time to move on to the next idea.

The firm advertises its bread-and-butter personal injury practice everywhere — on television, on billboards, in the Yellow Pages and on the Internet.

Joye even advertises its small drunken driving defense practice in front of a captive audience — in about 20 bathrooms in bars and restaurants that cater to a young, nightlife-oriented crowd in Charlotte and Myrtle Beach, the locations of the firm’s two offices.

But that’s one marketing campaign Harrell is about ready to flush, so to speak.

Harrell said he came up with the idea to advertise on graffiti boards — poster-size ads on the walls in strategically located hot spots — when he saw similar ads at a minor-league baseball stadium.

It was inexpensive (although he wouldn’t say how much he was paying), and it seemed like a good idea. And it might have been, but Harrell says he’s not interested in growing that part of his practice. Instead, he plans to divert his marketing budget into personal injury advertising.

Television advertising is still Harrell’s primary marketing tool. But internet advertising is getting closer to television, in terms of the investment the firm is making in it.

He won’t say which form of advertising nets him the most new clients. But he does say he spends a lot of money tracking the firm’s marketing efforts. And he spends a lot of money on advertising, because that’s what it takes to establish brand recognition. He figures he’s probably the No. 3 spender in the Charleston legal market, possibly the top spender in Myrtle Beach.

While he plans to continue with traditional media, the firm is also expanding its community service efforts. It started Joye in the Community, which funds the Joye Law Firm Annual Scholarship Program and contributes to dozens of charities, including Rotary International, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity and The Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center.

“When they’re thinking about marketing, that’s the part a lot of lawyers leave out, their involvement in the community,” Harrell said. “We want to be visible and involved in the community. Of course we do that because we believe in these causes. But customers are savvy and they want to know that their lawyers are good people. They’re going to be involved in working with that lawyer for two or three years.”

David Henson, of Henson Fuerst PA in Raleigh, N.C., said that one of his firm’s most effective campaigns is a service project, Henson First Health Initiative, which supports health and fitness education, physical well-being and injury prevention.

“The explosion that finally lawyers are paying attention to is doing good in the community,” Henson said. “You do it because you believe in it and you’re passionate about it, not really as a way to get clients, because it really is a lousy way to get clients.

“But it’s a great way to build relationships, and to let people get to know you. We really are good people and we really do good things.”

One of the initiative’s premier programs is, a statewide contest for middle- and high-school students who create public service announcements about bicycle and driving safety.

The firm started the contest three years ago after working on a wrongful death case involving a cyclist.

“We talked it over with the family we represented and we agreed to put our entire fee toward setting up this program,” Henson said. The winners received Macintosh laptops and their schools got $500 each. And the firm runs the winning PSAs in its regular rotation of television advertising.

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to advertising, said Raleigh-based attorney Ken Hardison, of Hardison & Cochran Attorneys at Law, also based in Raleigh.

As founder and president of the Personal Injury Lawyers Marketing and Management Association, Hardison has heard from thousands of personal injury lawyers from around the country; they’ve told him what works for them, what doesn’t work for them, and what might not work for anyone.

“One example is billboards. They work as a supplement, but not as a stand-alone,” said Hardison. “If you only put up a billboard, and nothing else, it doesn’t work.”

Hardison’s own firm, a large personal injury practice, is currently using a multi-tiered approach with decidedly high-tech and old school marketing tools. He pulled his advertising from the Yellow Pages — too pricey, he says — about four years ago, and diverted more resources to Internet marketing. He also produces video blogs, which are posted on his website.

But what is working best for him right now is the lowest of low-tech vehicles for information: books.

He’s written seven consumer titles, including “Seven fatal mistakes victims of accidents make in NC,” and “North Carolina’s guide to nursing home negligence.” Each book is 45 to 95 pages long, and Hardison distributes them free on his website and at comparatively old fashioned venues such as festivals and fairs.

“We’re really big on education-based marketing,” Hardison said. “The truth is that nobody likes to be sold to but everyone likes to buy.”

He sends out newsletters, both digital and print.

“Unbelievably, I get better response from the regular paper newsletters,” Hardison said.

He said TV is still king, and that’s where most of his advertising dollars go. But one single medium is not enough.

“The Web is moving quickly,” he said. “In the next 10 to 20 years the Web will take over television. So will mobile texting. It’s like the Internet was 15 years ago. Everyone knows it’s out there and it’s going to be important but nobody knows how they want to use it yet.”

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