Specific Strategies for Branding A Law Firm

A client looking for legal assistance today has to make a tough choice. The options available to him are numerous and he really can’t choose between them because they all seem to be promising him the same thing. What can you, as a lawyer, do to make his quest easier? Simple, create a brand for your law firm.

With reference to law firms, Branding is how you want your clients and prospects to perceive your law firm. A successful brand is a differentiator, the relevant and positive attributes that makes you stand apart from your competition. These attributes should help your client or prospect to make a decision and enhance your firm’s value in their mind.

The differentiating attributes for your law firm could be price, size, practice areas/specialties offered, response time, geography/market presence, expertise/experience, client list and others. However, make sure your differentiating factor is not just a claim but also a long lasting, honest, relevant, demonstrable and unique attribute in your target area. Don’t confuse it with an advertising slogan.

Internet marketing can play a major role in almost all aspects of Branding, especially brand communication (visibility and publicity). For identifying attributes and to test your positioning, you could float an email or website based survey on the intranet. Similarly, for competitive research too, you could use search engines and other online marketing tools. Finally, for communicating your new Brand positioning, the internet is one of most cost effective and targeted mediums, allowing accountability and extensive reach.

A good brand can bring you very clear benefits, higher fees and subsequently higher profits. An exhaustive study has concluded that brand recognition in professional service organizations, including law firms, is worth a 10 to 20 percent premium in fees. More recently, the 2006 most valuable law firm survey, conducted by Intangible Business, also concluded that better branding results in higher profitability. You might be worried that branding is a time and cost intensive exercise, suited only for large law firms. But fortunately this is not the case. In fact, by using the latest technological resources, like internet marketing, you can cut down on your branding costs significantly and build your law firm brand in considerably less time. Using the various online marketing tools, such as a website, e-newsletters, and blogs, you can spread your branding across different mediums. You just need to make a start.

E Marketing

The web used to be “read only” content and now it is a ”read and write” interactive experience where consumers can engage in conversations and share information. Companies seeking to improve their online marketing strategy are engaging the services of companies to design and implement social media campaigns.

These marketing services include creative design, email marketing consultation, email database integration, email database maintenance and management, campaign management, creation and management of customer loyalty programs, reporting, and client training. Email marketing is one of the fastest growing strategies used by companies to stay in touch with current and potential customers, encourage repeat business, and enhance customer loyalty.

Web Content

Today, potential clients are not just looking for a firm, which will provide them a service. They are looking for a firm they can trust. A firm that is loyal to them. A firm they can have a relationship with. Future clients are using freely available web applications to create their own communities. Providing an opportunity to converse with clients and potential clients is crucial in building this relationship. Without the opportunity for potential clients to see that you are experts in your field, through blogging and online chatting, your site merely provides static, hard information about the partners and the firm.

In addition, by linking your firm to Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter etc. you are increasing your presence on the internet and offering many more opportunities for potential clients to truly “get to know you” before they chose an attorney.

A strong Web 2.0 marketing strategy permits future clients to value their experience with you, no matter how they found you, regardless of which online community they’ve come. Have you earned their trust? Your/our job is to leave them each better off than they were before they arrived on the site.

Video on Web Site

According to a comScore study, it was found that 123 million Americans, or 70% of all North American Internet users, watched 7.2 billion videos over the Internet last year! Of course, these numbers have increased by now. However, this shows that videos are extremely powerful and an excellent way to promote your business over the Internet.

So, what exactly does this mean for law forms who want to use the online medium to market their services? Well, it means that the role of videos can’t be ignored in generating new clients. Here are our five reasons why you, as a lawyer, or your law firm must incorporate video advertising as part of your Internet marketing strategy:

Get Closer To Your Prospective Clients: Audio-visual medium is extremely powerful in convincing people to make a purchase or hire a professional to address their needs. A video displayed on your law firm’s site talking about you can really convince members of the audience to contact you. Videos are excellent Internet marketing tools and if made properly can really play a crucial role in convincing the visitor that you or your law firm is the ‘Best choice’ for them. You can also use videos to portray that you are an expert in a particular field of law thereby improving your site’s conversion rate as well as attract the right audience.

Take Advantage of Google’s Video Search Results: Now, Google even offers thumbnails of the videos at the top of the search pages and allows you to watch them within your search results without ever leaving the results page. Since Google is constantly changing and improving their search, adding video results to search results is indeed a welcome improvement.

Get On YouTube Now: Most Internet marketing experts have a common consensus about YouTube’s effectiveness as an excellent promotional platform. YouTube now has 25% of all Google searches share. With over 75% share of video sites in the country, having your firm’s video on YouTube is one of the easiest and most effective Internet marketing methods to greater visibility! Moreover, audiences are also using YouTube like a search engine to find information. In November 2008 alone, 770 million searches were conducted on YouTube.

Upload Videos On Your Site: A well-tested recipe to get an edge over your competition! Anyone seeking a good lawyer will look over multiple sites and then make the contact the shortlisted attorneys and law firms. The decisions are typically made after reviewing your or your firm’s website. However, by uploading videos about yourself and your areas of expertise, you are ensuring visibility, authenticity and instant connection with your prospective client, thereby differentiating yourself from the competition in a unique manner.

Video Marketing Is The New Mantra: Ask any e-marketer worth his name and he’ll tell you that online video marketing really works. Also, videos improve your conversion rates and generate greater targeted traffic.

