Law Firm Marketing, Law Firm Advertising, And You

legal services are not a commodityIf you want to buy an ounce of gold, it doesn’t matter too much who you buy it from. No matter where you get it, you’ll still have an ounce of gold. The end result is exactly the same. It’s a commodity. The same can’t be said about lawyers and legal services. No two lawyers are alike, and neither are the legal services and ensuing results they deliver.

While you know that, the problem is that many consumers looking for your services don’t necessarily perceive the situation that way. For many of them, what lawyers can provide to them is a commodity as well. This is where marketing and advertising come in. They provide opportunities to differentiate yourself and your firm from your competitors to potential clients. There is little reason for someone to select your firm instead of any other firm if they don’t know how your firm meets their needs. Marketing and advertising help you proactively let them know what sets you apart. They give you control over your messaging and that helps persuade potential clients.

Law firm marketing consultants can help you with each step of the process. They can help you form a law firm marketing plan that is specifically designed not just for small firm law marketing, but for your small law firm’s marketing. While advertising, both traditional and digital, are key contributors to positive visibility, there are other actions you can take to raise your firm’s profile.

  • Search engine optimization (SEO), which makes your website more visible to people searching for the types of services you provide.
  • Content marketing, which provides practical information to consumers that helps establish your expertise in your areas of practice.
  • Networking with your peers locally and regionally. Yes, some are your competitors. Some may also be a source for referrals because you practice in areas that they don’t, or in cases where they may have a conflict of interest.
  • Community engagement, through service organizations such as Kiwanis or Jaycees, or through community even sponsorships.
  • Offering services pro bono to the underserved or underprivileged in your community.

There are many ways to raise your profile and enhance your visibility. A well-thought out advertising program in support of a comprehensive marketing strategy is one way that is critically important.

Lawyer Advertising And Your Firm’s Brand

Does your firm have a brand? The answer is easy — whether you know it or not, the answer is “yes.”

Luke Sullivan, noted advertising copywriter and creative director, defines a “brand” as “the sum total of all the emotions, thoughts, images, history, possibilities, and gossip that exist in the marketplace about a certain company.” Noted marketing expert and author Seth Godin defines a brand as “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

In other words, a company’s brand exists independent of the company, because it exists in the cumulative perceptions of consumers. So, your firm does have a brand, and it exists based on the collective perceptions that have developed with your clients, prospects, and community, and is the result of every interaction they have had with and about you. Your brand exists. The real question is, what are you doing to protect, nurture, enhance and grow your brand by creating positive perceptions. A brand can be incredibly valuable. But, like many valuable things, it is also very fragile, and requires care to protect and increase its value.

Consider working with a partner who is a brand and marketing expert to help you work through establishing a brand baseline for your firm. The value in bringing in outside expertise is not just the expertise itself, but the external perspective that can be almost possible for a firm to have when undergoing self-examination.

  • Develop mission, vision, and values statements.
  • Define your brand essence, as informed by those statements.
  • Establish what the current brand perception is for your firm. What others think about your firm is far more important than what you think.
  • Define your brand positioning in your target market relative to your competitors.
  • Inventory your existing brand assets in order to leverage them effectively.

There are other aspects of your brand that may not be completely obvious, but are a part of you and your firm’s personality. For example, you may be a veteran of the Iraq War who has a commitment to helping other vets in your community with family law issues. Or maybe yours is the only personal injury practice within 100 miles that specializes in motorcycle accidents. Consider everything about your firm that is relevant and meaningful to your target market.

Defining your brand, both as it currently exists and how you aspire for it to be, is important to your success, and to helping you develop a clear marketing strategy. And your marketing strategy is critical to making your advertising as effective as possible.

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Integrated Law Firm Marketing: Covering All The Bases

At its core, integrated marketing is precisely what the name suggests: a unified approach to marketing. Complementary tactics are carefully selected and strategically combined to ensure that you are delivering consistent messaging across all channels.

Just a few years ago, integrated marketing was almost exclusively the domain of large law firms with significant marketing budgets and their own in-house marketing departments. Digital marketing has been the great equalizer, empowering small firms and even sole practitioners with the tools to successfully and affordably create, execute, and maintain an integrated law firm marketing plan that combines both paid advertising and organic marketing. Advertising to raise your visibility and accelerate progress toward your goals, organic marketing to long-term growth and durability.

The next step is to consider the individual components of what might constitute an integrated marketing program.

It All Starts With Your Website
It goes without saying that your website is a powerful way to deliver your message and promote your firm. Not only can it have a huge positive impact, but if your site is poorly designed or difficult to navigate, that can create a negative impact on your firm and its brand. A website is a must for your firm’s presence. A useful and robust website is a must for your firm’s growth. What has changed in the past several years is that it is no longer enough to simply make websites appealing.

  • Your site has to be mobile friendly. More and more consumers are using mobile devices, particularly their phones, for searching and browsing. And the data is clear that this trend will continue.
  • Your site should be focused on conversion. It’s not enough to provide information, you need to have the tools available on your site to move a potential client forward through the sales funnel.
  • Your site needs to be SEO optimized to maximize the likelihood that when someone is searching for the services you offer, they find and select your firm.

Legal Directories
Directories have been very popular with consumers searching for legal services for decades. What has changed in recent years is that those directories are now online and unique to the legal industry. Directory listings are easy to set up and allow attorneys to establish an online presence in relatively short order. Making them even more valuable, online legal directories are expandable. Attorneys are able to purchase premium positioning in relevant searches as well as traditional digital advertisements. FindLaw provides several popular directories, all for different purposes and different audiences.

