The American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center argues a strong case for the importance of digital marketing in its Legal Technology Survey Report. In a survey of 2,000 participants, the results show a surprising apathy on the part of law firms regarding digital marketing.
There is even an actual decline in the number of law firms that maintain a website; it’s down from 84% from three years ago to 77% now. When it seems like every other industry is rushing to claim a stake in the digital marketing frontier, the legal profession actually seems to be backing off. Sole practitioners are the least represented online, at just 55%, while larger firms show a steadily increasing presence online up to 100% of firms with a legal staff of 50+ maintaining a website.
As the ABA points out, online visibility is crucial:
“Even with a word-of-mouth referral, many clients will turn to Google for information before contacting a lawyer. Whether they are also searching for other lawyers in the area that also practice the same kind of law or not, if those potential clients turn to Google and do not find the lawyer, they may very well find—and contact—a competitor.”
“In some cases, the potential client may use the internet to search for information before they hire a lawyer. In those cases, the potential client isn’t looking for a lawyer per se, but imagine that, during their search, the potential client lands on a law firm website that answers the very question they were asking and demonstrates the firm or lawyer’s extensive knowledge of the practice area. Which lawyer do you think the client is likely to call first when they are ready to seek the advice of a lawyer?”
What could explain the slowed adoption of digital marketing in the legal sector? The report does state that many smaller and sole-proprietor firms just don’t have a dedicated website maintainer. Instead, one attorney within the firm serves as the website maintainer. Judging from the average law firm’s website that we do find, that probably explains the painfully outdated 1980’s clip art we’re seeing.
It could be that many law firms don’t see justified expense in retaining an online marketing agency or digital marketer. Perhaps they think of the World Wide Web as just a glorified version of the Yellow Pages; worth a paragraph of text in a box, but not much more. Or they could be more trusting in older mediums of advertisement such as radio commercials and billboard ads. The legal profession has a “conservative and stuffy” stereotype that could affect how law firms approach marketing.
Yet there is so much more that a law firm can do to attract new clients using digital marketing! As the ABA points out, people do turn to the Internet to seek out a prospective legal representative.
Some legal professionals who are hesitant to take the plunge into dedicated digital marketing may be asking, “Fine, we’ll get a website, but what do we put on it?” That’s why we’re writing this article to answer. We used digital marketing analysis tools to identify the most popular searches that users make regarding legal matters. When people search the Internet using Google, Google returns pages of links to web pages it has indexed that matches the search query. In other words, to attract new clients from web searches, you must anticipate what questions they will have and then answer those questions on your website so they can be found.
Now, let’s take a look at some popular potential client queries:
Query #1: Where are you located?
Thousands of clients per month take to the web to narrow their search down to one simple question: What law firms are near me? It’s only natural that a client would want a legal office to be a convenient distance so they can drop in for a consultation, and of course, have a representative in the local legal jurisdiction.
This is the simplest query to answer. Most websites for small businesses include an address listing, and perhaps a map pinpointing their location. Google is pretty good at targeting a business’ location for searches. However, there’s more you can do to connect with your local client market. Google offers a free service to small businesses, “Google My Business,” which sets up a profile to register your firm’s location on Google maps.
Google also uses geo-targeting for web users as well, via their phone or internet service provider (ISP). Thus, when a user types in “law firms near me,” the response includes a Google Maps listing. Here is a sample result for a user in Des Moines, Iowa:
Establishing your business location on Google Maps gets you a red marker on that map, along with the details in the sections you see to the left. If you have a website, it links to that as well. This is a great way to use modern technology to funnel clients to your doorstep, starting from when they look for you on their mobile phone.
An additional tool you can use to pick up location-based searches is content marketing. This is where you use a blog hosted on your website to post textual articles, whose content then helps bring in more Google searches.
