Getting your brand out there is a tough job - here are some tips on what you can do
It would be a perfect world if you, as a practising lawyer, could hang out a shingle, like in the “olden days,” as your go-to legal marketing plan for how to start a law firm. The hope is that, like magic, clients would appear wanting your services.
Even a couple of decades back, having a listing or ad in the Yellow Pages directories (remember them) would be a simple, generally effective strategy. Prospective clients would turn to the lawyer listings and start calling.
Today, despite the connectivity and search capability of the Internet – in fact, maybe even because of those features – it’s getting harder to stand out in the legal industry and have people find you. It would be nice if a LinkedIn or Facebook profile alone would do the trick, and those will certainly help, but it’s not enough. And with roughly 130,000 lawyers across Canada, you likely face a lot of competition.
“You can be a brilliant lawyer, but if no one knows who you are, what good is that?,” says Tony Poland, co-founder of Legal Matters Canada (legalmatterscanada.ca), a business that helps lawyers in their marketing endeavours. He also points out that with more than 20 law schools in Canada, hundreds of new lawyers are being pumped out each year.
So, let’s look at the ways the tools of legal marketing can get your firm to stand out.
What is legal marketing?
Legal marketing can be as simple as an ad – on a bus, billboard, TV or radio. You can even invest in high-quality pay-per-click (PPC) ads that show up on the web or pages potential clients go to.
But it can be a lot more than the Better Call Saul approach to letting the great wide world know you’re out there ready to do battle on behalf of clients. Today, the role of legal marketing in law firms includes strategies on the best use of your website, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to get you at the top of search results, email campaigns, and creating a social media profile.
“There are big differences between what we think of as traditional advertising – like radio and TV ads – and other types of marketing,” says Toronto-based employment lawyer Stuart Rudner. “Both types have their place.” While he puts more effort into non-advertising types of marketing, he recently bought a radio ad campaign that “actually worked out really well,” Rudner says, adding that the more consumer-facing nature of employment law (like personal injury law) can make direct ads work effectively.
However, Rudner says there are many things you can do yourself when it comes to reaching out to potential clients through legal marketing – like writing a blog post on your practice area and keeping active on social media like Twitter. But it might also cost you, especially if you want to bring the experts in to deal with SEO or ghostwrite blog posts so that you can do the lawyering.
Shelly Dhingra, marketing manager with Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers in Toronto, says that legal marketing is not only a tool that is used to develop an awareness of the firm’s brand, “but also to create brand awareness for each one of the lawyers at the firm.
“My role as a legal marketer is to make sure that our lawyers’ personal brands are marketed as well as the firm’s brand.”
Legal marketing typically costs a law firm about two per cent of its total revenue each year. Surveys also show that about half of law firms in the U.S. set an annual marketing budget.
The importance of marketing in a law firm
Poland says that the whole point of legal marketing in all its forms these days is getting a lawyer’s name out there into the wider world. Whether it’s through a flashy website, Facebook ads, innovative content marketing, or having lively debates on Twitter, the key is harnessing the power of the Internet.
“All roads in legal marketing inevitably will lead to the Internet,” he says. “When someone looks for a lawyer these days, they typically turn to a Google search, and taking advantage of that is a vital part of how to market your law firm."
Types of legal marketing
Website: Among the more effective methods of any marketing plan, says Poland, is compelling content so that a potential client visits your website instead of the site of the lawyer down the street. Most law firms have a website, but relatively few of these actively track data.
A website with a blog, says Poland, can be very effective in generating interest in your law firm. Thoughtful posts that inform the public on an important legal matter or that provide essential legal advice can help build your stature as a person knowledgeable in your area of practice.
If you are too practicing law to write your blogs regularly, turning to a brand marketing specialist may be the answer. Poland says his firm provides customized posts based on issues you choose, which can link to your home page. While journalists often find stories looking at legal blog posts, Poland notes Legal Matters Canada posts act as press releases, so media outlets have access to them, allowing more potential for exposure.