  • FindLaw.com is the largest directory available, making it the most competitive.
  • LawInfo.com is smaller and a bit less competitive – perfect for attorneys pursuing new growth opportunities.
  • Abogado.com is a Spanish-language directory connecting Spanish speaking legal consumers with the law firms that serve this fast-growing market.
  • SuperLawyers.com employs a patented, rigorous, and unbiased selection process to position selected attorneys among the best available.

For most lawyers, a directory listing is a must, of course. With FindLaw, your listing can be more targeted and more effective than ever.

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  • The bare-bones requirements for an effective directory listing
  • The strategy behind advertising on multiple directories
  • Which optional upgrades are worth it, and why

Content Marketing
Content marketing is creating, publishing, and distributing content – almost always online – to attract customers by providing them with relevant and helpful information that is of value to them. By nature, law firm marketing content is much less promotional than advertising, but helps you position your firm as subject matter experts. What follows is an overview of several content marketing tactics that you should consider for your firm.

Blogging
Creating your own law firm marketing blog is a fairly easy and cost-effective way to establish your expertise while enhancing your reputation by providing a valuable public service to consumers. There are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you consider and write your blog.

  • Use plain English. Information isn’t useful unless it is clearly understood.
  • Stay in your lane. Stick to your areas of expertise.
  • If you are going to do it, keep at it, and keep the blog timely and fresh. A neglected blog is worse than none at all.
  • Be firm and be confident in what information you provide. Also, be right, and make sure that you are providing value.

White Papers
White papers are longer form, well-researched papers on specific topics. Making these available on your site (especially if they are SEO optimized and able to be indexed by search engines), will further promote your expertise and thought leadership. In addition, because they are longer pieces, white papers can be repurposed into blog posts and even provide content for a webcast or other more compact pieces of content. So you can build up to white papers, or take a white paper and deconstruct and repurpose it.

Social Media
As with content marketing, don’t think of social media marketing as optional. Think about being seen where your potential clients are. Why are they there? They like the interactivity; they like the immediacy; and they like its informality. Social media can often seem like a bit of a cacophony of blurbs and randomness, but it is really a forum, much like the agora, or marketplace, in ancient Greece – a place to share ideas and connect with friends and peers, and businesses.

Research has shown that the use of social media by consumers shopping for legal services has grown significantly in the past several years. A 2016 Thomson Reuters survey revealed that 54 percent of respondents would be likely to hire a lawyer with an active social media presence. For millennials (your next generation of clients), that figure is 72 percent.

Social media, especially Facebook, is an opportunity to present your firm’s brand as authentic, trustworthy, and accessible. As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons people enjoy social media is its informality. Be informal, be honest, and it’s ok to show some emotion. It’s expected. Also, commit to being engaged. Interactivity is the basis of social media.

Paid Social Media Advertising
Start with the premise that paid online advertising is the most targeted advertising opportunity ever. And that makes it possibly the most valuable advertising opportunity ever. This is probably true until the next one appears, but that market today can be incredibly powerful.

In addition to the ability to target your advertising, paid advertising has the advantage of being completely accepted by most social media users. It’s expected and simply considered to be part of the experience.

Paid advertising also has the advantage of being very affordable. At the same time, you don’t always see the hard dollar return on investment, law firm advertising ROI, that you might expect or hope to see, at least right away. Social media advertising tends to be more about targeting and engagement, with the quantifiable results to follow.

Finally, social media remains a space for the most part unclaimed by law firms. It’s an opportunity that you can take the lead on.

Other Paid Advertising Options
Part of the significance of new media advertising is the ever-widening range of options that are available to help you meet your goals. One important example is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. PPC can supplement your organic SEO efforts, but can also help you expand your business with cost-effective ad placement.

PPC also gives you the opportunity to own your own keywords, and your brand, when it comes to search. For example, when you search for “FedEx shipping,” you’ll see that they have bought advertisements based on their own branded search term, to ensure that they will be at the top of the search results.

Another option for paid law firm advertising is web display advertising. Whether a banner at the top of a page, a skyscraper along the side of a page, an interstitial that appears prior to your destination page, or some other format, web display ads have been with us pretty much from the beginning. These ads are generally low cost, and allow you to target your message across a variety of relevant properties. And, as with many other digital options, you can not only track the results of an ad instantaneously but also quickly adjust the ad content and placement based on those results.

Paid advertising and organic search can work together to help you grow your firm and your brand.

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integrated adjective

  1. combining or coordinating separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole

Most firms use a variety of media and channels and combine traditional and digital advertising, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily practice integrated marketing.  The individual tactics have to be executed in a way that they have synergy and work together and are part of a strategic marketing plan to maximize their impact.

Remember that the decision-making process for legal consumers isn’t linear. They look for services in different places at different times. They may do a traditional search, scour social media, ask friends for referrals, refine their searches, make a phone call, and more, all in an unpredictable sequence that may include repeating the actions in a different order.

Marketing is in the truest sense an investment. Selecting the marketing mix that is right for you is like building a diverse investment portfolio. That mix has to anticipate, as well as it can, all of those touchpoints where your prospects might be found. As Wayne Gretzky once famously said, skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been. The challenge is that with digital marketing, the puck – your prospects – will be in multiple places.

The best law firm marketing comes from the best law firm marketing strategy. By thoughtfully deploying your marketing plan across the right combination of channels, you can make sure that when potential clients are looking for the services you provide, they’ll find you.

Content + Promotion = BFFs

Content’s best friends are social media and targeted promotion. To see how a compelling article or white paper and some smart paid advertising can work wonders for your brand, take a look at these related services:

Attorney Blogs

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