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Attorney Advertising Woes

Posted by Rick · August 14th, 2007 · No Comments

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only attorney out there frustrated with the advertising systems available to us. From talking with other attorneys, I get a sense that I’m not. Yet I can’t figure out why things are as bad as they are, if everyone is as frustrated as me.

This morning, a representative of Martindale-Hubbell calls to ask me how satisfied I am with the service. Whoa! Was that a mistake, or what?! (See my last article for a hint of how I feel about legal advertising.)

On average, I’m finding that these online websites charge approximately $2600 to $4000 per year for the privilege of being in their database. Being in their database, theoretically, means that you’re going to get phone calls from people who search for attorneys using their database.

Well, I’m not going to beat a dead horse. If spending that kind of money actually resulted in phone calls, it would be worth it. Fact is, I’ve spent nearly $6000 for online advertising. Over the last few months, I’ve managed to get one phone call that resulted in a client. If I manage to get one more this year, my ads will finally have paid for themselves (assuming it’s a normal-sized job).

Well, maybe. It depends. Martindale-Hubbell, for example, informs me today that when I signed the contract with them, the contract price was just an “estimated” price. That’s right. As represented to me, I signed a contract for x-number of dollars, but that’s not my actual bill.

Apparently, the bill goes up if you add any information about yourself to the database. I added more than the five or six words that you’re apparently allowed with the base contract. (After finding this out, I went back and removed all words about myself except for my website address. And, oh, by the way, these companies refuse to point anyone directly from the database to your website. If a customer clicks on the link for your website, they first have to go look at a really cheesy page designed by Martindale-Hubbell. On that page, you can put a link that will take them directly to your own website.)

I don’t know. It seems to me that if you go anywhere else — buy a car, a refrigerator, or even hire a criminal defense attorney — if you end up paying more than you agreed to pay and the response is “well, the contract price was just an estimate,” I don’t think it would fly. I know if I did that, the State Bar would be all over me about it.

But there doesn’t seem to be a solution to this problem.

And I guess that’s why, next year, I won’t be spending any advertising dollars. So far, nearly all my clients come to me via referrals anyway, with one signed up because of the online advertising dollars I’ve spent.

And as long as companies like Martindale-Hubbell are going to refuse to give me what I want and what their reps represented to me that I was buying, I’m done with them.

If you read this far, I apologize for taking your time. 😉 This was intended as more of a “rant” post. (I should probably create a new category called “Rants.”) If you read this thinking it was a real article like I used to write, I’m sorry. I guess I should have just called it an “estimate.”

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