Keeping a successful midsized law firm up and running is not an easy task. Long hours of dedicated and diligent service are needed from all partners to ensure you provide the best possible outcome for your clients.
From keeping up to date on changing policies, case law, and statutes to building thoroughly constructed cases for your clients, it can sometimes become difficult to focus your collective energy toward marketing your practice.
When lawyers think about marketing, they often mistake it with traditional and outdated forms of advertising. These older methods of advertising a midsize law firm typically included, alarmist-style television and radio ads, large print ads, or large distracting billboards on the highway. Most of these were toeing the line of ethics as they made false claims or exaggerated statements trying to persuade viewers to contact their practice. Many law firms still have this outdated concept in mind when they hear the word “marketing.” However, times are drastically different and today there are several forms of marketing that put your clients’ needs first and leaves any unethical marketing tactics off the table.
In this article we will discuss the benefits of inbound marketing (a relatively new marketing concept) as well as developing content strategies for your law firm to help drive qualified leads to your website. We will also introduce the inbound methodology, outlining how it works and showing you how much more successful it is at converting new leads into actual clients. Attracting new leads and converting them into clients are the two most common midsize law firm problems and it comes down to effective marketing.
Before we dive into the article, it’s important that we first quickly define several terms and concepts we will be using throughout: Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, & Ethical Marketing. It is especially important we define what those mean to us, so you have a clear picture moving forward.
Here are 3 simple definitions.
- Content Marketing – any marketing that involves publishing content (i.e. blogs, articles, eBooks) on your website, social networks, or other websites in order to generate new leads, convert leads, or retain existing clientele.
- Inbound Marketing – based conceptually on content marketing, inbound takes this one step further by creating targeted campaigns around great content and uses a high degree of tracking and reporting to measure results and visitor behavior to help businesses make better overall marketing decisions.
- Ethical Marketing – while what is ethical can often be a subjective personal judgement, to us we think businesses should only target individuals that they can truly help or are best-suited to help. Therefore broad marketing that advertises your services to anyone who will listen or persuasion tactics that don’t have the client’s best interest in mind are not ethical. Ethical marketing promotes and utilizes honesty, fairness, integrity, and responsibility at all times.
Modern day law firms, can now harness the power of the internet and naturally attract potential clients without having to rely on wide spread, broad advertising ploys that blast your law firm’s name to everyone within shouting distance and attempt to put your face on every possible television screen, billboard, print ad, and bus stop bench regardless if they are in need of your legal services or not.
This monumental shift represents perhaps the most important change in the marketing world in the past few decades. With the midsize law firm struggling to grow or maintain solvency more than ever before, the need for a new, effective and ethical marketing approach has never been higher. New, powerful marketing strategies such as content & inbound marketing make this the perfect time to invest to revitalize your firm’s marketing. And, as you will soon learn, when properly implemented you will see much higher returns on your marketing investment and long-term measurable growth and stability for your firm.
Understanding the particular ins and outs of how content and inbound marketing operate can be difficult. However, through this article you will learn why such a marketing investment might be the best you’ll ever make for your practice. Laid out in a logical and structurally sound manner that the mind of any attorney should be able to appreciate, the content to follow should provide a well-intended shake up to your more traditional beliefs regarding advertising and marketing.
At Vinci Digital, we have been helping law firms generate better leads and increase revenue through online marketing since 2005. We specialize in delivering inbound marketing, as well as responsive web design services for attorneys. Our knowledge of market trends, content marketing strategy, and understanding the specific needs of the legal industry as well as our passion for helping law firms revitalize their practice make us extremely effective law firm marketing partner.
Chapter 1: Why is Marketing Your Law Firm Necessary?
Attorneys often fail to see marketing for what it truly is, the initiation and development of relationships.
Instead, they see it as an unnecessary expense that is too focused on profit and not enough on providing potential clients with the service that is right for them. Some may even feel that referrals from past clients or other attorneys should be enough to keep their firm afloat. The premise that simply being a great lawyer automatically attracts clients regularly to your practice is presumptuous and could prove to be a major financial liability.
“How will potential prospects learn about your expertise and the advantages you can offer them if they do not even know your practice exists?”
For any size law firm you need a steady flow of quality leads in order to function. Surviving off referrals alone is no longer a reliable business model. Therefore, there is a need for creating effective and ethical marketing that can help you connect with individuals and businesses who need your services most. Referrals provide a good first step to expanding your client base, but why limit the reach your firm can have to only a handful of prospects when you could connect with thousands via online marketing? Updating your marketing approach and taking the time to prioritize marketing, doing all that you can to ensure continued success and survival of your law firm should be paramount. Press releases, phone directory listings, TV ads and other traditional advertising that people pass over or ignore are no longer useful tools or a wise investment for acquiring more clients.
Instead, building a sustainable law firm marketing strategy should start with developing an effective online presence (i.e. a better website) and getting your firm to show up in relevant Google searches is the key to getting your practice in front of the right audience. Online visibility is essential for midsize law firms looking to expand their client base. Publishing content that helps solve problems and answer questions for your target audience as well as to inform your prospective clients about your expertise and services will help lead more of them to your practice.
