For many law firms the thought of a marketing strategy sends shivers down the spine. But it doesn’t need to be this way. Yes, marketing is an absolute necessity if you wish to promote your law firm to attract new clients and retain existing clients. But it’s not as daunting a process as it may seem.
Marketing has been the epicentre of transformation over the past decade, thanks to the far-reaching advances in technology. Even the most creative of marketers will admit that online marketing has surpassed anything they ever thought possible.
Technology has enabled companies to micro-target their customers with such fine-tuned marketing messages that not only influence their thoughts, but impacts upon their behaviours too. Gone are the days of customer loyalty based on a single transaction. In fact, research shows that 77% of customers are willing to switch loyalty more quickly than they were 3 years ago.
So what drives loyalty in today’s society? According to the American Marketing Association, there are 5 key factors that influence brand loyalty:
- Dependable – customers expect businesses to deliver to expectations. They trust those firms that offer a reliable and dependable customer experience
- Better – customers want to be associated with companies that stand out and fulfill their needs better than others
- Social media presence – customers are attracted to those who share engaging content on social media and that speak to their interests
- Light emotional connection – customers want to feel happy and want to connect with companies on a personal level
- Heavy emotional connection – customers want to be inspired by brands such that the connection creates emotional advocacy
Given the 5 customer loyalty factors above, how can your law firm influence the thoughts and behaviours of your clients?
Essentially, the answer lies in leveraging technology to remain front of mind with your clients. This is achieved through an effective multi-channel marketing plan that delivers consistent value to your clients, thereby meeting, if not exceeding, the expected customer experience.
It’s worth reiterating at this point, that if your law firm is not leveraging technology to engage with your clients regularly, your competitors will – and those 77% of customers that will switch loyalty in favour of an emotional connection, won’t think twice before acting!
So to assist your law firm in planning for success for the year ahead, we have put together a Marketing Checklist that ensures you implement a marketing plan that not only attracts new clients but also retains existing clients and builds brand loyalty.
A New Year Marketing Checklist for Law Firms
Quality Content Creation
Creating high-quality content that appeals to the interests of your clients is a key ingredient for a successful online marketing strategy. Furthermore, such content contributes significantly towards achieving the 5 customer loyalty factors mentioned above as it will invoke a connection that your clients will resonate with – thereby building an emotional rapport.
To completely understand what high-quality content actually is and to be sure your law firm is creating such content, let’s look at those characteristics which define ‘quality content’ in the eyes of the customer.
A captivating headline – create a headline that sparks curiosity and invites the reader to click for more information. 80% of people will read your headline but only 20% will read the rest of your content
Engaging and thought provoking content – stories are a great way to create engaging content, particularly from a law firm point of view. And people love to read stories. Furthermore, stories encourage comments which in turn causes search engines to take notice of your content and boosts your search engine rankings
Assists in gaining knowledge – provide content that has tangible value and answers the questions of your clients
Is concise and easy to scan – people want answers to their questions quickly, so make sure that your content is to the point and scannable for those people who don’t want to read every word but rather pick up the gist of what they need to know
Provides reliable and accurate information – your content is a reflection of your law firm and by sharing information that your clients feel is dependable builds trust
Includes visual aids – not everybody learns using the same methods, therefore include relevant images, video, audio or diagrams in your content to increase interest and engagement
The bottom line is to create content for your audience – content that is of interest and value to them.
Ideally, you don’t want to copy and paste your content across multiple channels, but rather repurpose it such that it resonates with the specific audience. High-quality content is therefore required for all your marketing channels e.g. your law firm website, your social media channels, e-newsletter etc. This allows you to tweak the marketing message according to the target audience and channel.
If your law firm has the time and skills in place, you could choose to create high-quality content yourself. Alternatively you could outsource your content creation to specialists whose core competency is to create high-appeal content. That being said, remember that one pillar of building customer loyalty is to provide reliable and engaging content that adds value to the lives of your customers. Therefore, you should only choose to outsource your content creation to a service provider that is experienced in the legal industry. This way, you can be confident that the information they create resonates with your audience.
Whichever option you choose, it’s imperative that you share quality content that is not lost in the noise of a content-saturated world.
Website and Blog
Not only is your law firm website your most essential marketing asset, it is also the online window to your practice and thus should embody the level of professionalism your legal practice aims to represent.
Often website designers allow their creativity to run away with them and pay too much attention to the aesthetic appeal of a website – to the detriment of user experience and functionality. Yes your legal practice website needs to be pleasing to the eye, but it’s important that you put yourself in your clients’ shoes when considering the look, feel and practicality of your website. The user experience will dictate whether a visitor stays on your site or abandons it.
Research conducted by Statistic Brain Research Institute shows that the average attention span of humans is 8 seconds. That’s all the time you have to make a first impression on your visitors and influence their decision to stay on your website. Therefore, within this time your customer must feel that both the design and content on your website merits their time.
In addition to the importance of creating high-quality content, it’s equally important to publish the content regularly. Search engines love fresh content and reward your website by increasing its position within search engine results – resulting in more traffic to your website.
Furthermore, your search engine results will improve with content that attracts high levels of engagement. This is where the benefits of a blog come into play. Your law firm’s static website will host a number of pages that relate to your legal practice, the services you offer and the expertise of your partners. A blog on the other hand is a dynamic part of the website that allows you to continuously add posts with which you engage with your customers. It is this regular addition of fresh content to your blog that will help your law firm website rank higher in the search results for your chosen keywords.
An online presence is not a set-and-forget approach, but rather an ongoing commitment from your law firm that requires nurturing and regular attention. Your website and blog are the most powerful marketing tools in your arsenal and thus should be treated as such.
