Geofencing: Is it Right for Lawyers?

by Benjamin Combs | April 28, 2016


Lately, we’ve been fielding a ton of inquiries from our clients about geofencing, a location-based digital marketing tool that sends advertisements to cellular and web-connected devices in a narrowly defined geographic area.

Some digital marketers claim this technology will change the way businesses market online. But what about the way personal injury attorneys market themselves online?

At cj Advertising, we thrive on data-driven strategies. So naturally, we’re all about pinpointing people by their exact locations, right? Not quite—or at least not yet.

The Nitty Gritty

Whether dynamically generated, like a circle drawn around a single point, or defined by complex boundaries like neighborhoods or delivery areas, geofences create virtual perimeters around real-world geography. Marketers can then saturate these tightly focused locations with advertisements.

Say you own a restaurant off the beaten path. You might geofence a nearby shopping center to lure hungry pedestrians at dinner time. Or say you own a sports apparel shop. You could geofence the largest workout center in town, because you know everyone inside uses products like yours. In both cases, display ads would appear in browsers and apps in use only within the geofenced area.

Cool, smart, exciting? Yes! But not for lawyers. Personal injury firms differ from businesses like the ones in the examples above in a three key ways:

  • Law firms are not e-commerce businesses. A web-based case lead cannot be completed instantly. Sure, the case may start online, but the rest of the service requires months or even years of work involving several personal interactions. In the sports apparel example, the products can be sold and shipped instantly. The immediacy afforded by geofencing is lost in the personal injury field.
  • Proximity to law firms is not important. Most of our clients have built their brands around messages of having citywide or statewide reach while offering the convenience of “we’ll come to you.” Limiting your ads to a nearby intersection or shopping center in hopes of attracting a recent injury victim to your office is casting an unnecessarily small net that runs counter to successful messaging.
  • Victim-rich areas don’t exist. Everyone in the shopping center is hungry at dinner time. Everyone in the YMCA is a sporting goods customer. But is there a geofence-able area where everyone is an accident victim? Even in a hospital, how many accident victims would there actually be? How many of them would be engaged online and receptive to your ads?  It might be an uptick, but it’s not really the same customer-rich environment as the gym or the shopping center. Which brings us to our last factor for you to consider:

You Only Pay for Clicks. Why Limit Impressions?

Right now, our online marketing uses a macro version of geo-based marketing known as geotargeting (focusing on states and DMAs). But geofencing is not something we recommend as a replacement for broader existing online campaigns. Think about it like this. When you pay per click, all of the other impressions are free. So why geofence a small area and miss out on potential leads just outside of a particular zone? Only after you thoroughly understand the nuances within your geotargeted area should you entertain the notion of narrowing the scope.

Just to be clear—we’re not naysayers or laggards. We applaud our clients who are ready and willing to reach for a bold, new approach. Right now, however, we just don’t think geofencing is mature enough for the personal injury business model. Your ad dollars are better spent on proven methods.

For more information on geofencing, geotargeting, beaconing and any other online marketing strategies, leave us a comment or contact me at

Thanks for reading!