A well-developed website, well-kept blog or even an informative video can help educate your audience on important legal issues while driving quality traffic to your website. Marketing your firm’s expertise, authority, and credibility through useful and engaging content is one of the new innovative ways marketers approach advertising for law firms.
Why attorneys need a better law firm marketing plan
With the complexity and sensitive nature of the law in general as well as the many different legal specializations and areas of focus, it can be hard for laymen to understand what type of attorney suits their needs best.
Through targeted marketing approaches such as content & inbound marketing, you can effectively differentiate each type of attorney in your practice. Whether you are explaining the difference between a product liability specialist and a personal injury attorney, or the more subtle differences between attorneys who practice within similar disciplines such as family law and divorce, these marketing approaches help you to educate visitors about your practice as well as help provide answers to many legal questions they might have regarding specific areas of the law.
Content and inbound marketing can also help establish and/or solidify your firm’s reputation and through useful content you can even inform potential clients about key points within your practice such as your fees, areas of focus, years of experience, case history, etc. However unlike typical legal websites that consist of pages that talk incessantly about attorney awards or expertise, with content marketing these finer points and accolades of your firm are brought to light while still providing useful, insightful, and educational content for your visitors that they actually want to read.
This method is far more effective than focusing on trying to “prove” why your firm is better than the next. While the partners at your firm may have years of experience and impressive past case work, there is always a competitor out there who may seem just as impressive or even more so or perhaps just appeals more to your prospect than you do. In some cases, these other firms may even offer their services at a lower rate or offer some other ancillary service that makes them more of a draw. Through effective marketing, you can develop and present your value proposition much more effectively.
Attorneys as marketers
Attorneys are logical, pragmatic, and detail oriented, which is why they do their job so well. But being a great lawyer and having a great head for business, does not translate into being a great marketer. Especially since the majority of services you provide are foreign to most people or not well understood in terms of their complexity and depth of expertise necessary to do the job.
Law firm marketing professionals help bridge this gap by better communicating the specifics about your firm in digestible and understandable terms. For example, talking about the fees you charge or what differentiates you from similar firms, or even how you help your clients get the outcome they are hoping for are all areas a professional legal marketer can help develop for you.
Occasionally, firms will attempt to market in-house without proper guidance or understanding of modern marketing methods. This wastes your firm’s billable hours on often ineffective, untargeted marketing that often includes, but is not limited to, poorly run paid search campaigns, or expensive print ads, billboards, TV, radio etc. that show little to no ROI. Instead, consider that no matter how proficient a marketer you or your partners are, your time is always better spent focusing on your client’s needs. They should always be your top priority. However, while this is true it does not negate the need for professional marketing to help position your law firm.
Consider hiring a legal marketing team to help generate new leads and clients for your firm. By hiring outside marketing professionals, law firms can reduce the number of non-billable hours and still generate new leads on a regular basis. And if your firm manages to hire a talented legal marketing team, the costs of modern day marketing strategies such as content & inbound marketing practically pay for themselves often in one year’s time or less.
Benefits of proactive marketing strategy
Law firms, like many other for-profit institutions, look to build revenue and increase profits year after year. Therefore, they should continually assess and measure whether the activities performed internally or on behalf of the firm are benefiting or hurting growth and sustainability. Your law firm marketing plan should certainly not be outside the scope of this measurability.
Content and inbound marketing give you the ability to track data and measure the success of your marketing efforts regularly. This helps your firm “close the loop” when assessing all activities and efforts of the firm and their relation to profitability. And by doing so, you are able to make informed decisions based on all the facts to adapt, plan, and ultimately generate better performance and profitability in the future.
Law firms that fail to stay current with the changing marketing atmosphere are willingly ignoring an important strategy for ensuring stability and the opportunity to generate more on-going revenue.
Even if you have the strongest team of lawyers in the tristate area, who will be able to benefit from your expertise if they are not even aware you exist?
Your potential clients expect to be able to find the ideal law firm that has the perfect solution for their problems. They will find the easiest way possible to do this. Today, that most often starts online with a simple web search. And, when someone is already stressed, upset, emotional, or going through a serious personal or financial set back, your firm should be looking for ways to help them through their hardship ethically and early on in their quest for a solution.
When adopting a newer content or inbound based marketing strategy, you position your firm to get in front of prospects much earlier on in their “buying cycle.” And when your helpful content is the reason they found you in the first place, you are already one step ahead, developing better rapport and credibility with your prospect. What’s “good for the goose is good for the gander.” Therefore, when you put your prospects needs ahead of your own, your firm will benefit as well in the end.
With all these advantages, it would be difficult for any midsize law firm to argue against the need for a modern approach to marketing whether done internally or by hiring a professional team to do it for them. Modern day marketing has progressed considerably and you owe it to your clients to make this investment. After all, if you are unable to continue positive growth of your firm, you will be unable to serve your clients at your fullest potential.