If you haven’t set up a website for your practice yet you are leaving money on the table. You should make this your priority and when seeking a website developer, take into account the tips mentioned above. However, if you already own a website for your legal firm, you must always strive for better – better quality content, more engaging content, better quality images, video and audio, enhanced design features taking into account user experience, all the while improving your SEO results. You should also use a web crawler tool to regularly identify any issues with your website, allowing you to rectify the problems as quickly as possible.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is the process of optimising your website architecture and content such that your law firm website ranks as high as possible in the search engine results for your chosen keywords. The higher you rank, the greater the traffic that visits your website, the more prospective clients you will attract – the more revenue you will make.
The goal of search engines, in particular Google, is to provide searchers the answers they are looking for, as quickly as possible. Every year Google improves their algorithm to continuously improve upon their goal.
The verdict is clear – in order to boost SEO rankings and gain traffic to your law firm website, you need to have high-quality content that compels your audience to want to visit your website. Again, the concept of quality content raises its head – we hope by now that you appreciate just how important it is. By adding new up-to-date content to your blog on a regular basis will make the search engines your friend. They love to crawl websites that regularly add fresh content and since quality content results in customer engagement too, you’ll be further rewarded with improved search engine results.
SEO can be a complex and technical beast; however there are some basic steps you can employ to ensure you at least implement the basic requirements for an optimised website:
- Research relevant primary, secondary and related keywords that your prospects might use in search engines and use these in your website design and content
- Craft a compelling page title for each page on your website. This somewhat contributes towards your search engine rankings but it’s also what displays in the search engine results and what searchers see. Use relevant keywords in page titles, make it useful and as short as possible to avoid truncation in search results
- When using multimedia check that it doesn’t impair your page’s ability to load quickly, as this will negatively impact the user experience, leading to higher bounce rates and hence a drop in search engine rankings. It’s also important to name and tag your multimedia for SEO optimisation
- Build relevant, long-lasting, high-quality backlinks to your website. Even having other quality websites mention your legal practice without including a backlink to your website, will contribute to your SEO efforts
Social Media Presence
We’ve covered the importance of having a website presence and publishing regular high-quality content for your law firm blog and e-newsletter. It’s now necessary to promote this valuable content and the most effective means of doing this is through social media. But before you go ahead and set up a business profile on various social platforms, you should first consider the following:
- Which social media channels are your potential and existing clients using – and use these
- Research your audience on each social media platform you decide to engage with – understand their demographics and behaviour and create content that speaks their language and that resonates with them
Once you have set up your social accounts, content creation needs to be engaging and relevant to each audience. Depending on your social audiences, content placed on Facebook may not be relevant to your audience on LinkedIn. Or perhaps the content is relevant, but needs adapting for a better suited message. Furthermore, you need to plan a publishing schedule for each platform for the year ahead – and commit to this schedule.
Finally, you should be monitoring your social accounts and identifying those pieces of content that drive high engagement – and create more of a similar theme. You should also measure the effectiveness of publishing content on different days and at different times to identify the best time for maximum exposure and engagement. Also pay attention to comments made and ensure you respond accordingly.
If your law firm decides upon multiple social media accounts, it may be worth considering the use of a social media dashboard that allows you to monitor, manage and analyse all your social accounts in one place.
If you’ve spent any time implementing online marketing it’s likely you’ve heard the phrase “the money is in the list”. The list being referred to is your client and referrer database and forms a fundamental basic for every law firm’s marketing plan.
According to Bain and Co, “a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%”. Now that’s an impressive reason alone as to why your law firm should be growing your marketing database at every feasible opportunity.
Taking into account the Australian Spam Act (2003) there is essentially 2 ways we recommend to effectively build your law firm’s marketing database:
- Adding the details of those clients and referrers that you have a commercial or social relationship with
- By implementing a lead magnet that entices prospective clients to give you their contact details in return for something they value e.g. a report, a legal step-by-step guide, an e-book, a checklist for setting up a business etc
As a minimum you need to capture a prospects first name, surname and email address as this gives you sufficient information to use the ‘personalisation tags’ feature in your email marketing software to personalise each email for the recipient.
Depending on the circumstances and purpose, you could ask for other relevant information. However the more you ask your visitor to provide the higher the abandon rate will be. People don’t like having to jump over too many hurdles to get what they came for.
You can easily just start with a spreadsheet, depending on the functionality in your practice management system and there are various contact management systems available in the market today, ranging from cloud-based systems to software you can load on your internal network. Depending on the size of your law firm, a sophisticated solution is not necessarily a requirement. However if your law firm decides to invest in a contact management system, it’s highly recommended that you thoroughly research the options available as they are not all equal – particularly when it comes to ease of use and functionality.
Whichever means you find appropriate to record your clients and referrers contact details, make sure it is accessible, kept up-to-date and backed-up should disaster strike.
We’ve spoken many times about the creation of high-quality content and one of its purposes was to communicate regularly with your clients and referrers through a professional, informative and high-value e-newsletter.
The power of regular client communication should never be under-estimated. In fact, according to research conducted by Gartner Group, “80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers”. This is the second reason why you should be building a client database and ensuring you nurture a trusting, long-term relationship with them through value-added communication.
Customer loyalty requires a commitment to communication that motivates your clients to trust you. When a client trusts you, it becomes more difficult for them to switch their loyalty towards a competitor. Therefore, to garner the trust of your clients, you must be effective in proactive communication i.e. providing high-quality information to them that they are interested in and look forward to receiving from you regularly.
In conclusion, whether your law firm is new to marketing or already a marketing aficionado and just needs a refresh or action plan – by implementing the elements of this checklist you will stand your practice in good stead for a structured approach to your marketing plan.
Embrace the advantages technology has to offer, stand out from the crowd and make your customers feel valued and important – for the year ahead, and every year thereafter.
About the author
Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.