With 2018 sure to be another interesting year – both in terms of the legal marketing world and the world at large – we’re thrilled to present our annual law firm marketing trends report.
Each year we prepare this report as a touchstone for the state of the industry and where we see it headed.
As with every Trends Report we’ve put out, we’ve compiled a lot of interesting legal marketing data and opinion, including our own perspective, and boiled it down to the biggest ideas we see emerging as viable trends going into the new year.
This year, we’ve taken it a step further by introducing our own data, which we gathered from firm owners, founders, partners, marketing directors, and associate attorneys. After all, the state of the industry is much more than the perspective of one agency or one law firm – it’s a complicated whole made up of a variety of experiences and points of view. We want to ensure that we’re capturing all of the important variables so that we get a clear and accurate understanding of the big picture in terms of real percentages.
Of course, every firm is unique.
Every practice area, geographical location, and set of attorneys requires a customized approach. Hence, most of the trends we write about here are concepts, not specific action points, though we do include a few tips within each trend to keep the content practical.
The nature of the trends we include here cover a lot of different matters related to law firm marketing. This includes some new things that have been changing with Google, and some old things (like referrals) that are taking on new layers as the digital world progresses.
Our goal is to provide you with a big, ambitious, exciting look at where things are headed and how you can start to take your firm to the next level.
Thanks for reading, and we hope that this report helps make 2018 a huge success for you and your firm.
1) Firms Will Seek Their Own Power Niche
The benefits of going niche are not new.
Nevertheless, it’s a topic that we’ve seen grow in importance over the previous year, and it’s a highly relevant trend for 2018, both in terms of law firm practice structure and legal marketing.
That is, even if you don’t actually stop practicing certain areas, “going niche” is still a very good move for your marketing. As the market becomes more competitive (71% of small businesses in 2017 have websites compared to 54% in 2016, according to a recent study from Clutch), things are becoming crowded.
This is a particularly relevant point for younger, smaller firms. Entering into a market stacked up against a handful of firms that share your practice area, but who are already promoting and marketing their firm really well – means you have a long, uphill battle on multiple fronts.
On the other hand, if you find a highly specialized area that fits you and your firm well, then your chances of dominating that niche become much more likely. Finding this niche allows you to establish a reputation – and web presence – built upon a solid, focused foundation.
While this is something any new firm should seriously consider, it’s also worth considering for established firms, particularly as it relates to marketing. People want to work with specialists. A generalist approach to your web presence means that it’s going to be much harder to convince leads that you’re actually the best at handling their specific need.
But, as the saying goes, this process is easier said than done. Finding and committing to a niche in the first place can be difficult enough, much less measuring the market and sticking to a plan.
Here are some ideas for getting started:
Three Tips for Niching Down
1) Understand What It Means to “Go Niche” and Get Help if You Need It.
We recommend reading some Bruce Stachenfeld posts from Above the Law. Bruce is the managing partner at Duval & Stachenfeld LLP, one of the largest real estate practices in New York City. He and his firm have developed a strong brand behind staying focused on their core competencies, developing what he calls a “Power Niche.” We asked Bruce what he thought about legal marketing in 2018, and here’s what he said:
“I am not sure I can say what the biggest trend in law firm marketing is but I can certainly tell you what it should be. And that is that lawyers should recognize that from the client’s point of view they are often indistinguishable in their ability to provide legal services. Therefore, the place to stand out is by industry knowledge and contacts. This is part and parcel of building what I call a ‘Power Niche.’ This means a smaller niche within the industry in which you can establish ownership and best-in-class ability. It is surprising that no matter how much evidence I see that this works better than anything else, how little lawyers actually do this in practice. I am confident that this will change at some point, but it hasn’t quite caught on yet.”
Well said, Bruce.
2) Figure out What Your Niche Is.
This might be the toughest part about the niche proposition. But there are some great steps to take, many of which the ABA published all the way back in 2012. It boils down to three big questions:
- What kind of cases do you like and want?
- Is there enough of a market for those cases? And
- What’s the competition like?
These three big questions form the basis of choosing a niche, and you can do most of the research online.
3) Go All In.
When you find a niche that meets your parameters and seems like a viable business focus, make sure that is reflected in everything you do to promote your firm. Make it the primary or sole focus of your website, your social media, and all of the content you produce, whether you write it yourself or not. You want to establish yourself as a real thought leader in that space.
