These proven marketing strategies for law firms are designed to help the many law firms who are unsure about what they should do to:
- get better work,
- get more work; or
- improve the marketing of their law firm.
This problem doesn’t discriminate and is an issue for practitioners in new start-up firms as much as those in firms with a 100-year history, as well as everyone in between.
Running low on work can happen to firms in any location city, suburb, region or state and it doesn’t matter what type of work you do. It can happen to highly qualified and well-respected lawyers and to those less qualified or experienced. It can happen gradually over time or it can feel like you’ve fallen off a cliff. The one constant is that it produces the same feelings of anxiety for the lawyers involved – it’s the degree that varies.
This article is for those lawyers who want to do something about it, immediately.
What marketing should we do?
Your marketing decisions should have solid reasoning behind them. Understanding why you’ve implemented your marketing efforts over the past year and measuring the effectiveness is essential for success, in the current year.
It’s fine to be told that you need to identify clear objectives but that’s no practical help if you’re a lawyer and don’t have a marketing department to call upon. Some lawyers who contact us say from the outset that they are clueless when it comes to marketing and others admit their marketing is a series of ad hoc un-coordinated efforts.
You don’t need us to tell you that this is a complete waste of time and money. If this is your firm, think about how much better it could be if you got this right! How many extra files per month would make a big difference to your bottom line? How many would make you deliriously happy?
Some lawyers tell us they have a strategy but it’s just not working, they don’t know why and they don’t know what to do next. We should add that often, in these cases, what they perceive to be the problem is not our diagnosis of the problem at all.
It’s not just a problem for the boss
Not having enough work is not the sole problem of the boss. It’s a problem for the staff too, particularly loyal and senior staff along with new partners or aspirational lawyers.
It’s an important issue for culture, morale and staff retention. Good staff will seek employment and career opportunities elsewhere if they perceive the firm is in trouble or floundering with no solution in sight. People want to be involved in a firm that provides security and a safe future.
These are the 6 common marketing problems we hear from lawyers. Is this your firm?
Our website is not good enough
It’s one thing to know you need help to fix your website but knowing what to do and how to go about it is the real problem. The most common website issues we see relate to:
- Inadequate content on the website to showcase what the firm does and convince people you are right for them. We commonly see this, content is usually filled with self-serving comments about how the firm is good at something, rather than providing anything useful. This is no place to be ‘salesy’ or self-serving.
- Labeling of a firm’s services is another common problem, in that firms confuse their main areas of law with what might be described as subtopic areas. There are ways to include everything a firm should identify but many firms struggle on this point.
- Another issue we usually encounter relates to poor navigation. It’s important to always remember that the reader needs to have a positive user experience when they visit your website. This encourages them to remain on your site which helps convert them to clients and improves your search engine rankings.
Whatever you think about the state of your current website, it’s sometimes a good idea to get an independent view about its strengths and weaknesses, so then at least you are better informed.
Our website has insufficient traffic
You should want your website to be an unpaid fee earner working for you all day every day, silently in the background. Your marketing plan should aim to have your website delivering new leads each month and if it is not doing this then it’s a wasted resource.
It is a smart move to drive traffic to your website and this can be done in several ways, by employing multiple strategies you can compound the benefits and start to generate a steady stream of enquiries.
Start by connecting your site to Google, using the free tools that are available, and improving your website content which encourages visitors stay on your website longer.
If your website delivers a good user experience and provides visitors with useful content, focused on the different areas of law you undertake, Google will then assist you in your website ranking which will generate more traffic.
You should measure the website traffic which can be done by setting up Google Analytics, a tool we strongly recommend.
These things might sound basic, and they are, but improving the performance of your website and transforming your marketing can be an incremental process. See also the strategies we mention below in SEO, Ads and newsletters.
We think we need SEO
If you do not know what this means, SEO is short for search engine optimisation.
In simple terms you want Google and other search engines to understand what you do and index your content so your firm can be displayed in the search results when someone is looking for legal help online. To achieve this your website and it’s content needs to be optimised.