Chapter 2: The Immeasurability and High Cost of Traditional (Outbound) Marketing
Perhaps your firm is open to the idea of advertising & marketing, but still adverse to the idea of new online strategies such as content & inbound marketing. Maybe your practice is considering going the old-school route of TV, radio, billboards or other traditional outbound marketing. The internet, after all, can be very confusing to those who do not understand how to use it to its fullest potential. Although TV is technologically inferior, in the minds of less-seasoned marketers it can seem more appealing or even a “safer” investment even if the financials say otherwise.
While traditional marketing may seem more appealing they are ultimately much less effective, costlier, and less-ethical than inbound marketing alternatives. We say less-ethical because TV for example uses broad persuasive tactics to draw potential customers in. TV commercials are also not targeting a specific target group who need your services most. The guiding light of marketing ethics should always focus on whether or not what you invest in is benefitting your audience and if your intended audience is the ideal fit for your practice.
Inefficiencies of Traditional Advertising
When comparing the average costs law firms spend on outbound marketing compared to inbound, traditional outbound methods are nowhere near as effective. Let’s continue to use TV advertising as an example, which has the absolute highest cost out of all traditional media. When comparing the actual return you receive from TV spots versus that received from inbound marketing approaches, there really is no comparison.
After initial production costs, post-production finishing, and finally buying airtime, you will have spent high premium for an advertising platform that becomes less relevant with each passing year. Plus there is no accurate way to even measure the results. With the advent of DVR (enabling viewers to literally fast-forward right through the commercials) and the massive migration to internet streaming platforms for television and movies, fewer people see local or regional TV spots. This means that with less opportunities to put your firm in front of TV viewers, the costs of advertising might very well go up even further while the opportunity gained by doing so continues to drop.
Due to this large migration from traditional TV viewing to streaming and website based media consumption, older formats are now obsolete. This can be said for the greater majority of outbound advertising. The general public has grown to despise many forms of invasive advertising such as direct mail, cold-calling, pop-up ads, cold-email marketing, door-to-door sales, and even billboards or other large print ads, are distracting and usually attempt to persuade the viewer to take action by appealing to specific emotions, fears, etc.
The bigger problem with law firm marketing
Traditional advertising is really part of a bigger problem that stems from misguided spending and expectations with marketing budgets. Midsize law firms especially are guilty of following the status quo with advertising and doing anything outside the traditional box is rare as many of their biggest decisions both in law and when it comes to managing their practice are based on past precedent.
Often, questions such as whether marketing and advertising are effective or measurable are not even brought into question by law firms when making these types of choices. Their decisions typically depend more heavily on what competitors are doing.
If three other midsize law firms have billboards, TV ads, and full-page phone book ads, then your firm must do the same to appear comparable to the general public right?
But that’s the real issue because every firm is unique and your appeal will vary greatly from others whether purposely done or by natural inertia.
By not developing marketing around who you are, what you do, who you help, and why you do it, you are greatly reducing the effectiveness and opportunities available to your firm.
Advertising that misses the mark
Even outside the realm of law firms, the largest advertisers nationwide such as Coke or Pepsi have openly admitted that television advertising is hard to measure in terms of any return on their investment and is often used as just one piece of a much larger marketing strategy. They spend millions for a few seconds of air time during big events such as the super bowl and due to this broad, untargeted approach yield little to no positive ROI. Nearly all TV marketers will admit they see negative ROI on the advertising spend.
And for attorneys, when was the last time you saw an ad for a law firm on TV that didn’t just feel like regurgitation of the hundreds you’ve seen before?
What possible ROI could come from that?
Advertising to those who did not express interest in what it is you are offering is always less preferred and that is exactly what traditional advertising approaches such as TV, radio and cold-calls do. They miss the mark because they have no target audience other than an extremely broad demographic such as residents of a particular zip code, area code, county, etc. More modern marketing methods such as content-based marketing reaches a captive targeted audience in a less intrusive and genuinely helpful manner that is more effective in terms of results and more satisfying for the recipient as well.
You might be wondering why we are focusing so heavily on TV advertising. When making a case for a much more efficient and effective marketing method (i.e. inbound), TV is simply the dinosaur and many midsize law firms still utilize TV to pull in new leads. Many of the negative points mentioned for TV can also be paralleled across other traditional media as well.
Further outbound marketing deficiencies
There are also many forms of advertising that are not as invasive but still less effective such as directory advertisements and paying for directory listings either online or in print, local business guides, etc. Attorneys will often spend hundreds to thousands per month on legal directory sites such as FindLaw, Lawyer.com, Avvo, Yellow Pages, Super Media, and many more. Not only do these directory sites show little to no ROI but often cannibalize website traffic that should be flowing to your website instead of to the directories themselves.
For example many lawyers generate mountains of content on Avvo.com answering hundreds of questions asked by the general public seeking legal advice.
Why not answer these questions on your own website?
Why not create your own articles and blog content that addresses the key questions and problems of your target audience?
Companies like Avvo advertise that their pages come up higher in the search engines, but that is only because of the lawyers themselves answering all these questions and providing Avvo with endless amounts of fresh content!
Wouldn’t it make sense to keep visitors coming to your website and not spread yourself thin across multiple channels that have little to show in the way of ROI? Think about how your online activities outside of your own website can negatively impact visits to the website.
