Let’s address the elephant in the room: chances are you didn’t start a law firm because you love marketing.
What’s more, building a marketing strategy for a law practice is a sensitive thing. In this industry, “marketing” doesn’t mean what it does for most companies trying to attract traditional customers. (We won’t suggest, for example, that you start sending out fire sale emails.)
As Nate Nead, CEO of SEO.co, says, “Law firm marketing is driven more by trust than consumer marketing, and it requires time to build that trust.”
So how do you go about building a marketing strategy that prioritizes trust, but still allows you to stand out from the competition? We interviewed a few industry experts to get the answers.
Step 1: Define your brand
Before you consider the marketing tactics your firm should focus on, you’ll need to make sure everyone is on the same page about exactly who you are as a business.
As Micah Buchdahl, an attorney who works with law firms to build marketing strategies, told us, this is much more than a vanity exercise.
“[There are] jurisdictional limitations of law firms and practices. Where you can even practice is always a consideration. The great struggle is often in weighing where the opportunities are, where the revenue comes from, and where the competition is.”
Start with a SWOT analysis
The key to understanding those opportunities and competitive threats is running a SWOT analysis, which, as the acronym suggests, identifies the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that face your business. This is an exercise everyone in your firm can be involved in to build as full a picture as you can.
Questions that you should consider during your SWOT analysis include:
Strengths: Where do you have a unique advantage over your competition? This could refer to your areas of practice or the reputation your attorneys have already built in their careers.
Weaknesses: In which areas is your firm underdeveloped? For example, if you’re a new law firm, it’s likely that your web presence is small and your online search rankings may be low.
Opportunities: Where are the opportunities in your sector? When you look at your competition, where are the gaps that you can fill for prospective clients?
Joel Mclaughlin, founder of Dataflurry Law Firm Marketing, recommends leaving no stone unturned.
“You need to take all media into consideration: Search, Mobile, Social Media, Content Marketing, Referral Traffic, Email Marketing, Remarketing, Paid Advertising, Affiliate Marketing, Podcasting and more.” Chances are there’s a medium that’s being underused by others.
Threats: Threats can come from both inside and outside your business, and when conducting a SWOT analysis, it’s important to consider any possible weakness that could potentially have a negative impact.
One obvious place to start when considering your threats is your weaknesses, as it stands to reason that those very weaknesses could hurt your business. But there are external factors that can pose a threat as well. Those threats could be related to everything from the economy or the local talent pool.
Maybe the community your firm serves has a major employer that is shutting its doors. Perhaps your competitors have already snatched up all of the top talent. You must be thorough when determining the potential threats to your business. It might seem like an exercise in “what if,” but it could save you if any of those scenarios come to pass.
“Recognize your threats,” says Erika Winston, who consults with legal firms on marketing and communications. “Give these considerations just as much time as you gave to ‘opportunities’ so that you can effectively manage them and hopefully prevent them from harming your practice.”
Create a positioning statement
Once you’ve reached a consensus on the environmental factors your law firm is facing, it’s time to take your learnings from that analysis and write a positioning statement.
McLaughlin was careful to stress this point for us: “A positioning statement is extremely important to ensure you stay on track with your goals. This, along with a powerful and time-sensitive action plan, ensures your marketing campaigns run effectively.”
Buchdahl suggests you ask yourself a few key questions to guide your positioning statement, such as, “What are our core markets and practices, where are we trying to take the firm moving forward? What do we truly offer our clients that makes us unique and sets us apart?”
A good positioning statement will answer these questions, provide direction for your employees, and give you a great baseline from which to start setting marketing objectives for your practice.
Want to deliver an optimal client experience?
See how Paragon Legal did it
Step 2: Define your client personas
You’ve already laid a solid foundation by answering the questions, “Who are we, and why are we here?” But as we all know, the purpose of marketing is to attract clients.
By building client personas, you’ll be able to paint a realistic picture of the people who’ll be seeking out your services. This will help you decide which marketing channels to focus on and how to address prospective clients in these channels.
A great starting point, according to Nead, is defining your demographic client profiles, dividing them by age, gender, nationality, economic status, and geographic location. But of course, that’s only the beginning.
He suggests going deeper with questions like, “What time of year might people be needing our business most?” and “What type of life events impact our practice?”
Buchdahl encourages law firms to keep retention in mind when building client personas. “We certainly like to identify clients with recurring and repetitive needs.” This can help you lower the burden (and costs) of having to focus on attracting new clients.