You should look for opportunities to speak about it, write for publications about it, and take other opportunities to display your expertise in your niche field. It might not be easy at first, and you may still need to take on some other cases for a while. But this is one of the very best ways to start your firm off on the right foot – or get it headed in the right direction – and set your practice up for long-term success.
Part of why we see this as such a viable trend for 2018 is that it plays so heavily into other concepts and trends we explore throughout this report. That includes thinking of your firm like a business, understanding your audience, and establishing yourself as a thought leader, among others.
But none of those things are easy to accomplish if the foundation is shaky. A firm that isn’t properly positioned within its market is a firm that’s not going to find as much success with any of these initiatives – compared to firms that know who they are and maintain focus.
2) Firms Will Diversify Their Search Engine Marketing Strategies
Search engines have changed a lot, both in terms of how they work and how their results appear. How engaging your website is deals with the former point, and this section deals with the latter.
Remember how Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) used to look? Only a few ads up top, highlighted in yellow, with some more ads on the sidebar? Things have changed a lot in the past decade, but one thing has been a clear trend: it’s no longer as obvious what’s an ad and what is not.
Ads look nearly indistinguishable from organic listings, and a good percentage of users claim they can’t tell the difference. There are now four ads above the organic listings, Google has moved the Maps “snack pack” right under the ads, and they are experimenting with ads in the snack pack itself. (See image below for a visual breakdown of what this looks like.)
What does all of this mean? It means that there are likely four paid ads and three organic Maps listings above the first true organic listing. So ranking #1 organically now means that you’re #8 on the actual SERPs.
Pretty frustrating, right?
Ultimately, while organic still gets the most traffic, particularly the first three organic listings, it’s clear that Google is doing it’s best to drive people to click on more ads – which seems to be working.
So, if your firm relies on being found in Google as an important source of leads, how are you supposed to adapt to these changes? The answer is not to throw up your hands and give up on organic, nor is it to go all in with paid, nor is it to give up altogether.
Instead, if you take a diversified approach to your search engine marketing (SEM) strategy, you can remain just as – if not more – effective at generating leads online.
Three Tips for Diversifying Your SEM Strategy
1) Get Smarter with Your SEO.
Getting as many pages to rank for priority keywords (e.g., not just your homepage, but also your PA pages, and ideally even some blog posts) is one good strategy for being as present on SERPs as possible. It’s important to note, however, that it’s not advisable to try this as you’re beginning to work on ranking your site for keywords.
If you try to rank multiple pages on your site for the same keyword, it’s what’s referred to as “keyword cannibalization,” meaning your pages are competing against each other for those keywords and making it more difficult to rank either. In other words, try to rank key pages for key terms, and get more aggressive from there, with slight variations and “long tail” targets for other, less important pages.
2) Develop an Intentional Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Strategy.
Many attorneys – and SEO professionals, for that matter – are turned off by running PPC ads for legal services. Largely, that comes down to the high CPC (cost per click) associated with these ads, due to the high value of cases. That being said, there are some really smart ways to utilize PPC that you should very seriously consider. However, it’s important not to take a scattershot approach like many firms do, since PPC is not some magic bullet that you simply have to set up and then wait for the leads to rain in.
A PPC campaign needs to be developed to include a custom landing page for your ads. Usually, it’s a bad idea to send PPC clicks to your main site’s homepage, which is rarely as targeted as an ad. If people click on ads, it usually means that they’re ready to get in touch with you, so create a landing page that doesn’t include any of the “fluff” of a homepage. Get right to the point and give them a highly visible contact form with a few high-impact reasons to choose you. Also, take ad copy (title + description) very seriously. Hit on a couple of big benefits, such as free consultations and 24/7 availability, and include something that makes your firm unique so that you’ll stand out to searchers.
PPC ads also work well for your branded terms (e.g., your firm’s name). CPCs are relatively low for these, and you can direct people to a page that’s designed to speak specifically to people already searching for more information about your firm. PPC also gives you the ability to test offering different practice areas that might not be important enough to warrant SEO work, being that it can take a good deal of time and investment to rank really well for those prime keywords.
We have some clients who smartly agree to go after their main keywords through SEO initiatives while using PPC campaigns for less important – but still viable – practice areas. This is a great move, because you do want your site to show you as an expert in a specific field (see our above point about power niches), but you might also want to draw in other types of cases. Treating SEO and PPC not as oppositional tactics, but as two different strategies that can help accomplish different goals, is key.
3) Improve Your Maps Rankings.
