Law firms and marketers have always had a somewhat rocky history. With a large emphasis placed on both ethics and logistics, attorneys often fail to see how they can use marketing to successfully and ethically expand their client base.
Working with many law firms we know for a fact… getting an attorney to see the value and the benefits of marketing as well as getting them to hire a marketing firm, can be a long and gruesome uphill battle.
Attorneys often questioned the legitimacy of advertising techniques due to many lawyers using TV, radio, and print advertisements to cast an unnecessarily large net to rope clients in. These advertisements were usually misleading (think of the poorly done personal injury commercials) and used to lure prospects to their practice whether they needed the firm’s services or not.
However, legal marketing in general, is very different from attorney advertising. Attorneys often confuse the two and when they do, are passing judgement unnecessarily on one of the most beneficial ways to drive new prospects to their law firm. Today online marketing comes in so many different shapes and sizes, there are many solutions that stay within ethical boundaries and aim to help attorneys connect with those who need their help the most.
Marketing strategies today, such as content and inbound marketing focus on developing a content strategy that will interest your target audience and provide an outlet for those visitors to find questions and solutions to the legal matters they are having trouble with. This provides a client acquisition method that is both ethically sound and proven to increase revenue. Even still, law firms remain hesitant when it comes to marketing their practice.
With the recent trend of midsize law firms in particular struggling to stay above water, the need for strong, reliable, tasteful marketing is evident. Firms must find a responsible and practical way to market their practice, as it allows them to gain the financial stability that allows them to serve their client base better. Through better-targeted marketing (i.e. developing content that speaks to your ideal customer), a law firm will be able to generate better leads which means they will be focused on clients best suited to have their cases handled by your firm.
The journey is not over once you convince yourself of the usefulness of investing in a strong marketing campaign for you and your firm. Many practices make the mistake of trying to put together their own marketing strategy, which ends up being extremely counterproductive or ineffective. Without the proper training and know-how, crafting a legal marketing strategy can lead to wasted hours and little to no ROI. Making an investment in marketing is smart, but law firms should consider working with a marketing professional to uphold their standard of excellence.
By hiring an experienced marketing firm that specializes in law firm marketing, you can ensure that your marketing budget is allocated properly towards the areas that will bring the most returns for your firm. A few negative preconceptions about hiring outside marketing help holds many firms back. For example, attorneys will avoid outside marketing firms because they feel it will lead to an inevitable disconnect between their firm and their client base.
It is easy to see why this preconception might be reached and you do not want to project a “for profit” message to prospective clients. By hiring the right kind of law marketing firm and implementing the right strategy you can avoid this entirely. Professional marketing should never come across as a ploy to lead prospects to your door through manipulation, but should instead simply build awareness, offer help, and provide resourceful, useful information that benefits their needs. Law firm marketing specialists can help deliver your message and avoid the “marketing ploy” mindset. Legal marketing experts will often have team members that used to be attorneys or are intimately familiar with the law and legal industry.
Beyond having the knowledge needed to communicate your firm’s legal specializations effectively, a good marketing team can also make it easy for the average person to understand those practice areas. Attorneys often forget how confusing legal jargon can be to the average Joe, which makes attorney-created-marketing ineffective. Your typical client has no clue about legalese and by using it in your marketing message you are making it more difficult for a potential client to make a decision about your firm. If your prospects cannot understand what you have to offer, they will likely never approach your practice to begin with. Talented legal marketing firms have the toolset to craft ads that are both effective and logically deliver your law firms marketing message. Using language that can be understood by anybody, and crafting a message that speaks directly to your ideal target client, you can generate a greater number of quality leads for your law firm.
Follow the leader
Attorneys will often forgo professional marketing help due to the influence of their peers. Image and reputation are important to uphold and law firms will often make decisions based on their peers or competition. For example, if all other local attorneys in your area advertise with a full-page Yellow Page ad, lawyers will often follow suit. The crux of the issue is making marketing and advertising decisions based solely on the choices of others. Marketing decisions should be based on actual, measurable data and facts with proven ROI backing them regardless of what others are doing. It is also worth considering that every firm is unique, so what works for one law firm may not be applicable or successful for your firm.