You want to rank highly to have the best chance of being noticed and for a lead to contact your firm. As an experiment if you do say, family Law and your firm is in Canberra type “Family Lawyer Canberra” into Google and see where you rank. If you are not on page one you need to do something about it because statistically that’s the page that matters.
Most law firms do nothing to improve their SEO because they don’t know how to determine their SEO weaknesses, not surprising really as this can be quite technical. Just be careful when engaging someone to help – make sure they understand the legal industry.
It stands to reason that firms that have taken no steps to enhance their SEO and have found themselves many pages away from page one in search results enjoy more enquiries when they get it right and get ranked closer to page one.
Our AdWords campaign was a flop
A Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) campaign can be a flop for many reasons, for example the keywords you are focusing on might be areas of law that no one is searching for. Alternatively, it might be that you are getting a good number of hits to your website but those leads bounce off because your website is simply not good enough.
We should add that we find these to be common problems. In these circumstances you could triple your outlay and it still wouldn’t help.
An Ads campaign also requires, not only technical skills, but a very deep understanding of the work you are seeking to attract and the type of client who can provide that work. When briefing an Ads agency make sure they have an understanding of the law, otherwise you might find they haven’t asked you the right questions and their focus is on attracting interest about some esoteric area of law you added to your website years ago.
The net result is that it can a long time to refine the Ads process (and you are paying from the start) to a point where you know exactly what keywords are the most effective for your law firm advertising campaign.
We are not regularly communicating with our clients
It makes perfect sense to attract work from those people who already know and trust you – your clients and referrers. The reality is though that most law firms do not communicate with their clients or contacts…. ever.
The best way to communicate with many while creating a personalised feel is to send your contacts an electronic newsletter. Why? To remind them that you are still around, working in the areas of law you have expertise in and reminding them that you have the capacity to do that work. By providing them with valuable information in your newsletter you are saying to them that you care about them and value their business. Clients appreciate this and remain loyal. Keep your firm ‘top of mind’.
Lawyers who say their clients know who they are and where to find them are missing the point. If you are in competition with firms who think this way, you are in luck and here is your opportunity.
We need to build our database but don’t know where to start
If you want to start sending newsletters but haven’t got your database together then you need to do this by creating a list of contacts.
We suggest that when you create your list you employ a wide definition of who might be a contact and thus end up on that list. We also suggest that you should include current and former clients, prospective or target clients, referrers, suppliers, friends, relatives and anyone in your email contact list.
Explain what you are doing to all your staff and ask for their help in making your list as big as it can be.
On an ongoing basis don’t forget to set up an internal process to capture all new files that you open, enquires that are made as well as people who drop in. We strongly recommend you make your list as big as it can be and then one of your ongoing marketing tactics should be to continue to grow it into the future.
Marketing strategies for law firms – this is how you start
You can gain significant benefits by employing these marketing strategies in concert with one another but you don’t necessarily have to do them all from the start.
For example, a newsletter works in perfect harmony with SEO as it adds valuable content (the newsletter articles) to your website, this is content that Google will like. This also helps your search engine rankings because more people visit your website and stay on it longer to read the articles and there will be more content that is easier to find when people search online.
Further, once they find you, your credibility rises when a website visitor realises their specific legal issue has been covered in an article you have written. They think, not only do you do that work, you are also providing valuable content to your clients about it. People then are attracted to be a client of those firms!
In addition, a newsletter drives traffic to your website. For our client firms that have Google Analytics and send out our newsletters (that we write for them) we find that the graphs displayed on Google Analytics, for website visits and time on the site, spike massively when a newsletter is sent. People take the opportunity to have a look around your website when they are directed there with a regular newsletter.
What to do now
Running low with new work can happen to the best firms and more widely, to any business. What is important is how the firm deals with that situation.
Successful law firm marketing does not involve your well-intended lawyers earnestly getting together and dreaming up new or exotic ideas no one has ever previously considered. Trying to buy your way out of the problem with advertising is also a bad place to start.
Successful marketing is about you assessing the current position, getting the right advice, jointly creating and implementing a strategy and then monitoring your progress so you can improve as the strategy is undertaken.
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.