SEO for local services is quite a bit different than SEO for mass-produced products or services. Google understands that a lot of people use their search engine to help find local businesses, so they’ve put a lot of work into making this side of their algorithm exceptional. The biggest development in this area that concerns law firms is the Maps listings that appear directly on SERPs for local searches, below the four ads and typically above organic listings.
While they don’t make organic useless, and people still like to navigate to websites in organic listings – in particular when they’re in the research phase – it’s incredibly beneficial to rank well here. People can see reviews for firms, call them directly, and see where they’re located on a map. But ranking for Maps placement is not the same as ranking for organic in terms of what it takes to accomplish it. That’s why you need to take a unique approach to ranking in Maps.
While high organic listings are still extremely valuable, their relative importance in search engines has been diminished somewhat with the inclusion of so many other, different types of listings.
The challenge, of course, is that each area requires its own unique, custom approach. That is, running PPC ads is very different – and requires an entirely separate set of skills and know-how – than ranking in Maps, and the same is true for ranking in organic.
Hence, make sure that you’re taking each into consideration. And if you’re working with an SEM agency, make sure that they understand the different strategies and approaches needed to perform well in each area.
3) Firms Will Better Understand – and Cater to – Their Target Market
As most marketers will tell you, truly great marketing is all about the audience. It understands their needs, their desires, and their points of resistance.
That’s the scientific part of it.
The artistic part is about finding unique ways to speak to those desires and pain points.
For law firms, the first part is often the trickiest. After all, you can find someone to create a great tagline, or you might have come up with some catchy branding yourself. The problem is that without the first part, having an in-depth understanding of your audience, the art suffers.
However, there have recently been a lot of opportunities opening up for law firms to better understand their audience, from online surveys to extensive research reports to email questionnaires.
The internet has made asking for – and receiving – feedback much easier. This means that there’s an increasing amount of data out there and it’s become much easier to collect that data yourself.
That’s why we decided to conduct industry surveys for this report, and it’s also on display with the Clio data we reference a few times throughout this report.
Much marketing information these days is opinion-based. Not facts – opinions masquerading as facts. Put simply, there’s nothing like hard data to help you (and us as an agency, quite frankly) cut through the thick fog of opinion and speculation as it relates to marketing, and get down to the facts that matter.
And while some lawyers, like many business owners, might be more inclined to trust their own subjective views of what their clients are looking for, subjective speculation is always fallible. The truth of the matter is that people’s expectations for law firms are ever-changing. Millennials don’t expect the same things that Baby Boomers do, and it’s important to understand these demographic nuances and how they relate to the ways in which you market to – and even serve – your prospective clientele.
Here are a few things that recent data has uncovered that display just how important it is to keep tabs on emerging trends and expectations. This is the only way to ensure you have a 360-view of what your leads are looking for in an attorney.
Three Tips for Following the Data
1) Offer a Variety of Ways to Get in Touch with Your Firm.
Isn’t it a peculiar phenomenon how people nearly become upset when you call them without advanced notice? People simply don’t want to be on the phone when there are more convenient ways of having a conversation or answering a question – namely, via texting. The point? The expectations we have for communication are changing all the time, right along with technology. Because of that, businesses have to learn to adapt to new lines of communication that their audience prefers. This is particularly relevant when it comes to millennials.
According to Clio’s study, “19% of millennials who have ever had a legal issue say they’d rather text or email their lawyer than talk on the phone or face-to-face, compared to 14% of Americans.” While the principle of providing one clear call-to-action (e.g., getting in touch with your firm for a consultation) holds true, there should be a variety of options offered that allow someone to move to action in a way that is preferable to them. That includes texting, live chat, contact forms, email, phone, and even using a tool like Calendly to let your leads schedule a time to talk directly from your site.
2) Implement – or Keep – Your Free Consultations.
Most of the firms we work with offer free consultations, which is a great thing. But we’ve also talked to plenty of firms that simply refuse, arguing that it takes up too much of their time and doesn’t help to make sure that inquiring leads are actually quality leads. Nevertheless, 64% of Americans say that free consultations are a deciding factor when choosing a law firm. And while we understand the frustration that can come with it, if over half of the people out there are saying that something is a deciding factor for them when picking a lawyer, it would generally be foolish not to follow suit.
