Lawyers are catching on. They’ve relied on referrals and word of mouth. But, the competitive world demands they raise the barre on their marketing.
It’s a digital age, and they must optimize their digital presence. The world that needs them has left traditional media and advertising, so lawyers must lead that world, too.
What’s a marketing strategy?
A marketing strategy is an action plan structured to increase market share. Any business wants to acquire customers and sustain their loyalty. But, even with a law school education, too few lawyers understand the need for a marketing strategy.
A law firm’s marketing strategy should combine its marketing goals into one comprehensive action plan. It reflects research focused on internal capabilities and external needs. It wants to focus on mixing the right services, personnel, and messages to land clients and sustain their business.
Any law firm needs a value proposition to differentiate it from other firms. It may, for instance, focus on prosecution or defense in personal injury law. And, within that market, it might focus on workplace injury law. Forming a strategy and making it work are vital to getting a law firm off the ground and keeping it healthy.
Choosing the market begins with understanding who the lawyers are and what they have mastered. A tax lawyer, contract attorney, criminal defense lawyer, and so on all have different core strengths and values. Those individual skills narrow the market from the start.
Within that market segment, lawyers must think like business people. They must define what business brings profits, which has long-term potential and personally fulfilling. This takes marketing research on demographics, location, financing, pricing, and more.
Forbes says, “Marketing can be defined as the means to communicate value to customers or, more formally, as ‘the science of satisfying consumers’ needs profitably,’ according to one of my former Harvard University professors, Nick Nugent.”
The same article revisits the traditional four Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. It also adds two Ps: Process and People. And, it’s a digital marketing strategy that maximizes the processes to reach those people.
That is, strategic planning leads to communication opportunities. A business should network with appearances in its community, advertise in local print media, learn to develop referrals, and more.
But, contemporary law firms must optimize their use of digital marketing channels. And, they may need help in this.
9 build blocks of a successful digital marketing strategy for lawyers:
- Make yourself the go-to voice. It’s up to you to make yourself valuable. You must be a perceived value. And, while you can and should build some of this reputation at Chamber of Commerce mixers, you now must use the digital channels that help identify you as the thought leader in your field.
You will publish articles, blogs, and white papers. You will speak at Bar Association meetings and appear on public panels. You will be making your own news in as many assertive means possible.
- Learn to maximize research. You must learn to value and use data more than narrative and anecdotal history. The data describes the market available, the location value, and the pricing potential.
Moreover, you must learn how to access and assess descriptive analytics and differentiate them from predictive analytics. The analytics measure what you are doing and suggest what you should do in digital marketing to increase exposure, increase your client base, and improve profits.
- Go to school. You must master the vocabulary and tools of digital marketing. You cannot do all the work yourself, but you communicate easily and effectively with the website developer and manager supporting your digital presence.
You must learn to value Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), keyword and key phrase research, links and backlinks, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and more. And, you must differentiate the media channels in terms of the values to your legal firm.
- Build an accessible website. Mobile devices continue to consume the internet. Almost 90 percent of people access the internet through smartphones. So, the most effective websites engage mobile shoppers and researchers.
Mobile users prefer brief, clear, and involving website display and content. Designers have built websites in a horizontal rectangular view. But, the technology of smartphones requires websites to favor a vertical rectangle, so the website needs the flexibility to serve both.
- Make the website friendly. The best websites are easily navigated. Website performance is measured by how many pages people visit, how long they spend on pages, and how many times they click-through to other resources. While this is the work of your website developer, you can’t let it standalone without input.
The website must load quickly, support easy uncluttered menus, and feature a strong content architecture. You are trying to reach as many people with various wants and needs within your target market. That’s different from being all things to all the people all the time.
- Come to terms with Google. Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other browsers are in the advertising business. So, while you want your website to appear high on their browser, it comes at a cost. Considering the cost of premium Adwords for lawyers and law firms, you have to make good use of your internet presence.
Your content, for instance, will not do well if it is advertising pretending to be blogs or articles. Browsers have what they consider “white hat” and “black hat” requirements. So, your website needs tools that take browsing customers directly to your website.
- Reach beyond the window. Social media lets you expand your marketing universe. Facebook is not the only social media channel, and new channels challenge it daily. But, Facebook is a convenient target through which you can spread your image, brand, and thought leadership.
LinkedIn, college and law school alumni sites, professional membership associations each offer opportunities to extend your message. They expand your reach, endorse your professionalism, and publish your work. But, assuming the best business is usually local, you must opt for local news and regional platforms.
- Make the work visible. More websites now wisely feature live access. In Entrepreneur, Carolyn Sun said, “If you’re like the average person, you’ll spend more than five years of your life on social media — five years and four months, to be exact. That breaks down to nearly two hours (116 minutes) a day spent on YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter.” So, more businesses are adding videos and live chats on their websites.
Lawyers must sell themselves because they do not have a product to demonstrate. Many choose Whitehardt to create the videos that connect and engage those shopping for legal help. The law firm commercials educate but also present the lawyer as a person, voice, and face to comfort and befriend the potential client.
- Making the listings. Your law firm does not exist in a successful digital marketing strategy until it appears in directories — the way you want. Obviously, you want to be listed on multiple directories, but you also want them to list positively.
Google Alerts will notify you every time your name or practice appears in web content. Old-school word-of-mouth is now WOM, the millions of reviews posted daily on Google, Yelp, YellowPages, Facebook, BBB.org, FindLaw.com, AVVO, and more. But, you cannot let poor reviews or few stars go unaddressed.
Opening any business takes courage. It takes the knowledge and professional advice to reduce the risk. And, the tactics listed here are offered as the means to succeed in a tough professional venture.