Why you should consider traditional advertising alternatives
Generating leads, which is the start of any sales cycle, is proven to cost your firm much less using inbound marketing methods. In fact, inbound leads end up costing your firm 60% less than traditional outbound marketing methods. This is mainly due to the efficiency of how the inbound methods reach potential prospects. But it more than just efficiency. Inbound focuses on creating and delivering useful content that your audience finds on their own terms through online search, social media, and more. When you put content in front of people that helps answers questions and solve problems at the time when they need it most, you will naturally create genuine interest in your legal services.
Outbound methods as discussed above, are fleeting in nature. Advertisements run at pre-scheduled times or are only seen in certain instances such as driving down a particular road, opening to a specific page in a particular local directory, etc. This means viewership is completely out of your control and often hard to determine. And, if the advertisement does not immediately catch the attention of the viewer, the message is likely to be lost immediately. Additionally, even if the viewer is drawn in, the brevity of the ad limits the likelihood that the message will stick around for very long. Ideally, a person needs to be exposed to an advertisement three to six times before they remember it. And typically, unless the viewer frequents a particular TV channel, radio station, print directory, or highway, and is also in need of your services, that is very unlikely to happen.
Measuring Outbound Results
Perhaps the most disadvantageous thing about outbound marketing approaches such as TV advertisements is the immeasurability of who it even reaches. It is very difficult to track how many people viewed a commercial, and even more difficult to know how many took action after viewing it.
Did they see your commercial and pick up the phone?
Did they jump on your website after seeing the TV spot?
How could you know?
Yes there are ways to track these things but 99% of business owners never do. Therefore, producing accurate ROI with outbound marketing and advertising is extremely difficult. Additionally, even with generous estimates on the ROI “potential” with outbound marketing, the numbers are not very appealing.
Say, for example, you spend $1,000,000 on a TV advertisement; even if 10 million viewers were to see your advertisement, it does not come close to realistically paying for itself. ROI for nearly all TV advertising is negative. Chances are that very few people who see the advertisement will be in need of your services, and even fewer will take appropriate action.
Inbound delivers the missing pieces to your legal marketing puzzle
Inbound marketing strategies, due to their much lower costs, targeted approach and being internet based, are easier to track efficiently and more profitable. Since visitors find your website content themselves, they are inherently already interested in your legal services and therefore more willing to take action and reach out.
A website visitor “taking action” can come in various forms. For example, they might fill out a consultation request form, sign up for free content offers, download eBooks, whitepapers, etc that you offer, subscribe to your blog, or even pick up the phone and call. There are accurate tools which track the exact amount of unique visits and clicks your content receives online, which allows your marketing agency or team to provide you with accurate numbers on your ROI.
Having measurable and accurate ROI allows you as an investor in the growth of your business, to be much more comfortable with the idea of marketing and will also enable you to make an informed decision on whether or not to use a similar marketing approach again in the future. Marketing is certainly a process which takes time to dial in effectively and we often use the phrase “rinse and repeat” once we find the right formula for your law firm. This enables your firm to have a well-defined marketing strategy with a proven process and proven results behind it.
Chapter 3: What are Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing?
While the benefits of content and inbound marketing may now have your interest, you may need more information about what they are exactly from the ground up. Let’s explore in detail.
Overview & History of Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is the promotion of your company through non-intrusive content marketing that uses materials such as blogs, whitepapers, SEO, social media marketing, informative videos, eBooks, email marketing and more to attract a highly defined targeted audience towards a particular service, product, or business. The power of inbound originates from the fact your audience comes to you as opposed to you forcing your marketing down their throat or persuading them to consider your law firm over another.
The term “inbound marketing” was coined by HubSpot in 2006, and is very similar to the general idea of “content marketing,” but with a more specific methodology, reporting, and measurable data tracking behind its approach. By examining the four stages of the inbound marketing methodology, you will begin to understand how inbound marketing can increase the profitability of your midsize law firm. The four stages are as follows: Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight.
4 Critical Stages of Inbound Marketing
The attraction stage comes down to determining the perfect “buyer persona” for your law firm. Experienced legal marketing professionals know that you do not simply drive any traffic to your website, but the ideal targeted traffic. By analyzing and understanding the demographics of your client base and determining the primary marketing goals of your firm, inbound professionals can help create buyer personas for your firm that will help develop content for the perfect audience.
It is a fact that content written specifically for the person most likely looking for it will be much more effective at producing leads than the broad, unfocused approach of traditional outbound advertising. By creating high quality content you will provide useful and insightful information and by including well-placed call-to-actions, contact forms, or other information about your services within those content pages, you can increase the chances of visitors reaching out and becoming a highly qualified lead for your law firm.
The three most common tools used to attract visitors to your website are:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- Social Media Publishing
The start to any successful inbound campaign begins with effective content, blogging and website page creation, as it is the main source of traffic generation to your website and for those visitors to learn about your services. When building proper blog content or website pages it is also important to follow SEO best practices and strategies to make sure these pages are optimized for your ideal target audience. Proper keyword research should be done as well to make sure your content is driving the most traffic possible and that the keywords used are most relevant to your services.
