I’ve worked in-house at law firms in the past, and have simultaneously experienced working with a large company. Currently, Market My Market can be considered a “smaller” legal marketing company, as a large portion of our clientele are lawyers. I’d be remiss if this entire blog was dedicated entirely to encouraging you to espouse smaller companies for nearly everything you do – it is somewhat the contrary; my experiences with a large company (or really, THE largest legal marketing company in the country if not the world) had plenty of great qualities and frankly capabilities and competencies I can’t claim to completely retain myself. I am simply outlining the pros and cons of each and letting the reader come to their own conclusions about whether a larger or smaller company may cover their firm’s marketing needs.
To start, how do we define what a large company is vs. a small company? A large company TYPICALLY (not always) has the following qualities:
- Multiple locations – perhaps more than 3
- Employs in the hundreds and not the dozens
- Is owned by an even larger corporation that may be publically traded
- Has a lot of VPs of client retention, services, marketing, development etc.
- Basically, has a lot of the qualities of a typical “larger” corporation
So if you don’t think you’d be able to easily talk to the owner of the agency, that’d be a good sign of a larger company. A smaller company is essentially the near opposite of the aforementioned qualities.
So let’s get right into it – what are the main differences? I will be rating each area 1-5 (1 is least favorable and 5 is most favorable) based on my experience seeing it firsthand over the past 5 years. Again these are just averages and my opinion from working with many many many lawyers, but are not definitive and precisely calculated numbers. I’ll even throw in individual freelancer/consultant to give it more perspective, but that’ll be another blog. Let us see below:
Costs – How much will hiring the company actually set you back?
Large Agency- 1: Larger legal marketing agencies are expensive – let’s face it, they have sales people, account managers, senior account managers, SEO analysts, and managers, and reps, and coordinators, and….it goes on and on. The overhead becomes pretty staggering so it easily rolls into your monthly costs, but of course the other reasons are what we’ll see below. If there are guys out there saying they’ll rank you for “NYC personal injury lawyer” for just $300/mo in a short period of time, just briskly walk the other way.
Small Agency- 3: Structured often in a miniature way of the larger agency, minus a big overhead cost for staffing and marketing. The hierarchy is cut shorter so account managers are often the SEO guys and the actual owners of the company. Salespeople aren’t always the first point of contact so you can talk to someone that doesn’t have commission as the forefront of their motives. Prices are flexible and negotiable, resulting in a more manageable cost at most times.
Ability – Do they have staff that really know what they have to do to make me successful?
Large Agency- 5: Large agencies have a good knack at utilizing their budget and human resources to recruit the best of the best. They have staff dedicated to grooming and training staff, such as company retreats and special programs. This is something that is generally proven for large agencies – they have the ability to do a great job with any single account, it just depends on if they provide the time and effort to do so which we will see later.
Small Agency- 4: With a staff that isn’t as expansive as a large agency, the odds of having the right talent and staff to truly prove ability tends to be smaller. This isn’t to say that smaller agencies don’t have ability, plenty do – it is just that the chances of the firm having the right talent in place isn’t as great as a large agency.
Communication – Can I get in touch with them when I want? Will they keep me in the loop?
Large Agency- 2: This is when things start differing quite a bit, and I can say this firsthand and reiterate plenty of accounts. Large agencies are notorious for lack of communication. It normally starts with assigned account managers which almost always happens. The chain of communication becomes convoluted when a client asks an SEO question, that must be relayed through 1-2 different people before relayed back. Things are lost in translation, follow-ups aren’t handled in a timely manner, and communication breaks down. Reporting in general tends to not be helpful and being able to go over that in itself is a hassle. And let’s not even get started with web updates, social, paid, general inquiries, etc.
Small Agency- 4: Small agencies commonly cut out some of the hierarchy so you don’t have a contact for SEO, a separate for web updates, separate for your maps listing, separate for your social, ANOTHER separate for your content strategy. You’ll tend to only have a couple contacts for everything, and the ability to email and call them directly. They also don’t always follow a 9-5 structure that makes it tough for you during work days. We, for example, take calls commonly after 8 PM and occasionally on weekends (don’t abuse it though please!). Also if there’s an emergency, such as a security breach that affects a website, the problem doesn’t wait until the next day just because the typical work day is over.
Freelance – 5
Resources – Do they have the tools and means to get their marketing campaign done?
Large Agency- 5: There’s no doubt that large agencies have access to plenty of resources and trending marketing strategies. They often have people dedicated to simply research and development and testing new products. Many of these are offered to clients to try and give feedback on in a beta stage or beginning stages of rollout (though of course costs may be associated with them).
Small Agency- 3: Ambitious smaller agencies have their own resources that they offer to their clients to help them succeed. Unfortunately, I can’t claim the extent of that for most agencies of this size.
Connections – Do they have access to the latest marketing opportunities?
Large Agency- 5: Between cross-promotions, networking, and partnerships with Google and other search engines, they do have a good position here.
Small Agency- 4: Small agencies are afforded the same opportunities – they are typically the ones that have to do the entire outreach though.
Results – How much will I actually benefit from their services?
Preface for this section: really all forms of marketing services can provide optimal results but it depends on your practice area, geography, demand, and level of competition. The only reason I gave large agencies a ding is because of one profound and startling fact: many will have multiple clients in your area that handle the same area of law. They commonly have no shame about this fact. This is obviously not ideal for results, as there’s no incentive for them to perform more work on your account than the 2-3 other lawyers they retain in your region…
Large Agency- 4
Small Agency- 5
Large Agency- 22
Small Agency- 23
Looks like the results are really close! Small agency wins by a hair because of my extremely small but necessary bias.
As mentioned before, Market My Market has experience working with dozens of legal clients in a variety of focus areas. Our team offers only the highest quality of service for all law firms and is well-versed in the various aspects of legal marketing. To learn more about our services and receive a free service quote, contact us at (800) 954-9441.