Top 7 Marketing Tactics For Small-Town Attorneys
Originally published 2018
Out beyond the traffic and the crowds is a town just up north.
It’s a place filled with warm welcomes and smiling faces, and where word of mouth travels fast and far.
Living and working as an attorney in these small pockets of the country requires a different approach to marketing, one that’s more personalized and thoughtful than what’s needed in a bustling city. Whether you’re serving a town of 200 or 2,500, the reputation and relationships you build within the community are at least as valuable as the number of clients walking through your door.
The tricky part is there’s no perfect formula for success in small-town America. Every place is shaped by its own values, traditions, and people, making both face-to-face and online connections critical to the success of your firm. And while it’s easy to think about how you come across in person at the grocery store or a local event, it’s also about managing your digital impression.
Even if you’re the only attorney in town, not everyone may know who you are or what your specialties are. This guide shows you how to get creative and expand your reach far and wide and discusses how mixing both old and new tactics creates a uniquely personal experience that can’t be found in a big city. You will learn the best ways to create a lasting impression that will resonate around town and why setting aside conventional advertising wisdom is necessary for building strong connections with the people in your town.
Tip 1: Understand the local landscape
Get the lay of the land by sketching out the details of your market.
Access details like its size, neighboring towns and number of competitors. The U.S. Census Bureau offers some of the best demographic information available to attorneys. This can help you understand the different demographic profiles that shape your community and the ways they might affect your firm’s marketing strategy.
Identify the local factors most likely to impact your business.
Will a seasonal harvest create a slow period where clients focus on something other than legal needs? Do rainy days send families into town to get shopping and paperwork completed? Knowing your prospects’ lifestyle or obligations — and how those might change in the future — can be invaluable to how you plan your marketing. Even if your audience is easy to reach, you still need to deliver your message at the right time.
Take a look at the actual business of law in your region.
Knowing your prospects’ prevalent but undeserved legal issues will help you tailor your firm’s brand to suit client needs. If you’re a Thomson Reuters Westlaw customer, you can easily track down the volume of specific legal matters in your region. If not, look at your state or county court’s website for data you can sort through. This will take time, but it provides a good starting point for understanding issues important to your community.
Want to add a layer of sophistication? Look at online trends.
Compare and contrast your discoveries with search trends and keywords in your region. Using one of the many keyword research tools will help you position your firm with accurate language that reflects your audience. For example, do locals search for “estate planning” or “last will” when they’re getting personal affairs in order? Knowing the answer could mean a lot to your search traffic and bottom line.
Tip 2: Think differently, not drastically
While there are nearly 30 million small businesses across the country, you’ve probably noticed that most business advice is geared toward the larger players. It’s important to remember that, as a small-town firm, your path to success will look different than your big-city counterparts, and that’s ok. What works for an attorney in downtown Atlanta may not be the right choice for you, so don’t diminish your efforts by making unrealistic comparisons.
Instead, be smart with your budget and don’t sweat it if it’s small. You don’t need a lot of money to make a big impact. The power of word of mouth and personal touches goes a lot further in a small town than it does in a bigger city, so take advantage of it. When everybody knows everybody, opinions matter most.
Keep an open line of communication
In a small town, your clients are your community, but they also may come from the town down the road. Make sure your neighbors see you as not only a trusted professional but also as a friend people know and can lean on anytime, anywhere.
Stay in front of your community by being in the places they frequent most. Think about placing an ad in your church bulletin or leaving business cards at the local salon. Mail out a quarterly newsletter with updates on your firm or send a holiday card to your current and past clients. Keeping people close is an inexpensive but powerful way to connect on a deeply personal level.
Encourage clients to use their voice
A personal endorsement is your most powerful asset in your town. A referral from a trusted source packs a powerful punch when it comes to building up your reputation and credibility, especially when it’s coming from a familiar face.
The best way to cultivate referrals is by simply asking. Don’t assume people know you’re interested in referrals. Let your clients know you appreciate recommendations and capitalize on the fact most people enjoy telling others when they’ve experienced excellent service. And remember, visibility matters. Use social media, your blog, or volunteer opportunities to remind others of the good work you’re doing around town.
