The Biggest Marketing Mistake We’ve Ever Made (And How to Avoid Making It)

12 minutes to read

At the end of 2017, we’d just given away our first Tesla. Crisp was growing. Revenue was up. Site traffic was up. Social engagement was on the rise.

And that’s when it happened.

We became complacent. It went to our heads. And then some clever person had a bright idea that came back to bite us, hard.

We made our biggest marketing mistake — one we don’t want to see your law firm make.

This article will break it all down. Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Was Our Biggest Marketing Mistake?

Things were going better than ever. We were bringing in more clients, creating better videos, and making a bigger impact on the industry.

People were talking about us. Our social following and engagement was up.

We were hitting our revenue targets and setting bigger goals.

All was well.

And that is the point we made our BIGGEST marketing mistake.

We decided to turn off our brand awareness ads.

Social mentions and brand searches were going up, social engagement was increasing, and traffic to our website was increasing.

Things were looking good — so why did we change anything?

Well, tracking direct return on investment (ROI) with brand awareness ads can be a challenge. Those ads aren’t always easy to connect to conversions, so we weren’t totally sure they were directly contributing (and they cost us money).

If you aren’t paying attention, you might think those ads aren’t driving revenue.

What do you do when you want to know if your awareness ads are actually working?

You turn them off. 

So that’s what we did.

And it was the biggest mistake we’ve ever made.

Here’s what happened: 

See that deep dive right at the end of 2017? That was when we decided that we didn’t need to continue spending money on top-of-funnel brand awareness.

What we learned from making this mistake:

Everything performs better when you’re running awareness ads.

Social media, paid ads, direct mail, video marketing, billboards, lead generation — everything.


Because they support each other.

Every digital marketing strategy there is will generate more clicks and clients if the person seeing it is already familiar with your brand name.

For instance, the chart below plots Crisp’s brand awareness (or “knownness”) in comparison to revenue from 2015 to 2019: 

The rise is nearly identical.

As our target market came to know us (through our relentless brand awareness advertising), they started to engage with our other marketing efforts, whether they were related to brand awareness or were more conversion-focused.

Here’s the thing — people can’t hire you if they don’t know you exist. That is why brand awareness is so critical to building or growing any business, especially your law firm.

Law firms can’t expect to only market to folks who need their service right now.

You need to advertise to a broader audience of people who are in your target audience so that when they do need a lawyer, you’re the only one they think of. 

So, how do you avoid making this massive marketing mistake?

Well, there are two steps. First, don’t turn off your brand awareness ads. That one should be pretty clear.

Then, invest in a multi-channel marketing strategy where impactful branding and paid ads work together to keep your firm’s messaging top-of-mind for your ideal clients.

How Brand Awareness Supports Every Other Growth Strategy

Over the years we have invested a lot in brand building and awareness ads. And here’s what we’ve learned:

Revenue follows attention. 

Wordstream actually did a study recently where they looked at what happened when brands pulled back on so-called “poor performing” ads:

Conversions from all campaigns dropped when so-called “poor performing” ads were cut back.

In the big picture (not just in terms of direct clicks) those ads weren’t so “poor-performing” after all.

Brand awareness, or knownness, impacts every part of your business. Not just ad clicks, but website traffic, search volume, lead generation, and — yes — revenue.

Here’s what we tell our clients: Best-known beats best.

That means that if you want to get the best clients and attract the best cases, it’s not enough to be the best attorney in your area — you need to be the best-known attorney.

You need to play the long game.

Here’s what a typical path might look like for someone becoming a client of your law firm (if you’re playing the long game and driving brand awareness):

Conversion isn’t a straight line from an ad to an intake call.

It’s a long and complicated decision — a decision made easier when your potential clients see your law firm’s ads and brand more than any others.

Remember, most people don’t need legal representation right now. That’s why we recommend a brand awareness campaign like Crisp Social Stack to our clients.