3) Provide an Online Payment Option
Clio’s research also brings into focus things like document sharing and payment processing preferences for leads. 30% of millennials prefer to share legal documents via technology, and 18% say they prefer to be able to pay their legal bills using an online payment method, such as PayPal. While not as high for all Americans, these things are still desired by a lot of people across the board in our tech-soaked age. If you’re looking for a reliable, secure option for online payment processing, consider something like LawPay, which provides a comprehensive tool for secure, online credit card processing.
The bottom line: try to understand your leads’ and clients’ expectations for when dealing with a law firm and do your best to meet them where they are. After all, they’re the ones in charge. And if you get frustrated by making that work, figure out how to iterate on your process instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
For example, if you can’t keep up with free consultation requests, or you’re struggling with too many unqualified inquiries, then delegate some of them to another attorney or have a receptionist go through a brief screening process. In other words, don’t just deny your leads something that’s really important to them because it can be frustrating for you. The customer isn’t always right – but they are always the one making the final decision.
Part of the difficulty for many firms is that they haven’t taken the first point of this report – niching down – seriously, and are thus dealing with a very large demographic focus. However, there are still a number of things that you can do – like offering multiple means of communication and providing free consultations – that can help a lot regardless of your target market.
4) Law Firm Websites Will Become More Engaging
People talk a lot about how frequently Google is changing, which can be hard to see on a day-to-day basis. In fact, while Google does sometimes implement algorithm updates that have overnight effects on rankings, many changes play out over time.
One of these more slowly developing trends is Google’s increasing reliance on engagement metrics.
Engagement metrics are data points that indicate how people are behaving on your site. Bounce rate, for example, measures how many people leave your site immediately after landing on it. Pages visited per session, as another example, measures how many pages people navigate to within your site after entering it.
Ultimately, the goal is to understand and quantify the subjective side of how people are interacting with your site. That has to do with the design, structure, speed, and content of your site, to name a few.
While we’ve talked in the past about the engagement of sites with regards to conversion rate optimization, it’s not something that’s as commonly thought of in terms of SEO – but it certainly needs to be in 2018.
And look, no one’s expecting your website to look like Buzzfeed. People aren’t expecting that out of a law firm website, and they aren’t going to be flocking to your site to read about the latest development in child custody laws within your state. But, as Search Engine Land’s Larry Kim frames it, engagement metrics act as a tiebreaker between competitive sites.
So, if you’re in a competitive market that features plenty of savvy law firms ranking well and doing a lot of the right stuff, focusing on how you can make your site more engaging could be the thing that vaults you to the top.
Here’s how to start:
Three Tips for Making Your Website More Engaging
1) Create High-Quality, Interesting Content.
In the past couple of years, a big shift has taken place in the content marketing world. While most internet marketers used to take a quantity over quality approach, that has flipped completely. Google is no longer impressed by dozens of short little pieces of uninspired content that no one cares to read. They want websites to feature strong, lengthy, and authoritative pieces of content that can serve as definitive explanations on topics.
As LinkedIn calls it in a recent B2B marketing report, you should try to develop weighty, “blockbuster” pieces of content that your audience would find immensely valuable, as opposed to developing tons of meager, lightweight, barely interesting posts. This is something that we’ve been paying a lot of attention to as of late; recently, we encouraged all of our clients to do half the number of their regular blog posts at twice the length, and we work hard to ensure that each piece of content has the ability to rank well by providing more engaging materials to site visitors.
2) Don’t Be Afraid to Talk about Yourself.
As often referenced, the most common word in marketing is “you.” The reasoning for this is that advertising shouldn’t be about the company or the product, it should be about the person being targeted to buy and use the product. While that does hold weight in certain realms of advertising, we’ve found it not to generally be the case for law firms and other local service professionals.
People want to know about you – what you stand for, what you’re about, why you do what you do – and there’s no reason not to tell them. It has to be done with taste, of course, and you don’t want to come off as braggadocious. Nevertheless, finding an interesting way to present yourself to your audience, even in the form of lengthy content completely about you and/or your firm, is a great move.
3) Keep It Clean & Simple.
It might seem counterintuitive, but “more engaging” does not mean “more stuff.” Littering each page of your site, in particular your homepage, with as much interesting stuff as you can come up with is not the key to getting people to engage with your website. In fact, it might have the opposite effect. If people can’t find the information that they’re looking for relatively quickly, or if they feel overwhelmed by options when looking at your site, their chances of bouncing pretty quickly are significant.
*Check out our post “10 Inspiring Law Firm Website Designs (And What Makes Them So Good)” for some inspiration on engaging website design.
