As published in Marketing The Law Firm:
Research shows that 80.8% of potential clients check out professional services firms by looking at their websites. Clients will also Google attorneys and review social media by attorneys more often than asking friends or colleagues if they've heard of an attorney.
The advantage of online marketing is that it is one-to-many, as opposed to in-person marketing which is one-to-one. By adopting the seven habits of effective online marketers, CMOs can generate more business for their law firms.
1. The more you blog, the more clients you'll get. CMOs should include blogging in an attorney's individual marketing plan and establish a content marketing schedule for the firm. A law firm website should be updated at least two to three times per week. Research shows that 76% of blog writers acquired a client by writing at this frequency. Posting once a month or less produces far fewer results.
“A thorough content plan includes what will be published, when it will be published, and who is responsible for each step in the publication process. Ideally, this would include specific dates for each task associated with content publication,” says marketing blogger Victoria Blute.
CMOs should make it easy to write a draft post, using Web software that opens a box for the title, a box for the text, and functions to insert illustrations and videos.
2. Make the most of online reviews. This is the online equivalent of creating good word-of-mouth. Today, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Pew Internet Research found that: “Fully 82% of U.S. adults say they at least sometimes read online customer ratings or reviews.”
It comes as a shock to some attorneys that what is said about them in Facebook, Yelp, Avvo or Google reviews can determine who gets a client. Lawyers are wary that they'll get a bad review, and therefore CMOs should use Birdeye or a similar review management software to manage reviews. Happy clients are guided to their favorite review platform, while unhappy clients are invited to contact the firm.
Collecting positive reviews and publishing them is very powerful. For example, the Shouse Law Firm in California assembles positive reviews on their website and its Facebook page is brimming with positive reviews.
3. Market with millennials in mind. With 75 million members, the millennial generation is the largest in history. They are roughly age 18-35. This changes everything:
- Baby Boomers respond to print, radio, TV, direct mail, newspaper ads, and the Yellow Pages.
- Millennials respond to online news, podcasts, streaming video, texting, shareable content, content marketing, Facebook and Google reviews.
To appeal to millennials, CMOs should commission infographics, because eye candy can overcome short attention spans (but don't use cliché images of gavels, scales or columns). Use the magic of giving things away for free to attract millennials, such as free downloads, e-books, and free subscriptions to e-newsletters. Give them articles, images and content they can share. Finally, millennials are socially conscious and want to see what the firm is doing to give back to the community.
4. Think mobile first. Any new site or blog should be designed first to display well on a small screen. Mobile now accounts for nearly 70% of digital media time spent, according to comScore. Mobile users universally spend double the amount of time online than desktop users.
This means your next client will visit your site on a cell phone. CMOs should create Web pages that are responsive, expanding or shrinking text to be readable on any size screen. Potential clients get a bad experience looking at a law firm website that has been crushed down to mouse type.
Give cell phone visitors a “mobile experience” — tell them a memorable story about an attorney's work. A good example is a case history where the client is the protagonist who faces an insurmountable challenge, and the law firm is the hero who came to save the day. Tell a story that starts with a question that clients ask in person or on the phone, and provide the answer. Most clients are looking for a local law firm, so tell a story set where your ideal clients live.
5. Set up a video studio. Where I worked at Lawyers.com, and today at LawLytics, we have a room dedicated to video. The cameras, lights and set are all pre-focused so that an attorney can walk to a marked spot, and record a video using a teleprompter. We favor a 90-second video that matches the attention span on YouTube and Facebook. That's because 80% of people would rather watch a video than read text on a website, and that 81% of businesses use video as a marketing tool.
CMOs can make sure to record an attorney's next presentation, CLE or lunch-and-learn with clients. Rather than writing a complex article, invite lawyers to present a video instead.
A large law firm that has embraced video in its marketing is Allen Matkins of San Francisco, which issues video news releases and has uploaded 425 videos over nine years on YouTube. The even hired a helicopter to record ‘B-roll' of the city's skyline.
A subset of this approach is to record podcasts. Many people listen to The Daily podcast from the New York Times, or Serial, the true crime podcast by the creators of This American Life on NPR, or perhaps the progressive political podcast, Pod Save America. New research shows that half (51%) of Americans have listened to a podcast, up from 44% from last year.
6. An attorney bio should not be a dead end. CMOs should recraft attorney bios to be an online launchpad, leading visitors to videos, case histories, blog posts and other activity of the firm's attorneys.
A bio is an online business card, written to be 300 words maximum (not a wall of text), describing whom you serve, problems you solve, and how clients can expect to be treated. It is an opportunity to make an emotional connection with visitors, by describing how much the attorney cares about the problems of their ideal clients. A good bio shows an attorney's journey in the law — but not a bulleted list of 10-year-old articles and case captions.
Before I tell what works, here's what does not get new clients:
- Old articles (over three years) and anything written in law school.
- Neglect: a bio that is out of date.
- Text that goes on and on (and the opposite: one content-free paragraph).
- No picture.
- Bios that start out with where you were born or went to school.
- No links to attorney speeches and articles.
Elements of a bio that do generate new business are:
- An attorney's familiarity with an industry.
- Case histories of specific problems solved.
- Client reviews and testimonials.
- Text describing how you work with clients.
- A recent color picture.
7. For social media, focus on Facebook and forget the rest. Facebook is by far the most effective social medium. Facebook is social media to consumers. 66% of adults log on to Facebook every day, according to Social Media Explorer. 80% of consumers use the Facebook smartphone app.
54% of consumers said they'd be likely to hire a lawyer with an active social media presence. Among Millennials only, 72% would.
Absorb the fact that Facebook:
- Has far more engagement with people than LinkedIn or Twitter.
- Is the #2 most used Web browser (after Chrome).
- Has the highest percentage of daily users.
- Has the highest average number of daily sessions.
- Is where most Americans get their news.
- Is where 34% of consumers find help to select a service provider, like a lawyer, plumber or doctor.
A firm Facebook page is where potential clients get to know, trust and like you. It's the perfect place to post publish an article or video, post news reports, and show the firm in a good light. CMOs should view Facebook as social networking, the online equivalent of attorneys going to networking events and trade association meetings.
CMOs should develop the seven habits of effective online marketers, and guide attorneys to adopt them. The habits are synergistic, and each one build on another. Writing a blog, appearing in a video and optimizing online reviews are a great way to start developing new business and generating new clients.