For example, if you are a Georgia firm specializing in agricultural cases, you can discuss what chicken farming means to Georgia’s economy, share news about Georgia health department laws affecting the meat-packing industries, or mention how insurance coverage of livestock affects participation in county fairs in the state of Georgia. Tying your firm to your locality both helps Google lead more clients to you, and markets you to clients as an aware practitioner who is in touch with the concerns of the local populace.
- Create a website, no matter how small, stating your location, hours, and directions to your office
- Register your law firm location with Google My Business
- Blog about local matters to give Google more opportunities to rank your webpage for relevant queries.
Query #2: What is your reputation?
The legal business being what it is, most civilians have very little knowledge of the law. Conversely, choosing legal representation is a sizable commitment for almost any of us. So, it makes sense that potential clients would shop around. In the 21st century, browsing online for reviews and ratings is the new form of “word of mouth” referrals.
Ethically speaking, there is very little you can do to affect the reviews and ratings clients leave on your Yelp or Better Business Bureau listing. However, these kinds of sites are already gamed by unethical practitioners to the extent that they’ve lost some consumer trust. A more trusted source of online word-of-mouth is online forums, social media, and blogs, where consumers feel they are on their “home turf,” safe to discuss such matters frankly.
Other legal review websites to monitor include:
You can put your own good word-of-mouth out there too, in the form of client testimonials, which you can publish on your own website. TV commercials for accident attorneys showcase this technique all the time: “So-and-So and Associates won me $1.2 million in my accident settlement claim!” No matter your specialty, every won case or other successful project is an opportunity to collect a glowing testimonial from a client.
In addition, if you do get a negative review, there’s no need to let it sit there unanswered. You can log into the BBB or Yelp to respond to negative comments, addressing the issue, and offering to make amends if applicable.
Here’s an example online reputation management plan:
- Monitor your online reviews and respond to criticism
- Distribute client satisfaction surveys
- Encourage clients to offer feedback
- Add reviews and ratings to your own website
- Share your good ratings on social media
You don’t need to wait until a case is settled or a deal is finalized before collecting feedback. Every legal milestone can be an opportunity to solicit feedback through a simple email form. Learn how we help lawfirms protect and enhance their brand reputation.
Query #3: What is your specialty?
Within the broad legal field, there is a menagerie of small niches and in-demand specialties. Even the novice client who’s never had to hire an attorney before knows that different lawyers specialize in different fields, again from TV commercials for consumer-level settlement firms.
To establish your niche, you first need a cohesive brand strategy, which will then shape your content marketing, digital communications, and social media presence. Within your website, you should have a “mission statement” and “about us” section detailing your field of specialty. You should also have a FAQ page dedicated to answering common questions that your clients ask.
But the biggest key in legal niche marketing is the phrase “thought leader,” one who is an established expert in a niche field. You become a thought leader by massive media immersion in content marketing. Share informative, educational content that your potential clients will find useful. You do this on a blog, social media channel, or video channel such as YouTube.
For example, if you search “accident attorney blog,” you’ll pull up blogs on the internet with topics within that category such as:
- auto accident
- drunk driving accident
- insurance dispute
- personal injury
- distracted driving
Under these topics, you’ll find consumer-level advice about what to do after an accident, the importance of medical documentation, laws impacting accident settlements, safety tips, statistics on injuries nationwide, and so on. Not only is this great marketing for your firm, helping build up your expertise, but it’s also an opportunity to educate your prospective client base on things that you wish they knew. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Here’s another search, done on YouTube for “bankruptcy legal”:
If your law firm has advertised on TV or radio, check out these YouTube channel’s view counts. You can get the same content in front of your audience, reaching out to thousands of viewers, for free! At least “free” in terms of broadcasting costs—you still need to expend something on video production quality. But this is pennies on the dollar compared to even the most meager broadcast media campaign, and then you upload it for free.
Now imagine how you watch TV at home. A commercial comes on and you hit the mute button, right? You weren’t interested in that sponsor’s message at this time. But people who are searching the Internet are specifically seeking out your message, at a time that’s convenient for them. On top of being cheaper, video marketing is far more effective than television commercials in reaching the people most likely to need your services.