Tip 3: Be (locally) present
Even if you don’t face a lot of competition in the area, you can’t ignore marketing your firm. It’s just not that simple. Working in a small community often means you are one of only a few lawyers practicing across several counties, so pay attention to ways you can increase visibility for folks who may live outside of town but are looking for legal help. Here’s how to cover all your bases, both online and offline:
List yourself on legal directories
A mobile website plays an important role in getting noticed online, but establishing a strong digital presence is more complex than just a basic site. Directory listings are typically some of the top results that appear when someone is conducting a legal search and where people often look first. If you’re not listed, you’re missing out on prime online real estate. Not only are directory listings a great way to solidify your credibility and expertise, but listings provide a space to share critical information about your firm, your practice area(s), and any accomplishments you’ve earned in your career.
Think about billboards
You know that busy road everyone takes to get into town? Capitalize on the heavy traffic and advertise your firm on a billboard. Not only does it offer 24/7 exposure, but it will bring brand awareness and credibility to your community and beyond. Things to keep in mind if you buy space on a billboard: Make your call to action short, and use contrasting bold colors to engage drivers quickly and safely.
Optimize your search engine business page
These free pages house all the important details about your firm, including phone number, address, hours, web URL and more, so people in your community can quickly find out more about you when they search online. The most common one is Google My Business, but don’t neglect your Bing Places for Business page and social media accounts.
Put your face on (almost) everything
Even when you’ve done a great job marketing your firm, if people don’t recognize your face around town, you’re missing out on the opportunity to spark conversations and build relationships with members of your community. When appropriate, include a photo on your marketing materials. Your familiar face will make it easier to start a conversation about your practice and services.
Manage your ratings and reviews
Not only do positive reviews and ratings show that people trust and respect the service you provide, but they play an important role in improving search engine rankings. Google looks for reasons to trust a business, and reviews are good indicators that someone is an authentic figure in their community. Get yourself noticed online: Make a habit of asking for ratings and reviews from your clients, and always keep an eye on what’s being said about you online.
Tip 4: Mobile matters
Don’t think that because you’re in a small town, your clients aren’t using the internet to find out about you. They’re just approaching it in a different way.
The fact of the matter is 39 percent of rural Americans lack access to broadband internet (Federal Communications Commission, 2016) simply because of the cost, unreliability, and unique landscape parts of the country face.
But this doesn’t mean they’re offline. Rural customers are turning to their smartphones to get online instead of powering up a desktop or laptop. So don’t make the mistake of designing your firm’s website with the wrong platform in mind. Instead, pull out your phone and begin researching online to see what’s working on other firm’s sites.
When creating content for mobile, ask yourself:
Is there a clear and easy way to connect?
Make sure your firm’s phone number is linked so people can click to call you.
Is the navigation easy to use?
Avoid multi layered navigation to help minimize taps.
Is the page cluttered?
Use eye appeal of white space to your advantage and don’t overcrowd pages with too much text.
Is my information easy to find?
Don’t forget to include a bio and headshot so prospects can learn about you.
Tip 5: Hit the bull’s-eye every time
When it comes to marketing your firm, you need to target wisely.
It’s easy to want to be everything to everybody when you work in a small town. But unless your firm truly has a hand in every practice area, marketing your business that broadly will overwhelm your budget and you.
When you market to everyone, you’re ignoring the people in your community who actually need your help. Of course, you want to reach as many people with your services as possible, but not everyone needs your attention — or marketing dollars — at all times.
Think about it this way: If you’re the town estate planner, it wouldn’t serve your firm well to place an ad in the high school yearbook.
It isn’t likely that a lot of potential clients are looking around for a lawyer in there. High- schoolers don’t often require a deed transfer or will codicil. A better idea would be to hand out a tote bag with your logo at the local farmer’s market or craft fair. Taking a targeted approach connects you to the right people at the right times.
Begin to narrow in on a specific audience. A great first step is identifying your buyer personas, or your “ideal” customers.
Do you work closely with male farmers over the age of 40? Maybe your clients are typically stay-at-home moms in their mid-30s. Use research and other data you have collected about existing clients to begin shaping these personas for your firm.
Some topics to address when creating these profiles include:
- Education level
- Age range
Then start getting into the mind of your clients and figure out where they’re spending a lot of their time. If you’re a DUI attorney, consider sponsoring a local beer festival or offering branded breath mints in the town bar. A personal injury lawyer may find that the automotive shop down the street is the perfect place to hand out personalized first-aid kits.
When you target wisely, you’re able to create a more memorable experience for the people in your community needing your help most.
