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  • PCLaw | Time Matters

Embracing online marketing can make your law firm more successful

Ignoring it can pave the road to success for your competition

“Google it.” The term has become as ubiquitous in our modern society as Starbucks cups, Amazon packages, and the very smartphones that we use to check facts, listen to podcasts, and find restaurants. Earlier this decade, according to one survey, the Internet became the most popular way that Americans research and find lawyers.

So, what does that mean? It means that your law firm’s online presence is as important as ever and can play a big role in the success of your business.

Still many firms, especially small to midsized firms and solo practitioners, do not do much in the way of online marketing, or even marketing in general. According to the 2019 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, just 57% of solo practitioners have a website for their firm. Only 47% of law firms, of any size, in the survey reported having a marketing budget, and just 31% report having internal marketing staff.

Eighty percent of respondents said they use social media, themselves, for professional purposes. However, only 49% say they use it for client development. Just 6% of those surveyed say they maintain their own personal legal topic blog.

So, for firms who are not yet active in marketing their services through their websites, social media and other digital media, there may be a solid growth opportunity with a smart online marketing strategy.

What does online marketing include?

Online marketing, or digital marketing, essentially comprises all the marketing activities in which your firm can engage that use digital technology and the Internet. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Websites and landing pages

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

  • SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

  • PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Advertising

  • Paid digital advertising placements

  • Social media

  • Online video

  • Content marketing

  • Email marketing

  • Digital TV and radio placements

  • SMS (Short message service) also known as Text messaging

There are countless ways to promote your firm using digital technology, and to attempt to be the leader in all forms of digital marketing can be an exceedingly difficult and expensive proposition. Many solo practitioners and managing partners at small and midsized firms feel as if they do not have the budget to compete online and often do not really try.

Almost without exception, it is crucial for every law firm to ensure that at least a few basic items pertaining to its digital presence are in good shape and up to date. Without them, firms can miss valuable opportunities for new business and allow their competitors to claim new clients and cases instead.

Note: You should always be aware of relevant bar association rules are regarding law firm advertising, marketing, blogging and any type of promotion before engaging in any efforts to ensure that you are not in violation of any regulations or requirements.

How important is your law firm’s website?

Your firm’s website is usually the heart of its online presence and any online marketing initiative. It serves as your “digital lobby” and plays a significant role in helping prospects to move along through your marketing funnel on their journey to become your clients. Your website is a vital key to your firm’s reputation and success overall. For more information about the importance of law firm websites, read “Could your firm still thrive without a website?

It is rarer, as time passes, to hear a managing partner say, “Our website is not that important to our business,” but many firms do not put enough time and resources into theirs. Some well-established firms still believe that their reputation alone is enough to continually bring in new clients. A firm may invest in traditional marketing, such as a billboard or television ad with a custom phone number for clients to call and assume that is enough to drive new business.

There may be some individuals who contact your firm, solely as a result of these tactics, but often a potential new client will search for you online and visit your website before reaching out. While a billboard or other advertisement may have fostered awareness and name recognition, some research on your website is often the next step.

Firms who decide to invest in marketing that drives people to the firm’s website may have only wasted their money if the site is poorly executed. Imagine paying $10,000, or more, each month for a Google Ads campaign that only brings web visitors to your out-of-date, slow-loading website that is difficult to navigate and makes a terrible first impression. Not only would you have several unimpressed potential clients, who are simply moving on to the next law firm’s website, but you would have paid good money to provide them with a negative experience.

If you do not have a website, or you are not happy with what you see when you search for your firm online, consider budgeting for an updated website that better represents your firm. It may turn out to be a wise investment.

Online reviews – Word of mouth with tremendous reach

A Brightlocal Local Consumer Review Survey showed that “76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations” and that “82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 52% of 18-54-year-olds saying they ‘always’ read reviews.” In essence, online reviews are digital word-of-mouth marketing with high visibility and a large degree of consumer trust.

Considering statistics such as these, it is no stretch to conclude that your firm’s online reputation is another important key to maximizing new business. There are various platforms on which clients can provide feedback and ratings regarding their experience with your firm.

Millions of visitors each day seek information from Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook and other sites to help them make purchasing decisions. Unique to lawyers, there are several platforms that host information and client feedback. A few examples of law-firm-specific platforms are Avvo, and FindLaw.

The first step with regards to online reviews, if you have not already done so, is to understand what your current situation looks like from the public’s perspective. Look into the following:

  • What kind of ratings do you have on various platforms and review sites?