Pro-tip: Try to have three to four client personas that anyone at your firm can go back and revisit at any time.
Step 3: Build your marketing funnel
A marketing funnel is a commonly used tool that helps you visualize the states of brand awareness or decision-making readiness a prospective client may be in when interacting with your brand for the first time.
Top of funnel: Awareness
When marketers refer to the top of the funnel, they’re referring to prospective clients who are aware that they have a problem to solve—and that’s it. Let’s say your firm is a family law practice. At the awareness stage, a prospective client may be Googling a broad topic like “Signs my partner wants a divorce.”
At the middle of the funnel, prospective clients will be weighing their options in terms of which law firms are contenders for them. This is the stage a client will be at when Googling “Divorce lawyers in Denver, Colorado,” and checking out client reviews for the results they come across.
Bottom of funnel: Decision
At the bottom of the funnel, the prospective client is likely narrowing their search down to a shortlist of attorneys in order to make a final decision. They know what their options are, and they have a much better idea of what they’re looking for. This is where having client stories and testimonials will come in handy.
As you can imagine, prospective clients have very different questions and consideration factors at each stage of the funnel. That’s why it’s important to really try to get into the shoes of someone at each stage. What is their main concern at the awareness stage? At the decision stage? Which channels might they be looking at to have these questions answered? Are they looking for information, or are they looking for a conversation?
Step 4: Build out your marketing strategy and tactics
To recap, if you’ve been following the steps in this chapter so far, you’ve:
- Defined who you are as a law firm
- Defined who you’re here to serve
- Considered the various states of mind a client could be in when they seek out your services.
Now comes the fun part: combining these three things to build out a marketing strategy. As Buchdahl notes, “Every practice area and market is different. You need to identify what is going to work in each particular circumstance.” That said, there are some marketing tactics that will go a long way in getting the attention of your prospective clients.
Putting in the effort to produce high-quality content related to your practice area is important. Content can come in the form of blog posts, published works, thought leadership pieces on LinkedIn, YouTube videos, and speaking engagements. Not only will it position your firm as an expert, it will also attract potential clients to your website to learn more.
Buchdahl adds, “Just make sure your content leads back to a website with a bio, practice description, and work experience that mirrors the story you tell.” This will help you provide a consistent, authoritative brand experience that people can trust.
McLaughlin points out that over 50% of search takes place on mobile devices. “Almost everyone will go directly to Google and choose based on where you show up and your reputation,” he adds. It’s important to optimize your page for local keywords, like “Chicago personal injury lawyers.”
When it comes to the reputation aspect of ranking for local search, client reviews are important. Nead elaborates, “For law firms, reviews are critical to establish the first layer of trust. Get trusted clients to write quality reviews online.” Reviews will be front and center in any Google search your firm appears in.
Used in the right way, social media can greatly increase your reach. Remember all that quality content you’re going to produce? Don’t let it die on the vine! Be sure to share your content across all social media platforms, especially LinkedIn.
“A powerful social media marketing campaign can intertwine with other marketing methods to add much more value to your online marketing,” says McLaughlin. Timed correctly, you can use social media to remain top-of-mind rather than fading into the background.
Diving into the world of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, remarketing, and paid social ads is competitive and can get pricey. But when done right, it can greatly increase your visibility and conversion. Many law firms hire an in-house specialist to focus on this full time, but there are many agencies that can be hired to manage it all remotely.
Step 5: Measure your marketing efforts
Tying back your marketing efforts to a specific ROI can be very difficult. You could be reaching potential clients through a number of means—not just one avenue. If you can track metrics like website traffic, conversions, and referrals, you’ll be able to see the results of your marketing efforts over time.
McLaughlin affirms that for small firms, “A well-run campaign has a happy client as the end result. That’s the measurement that can be felt in the law firm.”
A good marketing strategy is ever-changing
If there’s one thing each of the experts we spoke to could agree on, it’s that marketing is a constant, iterative process from which you can constantly learn new things.
McLaughlin offers this advice: “Working smarter instead of working harder is an intelligent method in such a cutting-edge industry.” Over time, you’ll be able to gauge what can and should be done in house and what you can start outsourcing to a third party.
Getting curious about emerging trends in law firm marketing can’t hurt, either. As Buchdahl made a point to mention, “It’s a fascinating area, and certainly one that is continuing to evolve.”