Next, you can increase the awareness of this content by building a large social media presence and sharing newly created content across your social networks, which also increases the effectiveness of your search engine rankings. This allows you to extend your network of potential prospects in need, without having to be intrusive.
In this stage of inbound marketing, the goal is to convert the targeted traffic you drive to your website into valuable leads. This happens by collecting a prospects contact information, which allows you to easily market your services directly to them since they have expressed interest in your firm’s service offerings. Generally, you can entice visitors to provide contact information by offering them genuinely useful, free content in exchange for their information, such as E-books.
Similar to the attraction stage, Convert has three significant tools to move the visitor through the buyer’s journey:
- Contact forms
- Landing pages
A call-to-action (CTA) is anything built into a web page that prompts the user to take action. Developing strong CTAs on pages where customers see initial content, such as blog posts, is generally the starting point of the conversion. It is recommended that pages have at least one great call to action, such as a text link or a button per page. Utilizing too many CTAs on the same page can actually do more harm than good, so use them sparingly. When clicked, a CTA should take the visitor to a landing page where they exchange their contact info for even more useful content. Making sure that contact forms are easy to fill out, functional, and visually appealing will help the interaction be more successful.
Landing pages are similar to a standard web page, but are very targeted and always built with the intention of having the visitor perform a specific task such as filling out a contact form. Their sole purpose is conversion of visitors into leads.
You should always make sure your landing page matches the offer presented in the CTA. For example if the CTA says “Click Here to Download our eBook” and that is not what happens when clicked, you will have created a misleading landing page which may alienate visitors into leaving sooner than expected.
While both outbound and inbound methods might hold similar rates of success in terms of driving traffic to your website the inbound method of attraction is much more successful at creating successful conversions. It should be noted, however, that the attraction stage for outbound marketing lacks significantly compared to inbound mostly due to the fact, content or advertising produced for outbound marketing is rarely optimized or well-targeted for one specific audience.
You’ve proved your content’s value, gained the prospect’s interest and exchanged some great content for their contact information, and now you are ready to close the deal by turning that lead into a customer. However, this stage is by far the most delicate, as this separates the seasoned sales team from just another “run of the mill” service provider. And, the slightest blunder can turn away the potential client completely. Thankfully, law firm marketing professionals trained in effective inbound marketing strategies have the right tools to ensure they approach the best leads appropriately.
Here again, there are three closing tools typically used to move new clients through the buying process:
- CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems
A properly maintained CRM system can help ensure you know the exact details of every prospect that provides you with contact information. Depending on your CRM, this can be extremely granular and detailed. For example, we use HubSpot to track leads which allows us to store all relevant contact information, preferences, website visit history, behavior and much more. Keeping track of detailed behavior of your prospects allows you to more effectively understand your target demographic and their preferences which enables you to provide better, more targeted marketing that is actually of use to your prospects. In addition, this allows you to analyze which marketing strategies bring in the best overall leads so you can systematically turn one successful strategy into a powerful on-going marketing campaign.
Once you understand your target market better, you should begin to develop email marketing campaigns to help nurture and close these prospects as clients. Alongside email marketing it is best to also create Workflows, which are a series of steps associated with an email marketing campaign.
For example, if your prospect opens your email and takes the appropriate action, you would then send them down Path A, which might include several more emails giving them even more quality content to sink their teeth into since you know they are interested. This group you might even choose to be a bit more aggressive with because the interest in your service(s) has already been verified based on them taking the suggested action in your initial email. If a prospect doesn’t open the first email or opens it but doesn’t take the necessary action, you might create a Path B to send less interested prospects down. This path might be less aggressive and simply aim to inform and nurture the prospect so they are more likely to take action.
Workflows are an excellent tool for creating a custom experience for your prospect. For example, if someone reaches out to us about looking for more website traffic, versus looking to build authority in their field, the content we share with them might look very different. Your goal should be to truly nurture prospects and give them something of value they will remember and appreciate as they consider you among their many buying options. The goal is not to sell the prospect on why you are better but rather empower them with the right content that speaks directly to their needs.
While this is the only stage of the inbound marketing methodology that could potentially be seen as intrusive if you bombard the user with emails, most marketing firms tend to do a decent job with subtlety and not over-doing it. Plus, your prospects ultimately have total control over whether they choose to read or not read, or even receive the emails. And, to be put into an email marketing workflow at all, you would have their permission to do so in the first place. Emails are simple to unsubscribe to, and as a marketer for your law firm you only want to spend your time marketing to those who are interested in what you have to say or offer anyways. Thankfully, if a potential client has already reached this stage, they are more than likely very interested in learning more about certain topics or services your law firm offers. At this point, they raised their hand… they want to know more, so the risk of feeling intrusive is minimal.
Just because you have successfully attracted, converted and closed a new client does not mean that marketing and delivering personalized, targeted content that is of use to them should stop. One of the strongest aspects of this approach is its focus on following up with clients and maintaining a close on-going relationship with them.
