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“Extending the ethical promise you made when choosing to practice law, toward the way you reach your client base, will provide one of the most satisfying and effective choices you’ve made during your law career.”

When the average person thinks about marketing they often think about advertising, and when the average person thinks about advertising, the thoughts are often negative.

Due to the negative reputation of advertising, many professionals who pride themselves on legitimacy, such as law firms, have grown to despise the idea of marketing their services. Legal practitioners and law firms tend to see marketing as an inherently unethical practice, and it is beginning to have negative effects on their ability to generate leads and build their practice.

When we think about possible reasons why law firms despise marketing, it’s mostly about mindset; and it helps to think about the typical attorney advertising approaches we see from local attorneys. These advertisements are persuasive and deceptive trying to lure people in for any number of legal services, sometimes for services they may not even need. Attorneys who make advertisements such as these are the same ones who self-apply catchy nicknames like “The Heavy Hitter.” When thinking about these types of advertisements, you begin to understand why so many firms still see marketing as unprofessional, unethical or deceptive. However, what these firms fail to realize is that marketing is a far cry from the traditional “lure them all in” advertising format. Marketing is not the same as advertising.

Many law firms have developed a culture and mindset that fails to see the difference between traditional advertising schemes and the idea of marketing professional legal services. There are many different ethical approaches to marketing that do not involve persuasion or deception to prompt prospects to contact your firm. Through these more ethical marketing approaches, you can allow the client to find and come to you when they feel your services are an ideal fit, rather than constantly pestering them to frequent your practice. With the negative image of attorneys’ sometimes persuading clients against their best interest, it is of utmost importance that your firm approach marketing in a way that is professional and ethical. And by securing the financial sustainability of your practice, you will be able to continue helping clients to your fullest potential.

Legal Marketing Challenges & Inbound Marketing

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Inbound Marketing can be particularly helpful for law firms looking for an ethical and worthwhile approach to spreading the word about their services and expertise. Simply put, inbound marketing puts useful content online that naturally attracts clients in need of that service or help with a particular problem. Therefore, clients are finding you and coming in, instead of you reaching out. The traditional advertising approach of blindly reaching out and promoting services to everyone in an effort to garner interest is slowly but surely fading away. In an industry where midsize law firms are dwindling in sustainability, this marketing approach can be specifically useful.

It’s more than likely at some point in your firm’s history, you participated in advertising that was both financially and personally unsatisfying. Unfortunately, this was often the case when attorney’ sought out the less legitimate routes of getting their services out there. Thankfully, advertising and marketing no longer have to feel dirty or unprofessional when using more ethical approaches toward getting your name out there, such as inbound marketing. This marketing approach allows you to put the customer’s needs ahead of promoting your practice. It helps build awareness of your existence and credentials to those who are looking for your services most. In law, there is often a divide between “white shoe lawyers” (very traditional mindset and typically powerful, well-established practices) and more forward-thinking, innovative attorneys, your reputation among your peers is of utmost importance. Through inbound marketing you can appease both groups and maintain your reputation of client-centric-service while still extending your client network.

Implementing Inbound Marketing & Segmenting Your Prospects

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As a competitive midsize law firm, your approach to inbound marketing can take a few different approaches. You may choose to market your firm as a whole, portraying your attorneys as a team or group that works toward helping the client achieve their desired legal goal. However, many firms are comprised of attorneys who specialize in particular and unique areas of law. Marketing the firm as a whole can be challenging because you must generalize the message and strategy you take so that it covers all possible client types.

Overgeneralizing your legal marketing strategy is often the first law firm marketing challenge that many midsize firms face and this results in an overall lack of diversification and inability to craft targeted marketing strategies tailored to speak directly to specific client needs.

If you choose to market your law firm by specialization or practice areas as opposed to the firm as a whole, you can reach a wider range of prospects, the majority of which will be more targeted and ideal for your areas of specialization; and this means the likelihood of converting these leads into actual clients is much higher. Ultimately you are marketing to those who need your service the most.

While we do recommend segmenting your marketing efforts across the specific practice areas of your attorneys’ expertise, you must still consider the importance of attaching them to the firm’s identity. This will help add credibility to not only the individual attorneys but also to your practice overall. And, as attorneys who are part of a larger team, it is important to remember you are the face of your firm and your actions can affect the overall reputation of the firm.

Inbound marketing does not seek to make attorneys overly-wealthy in some sort of “get rich quick” scheme or by preying on the misfortunes of others. Rather, it provides an ethical strategy to keep your practice top-of-mind to those who need your services the most. And in the case of midsize law firms who struggle to compete with massive firms or smaller, more targeted specialists, adopting an inbound approach can help give you a unique voice in the marketplace.

Client Hoarding & Putting Customer’s Need First

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Client hoarding is another practice that is hurting the ability of midsize law firms to function. Older partners often hold on to clients that might be better served by a younger associate or another firm entirely. Sometimes a client’s needs change, and often, a midsize firm is large enough to accommodate this need internally. Sometimes a client needs change in perspective or approach to continue insuring their legal needs are met. And if you think long and hard about your practice, the client’s needs are, of course, the most important thing.