Targeted social media ads get you in front of the 97% people who don’t necessarily need you right now (whereas something like PPC ads get you in front of the 3% who do — and have an insanely competitive, high cost to get you there).

A multi-channel brand awareness campaign keeps your firm top of mind, for a much larger audience, for a much lower cost. Then, when that larger audience of people do need a lawyer, you’re the only one they can imagine calling.

Let’s walk through it:

  • You use Facebook’s advertising targeting to ensure your brand awareness ad is seen exclusively by people in your area and who are likely to need your legal services down the line.
  • Those people may click on the ad and check out your website for a minute, but leave without engaging too much (as they don’t need a lawyer at the moment).
  • They’re retargeted on YouTube, Instagram, and on the Google Display Network (where you can position your ads on other websites they go to — every see an ad on Buzzfeed, CNN, Fox News, or
  • They see your face on a billboard, park bench, or in a radio ad and recognize the name (even unconsciously).
  • They continue to see your brand messaging on all the social platforms where they spend your time. They get to know you and your firm, find your content useful, and associate you with helpful legal advice.
  • When they have a legal need, they remember you before any competitor.
  • They Google your firm, and set up an appointment.

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Branding?

Okay, so we got the “awareness” part, but what about the branding?

Are we talking about logos, fonts, and brand colors?

That is part of it, for sure.

But when it comes to law firms, branding is more about people: yourself, your team, your clients, and how your firm makes people feel.

How does your firm appear in the minds of your clients and others in your community? Do they think you are trustworthy? Easy to work with? Do they know your brand’s story, or your personal story? Do they feel emotionally connected to you? What sets you apart?

Let’s look at an example of law firm branding at work.

Here’s the brand video for Elder Law Practice of Scott Collins

The music, the colors, even the pace of the video all evoke feelings of calmness, security, and peace — all feelings that are important to people who are looking for a lawyer to help them with elder law.

To contribute to a cohesive brand identity, this experience would need to be consistent across their website, ads elsewhere on the web, traditional marketing materials, and even their physical office and the experience of reaching out and interacting with them.

Aligning their branding across all platforms means their target audience is left with a single, focused impression of the Elder Law Practice of Scott Collins: calm, safe, and peaceful.

But creating a great, cohesive brand isn’t the end of the story.

In addition to branding, your firm’s marketing strategy needs to be relentless and multi-channel.

How to Avoid This Mistake: Multi-Channel Marketing

If you’re a criminal defense attorney, your clients aren’t looking for an attorney before they’ve been charged.

So does that mean you never market your firm?

No, it means you use a strategy that keeps your firm top of mind so that when those folks do need a lawyer, your firm is already familiar to them.

But branding alone won’t make your law firm grow.

It’s like having a great website — it’s useless if nobody sees it.

And (as we mentioned this above) the best, most effective way to get your brand in front of your ideal clients is with social media ads.

When it comes to marketing today, it’s a pay to play world.

You can spend months on educational content and tens of thousands of dollars paying for a new website, and still get nowhere if you’re not getting that content in front of people and driving traffic to your website.

Social media gives your firm unparalleled access to your firm’s potential clients:

It goes without saying that your next client spends their time and attention on a social media platform. The challenge, then, is in reaching them.

Unfortunately, organic reach (getting your content in front of them without paying for it) is way down.

For instance, you can expect to reach no more than 5.5% of your Facebook business page’s fans organically:

That’s a lot of blue.

If you want to stay top of mind with your clients, you need to be willing to pay to reach them.

And you need to be everywhere those potential clients are, which means using more than one channel at the same time — a multi-channel strategy.

YouTube Ads

Where do you go if you want to reach the widest possible audience? You go where the most people spend the most time.

There’s a good chance they’re on YouTube — in fact, people between the ages of 18 and 49 watch YouTube videos more than Netflix and Facebook videos combined. 