Dhingra at Gluckstein says that using the firm’s website is all about “showcasing who we are,” and providing prospective clients with information on legal issues that can give insight into possible solutions.
Starting a law firm website and keeping it up to date with fresh, high-quality content is the significant first step toward marketing your services, but it doesn’t stop there. You likely will need to invest in professional SEO services that will help your firm to rank on Google when prospective clients search specific keywords – for instance, “personal injury lawyer Vancouver” or “divorce lawyer Halifax.”
“SEO does take a bit of time to build – it’s living, breathing thing,” says Dhingra, who uses a third party to optimize the website. “You always have to be looking at what’s working and what isn’t working. If some of the keywords that we have selected are not performing well, we’re constantly fine tuning that to make sure we are or are choosing the best way to get in touch with our clients and potential clients.”
Rudner echoes the advice about working with an SEO agency. “Google is constantly changing its algorithm. And it would help if you worked with a good SEO organization that stays on top of these algorithm changes because they can drastically affect your rankings.
Digital marketing and landing page: A landing page is a standalone web page created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign. It’s where a visitor “lands” after they click on a link in an email, or ads from Google, Bing, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or similar places on the web.
Unlike web pages, which typically have many goals and encourage exploration, landing pages are designed with a single focus or purpose, known as a call to action (or CTA, for short).
Social media: A business profile on Instagram and Facebook can be a big part of reaching the right people, especially since it will give you the ability to run targeted ads that display on the news feeds of people within your local area, to a particular age group, or with specific interests. Pretty much every adult these days is active on at least one social media platform.
A social media profile on Twitter or LinkedIn is also a great place to share posts about your practice area, interact with followers through likes and comments, and respond to messages that you receive. It’s a marketing tactic that doesn’t cost money but be careful about going down the rabbit hole of getting into long, drawn-out debates on controversial topics. You could spend all day fighting with the trolls rather than practicing law.
Rudner says he has used LinkedIn quite effectively as a legal marketing tool, especially when marketing to other lawyers or HR professionals. He created a Canadian HR law group on LinkedIn, which now has about 18,000 members at this point. “it’s a great way to get my name out there and to be top of mind when people have issues,” he says, but adds a pithy comment on Twitter or Instagram can also work well.
Create an email marketing presence, maintain your client base
Building and maintaining relationships with your clients and leads is a vital part of legal marketing. One way of doing this is by developing an email marketing campaign – automated emails that keep your firm’s name at the forefront.
Dhingra adds that a key benefit of these campaigns is keeping up with those you have worked for, as they can be a great source of referrals. Many people in need of a lawyer will consult the Internet and talk to family and friends before choosing a lawyer. Asking happy clients to post a testimonial can be an important part of your legal marketing.
“Once you’re a client of Gluckstein, you’re always a part of us,” she says, adding the firm sends out everything from birthday greetings to invitations for special events – keeping in touch is a critical way to keep word of mouth alive and well.”
Make visitors your clients
Those contact forms on a firm’s website are gold, says Dhingra, and having them everywhere on the website is very important. “Once we have that email address, its locked into the back end of our website and we can add it to our email distribution list.” It’s a great way to find prospective clients and gives the firm a chance to engage. There is good reason to call this type of contact a “call to action.”
“That really is one of our goals,” Dhingra says. “We want to drive those who visit our site to our contact forms, and once we have that information, we can engage with them.” Something like a “chat bot,” which provides a means for a site visitor to leave a message any time of day or night can also be valuable.
In legal marketing, it’s the long game that counts
Legal marketing isn’t something that works overnight. Your firm needs to create a long-term legal marketing plan before you should expect to see results. Marketers talk about the “Rule of 7,” which is that a prospective client will have to see your face or read your message seven or more times to encourage them to reach out. So long-term vision is essential.
One of the big mistakes your firm can make is expecting too much too quickly. It might take several months for all that SEO work to get top rankings on Google. And someone may click on your FaceBook had several times before actually contacting you. So the advice from pros is to try different things and don’t blow the marketing nest egg all in one place.
But what’s most important is having a legal marketing plan, and budget to cover it, in the first place.