This Lawyer Is Growing In A Down Economy — Thanks To Radio


Jeff Kahane started his law firm 14 years ago with one paralegal. Today, the firm has 40 employees, including 18 lawyers covering every aspect of the law. Over the last two years Kahane has been using radio to help grow his business even more, which is happening, despite Calgary’s economy experiencing tough times due to crashing oil prices. We spoke with Kahane about how he uses radio, why he thinks radio works for him, and what he’d like to see radio get better at.

A special thanks to sales consultant Wayne Ens for helping set up this interview, along with Doug McCullough, General Sales Manager at Newcap in Canada. Doug is also part of our interview with the client

Radio Ink: Before you were using radio what was your philosophy on advertising?
Jeff: Online is the way to go these days. It certainly has been working. We will get between 1800 to 2500 referrals a month from our online sources. I taught myself how to search-engine optimize and have been recognized by WordPress; they had me speak at one of their conferences. I quite enjoy the optimization. It is more being there for people when they need a specific service versus branding. We will put out little two-minute videos once a week. We are at about hundred thousand views already, but it’s law stuff and who wants to watch that?

Radio Ink’s weekly advertiser success stories are sponsored by Sun & Fun Media

Radio Ink: How did you do that?
Jeff: Google. I taught myself a little bit and I was looking at what all these companies were charging for their services which was $100-150 per month per webpage to develop. Once the page is developed there’s not much work that goes into maintaining that standing and I thought this is crazy. If I’m doing it from scratch, it takes me about 45 minutes to do a page from start to finish, research, drafting, and optimizing

Radio Ink: So you were using online before you got into radio. Why were you not using radio back then?
Jeff: We tried radio once and it was not effective for us. I think we ran a three-month campaign and they told us we needed a minimum of 3 to 6 months. Every radio station was using the same pitch and all the stats they were throwing just seemed like BS. It was like the emperor’s new clothes — you can’t actually see it but we promise it’s going work. They used a dentist as an example, saying no one knew about the dentist before and now everyone knows about this dentist. It didn’t make any sense to me. It was not resonating with me. It didn’t seem like it was going to be effective whatsoever. There were a couple of things that lead to changing my mind and committing to a year. First the radio station XL, one of the two stations that Doug works with, had a billboard campaign all over the airport and they were on a third of the city buses. They decided they were not going to use models to do their marketing, and instead use local people who were connected to the city. I was one of those people. The first 3 to 6 months I didn’t really hear anything from anyone but after that it was literally every day that I was getting calls. It kind of resonated that, hey maybe there’s something to this six months to get established thing.

The other thing is the sales rep who said to me what music do you hate? I said country music, I can’t stand it. She asked, “You ever turned on the radio and listen to country music?” I said, “Never.” She said, “So if I, say, save a horse” and I answered, “ride a cowboy.” She asked how I knew that because it’s always in the background in the back of your head. I said, “I can see how this process works let’s give it a shot for a year.”

Having those examples gave me a reason to commit for a year. It’s a lot of money; radio is not cheap. I decided to commit for that timeframe. It’s hard because at first it’s not really working and every month you’re sending in money. I’m as skeptical as they come. I want to see some kind of data and no one could provide me any data of law firms using radio in Canada that were effective.

Radio Ink: How do you gauge results now? How do you know it’s working?
Jeff: We do a few things. Anecdotally, I was literally in Best Buy to find something and I went to go pay for it and the lady looked at my credit card and said “Are you that guy on the radio station who does the commercials for Kahane Law.” Also, I was at a beach in Mexico talking to a lady and she asked for my number to call me when she was in Calgary and when I gave it to her she said, “You are in radio commercials.” So that happens more and more. I came back from Vegas and the customs officer said, “I recognize your name.” There is that.

Also, we ask every client when they come, “How did you come to us?” On average it ranges from 5 to 15%, depending on the month, who came to us because of the radio. Then we started asking, “Have you heard a car radio ad?” That number also fluctuates month-to-month but it’s higher — 40 to 60% have heard the radio ad. XL is always vying for number one or two in the city in terms of reach. It’s an older demographic. The other station, AMP, is a younger demographic, so that gives us the full breadth. At the suggestion of my rep, we are expanding to their competitor station to see how it affects us by adding the station.

Radio Ink: So your rep at one station has recommended that you spend on a competitor that is good to hear.
Jeff: Yes, she is excellent. She really puts the client first

Radio Ink: Do you have to be more careful or not with your creative because of the business that you are in?
Jeff: We do for a few reasons. The Law Society has very specific rules about what we can and can’t say. We can’t say we are experts in a specific area of law. We can’t say that we are the best. We just started running some criminal law spots because we took on a criminal lawyer and some people have a negative connotation with those, so from a branding perspective we wanted to be very cautious about how we approached it. So one spot is my child got into trouble and I didn’t know what to do, having a kid get in trouble with the law is one of the most stressful things and making sure they have representation to look after them is important. So that kind of approach works; we didn’t want to be associated with we were defending rapists and murderers. Or I’ve been accused of stealing from work and I didn’t do it, what do I do. That kind of approach.

Radio Ink: Doug, what makes the relationship with the radio stations and Jeff work so well?
Doug: I think it’s the communication. Jeff knows what he wants and where he wants to go. The rep he has now understands that and takes the steps to get him where we are. Speaking to the creative, I think the strength of the creative is Jeff’s unique personality. It’s juxtaposed to what most people think of a stuffy lawyer.

