What Smart Lawyers Know:
A decade ago, the Great Recession permanently changed the U.S. legal landscape.
Some of the country’s largest and most well-respected law firms were unable to bring in enough new business to maintain their high fixed overhead costs and were forced to liquidate before the economy recovered. Other firms merged with accounting and financial service providers to remain profitable and provide more of a “one-stop shop” for their clients.
In the aftermath of this market saturation, legal marketing has gained renewed importance. Even a decade later, a high-quality law firm that lacks equally high-quality marketing may find itself struggling to attract new customers, recruit talented associates, and maybe even become a household name. Learning more about law firm marketing and the options available when it comes to internet marketing for law firms, can help you put a digital marketing plan in place to ensure your firm remains profitable and competitive in any economy.
Why Digital Law Firm Marketing is So Important
A generation or two ago, marketing your law firm meant two things: maintaining client satisfaction (which would lead to word-of-mouth referrals) and purchasing targeted mailers, Yellow Pages advertisements, and other print media ads.
But today’s legal market is far too saturated for these traditional marketing methods to set you apart from the competition. Prospective clients and employees are likely to use the internet as their starting point for research, and if your firm lacks a strong digital presence, you may be left behind. Furthermore, modern law firms are far more likely to offer specialized practice areas than a jack-of-all-trades approach, so ensuring that your firm is the top search engine result for “second-parent adoptions” or “intellectual property copyrighting” will help funnel clients looking for the specific services you offer.
eProphet Media builds search engine optimized (SEO) websites that help law firms of all types and sizes maximize their brand exposure and generate case leads. By creating a comprehensive marketing plan with a heavy emphasis on digital marketing, you can put yourself directly in front of potential clients while making it easy—and attractive—for them to contact your firm for help or more information.
A high-quality law firm that lacks equally high-quality marketing may find itself struggling to attract new customers.
Law Firm Marketing Goals
Your marketing plan should include both universal goals and goals that are specific to your firm. As a general rule, the goals of law firm marketing include:
Market penetration is the extent to which your individual firm captures the total legal market in your area. For example, if your firm handles about 500 annual divorce cases in a county where 10,000 couples file for divorce each year, your market penetration is around 5 percent. By increasing your market penetration, you’ll directly increase the number of cases you’re asked to handle.
Improving a firm’s market penetration can often have a snowball effect when it comes to profitability. If you’re able to capture 10, 20, or even 50 percent of your local market, you’ll be able to maintain strong name recognition even without increasing your marketing investment. Ensuring that your name is at the top of search result lists can give you the downhill momentum you need to pick up clients and talented attorneys and support staff.
In the past, law firms that didn’t want to simply send out advertisements to every address in the county could pay for mailing lists from private marketing firms. These lists often included the names of individuals who had recently come into an inheritance, suffered an auto accident or property damage, or who might otherwise be in need of legal services.
Today, law firms are able to use their websites to generate these leads at a far lower cost. By including an easily accessible contact form on your website (or a live chat box), you’ll be able to instantly receive questions or feedback from those who need your services or want to know more about what you offer. Adding these names and email addresses to a database can allow you to sort prospective clients by their needs and generate targeted mailers informing them changes in the law or other items of interest.
Online reviews serve the same purpose as word-of-mouth referrals but have gained increased importance in today’s digital era. Negative online reviews can cost you potential clients. On the other side of the coin, a slew of positive reviews (along with a website that is highly visible in search results) can be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing your firm over the competition.
Many law firms tend to neglect this part of their marketing approach. They may see splashy daytime television ads or neon bus wraps as the antithesis of the sophisticated and serious air a law firm should project. But even if you have no desire to create a loud persona for yourself, branding your firm as “[Local City’s] Divorce Experts” or “The Copyright Shop” can help cement your name (and practice area) in the minds of the public. A marketing firm can help you come up with an attention-grabbing slogan, logo, or phrase that captures what your firm is all about.
By incorporating a few key law firm marketing trends into your comprehensive plan, you’ll be able to rise to the top of the ranks and become a household name.
Although digital marketing has taken the lead when it comes to product and brand promotion, there’s still a place for traditional marketing methods in a law firm marketing plan.
Traditional (or Print) Marketing
Traditional marketing methods tend to be print-heavy, although they can include digital methods as well. Print marketing includes newsletters and other mailings (like postcards and refrigerator magnets), publicly-posted flyers, newspaper advertisements, and Yellow Pages advertisements.
Other traditional marketing methods include radio and television ads, billboards, bus benches, and even shopping cart ads at local grocery stores. Traditional marketing can help supplement a digital marketing plan by reinforcing brand awareness even while prospective customers aren’t online. Seeing your name, logo, and other relevant information while out in the community or receiving a newsletter targeted to their interests can reinforce a prospective customer’s positive opinion or prompt them to contact you.
The reach of digital marketing is nearly endless, and a strong marketing plan means far more than just improving your own website. Ideally, your internet marketing plan should encompass several distinct areas.
Nearly all of the country’s most successful and well-known law firms have a strong social media presence. Cultivating Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages and regularly updating these pages with firm news, links to interesting or relevant articles, and other intriguing information can expand your market reach without requiring subscription fees or website-building knowledge.
Between your roster of current and former clients and the contact information input by those who visit your website, you may already have a ready-made email marketing list. Optimize this list by sending out quarterly, biennial, or annual emails to bring clients’ attention to changes in the law, with a closing call-to-action that encourages them to contact you for more information.
Industry sites like Avvo, FindLaw, Martindale, and other online legal directories often appear whenever someone types in a broad phrase like “divorce lawyers near me.” Ensuring that you’re listed in these directories and optimizing your listing to appear at the top of directory results can put your name in front of hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of website viewers each month.
Optimizing your law firm’s website so that it’s highly visible in search results is one of the most effective ways to generate client leads. This is usually best accomplished by having high-quality content that is optimized for common search terms relating to the legal services your firm provides. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can also help attract prospective users to your site. By paying to advertise on local legal blogs, online newspapers, and other websites, you’ll put yourself in front of viewers even when they’re not necessarily seeking out legal services, building brand awareness. Paying only when someone clicks an advertisement and is redirected to your website ensures you’ll get exposure.
Today, law firms are able to use their websites to generate these leads at a far lower cost.
Develop a Comprehensive Lawyer Marketing Plan
By incorporating a few key law firm marketing trends into your comprehensive plan, you’ll be able to rise to the top of the ranks and become a household name. And often, the same things you need to do to market yourself to prospective customers can help you outrank your recruiting competition and attract the top new attorneys in your area.