As you know, there’s been a revolution in the marketing of lawyers and law firms in the last several decades. Prior to the Supreme Court’s 1977 ruling in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, there was virtually no paid legal advertising or marketing whatsoever. Most attorneys had a listing in the phone book, a business card, and a letterhead. The Supreme Court, however, determined that a ban on marketing and advertising was a ban on free speech. The ruling still allows state bar associations to regulate legal advertising so that that the information presented is true and does not mislead or make false claims.

Lawyers experimented with all kinds of marketing efforts after 1977. They bought television commercials and billboards abundantly, for example. But since the 1990s, the internet has made legal marketing and advertising more complicated – and more important. As the new millennium began, it was becoming clear that attorneys in the 21st century would need to have a substantial internet presence to remain viable in an increasingly competitive legal marketplace.

Internet marketing done right takes some expertise. A few of the larger law firms began to hire their own marketing people, but most law firms and attorneys reached out for professional help to create internet marketing campaigns. Consumers have also changed in the last several decades. Those who seek an attorney’s services today are far more likely to research an attorney’s background – and to research it in-depth – than those who were seeking an attorney in the Yellow Pages in 1985.

Internet marketing makes it possible to measure precisely the effectiveness of various marketing tools, tactics, and approaches. It’s becoming a science. With so many tools, options, and opportunities to consider, it’s becoming more difficult for law firms and attorneys to determine which marketing partners can genuinely help boost the bottom line – and which “marketing experts” are only offering hot air and flapdoodle.

Is it better to hire different vendors for different aspects of your marketing? Is it better to hire one insightful marketing consultant, and let that person make the marketing decisions? Or is it better to hire a full-service firm that can handle all of your online marketing and more? What about the marketing people you are already partnering with? Are they taking your marketing where it needs to go and effectively reaching out to new potential clients? And how can you know for sure? Discussed here are the five qualities that law firms and attorneys should seek when they hire people to help with the online marketing:

1. PROVEN SUCCESS

The best way to determine if an internet marketing company can help you is to talk to their clients and to look at their numbers. Internet marketing – like no other kind of advertising or marketing – can provide you with very precise numbers and percentages, so you don’t have to rely on impressions or anecdotes to determine if a marketing company can help you. You should be able to see it in black and white. If a marketing company has success and the statistics to prove it, they’ll be happy to share those numbers with you.

2. THEY DO IT FOR THEMSELVES

What about a marketing company’s own marketing? Are they doing for themselves what you want them to do for you? Do they have a message that resonates? A website that’s easy to find, attractive to the eye, well-written and designed, and easy to navigate? Are they easy to reach and do they return calls promptly? Do they understand and make use of the newest tools and technology? Do they deliver on their promises? If marketers are not properly promoting and marketing themselves, they probably can’t promote you effectively, either.

3. YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THEM

Make certain that you are comfortable with a marketing company before you hire them. Go back and look at their own website again, and then Google the company and find out what else is online about them. Are you comfortable with everything you see and read? Does the company blend younger with more seasoned professionals? If so, your firm or practice may benefit from the combination of extensive marketing experience with fresh marketing approaches and insights.

4. THEY FOLLOW THROUGH WITH MARKETING STRATEGIES

Coming up with a sound marketing strategy is one thing – actually implementing that strategy and following through is another. Beyond the plans and statistics, will a marketing firm help you understand how a marketing strategy is being executed? Do they understand your issues, and do they arrive at solutions that sound right to you? If you’re not convinced that marketers understand your needs, you may be unhappy with their solutions.

5. THEY ARE TRANSPARENT WITH YOU

A good internet marketing company will treat their relationship with you as a partnership with your involvement. Understanding how much of your own participation will be required is imperative. Make certain that an internet marketing company fully understands your online marketing needs and goals, and that they are willing to spend time learning about you and your firm or practice.

Of course, the contract arrangement should be clearly beneficial to both parties. Make certain that you fully understand and that you’re comfortable with the way you’ll pay for services. Will there be a retainer? Are you paying a monthly fee or is there another arrangement? Are services bundled? Can payments be made online? You’ll have to consider these questions and find the answers – and the marketing professionals – that are right for you.

Successful online marketing requires the skills of a number of professionals: web designers, graphic artists, content writers, photographers and videographers, and managers who can bring them all together. A solo marketing consultant simply cannot do it all alone. Consider a marketing firm that provides all of the skills and talents you’re going to need as well as a manager you can communicate with quickly and comfortably.

An internet marketing agency is well worth the cost, provided you choose the right team. Nothing today is more critical to the future success of your law firm or law practice than your online presence. It’s no longer just a matter of offering consumers another convenient way to contact and learn about you. Consumers today judge you on the basis of your website and your overall online presence, so it’s imperative to partner with the right internet marketing company. It’s one of the most important professional choices you’ll make.