As I said before, referrals alone will not keep your business afloat, but having them as a sweet side note to a successful marketing campaign can be highly beneficial. And, utilizing inbound marketing you are sure to have clients referring you left and right for you outstanding level of service and personal attention. It is fairly common in the practice of law, that your clients will need your help more than once, so the fact that inbound marketing focuses so heavily on a maintaining closer relationships with clients makes it ideal for law firms. You will have turned your newfound clients into valuable promoters of your midsized law firm once you truly deliver outstanding ongoing service. Any opportunity that allows clients to provide feedback is useful during this step.
As with all other phases of inbound marketing there are three tools most inbound marketers use to further delight customers:
- Smart content
- Social monitoring
Each one of these tools is focused on improving and enhancing your client’s experiences and engagements with your law firm and then help you to adjust your practice to meet the needs of your clients implied by the information you collect.
Surveys are the most straightforward of these tools, and a properly constructed survey can give you clear answers as to how the experience was for your client and can also help shed light on other areas of your practice that can use improvement. Clients want to be heard and surveys are a great way to take their collective voice and let it be heard through policy or structural revisions to your practice to better suit their needs when applicable.
Smart Content is another excellent way to delight clients by eliminating “one-size-fits-all” marketing from your playbook. As your clients grow and their needs change, so can your approach. Often as you both grow, you as service provider and them as the client, the relationship transforms and often needs re-evaluation to determine how best to accommodate their needs. The content you deliver to your clients is no different. It is delivered across multiple platforms in multiple ways and treating every client the same in every situation leads to mediocre results.
With smart content you can tailor every experience your client has with your firm to ensure they are getting the most useful and engaging experience possible. Using “dynamic” or “smart” content also saves huge amounts of time since you can create one piece of content that automatically will change according to who is viewing it. Smart content ultimately helps you to tailor both the content and the underlying message to make sure it is useful and keeping your client’s needs as the primary focus.
Social monitoring allows you to keep your ear to the ground in terms of what others are saying about your firm, to your firm, or about any topics or legal industry issues in general over social media. By actively engaging with and developing a social following you create greater credibility and authority in your areas of specialization and can open a great number of opportunities to serve more targeted clientele.
Social monitoring is also extremely powerful because unlike a lot of marketing, it is done in real-time. This means by engaging with followers you are proactive, responsive, and giving followers expert insight when they need it most. This is extremely powerful by connecting with your existing clients and developing a strong online social network with them.
By engaging with clients regularly they know unequivocally who to come to when they need legal advice or perhaps when an opportunity for them to refer a colleague to your firm arises. With this information, you can provide well thought-out smart calls-to-action and smart text that present users content based on the information you gained through the surveys and social monitoring. This content should present users with information that is targeted at their specific goals, needs and wants.
Even the most seasoned legal professional should be able to appreciate the thorough, logic-based approach of inbound marketing. Inbound has been adopted more and more every year by midsize law firms and has a proven track record of generating greater ROI at lower costs.
Ethics and Effectiveness: Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
Not all people really take a moment out of their day to consider the role ethics plays in how a law firm can market to the general public, but attorneys most certainly do. After all, one of the main reasons law firms are often so hesitant to hire professional marketers in the first place is a concern over how their firm would be portrayed to both the public and other firms.
Building partnerships with other legal practices can be very useful to building the firm’s future, and keeping the potential for such partnerships open is important for just about every practice. Law firms must have a clear understanding of not only their own ethics but also those of other practices they work with. This carries over into their marketing as well. Keeping up your reputation as an ethical midsize law firm, requires that any firm you align with shares your ethics as well. Therefore, throwing 3rd party marketing firms into the mix can seem risky as it could put your reputation at risk and damage other firms you’ve aligned with as well. Some law firms might question, how a marketing agency can properly position your firm if they are not lawyers themselves. If hiring outside your own walls to handle marketing, it is absolute critical to find a marketing partner that shares your ethical views and vision for your practice.
Thankfully, inbound marketing at its core is comprised of an ethical framework when put into practice. Useful content is inbound’s foundation, which is often not selling anything or trying to persuade a prospect to buy something they do not need. With the basic methodology of inbound marketing devoted to catering to the convenience and needs of the client every step of the way, in a non-intrusive manner, your firm avoids looking like a hungry shark that simply goes after and grabs any client who swims into its waters, regardless if it’s a good fit or not.
Many outbound marketing methods are inherently toeing the ethical line or can overstep into unethical territory. Of course, there are the obvious extremes, such as telemarketing and “cold calling,” but even more accepted forms such as TV advertising have issues. Traditional outbound marketing practices often use aggressive sales tactics and persuasion in hopes of interesting potential buyers, sometimes exaggerating claims or upselling products. With the short amount of time these advertisers have to gain an audience’s attention, they resort to attention-grabbing, persuasive messaging which is often inflated, untrue, or irrelevant for the viewer.
Inbound marketing’s effectiveness stems almost directly from its ethical structure which is why it is ideal for attorneys. This strategy also puts a great deal of focus on understanding your firm’s structure, message, and goals inside and out. And, by understanding your law firm, marketing to those who need your help most of all becomes much easier. In addition to your firm’s needs, inbound marketing identifies and targets your ideal client who is most likely to need your services.