We suggest that along with SEO, PPC and other online marketing techniques, you must jump on the online video marketing bandwagon for promoting your law practice and gain advantage by being the first few who realized it potential.

Content is King

Relevant Content Trumps Everything for Websites

What do Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines want to see on a website above all else? A pretty picture? Repeating key words? Great search engine optimization?

It is Relevant Content. What I mean by this is that your website needs to contain information that is relevant to a search engine query. Search engines do not want to bring back poor results to their searchers. Search engines make their money by having searchers return and continue to do web searches. Google is a multi billion dollar company because more folks on the internet use Google, which drives up Google’s pay per click (think “Sponsored Links” when you do a search) revenue. If the results Google brought back to the public where not relevant, then searchers would stop using Google and use another search engine.

So what does this have to do with you attorney or law firm website? If you want to capture web searchers that don’t know you or your firm, you need to have content on your site that is similar to what they are searching for. An example of this might be a description of your criminal practice or an article on bankruptcy. The more information you have on your site that is relevant to various web queries, the more likely you will be found on the search engines.

How do you get content on your site? Write articles, describe your practice in great detail, or post frequently on your blog. Write about your practice and what you know about. If you don’t have time, “make time”. Content is king when it comes to search engine optimization. Incoming links are great (if done correctly) but content will usually trump any SEO tweaking.

I would recommend that you avoid:
1. Posting duplicate content. Search engines will penalize your website if they find the same content somewhere else (for example: article submission site)
2. Steal content from another website. I’m stating the obvious here
3. Write content with too much emphasis on “key words” that your potential clients may use. Write in an informative manner in whatever tone your clients would want to see.

If you commit to adding a few pages to your website a month, and publish a blog post weekly, you will be ahead of the game.

Remember, Content is King on the internet. If you don’t believe me, check out Wikipedia.

Marketing In A Downturn

By now it’s established: the country is in the midst of a major economic downturn. During tough economic times, marketing is frequently the first expense to go on the chopping block. But does this knee-jerk reaction really make good business sense?

While a law firm may find it difficult to sign new clients during a downturn, it still needs to reinforce its expertise and value-added with existing clients to keep them onboard. As everyone knows it costs far more to sign a new client than it does to keep an existing one.

A recession may also provide an opportunity to grab market share. Firms that boost marketing while their competitors are cutting back face less competition for the attention of prospects, and thus can more easily get their message out.

With these thoughts in mind, we recently reviewed two MarketingSherpa studies to find out how businesses are adjusting their marketing tactics during the downturn to maintain brand awareness and continue generating leads, and see what guidance we could extract for law firms in terms of online marketing strategies.

The studies show that marketers anticipate investing more in online marketing tactics while cutting back on traditional methods like print and tradeshows. One sample chart shows that 38% are increasing online investment while 36% are decreasing investment in traditional tactics.

What are the top online marketing tactics being pursued during the downturn? Email marketing is your best bet.
The case for law firms investing is email marketing is that it is low cost, targeted and measurable (for example, with email alerts, you can demonstrate how many clients (and which clients) are opening your emails, and clicking to read the full articles).

As far as Web 2.0, while it costs little more than a person’s time to blog and participate in various social networks, the “buzz” generated can be substantial (see case study of H&R Block’s social media strategy involving Facebook and Twitter), while the positive impact on search engine visibility can be significant over time. By the same token, devoting effort to SEO can dramatically improve site traffic (and increase new leads) with little outlay.

Finally, MarketingSherpa’s research shows a shift away from participating in “live” events like tradeshows towards sponsoring online events like webinars. The logic is easy to see: while attendance at an “in person” event entails major transportation, lodging and other costs, running a webinar costs little more than the time of the people involved.

Some final recommendations from MarketingSherpa:

• Up sell and cross-sell to your installed base – as noted, it’s far easier to increase business with an existing client than to sign a new client

• Focus your marketing on the best-performing industries where companies are less affected by the downturn – develop case studies of past successes in such industries to help with pitching new prospects

Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing

Legal Marketing has changed. It used to be enough to keep an ad in the yellow pages and belong to the Rotary Club. Not anymore. Times are tough, so I present to you Ten “New” Rules of Legal Marketing. Let me know what you think.

1. “My lawyer can beat up your lawyer” isn’t a marketing strategy. “My lawyer will call me back before yours will” is.

2. Google tells me there are 337,000 “Full Service Law Firms” out there. Which one was yours again?

3. Unless the person who founded your firm 100 years ago is still alive and practicing law, he’s completely irrelevant to every client who’s thinking of hiring you.

4. Market to a “want” not to a “need.” By the time your clients realize they “need” you, it’s often too late — for them and for you.

5. Your “keep great clients happy” budget should exceed your “try to get new clients” budget by at least 3:1.

6. Thanksgiving cards say you’re thankful for your clients’ business. Christmas cards say you’re just like everybody else.

7. Having the scales of justice on your business card says you’re a lawyer — an old, stodgy, unimaginative, do-what-everyone-else-has-done-for-fifty-years lawyer. Same is true for your yellow pages ad.

8. Speaking of yellow pages, don’t abdicate your marketing strategy to their salespeople. They don’t know marketing. They only know how to sell you a bigger ad each year.

9. Your future clients have been living their entire lives online and will expect the same from you. If you’re invisible on the web, you won’t exist to them.

10. The single best marketing strategy in the world is to find your best clients and ask them, “How do I get more clients like you?”