You’ve heard the pitch; we all have. For just $10,000 — less than $1000 per month — you’ll get a specially designed, SEO-optimized, social-media enhanced website — and a couple of pay-per-leads as a bonus. Can’t afford it or don’t want to spend that much? No worries, the salesman assures you – and then, the kicker:

Remember, if you get just one new client out of the program, then it pays for itself.

So you start running the numbers in your head and think – hey, maybe this guy is right. If I get a $10,000 matter – just one divorce or slip-and-fall or drug case, I’ll make my money back. And if I pull in two matters, I’m ahead of the game. Sounds tempting…not!

For starters, there’s the risk that your investment won’t produce. Attracting clients isn’t simply about SEO and getting to the first page of Google. If you’re marketing online, you need a website that’s sufficiently inviting to draw visitors back and persuade them to call or schedule an appointment. And once you’ve gotten prospective clients into your office, you need to educate them not about only about why they need to hire you, but also why you charge the rates that you do. Most experienced lawyers move through this process rather seamlessly but starting out, each stage may require some fine-tuning before you get the results you want.

But spending $10,000 on an SEO-enhanced website isn’t necessarily a good idea even if it’s a sure thing that you’ll earn $10,000 — or 100 percent return on your investment — by the end of the contract term. Because unless you have unlimited resources, tying up all of your cash for the possibility of a one to one return means that you’ll forego the chance to experiment with a variety of marketing options which collectively may generate two or three times the return at less risk.

This “eat this or that” photo illustrates my point by analogy. In the photo you can drink the 700 calorie shake, promising yourself that you won’t eat anything the rest of the day to compensate for the calories. Or, you can spread those calories around and get more bang for your caloric buck, while decreasing the chance that you’ll binge later in the day.

You can choose to tie up $10,000 and hope that it will convert into at least as much revenue. Or you can invest it in a portfolio of marketing options where you’ll have many more opportunities for success. For an even smaller budget, you can hire a developer from elance or odesk or a local college to design a nice looking website and blog. To capture contacts, you can, on that same budget, write a short ebook and engage a professional to assist with the design – and make it available for download at your site. You’ll even have enough to create a few basic web tutorials – and hire a law student or college graduate for 20 hours a month who can assist with marketing efforts by researching blog posts, keeping your social media profiles current or identifying events that you can attend to network with other lawyers.

So the next time a salesperson calls with empty promises of how you’ll make your money back on their service, why not ask if they’ll accept payment after you’ve recovered your initial investment. If they’re not willing to take a risk on their service, why should you?