While that seems like the obvious approach, ethical marketing correlates with making sure the clients you are capable of helping the most are the ones you are targeting. This matters most because, people who are not ready to make a buying decision, are much less likely to buy before they are ready. By presenting accurate and appropriate information at exactly the right time (when the customer is seeking it out themselves), inbound marketing helps guarantee a positive response. And, this positive response is exactly what turns visitors into leads and leads into prospects.
One useful way of communicating the difference between inbound and outbound marketing approaches is to relabel them in more straightforward terms. For example, you could refer to them as interruption-based marketing (outbound) and permission-based marketing (inbound). It is very rare, that outbound marketing has any form of formal “permission” from the viewer what so ever.
Chapter 4: The Cost-Effectiveness of Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing
Unlike many other advertising methods, inbound marketing is hands down the most measurable. Being able to accurately track results allows marketers to better understand what is working and what is not which keeps their success rates growing steadily every year. HubSpot, the founders of inbound marketing, release an annual “State of Inbound” report that breaks down how the market is growing and changing.
The proof is in the numbers
As mentioned early on, inbound leads on average cost your midsized law firm 60% less than outbound marketing. The ability of inbound to unlock the potential of effective ROI tracking helps to achieve this. In fact, law firms that track ROI during their inbound marketing campaigns can generate more than 12 times the amount of year-over-year return than those who fail to implement ROI tracking. It should be noted, that any firm that fails to properly track ROI when they could be, is doing their practice a disservice. They are passing up an opportunity to achieve a much clearer picture of how their marketing efforts are paying off and what that means to their bottom line. Properly tracking ROI also helps to paint a clearer picture of your budget needs.
In HubSpot’s 2014 “State of Inbound” report, they determined that marketing agencies who used both inbound and outbound marketing strategies gained considerably more leads when using inbound marketing methods. In fact, during 2014, nearly 50% of professional marketing agencies and almost 30% of vendors were dedicating a more than half of their marketing efforts to inbound marketing. When half of professional marketers are participating in inbound, you can be sure that is not by mistake and generating impressive results. Inbound marketing was only utilized in some shape or form by 60% of marketers in 2013 but over 80% in 2014, so in just one year there has been tremendous growth.
One of the greatest benefits of inbound marketing is how much less marketers are spending per lead with inbound compared to outbound. Here are a few examples:
- Companies with more than 1,000 employees who acquired leads through inbound wound up spending an average of $27 per lead while outbound leads cost them $45. So, even for companies that saw the least savings, they still paid nearly 50% less for inbound leads.
- The most impressive savings were gained by companies with 51-200 employees, who paid an average of $70 for inbound leads compared to the whopping $220 spent on outbound ones; a $150 difference!
- The group most relevant to midsized law firms, with 1-25 employees, saw nearly the same impressive results, with inbound costing $37 per lead pulverizing the $102 cost through outbound acquisition.
Traditional marketing, most of which is of the outbound variety, is slowly fading away. Due to the measurability of internet based marketing and so much of it having to do with well-placed, well-written content, it naturally lends itself to an inbound marketing approach. This is why leads generated from SEO efforts, blogging, and other content marketing generated 4x the number of leads than those originating from outbound marketers in 2014. Proper implementation of SEO strategies prove to be the best example of inbound marketing success with nearly 90% of inbound marketers utilizing SEO to generate better leads.
A great statistic proving the ROI of inbound is: marketers who had found success with inbound the previous year were more than 3x as likely to increase their inbound marketing budget the following year. Statistics over the past several years only indicate that the use of inbound marketing in addition to an increase in budgeting will continue as ROI proves far greater in both leads and revenue gained by law firms implementing a full-fledged inbound marketing approach.
While SEO strategies were implemented by most inbound marketers, blogging was found to be the most effective tool for inbound marketing strategy in HubSpot’s 2014 report. The study found that marketers who prioritized blogging were 13x more likely to see positive ROI than those without a strong blogging or content marketing strategy. These results further prove that useful, targeted and informative content is the best way to drive legitimate prospects to your law firm.
SEO’s role in Inbound Marketing
A key point to keep in mind when thinking of inbound marketing, search engines such as Google are the primary way people search for answers to their questions and needs. When someone is in need of resolving a specific legal issue, they will do an online search to seek out legal advice. Therefore, the better optimized your website content is in relation to the search performed, the more likely it is that your website will be among the first search results listed.
SEO and blogging have proven themselves to be the most effective foundation for a successful inbound marketing strategy. This combined approach generated an increase in ROI for more than 35% of marketers than the previous year, in HubSpot’s definitive report. By comparison, less than 5% of marketers reported a decrease in ROI and less than 15% reported that there was no significant difference in their ROI results.
Inbound is more than just marketing
It is important to note that the methodologies which drive inbound marketing, deliver benefits to much more than just your law firm’s marketing strategy. Some law firms have dropped the “marketing” title altogether, simply calling the process “inbound.” This is because the foundation and core structure of inbound applies to sales, customer service and much more.
