When you're starting to develop your strategies for legal marketing, you'll find all kinds of opinions online that make it sound like there's only one way for your firm to be if you want to be successful. Only one design aesthetic, only one right way to talk to clients, only one right way to divide your marketing budget. This couldn't be further from the truth. There's no one perfect legal website that you should model yours after. There's no one way to get your marketing message out. To understand what's actually best for your firmwide marketing plan, you need to ask real questions about your firm's priorities. These tips are best for people who are just starting out with their law firm marketing plans and are in the brainstorming phase of strategic planning.
#1: How Personal Do You Want to Get?
One of the biggest questions you have to ask yourself when thinking about legal marketing is whether you want your content to have a personal, warm touch, or for it to be more formal and traditional? Traditional approaches are the way that many law firms choose to communicate that they are staffed by serious professionals. This kind of approach usually doesn't offer much in the way of new content, but if you're going to go with traditional approaches make sure you're doing them well—with professional photography, excellent writing, and fresh, informative content. If you're dry, at least be dry with a lot of well-organized, easy to understand information.
On the personal side, make sure that if you're trying a personal strategy, you don't let it get unprofessional. You can be funny, you can be authentic and earnest and folksy, you can do just about any style that fits with your personal style. What you can't do is let that style get in the way of communicating clearly with people looking at your site. Don't lose sight of the fact that you want to keep people informed, and tone down your style if it's interfering with your ability to be informative.
#2: What's the Role of Technology?
You need to decide right away whether you're actually committed to using new, online technologies in your marketing campaign. With over 85 percent of consumers of legal services looking for attorneys online instead of using phone books, you can't afford to be a total Luddite—but how much tech do you want to get involved with?
You're the one who knows your people. Will you be getting in over your head if you try to download social media dashboards and maintain 7 different social networking profiles? What are the technologies that excite you? What are the ones that scare you? Just because you're using online marketing doesn't mean you have to latch onto everything—use the marketing ideas that call out to you, whether you're working online or off.
#3: Which Social Networking Sites Match Your Clientele?
Some law firms are dealing primarily with hipper, younger clientele who are more likely to have smartphones and use social networks like Twitter. Other consumer oriented firms are much more likely to have a client base that uses Facebook as its only source of social networking. Still other firms interact largely with businesses and prefer LinkedIn.
Pay attention to what kind of client you're trying to attract when deciding which social networks to join. A consumer oriented firm in a small town is unlikely to get much, if any, new business from LinkedIn, for example. Make sure you know what people are using not only in the demographics you're interested in, but also in your local area.
#4: Focus on Long or Short Term Returns?
If asked, the vast majority of people will say that they want to focus on their long term goals, whether those goals are related to marketing, their personal life, or anything else. But that's not always really true. Maybe in an ideal universe we'd always be able to focus on the long haul, but in today's intensely competitive legal world, that's not always what really needs to happen.
If you need short term gains because otherwise you're going to have a hard time keeping the lights on, you don't need to hear more platitudes about long term planning. Instead, you need to work on the kinds of advertising and marketing that work right away. Probably the best form of online marketing for those needing a quick fix of new clients is pay per click advertising. This form of advertising allows you to target specific types of clients based on search terms or demographics. Using this form of advertising allows you to get new clients within hours or days, not weeks or months.
PPC advertising is very short-sighted if you want to keep your eye on the long term goals, though. As soon as you stop spending, it stops working. Consider options with better long term payoffs, like social media and building on your social networks, when short term goals aren't enough.
#5: How Do You Know If It's Working?
Before you get started with your campaign, you need to think about how you'll determine if you've seen the results you wanted. What criteria are actually important to you? What do you want your online marketing to do for your law firm? Only you can decide what results make a difference to you. Don't listen to what marketing gurus have to say about calculating return on investment—figure out the metrics that make the most sense in your specific circumstances.
#6: Who Do You Trust For Critique?
Everyone—no matter who—could use a good editor and critic. By having someone you trust to critique your work, you can make sure that you're only putting your best foot forward in your online marketing campaign. Always make sure you have an extra set of eyes look at any marketing material—one of the fastest ways to a faux pas is to go too quickly and send out copy that isn't yet ready for prime time.