The really interesting side of this matter is the blurring of lines between SEO and web design. Google’s intent is to connect people with the websites that best respond to their queries, that help them find the answers and solutions they seek.
In the case of law firms, that’s understanding a legal situation, along with finding a qualified attorney to handle the case. So, if people are engaging with your site, it means that you’re providing them with good information, meaning that they’re more likely to look to you for legal services.
As often happens in the world of internet marketing, it can be easy to become fixated on rankings. “If I just ranked number 1, that would be the key to growing my firm,” you might think. Not so. Even if you found a way to rank number 1 for your top keyword targets with a subpar website (not likely these days), there is still the problem of actually converting leads into clients. For that, you need an engaging website.
The fact is that the quality of the design and development of your website affects your SEO and the conversion of leads into clients. These two things are very deeply correlated. The quality of your website is becoming more deeply codified in how Google ranks sites and pages, meaning that, if you haven’t been taking it seriously as of yet, 2018 is the time.
5) Firms Will Target Prospects Earlier in the Research Phase
When we talk about SEM initiatives for law firms, we typically think about people looking to contact an attorney right then.
While that’s a huge part of the equation, it’s also worth focusing on ways to reach people before they’re ready to hire an attorney. While there are limitations to what you can do, based largely on your area of practice, here’s a scenario to illustrate what we’re talking about.
Say someone thinks that they might be dealing with a medical malpractice case, but they aren’t sure. Like most of us, when dealing with such uncertainty these days, we turn to the internet.
Understandably, their search terms would not likely have anything to do with hiring an attorney but would be strictly focused on information-gathering. Typically, in such circumstances people use queries such as “What is medical malpractice?” or “Do I have a medical malpractice case?”
If you can find a way to provide these searchers with valuable information at this stage, it can be a big step toward establishing some early trust with them. Why? Because you are helping them understand and evaluate their situation, and they appreciate that. Really, this is the heart and soul of content marketing. You provide value before you even know a lead’s name, hoping that the value you provide for free generates a feeling of trust and that this trust results in clients who hire your firm to represent them.
While many firms, especially big firms, have embraced content marketing and developed a consistent, ongoing strategy, it’s still an area where most firms are lagging behind. In large part this comes back to the time-consuming nature of developing and promoting high-quality content.
However, with the myriad tools and outside help available, there are fewer and fewer reasons not to take this seriously. Here are a few ways to get started.
Three Tips for Targeting Prospects
1) Develop Lead Magnets.
While your firm should have plenty of engaging, authoritative content throughout its website, having bigger pieces of downloadable content, such as ebooks, checklists, how-tos, etc., can put a nice piece of valuable, branded content in your leads’ hands. (The downloadable pdf to this Trends Report is a good example.) Through this type of content, you have the ability not only to establish yourself as a true authority – that is, a thought leader – in your niche, but you also have the ability to immediately get your leads’ contact information. That allows you to deliver some custom, automated email content to open up a line of communication and begin to develop some trust with your leads.
2) Grow Your Email List.
This approach, of developing lead magnets and becoming a thought leader, only works really well when it’s married with email marketing automation. Email marketing automation is a way of automatically following up with people who have shown interest in your value-first content. Not only that, but you can develop a newsletter that consistently delivers valuable information that keeps your firm on the minds of potential clients. The catch? You have to actually get their email address.
There are a lot of tools available online, such as HelloBar, Drip, MailChimp, and a host of others that allow you to “gate” your lead magnet content so that people can only get it by giving you their email address. That’s been a huge part of Black Fin’s marketing, in fact, and the primary method we rely on to grow our own email list and establish a relationship with leads.
3) Run PPC Ads for More General Keywords.
Firms typically only run PPC campaigns for keywords that they think will immediately convert. While that’s a sound strategy in many cases, there are more opportunities for firms whose practice areas warrant a longer research and decision process for leads – such as areas like business law or birth injuries. You might be worried about spreading this information too broadly, reaching mostly people who are outside of your geographical reach, but the good news is that you can run local campaigns that don’t include local keywords.
That is, you can run ads for the general term “birth injury” that isn’t targeting location-specific keywords, but does only target people within a geographical region. The same is true of Facebook Ads, which are quite a bit cheaper than Google’s PPC ads and can deliver a great ROI for certain practice areas such as estate planning or tax law.
Taking thought leadership and content marketing seriously is somewhat advanced. A lot of firms want internet marketing to magically start delivering quality leads yesterday. While PPC and SEO speak to that concern directly, content marketing is a bit more elusive, and it can take some time to develop yourself as a legitimate thought leader.