We could gush more about the benefits of content marketing for the legal field, but we’ll have to move along. Forbes has a nice post on “Content Marketing for Law Firms,” with a simple method for brainstorming ideas for topics and setting up a content marketing strategy.
- List your legal field specialty on your firm’s website
- Have some basic pages on your website addressing topics within your niche
- Develop a content marketing plan to reach out to prospective clients
- Consider video marketing as a channel for content marketing
Query #4: How much money will I win in a settlement?
As we all know, money makes most of the legal world go ’round. One of the chief motivations for clients to seek legal representation is to obtain monetary compensation. Client questions split into two directions along this line: “How much money can I make in a settlement?” and “How much will it cost me (or what is the legal representative’s fee)?” Clearly, a dollar value is in mind with just about any civic client.
Legal professionals are naturally reluctant to quote hard numbers on settlements because it sets clients up to expect a guaranteed minimum, whereas that number is going to vary on a case-by-case basis. Indeed, some clients will have to find out that their case isn’t viable at all. However, for claims attorneys whose work regularly results in a dollar amount award, you can at least provide “ballpark figures” or examples from publicized cases.
As for your fees, the first thing all clients should know about the cost of your services is that either initial consultation is free (if you do that) or the price tag on your initial consultation if you only do it for a fee. Advertise this information upfront, on your site, preferably next to a contact form for clients to get in touch with you.
If you offer a deal to clients such as “no fees unless you win,” that’s something you want them to know upfront too. This is a very common offer with accident settlement attorneys.
Outside of this, you can develop content to delve into specific details. On your blog, you can write blog posts that review the costs of a specific type of lawsuit or you can write a compilation article that showcases typical settlement amounts. Thumbtack.com, for instance, has a small list of typical court fees for the public’s information, along with some basic information on hourly fees and contingencies. More importantly, if you can’t put hard numbers to answer the question of how much a typical settlement is for, it is at least helpful to compose a blog post or video explaining how it works. Mention the factors that influence a case’s settlement amount.
Either way, it’s an opportunity for public education, while also reaching prospective clients who may not even be aware that they’re entitled to a settlement for certain kinds of cases.
- Explain your fee policies clearly on your site
- Use examples, within bounds of reason, of the kinds of settlements cases you handle usually earn
- Mention court fees and other costs in pursuing a claim
- Explain what impacts a final settlement if a dollar amount is too irresponsible to quote
Similarly, you’re probably wondering how much does it cost to rank for these search queries. It depends on your market, competitors, and the keywords you’re trying to rank for.
Don’t Waste Opportunities to Educate Potential Clients
If you want to attract legal clients, you need to understand what questions are on their minds and identify the knowledge gaps they have about your legal field. Once you do that, you can create content that will answer their questions, which will build trust and ensure that they choose your law practice.
To learn what they’re thinking and asking, you need to conduct research. One good place to keep your “ear to the ground” is in online forums pertaining to legal discussions. People head to websites like Quora, Nextdoor, and Reddit to ask questions and receive legal advice. Often, they’re just looking for a place to start and an idea of what type of legal aid they need. People are also increasingly using Facebook Groups to find information and get recommendations. Make it a habit to routinely check back to see what people are talking about. These are great places to gather ideas, identify pressing issues, and hear what questions people are asking. Then, you can use that information to refine your content marketing strategy.
The fact that the legal field is still so slow to adopt digital marketing is one more reason why it’s a great opportunity. Most of society has moved on to digital media, with a phone in every pocket. By strengthening your firm’s digital presence, you’ll be one of the pioneers who reach an untapped digital audience and get a head start on the competition who’s still marketing like it’s the 20th century.
If you have any questions about establishing a digital presence for your law firm, feel free to contact us. We’re eager to help you attract more clients.