Radio Ink: Jeff, what kind of schedule are you running?
Doug: Ballpark, we are running 28 to 30 commercials a week. We have about 10 or 12 in rotation so we have a large volume. We’ve picked a creative theme for each division of law, whether it’s family law, divorce or criminal.

Radio Ink: Are you happy you added radio to your online?’
Jeff: I am. The only issue is trying to balance the cost, but it seems to be working. When I look at the numbers it seems to be working. It’s hard to measure the dollars. We’ve had to double what we spend in radio to offset the cost before it becomes profitable. There’s a difference between causation and the trend. If you search for a lawyer in Calgary, we’re going to show up first in Google. When we added criminal law I started the Web page and we were ranking top page within two days of me getting it started in a very competitive field. It is the causation piece that is hard. I do know there are some clients that come in that are larger files that offset the cost. Online I get stats on everything. Radio is not as precise.

Radio Ink: If there are other advertisers thinking about adding radio what would you say to them?
Jeff: Seeing people’s reaction I think there’s always going to be a percentage of the population who when they need a lawyer will think of us first; it will be top of mind. If their realtor gives them three names and they recognize one from the radio they will approach them initially; or they are Googling and recognize the name. There is that spillover. I would say start before your competitor does. Five years ago we had basically no reach. It has expanded considerably. If there is no one in your category, then jump on it immediately.
Doug: It is very easy to dominate when you are first in if you have the message and the effective schedule.

Radio Ink: What would you like to see the radio industry do better other than more data on ROI?
Jeff: That’s a good one. A tie in with online marketing. It is like the CD industry. I saw a commercial where they were sitting around during a planning seminar saying what should we do to compete with this digital fad — oh let’s offer 10 CDs for a penny. Radio’s response to the trend is not long-term effective. I think they need to get on that. The products they are marketing in terms of online are not ones that make sense to me compared to our other online. The costs are higher for lower return.The cost of online products that Kathy just showed me doesn’t make sense. What’s going to be effective is if your radio station outperforms me online — and they should, given your industry versus mine, but they don’t. Having a link to sponsors from your website adds value to me because Google likes that. Just having pop-ups and things is not effective, especially when you’re charging per month what I paid per year for other services that are more direct in terms of the leads we get from it.

Radio Ink: Anything else you can say about how the relationship is working and advice for other salespeople calling on this category?
Doug: Doing your homework and knowing a good deal about their business before you get in front of them is going to be critical. Jeff, running a law firm, doesn’t have time to educate the reps. He’s looking for someone to come in with some expertise, not just in our industry but also his own, so you can speak to effective strategies. Clarify their reality to what you know and build on top of that. You are going to be more efficient. One of the things we have been able to do is look at service categories that are just starting to use radio and tapping some of our properties in other markets and getting creative from there  so we’re not coming up with a spec that we are guessing what the client might want to hear; but bringing specific examples of, for example, what we heard a plumber in Toronto is doing. Using that as a dialogue starter has had a good impact.
Jeff: I would say the radio reps, and a lot have approached me over the years, need improvement. The worst one was just making up stats. They can learn a lesson from the real estate industry. Being a real estate lawyer they are competing with other realtors and showing up at a person’s house and presenting to them what they can sell the house at and what they can offer in advertising. So in the listing offer that is a huge pitch for what you can and can’t do. All radio stations show up with the same generic information. No research, no information. If someone shows up at my door and gives me their history, I don’t give a shit. If someone shows up with information and stats that we can look at and use about my industry, and I find it interesting, I will dig into it. If they have general stats with background to support it and it’s no different, then I will list your house for this much and there are 18 houses that are similar where I came up with the number. Then you can pull out looking deeper. As a salesperson that is what they should be going after.
Doug: By nature, in your industry, lawyers are going to be very detail oriented. Reps need to go in knowing the personality type they are dealing with. If someone is more creative or visually oriented and you bring in too many stats, they will sleep on you.
Jeff: With the stats in the background then you can assume the personality; but like me, I am not the typical lawyer personality. Someone could have been an engineer. The analogy of real estate is good because they see everyone. They are walking into a listing presentation and it is Joe Public. If you have your radio sales presentation that is organized and you start generic but you have the backup, you are ready. You are showing the person you are pitching that you have done the research. I am interested in making your business succeed not just having the balls to show up.

Radio Ink: What’s the trick for other radio stations to getting more attorneys on the air.
Jeff: Lawyers are not good marketers and they are not good business people. It’s a tough sell. I’ve heard from people that they started advertising on other stations for a few months then they back out. I am happy to help a station in another market pitch to a lawyer. I’ve taught search-engine optimizing and social media marketing for the Law Society to other lawyers. In two months I’m teaching people how to compete with me in the real estate industry.

Radio Ink: Any final thoughts for advertisers or salespeople?
Jeff: You need a mix — don’t be afraid to try and get a good Web presence because people look for that. It’s a sense of credibility for some people. For me it’s presenting; I do public speaking twice a week. So getting your face out there and become known in your industry.
Doug: It comes back to being prepared; knowing your industry and theirs. You have to show up with more than just the package of the week. You need to be able to provide them info as well and make it worth their time.

Have any questions about advertising for Jeff? He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone (403) 225-5888  


  1. Although constantly operating with the vagaries of a boom & bust environment, Calgary is a dynamic radio market and ‘XL’ functions near the top.
    Since Mr. Kahane participates with his creative, a listen-to of some of the spots would be beneficial.


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