So what in the world does this have to do with marketing?

Client hoarding causes inequality among attorneys in a midsize law firm and often results in poor legal marketing decisions as those generating the lion’s share of revenue are often not thinking about the types of clients they should be bringing in or how to best serve those who need their services the most. Instead, their concern is often around keeping the clients they already have regardless if they are suited to your firm’s core service offerings or not.

By tailoring your legal marketing strategy to target clients who are the most in need of what you offer, instead of hanging onto clients that might not be a great fit, you can increase your firm’s ethical and financial functionality. And since these clients are best suited for your firm’s practice areas there is a greater likelihood of retaining them as clients much longer. Strategic thinking such as this, is the key to keeping your midsize law firm afloat during challenging and often varying economic conditions.

Moving Forward with a Proper Legal Marketing Mindset

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It is time to shed the outdated concept that all advertising and marketing is meant to manipulate and persuade the viewer to take action, whether they need the service or not. Inbound marketing aims to destroy this stereotype by putting, only useful, resourceful information that answers the problems, questions and needs of your clients directly at their fingertips. And, through this resourceful content it is clear that your firm is knowledgeable and credible.

An inbound marketing strategy helps to avoid deceptive and misleading advertising messages by presenting real information, facts, and insightful viewpoints that your clients can gain access to, without having to sign their life away first. This inherently allows your prospect to better understand your position and stance in any of your practice areas and helps them ascertain if your firm truly understands their legal needs.

While talking about your skills, cases won, and what makes you better than the next firm seem most important to you, it’s not to your customer. They need answers, solutions, and advice more than anything. Through your useful, engaging, and educational content you will still be able to talk about cases you’ve worked on, qualifications and certifications, service expertise areas, hours of availability, client success stories, and recommendations. These all add legitimacy but when included with resourceful content, come across much more organic, natural, and not so pushy or sales related.

When clients understand the exact ways in which you will be able to help them they will be more comfortable approaching you for legal help. This is the key point to the inbound marketing approach.

The client has found you through your content and will decide whether or not to take action and reach out to your firm based on the information you provide.

Therefore, it’s up to you to deliver insightful, well-written content that will truly encourage the reader to take action. Putting your firm in a position of credibility and authority through your show of expertise will often attract a better client base.

With all of this information at your fingertips, it should be easy to see why inbound marketing can benefit the midsize law firm or any attorney for that matter.

Extending the ethical promise you made when choosing to practice law, toward the way you reach your client base, will provide one of the most satisfying and effective choices you’ve made during your law career.

Law firm marketing should really focus on the client’s needs. By presenting solutions and answers you naturally create demand. Instead, many law firms worry about what the competition is doing, or what will happen if they don’t appeal to every possible client who might walk through the door. Inbound marketing helps you eliminate these distractions and lets your law firm focus on clients who need your services most. Often this targeted approach is the main reason why the cost of inbound is much less than traditional advertising and far more effective! And, since many firms do look to each other for marketing trends and best practices, it’s safe to say that by adopting an inbound strategy your firm may help encourage others to follow down a more ethical client-centric practice.

Breaking Down Legal Marketing Barriers for Good

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It is easy to see why even after being presented these advantages of the inbound marketing mindset in a clear and logical way, that some attorneys may still be averse to implementing it into their practice. By nature, attorneys are skeptical, love to argue, and are risk-averse. These qualities are what allow them to take on the mind-boggling maze of legal procedures and actions. Thankfully, if looked at objectively, there is little risk to an inbound marketing strategy. Both your financial investment, and your reputation among your peers, should receive little to no negative consequences as a result of inbound marketing as you have nothing to lose in those areas by putting the needs of your clients above all else! The ethical, logical, and calculated approach of inbound marketing is truly ideal for communicating with clients that need your help and support.

Want to learn more about Inbound Marketing?

We are merely scratching the surface of what inbound marketing can do for your legal marketing success. You probably have a lot of questions about inbound marketing in general and that is to be expected. We encourage you to read our article about reaping the benefits of inbound marketing which will help break down some more of the key concepts involved with this approach. We specialize in inbound marketing for the legal industry and would love to learn more about your marketing challenges. Let’s discuss just how inbound could help increase profitability of your firm and the ROI of your marketing investment.

We encourage you to grab a free copy of our eBook, 7 Key Legal Marketing Challenges which outlines some key law firm marketing issues you might be facing with your practice. Click the banner below for your free copy.

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Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci is a Small Business Consultant and Strategic Branding Specialist. He calls Monterey, CA home and is a life-long musician who spends his free time writing, composing, and producing music. He has also co-authored two books, and is working on his own upcoming book titled, “Small Business Pricing Mastery – Creating effective pricing and defining value for today’s products and services.”

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