Tip 6: Get the most out of your reputation
No matter where you practice, your reputation is your bond.
In smaller communities, where your presence is known by nearly everyone, it’s even more important to maintain a solid reputation with the people looking to you for help.
The reality is you don’t have a lot of room for mistakes. In close-knit communities, you often work and interact with the same people day after day. This kind of spotlight makes slipups more noticeable and harder to correct, so pay attention to how residents perceive you.
It comes down to showing up where it matters, whether that means speaking at school career day or reaching for a top search result on Google. When maintaining a solid reputation, it’s about being seen where and when it matters most.
Focus on the human side of things
The reputation you create online is important, but so is how you’re perceived in real life. The golden rule when practicing law in a small town? Always arrive on time and prepared.
Give your community the respect they deserve by showing up and giving them your all every time. From consistently keeping office hours to arriving early when meeting with clients, make a habit of being available and prepared for the day ahead.
Pay attention to reviews
Online reviews are a trusted source of information because they come from real people with real experiences. And in a small town, your neighbor, friend — even family member — likely wrote them. While you can’t control what your community is saying about your firm, it’s in your court to respond to their feedback.
Keep your eyes open for both positive and negative reviews about your firm online and take an active role in engaging in the conversation. Remember, every review matters. A positive one is the perfect opportunity to thank your client with a personalized message. When you run into a negative review, always be professional in your response, and when possible, fix the problem offline. Ask to set up a time to chat about the experience over coffee. Sometimes talking in person can make all the difference.
Get your name out there
The only way to become known and respected around town is to get involved in your community. There are easy (and often free) ways to make a name for yourself, like attending community meetings, stopping by a friend’s potluck dinner, or selling concessions at the Friday-night basketball game.
If your budget allows, think about donating jerseys to a local sports team or sponsoring a popular event hosted in town. And don’t forget to join your chamber of commerce. Participating in as many events and groups as possible not only boosts brand recognition, but it’s a great opportunity to network and connect with other locals.
Tip 7: Make a good second impression
In your town, client intake looks different.
It’s easy to get caught up in promoting yourself. But don’t forget about the final step — making the client’s experience with your firm a great one.
Chances are you knew the majority of your existing clients well before they contacted you for legal help. It’s the name of the game in a small town where everyone knows their neighbor. But even good rapport doesn’t mean you can ignore client intake. It’s actually more important than ever.
What to focus on
No matter how well you know prospective clients personally, they now need you professionally. Treat this initial connection with your firm as a chance to make a great second impression, this one as an attorney rather than a friend or fellow member of the community.
Be prompt: Even if you’re the only lawyer in town, it doesn’t mean you can drop the ball in responding. In actuality, you may be the only option for someone needing legal help, so stay available and attentive.
Responding to a missed call or email within 24 hours lets people in your community know their needs are being heard.
Make it personal: People know you, which magnifies the importance of treating those reaching out to your firm with the empathy and respect they deserve.
Use your relationships around town to your advantage by responding to prospects with a heartfelt message. Showing genuine interest establishes trust and builds confidence for an even deeper connection professionally.
Drive it home
Know your audience
Don’t rely only on your own knowledge about the community. Spend time researching objective market and social demographics and the kinds of legal issues people are facing around town. The more you know, the more you’re able to shape how and where you market your firm.
Connect and communicate
It comes down to building strong relationships as a small-town attorney. Use the close proximity to your community to engage with folks on a personal level. Whether it’s through a conversation at the grocery story, a quick email update, or a simple handwritten note, the little details go a long way in creating lasting connections.
Work smarter, not harder — don’t waste money trying to target every person who lives in your town. Instead, narrow in on your main target audience and their needs. Once you identify them and their needs, you can tailor your approach to the people looking to you for legal help.
Reach your community where it matters
It’s all about visibility, both online and in real life. From optimizing your website for mobile, to having a booth at the county fair, you must think creatively about ways to stay front and center. Your community is looking in a variety of places to learn more about you, so make sure you show up.
Manage your reputation
Your town talks about you, so steer the conversation. Build confidence and loyalty with a good reputation by paying attention to their lives and concerns. A solid personal brand has a major impact on the overall success of your firm.
Build on the concepts explored in this guide and stay up to speed on current marketing issues by visiting LawyerMarketing.com. From blogs to white papers, webcasts and beyond, you’ll find the resources and services that top firms use to grow their businesses.
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