By Mark Homer
The other day I was talking with a partner at a small law firm about the pros and cons of local and cloud storage. He was overwhelmed, debating on whether to set up an in-office server or utilize cloud services to handle email and file storage. But my advice was simple: I asked him to compare the cost of comparable security, quality of tools, and accessibility using an internal server versus a cloud vendor.
I give this same advice to lawyers who are considering working with niched law firm marketing agencies or local, general agencies or hosting services: compare the quality and security of the two. But I’m getting ahead of myself; I’ll continue with my story.
Benefits of a Cloud Vendor
The partner at a small law firm and I continued to discuss why utilizing a cloud vendor is a secure and efficient option for email and file storage. In short, here are the main reasons:
Security: With high security, high availability backup and redundancy procedures, and climate controlled data center facilities, the security is undeniable. There is a dedicated team onsite at the data center, and offsite in a network operating center. And software patches are easily installed due to the central location. All of this practically guarantees that your data is backed up and safe on a vendor’s servers.
Customer Service: Along with security, cloud vendors are able to offer high quality customer service because they operate from one location with a set of servers handling their accounts. This enables them to support a team of customer service representatives with detailed knowledge of the best way to use the system. They have access to teams of specialized experts.
Consistent Price: You receive all of these benefits for a consistent monthly price that is typically based on either the number of users or amount of data.We estimated what it would cost to have those features on a local server for their firm’s email or file storage. A law firm should not be spending money on hiring qualified people to navigate these issues. Even hiring a local IT guy to stop by and setup the Exchange server and paying for service every time you need an update is just not cost effective when compared to the monthly fees of most enterprise cloud providers.
About a week after this conversation, I was talking to another lawyer after a CLE we delivered about Online Marketing and Social Media Ethics. He was concerned his current agency was too expensive. He felt it might be better to just hire someone full-time to do all this “internet and marketing stuff” in house.
As I was discussing this with him, I realized this conversation about Online Marketing was similar to the one I had with attorney about cloud computing benefits.
The net of my conversation was that most small to mid-size law firms cannot afford the one person who would be able to do everything needed (if that person even exists). Instead, mid to large size firms sometimes opt to hire an internal marketing person who helps direct their agencies’ work.
Just like a cloud computing vendor can reduce the cost for their clients by assigning specialists to multiple servers, agencies reduce the cost of their tools by working with multiple clients. Keep in mind that some of the tools agencies use may not be available to individuals. At our boutique law firm marketing agency, we pay tens of thousands of dollars for tools specific to digital marketing. Some of these tools provide extra features that only we can get as an agency. Not only do you benefit from the added features, but also an in-depth understanding and comprehensive implementation. Just as a cloud provider can use data centers with NOC resources, a digital marketing agency can provide experts that know the detailed ins and outs of just a small set of tools and can get every benefit from them.
As far as monitoring a web site and the hosting environments, agencies often have dedicated resources to monitor uptime, speed, database usage, and other important metrics by using tools and manually checking in. Again, because agencies like ours work with multiple law firms, we can provide account managers with detailed knowledge of what works for law firms. They are able to share effective strategies across their clients, and, in turn, have access to a team of experts in specific disciplines like search engine optimization, content marketing, branding, web design, paid advertising, social media and more.
To summarize, you receive the benefit of the agency’s specialized skill set, but what’s more is the benefit you receive from its relationships with outside vendors. For example, many cloud providers use best in class data center operations such as Rackspace, Amazon, IBM Softlayer, etc. Similarly, agencies are able to work with best-in-breed partners and have relationships that one law firm would have difficulty building. That is because some of these specialized agencies only work with other agencies so they can avoid the overhead of client account management or client support. We have established relationships with vendor partners that help with copywriting, SEO audits, and web development. The resources we have at our disposal are some of the best resources in the industry.
After explaining these benefits, I asked the lawyer, “Do you really feel that you can find one person at an affordable cost that could do everything an agency can?” It’s just not realistic. At GNGF, we stay up on the latest strategies for law firm marketing, have SEO and social media expertise, provide content marketing expertise, optimize website performance, have hosting expertise, run paid advertising campaigns, offer award winning web design skills, and require web analytics certifications for all employees. That’s just the beginning. If you are going to spend hundreds of thousands or more on your marketing, you may want to hire an internal manager for the agencies so your company remains actively engaged with the strategy and implementation. Law firm marketing is not a ‘do it for you’ proposition. We like to say that quality law firm marketing is a ‘do it with you’ proposition. Someone at the law firm needs to be involved in the process. Approving strategies, double checking content, and verifying the brand voice and messaging. Especially if you are spending only $50,000 – $150,000 per year on marketing, you are unlikely to find anything as cost effective as the services a quality agency can provide. With just a little effort on the law firm’s part, an agency can provide top results while saving you time and money.