  • What do comments left in reviews say about your firm?

  • How would a potential client react to your online reviews?

If you are pleased with what you see, then you must be doing some things right. Encourage clients to leave reviews when fitting, but always be aware of each platform’s requirements. For instance, it is often against their terms of service to discourage or prohibit negative reviews, to offer anything of value in exchange for reviews, or to solicit reviews in bulk.

In terms of negative reviews, or low ratings, investigate your options. If there are fraudulent reviews, or items that violate the terms of service for a given platform, you may be able to have them removed.

Consider your approach for potentially responding to negative reviews. Showing the public that you care about your clients and are willing to discuss grievances can turn a negative into a positive. Tread with caution, though, when publicly responding to a negative review or comment. It is possible that the individual may be looking for additional opportunities to put your firm in a bad light. Use your best judgment.

Most importantly, work to create the kind of client experience that will organically lead to outstanding reviews and loyal clients who become brand advocates for your firm. From the first time they hear about your firm, through the intake experience, to the resolution of their matter and beyond, you have myriad opportunities to earn better reviews through exceptional client service.

Personality and social proof – making your firm more accessible to people

Much like online reviews, which influence internet users and guide them towards various actions, other kinds of “social proof” can affect prospects and clients as well.

If feasible and permitted by your clients and applicable bar association guidelines, publishing testimonials and case results on your website or social media platforms can be immensely powerful. Potential clients often want to see examples of how your firm helped other individuals who may have been involved in a situation similar to theirs. By publishing case results, when allowed, and written or video testimonials, preferably with the client’s name if they are willing to have it included, you can show concrete examples of the success that your firm has earned on behalf of clients.

It is also valuable to share a bit of your attorney’s and staff’s personality on your website and social media platforms. Often when people are considering legal services, they may be intimidated, lack knowledge, or may be going through a very difficult situation. By sharing photos, bios, and other information about the individuals at your firm who work with clients, you can make them seem more real and approachable than with just a name on a screen.

In their websites and social media pages, many legal professionals include information about their hobbies, families, pets, community involvement, and other such topics to give visitors, including prospects, a glimpse at who they are outside of their working role. Allowing people to initiate a personal connection before even meeting or speaking with your team can lead to more contacts, and more clients.

Tracking and Analytics – Data to help you understand what is working

Arguably the most important thing that a law firm can do with regards to its online presence and digital marketing efforts is to know what return you are getting for your investments. Why spend money on online promotional tactics and have little idea about if they bring in new clients?

Surprisingly, according to the ABA Tech Survey Report, only 38% of respondents said “they have access to analytics or reports to monitor the effectiveness of their website or blog.” Of those who responded that they have access, “29% view them quarterly, 23% view them monthly, and only 7% view them weekly” with 41% saying they never view them.

Setting up Analytics through Google, or other technology, and viewing them frequently can give you insights such as:

  • What pages of your website are viewed the most?

  • What percentage of your site traffic comes from organic search vs. other sources?

  • How long is the average visit to your site?

  • How many pages per visit do users view?

With some additional setup work, firms can track contacts that come from various marketing efforts and attribute the value of resulting cases to specific sources to get a sense of true ROI (Return on Investment). When you have information about what tactics led to new business, it is much easier to make informed and intelligent decisions about which methods of marketing you should invest in, and which you should discontinue.

Improvements over time are feasible for any law firm

Some firms are still planning out their first website. Others intend to increase their posting to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The leaders have already spent much time and effort on their strategy and execution and are making adjustments, based on data, as they proceed.

Whether you are already heavily invested in digital marketing or consider your firm a bit behind the times, there are always improvements that you can make in terms of your online presence. Being more aware, knowledgeable, and dynamic with regards to your website, social media activity, review-site profiles and other elements can lead to greater response from the public, and greater success.

Set a digital marketing goal for each month. It can be to simply learn about an area of marketing that you would like to explore more deeply, or possibly to outline a plan for next year’s efforts. Perhaps working with your team to get Analytics or lead source tracking set up is an achievable goal. You could set a target to get a certain number of visitors or page views to your website, to add a new content page on a particular practice area, or to surpass your most popular post on social media with a record number of likes.

Explore various resources for information or talk with experts who can help you with a plan that makes sense for you. Whatever you do, be aware that a well-researched strategy for online marketing can bring your firm a higher level of success and help you to best your competitors.

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