Three ways Alexander Shunnarah became a marketing phenom

Hero Image

Photo credit:  Eric Gray Photography

Alexander Shunnarah is a “big deal” here in Alabama.  

A local hometown personal injury attorney made good nationally, Shunnarah is known for his heavy billboards, TV commercials, and digital ad campaigns seen ubiquitously wherever you go.

I attended a Birmingham chapter meeting of the American Marketing Association yesterday, and I had the pleasure of hearing him speak.  Although he spends WAY more on his marketing budget than most of us ever will, he imparted some wisdom on his marketing philosophies that can apply to any business, and I wanted to share the top three with you here.

#1:  Know how much your industry competitors spend on advertising.

Shunnarah really did his research before his talk – he was able to share industry statistics on how much of total revenue various well-known businesses spend on their marketing budgets.  Of the ones he mentioned, was the BIGGEST spender; they spend a little over HALF of their total revenue on marketing.  Twitter spends 44%.  Oracle spends 20%.  Apple, surprisingly, only spends 7%.  But Shunnarah’s recommendation was – if you’re not sure how much to spend, use 10% as a benchmark and start from there.  To help you out a little more, here is a list of what is commonly spent per vertical, to help you get started.  We also have some recommendations on our site on how much to consider spending, and how to know when to increase your budget.

#2:  Understand which advertising mediums work the best for you  

For Shunnarah, he says he will always spend on outdoor, television, and radio, because they have consistently performed for him AND he is trying to reach a mass audience.  He also told us that he’s recently figured out how to effectively utilize digital marketing, and it was increasingly becoming an important tool in his marketing arsenal.  Of course, being as large an enterprise as Alex Shunnarah is, he has advertising agencies and PR firms to direct his spending and efforts in all these areas.  The average business is figuring a lot of this out on their own.  His advice?  Read, read, read – and be brave.  Don’t be afraid to trust your gut.  Try different mediums, and don’t be afraid to switch things up if you’re not getting the results you need.  (I might add, as a personal “plug” for digital media here at Bell Media, that digital marketing is well suited for the ability to make quick changes to creative and to different targeted demographic groups).        

#3:  Know that marketing is only 10% of the effort of getting a new client

My strongest takeaway from Shunnarah’s talk is that he’s ever mindful of the fact that ALL he’s paying for is to drive a lead to make a phone call to his office.  What happens after that is up to him and his management team.  Does the lead get treated well and their call answered immediately?  Are they treated with empathy and kindness by the attorney?  Does the office staff address their concerns in a timely manner?  So much of customer acquisition, according to Shunnarah, happens AFTER the advertising is done working.  If you don’t have a culture built and a business model in place to make your customer king, all of the ad spend in the world isn’t going to get you the results you need.

Overall, his advice was quite simply, really.  Even if you are a super small business, commit a certain amount of time each week educating yourself on the newer advertising mediums that are coming into play.  Devote a portion of your overall revenue to spend money on good, quality advertising that can be tracked, with people who really know what they’re doing.  And don’t be afraid to switch things up, but give your marketing efforts a chance to work, too.  And above all – be nice to your clients.  It really can be that simple.  Thanks, Mr. Shunnarah, for putting all of this back into perspective for all the small to medium sized businesses that were in the room yesterday, and for reminding us in the media world that you guys need our expertise and education more than ever to make sure you’re spending YOUR marketing budget wisely.      

Bell Media ( is a leading digital marketing agency that is focused on delivering desired business outcomes for clients.  We are a Google Premier Partner, and a 3X Inc 5000 Company, with offices in Montgomery, Birmingham, Nashville, and Houston.  We consult with businesses to determine where they want to go with their businesses, and then recommend the best product mix to help them achieve their goals.  Check out more of our thought leadership in our Insights section of our website.