A one-off ad is one or an occasional ad you might take out, instead of an ongoing series of ads or in lieu of a real marketing strategy. In my view, it is about as effective as shooting yourself in the head with your fingers.
Lawyers in particular find themselves doing this when their church, school group, Chamber of Commerce, or some group in which their kids are involved comes by begging for assistance. Or, a CLE event wants you to sponsor a snack break. Charity is charity, but do not let it masquerade as an effective marketing strategy.
Also, there are all sorts of salespeople out there that will try to get you, as a lawyer, to buy one ad for something -- such as a Super Lawyer publication.
Too often lawyers allow this kind of spontaneous ad purchase to substitute as a marketing campaign.
There are all kinds of people, groups and associations out there that want to use your limited resources without any profitable return to you. Most are well meaning, but that does not put a dime in your pocket. It does not advance your cause much.
In my professional life there has rarely been an ad that has not worked to some small extent, except for that one time I tried to reach the SMU football players to sue the University after it received the NCAA death penalty for the 1987-88 season. Let's just say there was a lot of money spent on one-off ads published in the SMU area papers, and not one call or inquiry.
But, the question is not one of success on some nominal basis. Marketing should not have all of the spontaneity of deciding whether to super size your burger combo. It is a matter of profitably and successfully marketing your practice. In this regard, it has been my experience that one-off ads do not a profession or a living make.
A law firm must have a marketing plan. A set of routine tasks and ads frequent, sufficient enough to illicit a response, from your target audience.
People and marketing firms have all kinds of theories and models of what works and why. To a small law firm wanting to grow, it does not necessarily take all of that. But, it does take consistency and frequency.
The more someone in a target audience sees an ad, or experiences your marketing, the more likely that someone will contact and retain your law firm. Familiarity builds confidence. Confidence builds a client base. A client base builds living.
What is important is to be in the same place at the same time over and over again. If you, as a lawyer purchase TV spots, but you cannot afford an aggressive ROS, then buy what you can. Just make certain that you are in the same place every day so that your target audience can find you when they need you.
If you want to send out email blasts to you referral list, make certain that you do so consistently and routinely.
Lawyers often tell me that they have tried advertising or marketing once, but it did not work. More likely the problem was the one-off ad. They did not commit, and the repetitiveness and saturation was not enough to work as well as they had hoped. So, they quit.
You will read occasionally about some one-off ad or video that went viral. It is true that this sometimes works. The problem is that the prospect of this really happening has about the same success rate as winning the lottery. You want your marketing to work even if your ad does not go viral.
Nobody is saying to get outside your comfort level or beyond what you can pay. Just give some thought to what you can do every day to consistently reach your targeted audience. Create a plan to market at your price point. The goal is consistency. The goal is frequency. The goal is repetitiveness.
Just recognize that one-off advertising is often a loser's game that will make you broke and sour you on advertising and marketing.