Before moving into my current role as Chief Commercial Officer for PR Newswire, I worked for seven years as an M&A associate at two multinational law firms and then spent six years dealing with law firms (small and large) in my role as General Counsel for a large media group. I have a unique perspective, having been in all three positions:
- Marketing to clients,
- Being marketed to, and
- Marketing to firms to use our Marketing and Communications services.
I am passionate about law firm marketing because on the whole, law firms do a poor job of leveraging the tools available to them to drive business. So, without further ado, here are my eight tips aimed at helping law firms optimize their online marketing efforts:
A law firm’s website serves two purposes. It enables clients and others to find information about the firm and it also is the hub of a firm’s marketing activities. Any marketer will tell you that your target audiences will spend more time on your site and click more often if your site contains multimedia elements, such as videos, photos and charts. Sadly, many law firm sites do not contain any of these elements (other than pictures of lawyers). Blending the About Us section of your website with your News & Events content enables the firm to engage in brandstreaming (i.e. developing an ongoing flow of useful information that attracts potential clients and ultimately differentiates your firm from competitors while at the same time building authority and goodwill for your brand with the audience.)
It is critical that a firm, regardless of whether it is small or large, engage in thought leadership activities online. This includes publishing articles, white papers, webinars, short videos, etc. that address the questions and concerns your potential customers may have, and thus building credibility with this audience. Law firms do a decent job of this, but the problem is that a significant part of the universe to which the relevant firm is marketing itself will never see this content. That is because a very large majority of the content that law firms creates is placed on their website and maybe distributed to their email lists (i.e. a known audience). In order to successfully drive more leads and clients, firms need to amplify what they are doing to their known audiences by distributing their content throughout earned, paid and owned media. Email, broadcast and print advertising can be effective, but they are that much more effective when the relevant content is distributed to numerous other relevant sites online. This makes the content more discoverable.
Bloggers and journalists produce content for communities that follow them. Each of these bloggers and journalists owns a small piece or real estate online that is trafficked by interested parties. By engaging with influencers, a firm is able to rent a portion of this real estate so that it can establish itself with the relevant audience. How can a firm do this? Well clearly, using a credible third-party distribution service helps because journalists and bloggers need content and are more likely to use content from a reliable source. Another tactic is to use platforms that get experts (i.e. attorneys) quoted by relevant journalists and bloggers.
One of the most popular tactics being used by marketing teams is A/B testing of their online environments. This involves serving up two or three different treatments of a webpage to an audience and then determining which of these treatments is most likely to cause the relevant audience to take the action that the firm wants them to take (downloading a white paper, watching a video, attending a webinar, reaching out to a specific attorney, etc.).
Like most lawyers, I have control issues. Giving up control by posting something in social media can be scary. That said, more and more firms are doing it, especially to establish their attorneys as thought leaders. Your clients and potential clients are on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and social media is often the best way to engage with them and establish yourself as the go to person on a topic. There are many ways to increase your followers on social networks.
Driving Traffic Through Distribution
The adage “If you build it, they will come,” doesn’t apply to your web site, and when it comes to delivering your message to new audiences, your email list won’t fill the bill. So how do you get the message out to the broader universe? In addition to the social media tactics above, positioning the firm as a credible media source and distributing press releases announcing the availability of new studies, articles or other materials will put your content on the virtual information map, and ensure it’s seen by broader audience. Keep in mind that you can also distribute other sorts of timely commentary, which leads us to the next tip:
Whether it be a key Supreme Court decision or some other event, things are happening every day that provide an opportunity for a firm to share its perspective and expertise. We have seen many firms jump in on issues such as Obamacare, new tax laws, the fiscal cliff, gun control, etc. By engaging in newsjacking, the firm is able to draft off of an event to accelerate its Marketing efforts and drive more leads. And the beauty of this is that so long as the quality of the content is high, a small firm can be just as effective as a large firm.
I saved this one for last, for a reason. And no, I’m not talking about spending a fortune on targeted ad-word buys. One of the biggest benefits of publishing the content and fostering the interactions mentioned above is the fact that these activities can have a powerful impact on your web site’s organic search rank. Providing fresh and current information gives search engines incentive to come back to your site repeatedly, and social interactions send potent signals to the search engines indicating people are finding the content useful. Because the majority of internet searchers choose to click on organic links rather than sponsored ads within their search results, it is easy to see why getting your firm onto the first page of search results is important.
So if you want to increase your client base, a good place to start is your web site. As you develop and publish content to your site, use social media, press releases and multimedia elements to drive discovery and reach new audiences.