“Every inventor or manufacturer first identifies a problem or need prior to presenting a solution.”
To create a website without understanding how it will solve the needs of it’s visitors, or first developing a plan to get quality traffic to the website, all other marketing efforts may falter.
When revitalizing your law firm marketing plan, a website redesign is often considered a critical component to improving marketing results and generating better revenue for your firm. And… it most certainly is. However, a new website in and of itself will not result in the type of revenue boost you might expect.
Sure, if your firm last updated its website in 2001, there is a high degree of probability launching a modern day law firm website will most certainly have a significant impact on your online presence and firms appeal to visitors. And, even law firms who launch a new website every 2-3 years, will certainly continue to appear more credible and presentable than some competitors.
In my experience, even with well-done website relaunches (absent of a long-term marketing strategy) we still see many of the same online marketing problems that were evident prior to the website launch are still just as prevalent afterward. It’s just a prettier wrapper on the most common law firm marketing problem: consistently generating quality leads to their practice.
Instead of a website redesign being seen as a “cure-all,” law firms should implement a long-term marketing strategy which first considers how to drive quality leads to the firm’s website. Then develop a strategy to convert website visitors into prospects, and ultimately into paying clients. The most-effective strategy to accomplish this goal will be to plan your law firm inbound marketing strategy first and then design and structure your website to accomplish those inbound goals.
What is Inbound Marketing?
The majority of law firm marketing plans today utilize some form of inbound marketing, whether they recognize the term or not. Inbound Marketing, in its simplest definition, is utilizing your website and other online assets such as social media to naturally draw targeted visitors to your website through search engines and social engagement.
So, for example, if your firm specializes in family law, and you consistently publish and promote useful content for individuals who might be seeking help with family legal matters, the likelihood of search users finding your website who actually need your firm’s help is much higher because you are providing an answer to a specific question and a reader who needs this information most.
Why Use Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is so highly effective at converting visitors into leads mainly because the visitor is coming to you, rather than you coming to them. The need to waste money “shouting” in hopes to attract the right type of client, is no longer necessary. With inbound marketing, a typical conversion path for a new prospect might be as follows:
- Individuals actively search using Google or another search engine for answers or for a law firm similar to yours to help them with their legal needs
- If they find your listing appealing they will click the link in the search results to visit your website
- After spending time on your site and because it’s chock-full of useful information that speaks directly to their needs, the visitor is more likely to “raise their hand” and let you know they are interested, by filling out a form, picking up the phone, sending an email, subscribing to your blog and more.
Inbound marketing for your law firm can be implemented in whatever way your firm feels most comfortable. Some marketers define inbound as simply generating great, useful content for your target audience, optimizing it to be visible in the search engines, and then promoting it through social media and other platforms. They also make sure the website is set up to properly capture a prospects information and ask for it at the appropriate times.
Other marketers consider inbound a much more strategized approach that really aims to rebuild your marketing approach from the ground up. This approach begins with identifying the core marketing challenges your law firm faces, identifying your target client-base you wish to acquire, and then developing a content strategy that would be most appealing to those prospects and ultimately leading them down a conversion path starting with attracting them to the site, converting them into leads, and closing those leads into paying clients.
This more inclusive approach also takes into consideration that marketing should not start and stop with acquiring a client. Overtime, the more you communicate with clients especially when unprompted by them to do so, and continue to provide legal insight, value, and genuine ongoing concern for their needs, the happier they will be and the longer they will remain loyal to your firm.
Whether your firm is interested in a “soup to nuts” approach or simply targeting better traffic through useful content, it should already be rather obvious why planning for inbound would be the critical first step before a web redesign is brought to the table.
A Personal Note
In the spirit of full transparency, my agency works with law firm clients looking for both aggressive and less-invasive inbound approaches.
I have seen success with both.
Some inbound marketers will tell you the “soup to nuts” option is the only one that makes sense. However this is untrue for all. It certainly will deliver the best ROI and the most leads and blow a less aggressive approach out of the water, but consider for a moment sole practitioners or small law firms.
Do smaller firms really have time to sift through 20-80 or more leads per month?
Do they even want such a large influx of potential prospects?
While some midsize law firms might find turning away good prospects hard to fathom, a small legal practice must be highly selective. An aggressive inbound approach therefore, may do more harm than good for a small firm, if it hinders their ability to service existing clients as well as handle consultations for new clients.
Here again, some might question, who wouldn’t want to grow and build a bigger client base? Some attorneys, just as some business owners prefer to own a “lifestyle practice” that allows them enough client work to keep them happy but not so much that it leaves little time for anything else.
If you’re not looking for a major uptick in leads, why consider inbound at all?
I know… answering a question with a question might be an attorney’s biggest pet peeve, but…
Doesn’t it make sense to invest in marketing that lets you “cherry pick” the ideal clients for your firm instead of having to take whatever walks through the door?
Even if you are not interested in increasing your client-base in numbers…
Doesn’t it make sense to use marketing to make sure your client roster is the best fit for your legal services regardless of growth or expansion?
Inbound marketing on any level, when implemented properly into your marketing strategy can help develop a far more profitable firm even if growth in numbers is not a goal or consideration.
A perfect example of this would be my own marketing agency which originally focused on helping startups and sole proprietorships and now focuses on acquiring midsize organizations, law firms, and industrial manufacturers. The number of clients we have acquired has not grown exponentially (growing steadily but at a very manageable pace) but our revenue growth and profitability have increased significantly due to targeting customers that are a better fit for our service offerings and our vision for providing long-term marketing services, guidance, and goal-planning. We look for customers who hope to build an on-going business relationship to enhance their profitability far into the future.