YouTube is one of the most effective platforms for video marketing and building brand awareness — and there are two reasons for this.

  1. The reach: YouTube is the second most visited website in the world. More than 5 billion videos are watched on the site every single day.
  2. The ad types: The 6-second bumper ads that play at the beginning of videos are perfect for brand awareness. They’re short, they can’t be skipped, and they offer an affordable cost per view. Skippable in-stream ads that can play before, during, or after videos are also an option for leveraging longer cuts and using them to build audiences of engaged users who watched a certain length of a video ad.

For your law firm, a YouTube ad would look like this:

At Crisp, we run all different types of YouTube ads, but we really find a lot of value in those 6-second bumper ads to build brand awareness. In fact, we’ve used them to generate more than 60 million impressions at a cost of less than 1 cent per view.

Facebook Video Ads

Facebook currently has around 2.5 billion active users. And 96% of those users access the platform every single day.

60% of internet users who watch online videos do so on Facebook. That makes it the second most popular video platform after YouTube.

And Facebook’s in-stream ads (ads that play right within the newsfeed of your prospective clients) can end up costing you less than 6 cents per view:

(Image Source)

One of the most powerful features of Facebook ads is the unparalleled targeting capabilities. For example, you can target by household income, relationship, interests, digital behavior, and more.

Household targeting is particularly interesting for law firms, because it allows you to target people who live together.

So, for example, if you are targeting people who are of a certain age (for an estate planning law firm, perhaps), you can also target everyone else in their household with the same ads.

Instagram Video Ads

There’s a couple of reasons why Instagram ads are an integral part of a multi-channel marketing strategy.

First, the platform has 1 billion monthly active users — less than Facebook and YouTube, but still impressive (and growing fast).

What really stands out about Instagram is how long people stay on the app and how engaged those users are. In fact, the average user spends half an hour a day on Instagram — and many spend far longer.

Overall, we have seen costs of less than 5 cents per view on Instagram ads, which is slightly lower cost than Facebook.

Plus, since Instagram and Facebook ads are managed on the same platform, Instagram ads are really easy to implement. You just click a box when you are creating Facebook ads and you can extend your reach to Instagram:

LinkedIn Sponsored Content

Linkedin has more than 660 million users, the majority of whom are professionals.

If you’re looking to incorporate a referral strategy into your digital marketing campaigns, for instance, this ad platform can be a gold mine because you can target by job titles to direct your messaging toward potential referral partners.

Now, we’ve found LinkedIn videos to cost around 10 cents per view — which is notably more than other platforms like Facebook or YouTube.

But, on LinkedIn, videos are 5X more likely to get comments than text posts. And comments mean your ad is receiving organic engagement. That tells the platform your content is valuable, allowing you to extend the reach of your ads (and drop your costs).

Top Multi-Channel Marketing Tip:

Consider retargeting, which allows you to show ads to people who have interacted with your firm on another platform.

For example, if you install a bit of code called a Facebook pixel on your website, you can target people who have visited your website but did not schedule a consultation with your firm with specific, relevant content when they spend time on Facebook. This is a strategic way to continue building a relationship wherever your prospective clients go online — and remain top of mind.


Your ideal clients probably aren’t going to see your one Facebook ad and immediately set up a call.

That isn’t how it works these days.

Your best bet is to assume no one heard your message. Assume they didn’t get that email, they didn’t see your Facebook ad, and they scrolled past your Instagram ad.

You’ve got to be a relentless marketer.

When you don’t use multi-channel marketing — when you don’t leverage Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn in tandem with your other advertising efforts — what do you think your competition does?

Do you think they’re sitting back and waiting for the calls to come in?

They aren’t. They’re pushing just as hard as you. So if your firm isn’t doing it better, you’ll lose out to the more relentless firms in your area.

Our team recently ran a multi-channel marketing experiment to determine which video lengths and dimensions performed best on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram.

You can access the full campaign results by downloading our official case study below!