Lack of Audience Engagement
Attorneys tend to rely heavily on referrals from past clients or other law firms to build their business. While referrals are often free and a much easier to convert into clients, this alone is no longer a sustainable business model for your practice. More than ever, clients are learning about their attorney’s services through marketing and advertising. Technology makes it easy to research and get as much information as you need to make just about any purchasing decision. Instead of relying on others to send business your way, it is critical that your firm develops its own legal marketing strategy. Relying on referrals also presents the challenge of being slightly disconnected from your target audience. If you are not marketing than you may have no idea what it is your prospects need help with the most, what they want to hear or learn about, and how you can serve them better. Referrals eliminate many of the critical stages to truly solidifying a relationship with a client.
In addition to relying on referrals another root issue with audience engagement has to do with social media. Creating a strong online presence and talking openly with your audience about hot-button issues, answering questions, providing useful resources, etc will help potential clients understand what you have to offer and help build credibility and authority.
Kahlil Shaman, a noted Galveston attorney had this to say on the manner: “It is not only important for a law firm to have an online presence in today’s world, it is imperative to the firm’s success. The proliferation of internet use has made it so that virtually everyone looking for an attorney searches online as their main tool for research. A firm that doesn’t have a strong online presence is failing to reach a great cross-section of potential clients and just giving up those potential clients to their competitors.”
Social media should absolutely be considered a component of your online presence. And, any seasoned marketing firm would suggest social integration and can help teach you more about building online awareness. Two of the most beneficial ways to building an online presence is in fact through social media engagement and your SEO (search engine optimization). Through engaging content, that is thoroughly researched and put in front of the right audience, you can rank well in the search engines for the majority of the keyword phrases you think describes your firm and practice areas best.
Putting it all together
Getting prospects to your website and then getting them to take action is the ultimate goal. So it is critical that once visitors reach the site, they are met with well-written, well-structured content that is easily understood and speaks volumes about your professionalism. The website itself must be highly functional and up to today’s standards and has got to be easy to navigate. Your marketing team will also help you create useful content, and can even help develop better takeaways such as eBooks, whitepapers, videos, and much more.
The final and most important thing a legal marketing team can help with are the creation of “buyer personas.” Through their already well-researched statistics and new findings, your marketing firm can help you determine the gender, age, profession, financial situation, education, spending habits and schedules of your ideal client base. Once they have this information, your marketing becomes much more focused and optimized and you will be able to target those who are in need of your practice’s services the most. You will be able to address specific people, problems, and beliefs of your target audience. This information will also help you determine what legal fees will best serve your firms financial and ethical interest. Working with a marketing firm will present many advantages that extend beyond simply getting your name out there.
A professional legal marketing team will help you create content that will allow clients in each stage of their journey (assessment, consideration, and decision stages) to find what it is they are looking for. Targeting your marketing to be as specific as possible ensures that the right clients are finding you and when they do, they feel much more confident that your firm is the suited to handle their needs. If they are early in their decision making process, they might just be coming to grips with the fact that they might need a lawyer. Or perhaps they are further along, with an impending court date and know they are ready to hire. Either way, consider letting an experienced law firm marketing team help you target the right prospects.
Law firms no longer have to view hiring a team or investing in marketing as unethical or unprofessional. With so many marketing channels available to reach potential clients, there has never been a better time to invest in your firm’s future. Seeking out help from top law firm marketing professionals will not only help you secure the future of your firm, but also the futures of the many in-need you aim to serve.
You found this article because you wanted to learn more about how marketing differs from advertising and how this pertains to generating new business for your practice. Understanding the difference between the two is critical in shifting your mindset towards the benefits of marketing. Here are some key points to remember about what you just read:
- Marketing is much more than blasting your name and credentials to anyone willing to listen. It helps you to build awareness, generate authority and credibility, as well as understand more about your target clients needs and how to better serve them.
- Being a successful attorney and working for or owning your firm does not make you a marketing expert.
- Having a “herd mentality” with marketing is dangerous. Do not make marketing decisions based on your peers and competitors.
- Relying too heavily on referrals creates a disconnect with your target clients and is not a sustainable business model.
- Consider investing time into social media marketing to engage one on one with your ideal target audience.
- If planning a more tactical, strategized approach to your firms marketing, consult with professional legal marketing specialists who can develop a cost-effective, measurable, and well laid out strategy.
Marketing gets more challenging every year as competition grows and more dollars are thrown away on immeasurable marketing channels. If you are looking to effectively plan a legal marketing strategy that can help stabilize your firm’s revenue and build long term growth we are here to help.