If you are new to online marketing and unsure how inbound will fit into your law firm marketing plan, here are 3 reasons to consider inbound marketing and your overall “plan of acquisition” before redesigning your law firm’s website.
#1 Inbound Helps Your Firm Get Active in Social Media
The internet and social media rule today’s marketing world and to reach out to your ideal clientele, getting involved online should be a top priority. More specifically, getting involved in “real-time” through relevant social channels should be a key component to your law firm marketing strategy as well.
Social media is a powerful marketing tool because of its ability to reach new clients, spark engaging discussions about trending legal matters or cases, spread information quickly, as well as maintain your firm’s reputation and keep you top of mind.
Using social media as part of your inbound marketing campaign will expand your audience to thousands of potential prospects your firm would otherwise have no opportunity to get in front of.
Social media should be a major component of your marketing strategy, and inbound marketing makes getting involved easier than you could have imagined. The core of inbound is regularly published content published specifically for your target audience. Therefore, developing a social media marketing plan to promote your useful content will be much easier.
Social media can also be much more than simply promoting content on your website. Many law firms also utilize additional social engagement tools such as Facebook Groups, LinkedIn discussion boards, or even short YouTube legal advice videos.
Maximize Search Traffic to Your Law Firm’s Website
Any professional content marketer will tell you, content is king. First and foremost, this is due to the fact that, content is what drives traffic to any website and in most cases it IS what they crave… information.
What information your web pages contain, how relevant it is to the search users query, and the quality and/or authority of the content being shared, will all influence how well your web pages will rank in the search engines.
If a law firm’s website is comprised mainly of pages about services or practice areas, and no additional content which answers questions, addresses key issues or trending topics relevant to your practice areas that an individual in need might want to know, it should be no surprise that this type of website will not perform very well in attracting the right traffic and/or attracting a large enough pool of quality traffic to generate leads. It should also come as no surprise that most law firm websites fail miserably at providing any other information outside of who they are and the legal services they provide.
Professional marketers often say that it takes 40 solid leads to generate 1 client. While that might vary across different industries, the number is surprising to some. Most law firms have a higher close rate due to the exigent nature of some legal matters. Clients may not have the time to browse, “window shop,” or weigh their options for very long. In addition to a higher close rate the traditional “sales cycle” may also be shortened considerably for law firms.
This being the case, getting the right content in front of more potential prospects is critical as your time to prove to them that you are the best choice to handle their legal matter is short.
Therefore, the more website content a law firm publishes that speaks directly to the needs of a target audience, the more likely it is to drive better traffic (and more of it) back to the website through search engine results.
#3 Inbound Helps You Establish Credibility, Authority, and an Ethical Marketing Reputation
No law firm wants to be seen as pushy or unethical when trying to acquire new customers.
Traditional advertising was often toeing the line of ethics. Advertising was done on a massive scale and rarely targeted the “ideal client.” Instead a large portion of advertising dollars were wasted advertising to individuals who probably were not even a good fit or even interested in hiring your firm to begin with.
Today, marketing is targeted, focused, and aims to empower individuals with the ability to make a more informed decision as to which law firm is the best fit for them. Everyone would agree that putting your best foot forward and not misleading prospects is the best approach to building rapport, credibility, and long-lasting attorney-client relationships.
Developing powerful, meaningful, insightful, and honest content for your website (just like this article!) will help solidify your standing with prospects. Great content leaves prospects with a better overall impression that your firm is looking to help clients work towards the outcome they desire, as opposed to simply lining your pockets regardless if their case was resolved as they hoped or not.
Content is the buy-in to everything “web based” today. And, most websites funnel two very specific types of traffic. Those ready to buy and those just looking for more information. By developing useful content beyond your simple service and practice area pages you create a massive opportunity to appeal to those looking to hire an attorney as well as those who are looking to answer a question or seek advice as to best next steps.
Developing an inbound strategy for your law firm marketing plan must be first on your list before considering a redesign for your law firm’s website.
Keep your end-users journey through your website in mind at all times. Attracting the right visitors to your website and what happens once they arrive should not be random or based on guess work. When you plan, you control the outcome with a far greater rate of success than if you leave it up to chance.
A website’s success hinges 100% on your ability to understand:
- Who is finding your website
- What level of or type of information are they looking for
- When the right time to ask for a prospects contact information might be
- Where are they spending their time online and in which places will be most beneficial to promote content from your website
- Why this particular group of prospects would benefit most from your legal expertise and building the entire website around this concept
- How they are using the website (information gatherers or those looking to hire)
- Which devices are being used to access the website
Understanding these critical points prior to building a website will make a website redesign seem much simpler, well-defined, and without a doubt, much more successful. Attorneys are not marketers so many of the points above may be hard to determine with any degree of certainty. You should consult with a web design expert or inbound marketer to help make sure your law firm truly understands who they should be marketing to before a website project is ever underway.
We work with law firms of all sizes, looking to implement an inbound marketing strategy into their marketing plan. Jumping the gun on your website redesign or new website launch is one of the many marketing mistakes we commonly see from our legal customers.
Here is an eBook covering 7 Key Legal Marketing Challenges you should avoid to maximize the impact of your law firm marketing plan. This short book also ties together how inbound marketing can help solve the majority of legal marketing challenges we see today.