Nevertheless, if you’re taking a long-term approach to your internet marketing strategy and are looking to maximize each contact and lead you get, content marketing is invaluable.
Not only does it show leads that you know what you’re talking about, but it also opens up the opportunity to show other attorneys that you’re an expert in your niche, opening the door for more referral sources.
6) Firms Will Improve Their Referral Processes
As with going niche, referral marketing is nothing new for attorneys. It’s the oldest, most reliable form of lead generation for lawyers everywhere, in every practice area, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
According to our survey data, 60-percent of our respondents believe that referrals have given their firm the best ROI over time. Additionally, the 2017 Clio study found that 62-percent of people find attorneys through referrals from family or friends.
Referrals carry a lot of weight for attorneys, as they should, because they lead to a significant amount of business. However, referral marketing should play a big part in all of the marketing that you do. Every marketing maneuver you make ultimately leads more people to your firm, which ultimately makes you a more familiar entity and improves the chance of referrals.
Unfortunately, many attorneys and firms aren’t utilizing digital tools effectively to boost their referrals. Instead, they’re focusing on traditional advertising methods to facilitate referrals, even though none of our survey respondents – zero-percent – cited traditional advertising as their best tool for getting a good return on their investments.
The great thing about internet marketing is that there is a low barrier to entry, and nolarge upfront investment. Additionally, it’s measurable. Traditional advertising, on the other hand, is hit-or-miss, with no accurate way to quantify its usefulness.
With that in mind, we’re gearing up to see more and more firms take advantage of internet marketing tools to boost their referrals this year, and here’s how they’re going to make it happen.
Three Tips for Using Digital Tools to Boost Referrals
1) Utilize Client Email Lists.
In the last section, we talked about the importance of growing an email list of leads. Here, we want to highlight the importance of email marketing in its relationship to maintaining good relationships with former clients and staying within their “field of awareness.” By crafting regular email newsletters that keep former clients up-to-date with your firm and provide informative legal content, you’re taking the right steps to stay on the minds of people you’ve worked with successfully in the past. Adding to the effectiveness of email marketing next year will be a personalized approach to help facilitate those referrals.
Rather than just regularly distributing an email newsletter, segmenting your former clients into groups more likely to refer new leads to you and reaching out to clients on an individual basis will become routine for firms and attorneys. Have a recent personal injury client that suffered from a particularly bad injury? Don’t be afraid to reach out to that client after his or her case has been handled successfully.
A simple message of, “Hey __________, Just wanted to check in and make sure that the ________ was healing and that you’re doing well! Please let me know if there’s anything else that we can do for you!” can go a long way in keeping you at the top of former clients’ minds. Next time that client hears of somebody who needs an attorney, he or she will remember that you were the attorney who cared enough to check in once the legal work was done.
2) Foster Your Professional Network Through Social Media.
In the next section, we talk about how important fostering a professional identity online is for personal branding and attracting new clients. Your online personal identity (or “brand”) is also an excellent way of establishing a network of attorneys who can help you increase your referral network. There are plenty of firms that don’t handle a particular kind of case or client, even though they sometimes get inquiries about those types of cases. So they pass that lead off to other attorneys or firms that can be of service.
This makes fostering your professional network an excellent way to boost your referrals. And while attending industry events and physically meeting people will always have its place in networking, putting effort into networking online can be easier and just as effective. To do this, make sure you’re utilizing your social media profiles in the right ways.
Become active in LinkedIn and Facebook groups made up of attorneys who either practice in the same market or in the same practice area. And once you’re active in those groups, don’t be afraid to reach out to the attorneys in those groups individually to help foster a professional relationship. After all, according to Clio’s data, 31-percent of Americans find their attorneys through referrals from other attorneys.
3) Add to the Review and Testimonial Process.
Generally speaking, clients are happy with their attorneys at the point when they’ve received compensation after a case has been handled successfully. This period of time is always a great opportunity to ask for reviews and testimonials from those clients, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to ask for referrals. While they may not have a person in mind that’s immediately looking for an attorney, it’s important to make it clear that you’re happy to help anybody they might know who is in need of legal services.
Use this time as an opportunity to make sure your clients are following your social media pages and are okay with your contacting them via email after their case has been handled. As with getting online reviews, the fundamental key to getting referrals is quite simple: you’ve just gotta ask. And if you want some online tools to help you manage the process, look into using something like BirdEye or ReputationStacker.