Working with the inbound methodology will not only help increase the profitability of your firm, but teach your attorneys how to more effectively locate and attract better leads, communicate with clients, and keep building a strong on-going level of communication that keeps their needs in mind in all stages of your client-relationship. This is especially important for midsize law firms who don’t have a “sales” team keeping customers happy. This is often one of the many hats you wear as a successful attorney.
Chapter 5: What Does All this Mean for Midsized Law Firms?
The time to make an investment in inbound marketing strategies is now. Advertising has changed on so many levels and by leveraging client-focused inbound strategies you are investing your firm’s future in measurable, affordable, sustainable, ethical, and highly quantifiable marketing. If you already have a marketing budget and understand the importance of building awareness for your law firm, than making a shift to inbound marketing will be much easier than you might think. If your firm is already providing great service, than you owe it to your clients and the future of your firm to implement inbound marketing’s methodology which will continue delivering excellent results for everyone long term.
In the HubSpot 2014 report, it was shown that nearly every marketer polled was already practicing one form or another of inbound marketing such as SEO, Social Media Marking, Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Email Marketing, etc. 80% of marketers with an annual marketing budget of $25,000, had invested in inbound marketing campaigns. And, 93% of companies who invested 1 to 5 million in their annual marketing budget were also investing in inbound campaigns. Simply put, no matter what your midsized law firm’s budget, you can benefit from implementing inbound marketing.
For law firms convinced that inbound marketing is worth the investment, you should consider the importance of hiring a law firm marketing professional. The sophistication, planning, and on-going implementation required for successful inbound marketing lends itself to hiring a professional. Additionally, with the limited amount of hours attorneys have from day to day or the limited number of hours they are willing to invest on non-billable tasks, there is very little time to set aside for developing proper inbound strategies without it impacting your client’s needs or case work.
Knowledgeable marketing firms have the advantage of not only understanding the legal and ethical issues you face in properly positioning your firm, but they are also experts in marketing as well which means they are current in strategy, trends, and best practices. It takes a great understanding of both your practice and marketing in general to develop a powerful legal inbound marketing strategy.
While you continue to focus on helping your existing clients, your new inbound marketing partner will learn everything there is to know about your practice, who your ideal target client is, and then begin to generate content and promotions all designed to attract the right type of prospect to your website.
Now that you have access to all this valuable information, it should be easy to understand what inbound marketing is and why it can benefit every partner in your practice, as well as the law firm as a whole. In choosing inbound marketing for your law firm marketing plan, you will be able to extend the ethical promise you took when choosing to practice law. This new and exciting way of reaching your client base will prove to be one the most effective and satisfying choices your law firm has ever made.
Although it should be easy to understand the benefits of inbound, attorneys might still feel hesitant about implementing it into their annual marketing budget. Attorneys are known to be risk-averse, thorough, and naturally skeptical, which is why they are so good at practicing law in the first place. However, when considering inbound from a truly objective position, there is little risk that can be directly associated with inbound marketing strategies. There shouldn’t be any negative backlash from your firm partners, clients, peers, or even your bottom line as a result of investing in a skilled inbound marketing agency’s services.
Inbound marketing provides the most calculated, logical and ethical way of communicating with potential clients. In an industry known for a high churn rate in terms of client satisfaction and retention, your midsize law firm will truly shine compared to other firms not putting their client’s best interests ahead of their own.
Even with this in-depth guide, we are merely scratching the surface of how to implement a proper inbound campaign. It would be no surprise if the thought of implementing inbound on this scale could still be intimidating. Given the fact we are inbound experts, we know that the cost and risk associated with finding success with inbound is far less if you put your inbound marketing in the hands of a professional marketing team. It’s hard to say that and not sound biased, but the numbers do show a much higher success rate for companies who hire inbound experts as opposed to those who attempt to go it alone.
Thankfully, we can help you through every step of the process. Our team of inbound experts will take the time to learn everything we need to know about your law firm, your target client’s and your marketing goals to develop a strategy that will deliver excellent results for your marketing investment. On average we dedicate no less than 40 hours per month to every inbound customer and handle all components, phases, and planning of every law firm marketing plan ourselves, alleviating your firm from any on-going marketing duties. This, of course, let’s you get back to doing what you do best, delivering the best legal representation possible for your clientele.
At Vinci Digital, we deliver inbound marketing services specifically for midsize law firms, and have been helping attorneys just like you, generate better leads and increase revenue through online marketing since 2005. Our dedication, honesty, transparency, and proactive marketing approach make us a perfect fit for partnering with the legal industry. We truly understand the specific needs of law firms and our passion for helping attorneys revitalize their practice make us an extremely effective law firm marketing partner.
I encourage you to use this opportunity to reach out and schedule a free assessment phone call with us. If you’ve come this far, there is no doubt you are considering inbound marketing as a viable option for your practice. Through a one-hour phone call and screen share session we can discuss:
- Your current marketing approach and the results thus far
- Ways to better optimize your site and the impacts that can have on your practice
- The advantages of using targeted web pages and web forms to sign more clients.
- How to use content creation and blogging to drive traffic and leads to your business
- Analyzing what competitors are doing and how you can use this to better market your practice
I appreciate your time and hope that you found this article useful. Schedule your assessment today.