It’s certainly easy to become myopic when it comes to your firm’s marketing strategies; one of the toughest things to accomplish is integrating and paying attention to multiple forms of marketing.
Nevertheless, with the diversity of ways that people look for and choose an attorney, you need to find ways to take advantage of as many channels and methods as possible.
In other words, while the internet promises a plethora of fantastic lead generation opportunities, it’s important not to lose focus on the more traditional means of landing clients. The good news? As we’ve shown here, you can use the one to help the other, which allows you to develop a holistic, powerful lead generating engine.
7) Attorneys Will Build Their Personal Brands
Branding can be an elusive topic, so let’s cut to the chase…
A brand is essentially a constructed personality. It’s what people associate with a name, a logo, and a company as a whole. Really great brands typically have founders that express and reflect the company’s brand through their personal words and actions (“brand”), creating synchronicity in their image.
While it may seem like an abstract idea for attorneys, it’s really not a new concept. Just watch law firm TV ads and you’ll quickly be able to identify some common attorney brand cliches, including:
- The hardnoser (“We will fight for you!”)
- The compassionate advocate (“I’m here to help you during your trying time”)
- The salesman (“I don’t get paid unless you get paid”)
- The lawman (“Get the justice you deserve”)
- And the list goes on…
These are what we mean by brands. And while this is something that definitely should be considered for firms as a whole, it’s also something that at least the key founder(s) should intentionally reflect and reinforce, as well.
The good news is that personal branding is a much more viable option than it used to be for attorneys. Outside of referral networking, radio spots that people ignored, and a few other tools, there weren’t many avenues for attorneys to market themselves individually in a cheap, direct-to-consumer fashion.
But in the digital era, the internet allows attorneys to build their personal brand with ease via professional social media profiles, attorney-specific content, and even their own websites.
In fact, we’ve worked with a number of attorneys who work at large firms, but are independently developing their own personal online brand presence to generate leads for the types of cases they handle. This is particularly viable for attorneys at firms that have a wide range of practice areas. The firm itself can’t focus their primary internet presence on the types of cases that a single attorney handles, so that attorney will go out and make a personal brand for themselves.
Ultimately, actualizing your own personal brand starts with a simple writing down of what you stand for and how you help your clients. It focuses on why their experience with you will be fantastic, and what you uniquely offer to prospects as a lawyer. And then it’s all about getting the word out.
So in 2018, how do you go about effective personal branding as an attorney?
Three Keys to Improving Your Personal Brand
1) Cultivate Trust & Authenticity
When it comes to building your personal brand, nothing matters more than establishing trust and authenticity with your audience. If you want people to think of you as the leading criminal defense attorney in Spokane, Washington, for example, it really helps if you always present yourself that way. To cultivate trust, you need to be comfortable talking about yourself, and you need to be comfortable asking other people to talk about you (i.e., client reviews and testimonials). If you know that you serve the people of Spokane better than any other criminal defense attorney, you need to make sure the content on your website reflects that (without, of course, saying that you are “the best,” which the ABA disallows).
And if you can get your former clients to back up those statements with great reviews and testimonials, then you’re taking the first steps to branding yourself as the best criminal defense attorney that Spokane has to offer. If you’re unsure how to start procuring those testimonials and reviews from your clients, then our guide on the topic will help you develop a systematic, ongoing plan.
2) Have Great Photos & Develop a Strong USP.
A lot of people’s perception of you as an attorney can come down to their initial impressions of you. That initial reaction can be the deciding factor in deciding whether or not you seem trustworthy. The two things that matter the most for this are excellent photography and a strong unique selling proposition (USP). We see a number of attorneys who neglect getting high quality photography of themselves and their firm for their website and online profiles. This means that you’re either dealing with stock photos or low-quality images, both of which can be a quick turnoff for prospects.
Find someone local to you who can take some professional photos of both you and your office, and utilize them across your internet presence. In addition, figuring out what makes you unique as an attorney can really help prospects quickly understand what you’re about, and whether or not they want to work with you. Call it an elevator pitch or a tagline – the point is that boiling down the essence of why prospects should choose you into a short phrase or sentence can help establish that great first impression.
3) Don’t Neglect Social Media.
If a lawyer wins a big case in the woods, but nobody is around to hear about it… you get the point. Effective social media strategy is the art of making your own sound, and it’s a huge part of branding yourself. Of course, your firm should already be utilizing various social media platforms. However, according to our survey only 65 percent of our survey respondents’ firms are actively using Facebook, only 58 percent are using LinkedIn, and only 35-percent are using Twitter.
Realistically, all firms should be using Facebook and LinkedIn as a part of their social media strategy. (Twitter can be useful as well, though the other two are more important for most attorneys.) That’s why we recommend taking the extra step and creating professional social media pages for your firm’s attorneys, apart from your personal social media accounts. We’re talking about specific social media pages for individual attorneys, where people can see a timeline of experience and history of that attorney helping his or her community.
Thinking about the way you present yourself as an attorney is not a new concept, but the internet is definitely changing how it works. There are more opportunities, which is great, though it can also seem overwhelming.
That’s why, if you have the ability, it’s always a good idea to delegate the day-to-day management of social media profiles to someone else, ideally someone within your office who has a little bit of extra time. You can feed them ideas throughout the day, but let them handle the grunt work.
After all, the point of good internet marketing is not to make you work harder, but smarter.
8) Business-Savvy Lawyers Will Flourish
It’s a problem that nearly every company has faced at some point. There’s this tendency to view marketing as something entirely separate from the regular day-to-day operations within a business.
After all, marketing just needs to deliver the leads, and then the business does its thing.
But marketing initiatives that truly hum, that really take a firm to that next level, require a firm-wide understanding and implementation. In other words, it requires attorneys to understand their firms as a business.
Part of the difficulty is that most lawyers don’t really see their firms this way; they see them as practices, and they certainly aren’t taught in law school how to manage the business side of things. The downside? If you don’t treat your firm like a business, it probably isn’t really functioning like one.
While only one small part of this, our research indicates that only 7% of attorneys have a “down to the decimals” understanding of their ROI – and, according to a Clio study from mid-2017, only 6% know their CPA.
While how much data you actually need to have and track is entirely up to you, we think it’s going to become more important in the next year, with 65% of attorneys and law firm marketers planning to spend more money on internet marketing in 2018, and 30% planning to spend the same. Hence, with that extra expenditure, it’s increasingly important that firms develop better systems for tracking and analyzing their ROI.
We’ve seen first-hand how difficult it is to make this happen. With limited success, we’ve tried to capture and track some key metrics for our clients. It’s a challenging proposition, for sure, but it’s key to developing a sophisticated marketing program. You may not need to know your ROI “down to the decimals,” but having a clear idea of how things are working is a good start.
Three Tips for Treating Your Firm Like a Business
1) Develop a Tight Integration Between Marketing and Intakes.
It’s great when your marketing is delivering a consistent flow of fresh leads, but how well are you doing at closing those leads? Does the person handling your intakes know where the leads are coming from, how leads from different sources tend to behave differently, and at what rate they are expected to bring on new leads as clients?
On the marketing side of things, you can track how many clicks you get, how much traffic your site sees, and how many people fill out a form or call a number. But you can’t track how many of these turn into actual clients, how much the cases end up being worth, and what happens to them once the cases are closed. You need to make sure that someone is overseeing these things, from the moment a lead gets in contact with your firm to the moment you wrap up their case.
Creating a journey map for intakes, where you lay out the typical path clients take, and what needs to happen along each step of the way (including things like asking them for a review/testimonial at the conclusion of their matter) is a great first step.
2) Encourage Brand Ownership and Representation.
Everyone at your firm should be on the same page regarding the focus and mission of your firm. While you can certainly overdo it trying to implement a culture at your firm, making sure that at least a few key values are understood and agreed upon helps make sure that your message is getting out there in a consistent, impactful way.
3) Know Your Numbers.
While you probably don’t need to understand many of the sophisticated metrics out there for measuring your marketing initiatives and production performance, getting some of the keys down can be a huge step toward improving the efficiencies of your firm.
Not every law firm can have a business development department. For those that do, this section is not particularly relevant. But for the rest of the firms out there, understanding the business side of things can be quite challenging.
Ultimately, it’s not overly complicated. And a good place to start tracking these things is along with some internet marketing efforts, being that things online are immensely more trackable than other forms of marketing.
In 2018, Realize Your Firm’s Full Potential
Without question, things will continue to rapidly change in 2018. But being prepared by establishing some specific goals now can make all the difference.
We hope you’ve learned a lot and that 2018 will be an amazing year for you and you firm.
If you’d like to chat with us, don’t hesitate to get in touch.