Small law firms need simple, but effective, marketing plans. In this article, we offer 7 marketing must-do’s that take little time, but make a big impact.
- Don’t spread your efforts by doing too much, too soon.
- Know your target audience and build your brand identity around their preferences & habits.
- Create awareness around your brand.
- Hire an expert law firm website design & development company to create your most vital marketing asset.
- Write engaging website copy and use solid SEO fundamentals.
- Engage with your audience and write valuable legal content.
- Build and maintain local directory listings, and generate positive reviews.
The perfect lawyer marketing plan brings hot leads for cheap, with little effort. Unfortunately, most attorneys experience quite the opposite—attorneys are paying thousands monthly and often see only marginal returns.
Getting new legal clients is tough. And when you pump thousands of dollars into a website, professionally written copy, advertising, SEO, etc. without seeing a positive ROI, it makes a difficult process frustrating. Sadly, marketing is the only way to grow your practice.
Even with Inc. awarding the legal market with the worst websites, 70% of law firms have generated new business due to their websites. This shows with just a mere presence, you can build your client base via digital. With that, most of this list revolves around digital marketing practices. Let’s get to it:
#1 — Don’t do too much, too soon
Pardon me for starting a “must-do” list with something not to do, but this one is important.
The most common legal marketing mistake I see firms make is trying to be everywhere all at once. Doing too much in the beginning spreads your efforts thin and leads to sloppy, poorly performing campaigns: a waste of time, effort and money.
A good rule of thumb when beginning marking your firms is to do one or two things at a time. Gather actionable data here and use it to optimize these strategies. For the sake of an example, let’s say you start with blogging for SEO—use tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics to see what posts get the most traction and social shares. That will help you understand what your audience wants to read about—then you can write more valuable content, that’s better for them and better for your SEO efforts.
The very basics every small law firm should start when marketing include:
- Branding — Start by developing your brand and be picky about it (more about brand development in the next section). Once you’ve gotten your brand situated and have purchased your printed collateral, it’s website time.
- Website — Of course, you want your website to go live yesterday, but rushing this is like trying to slap together the base of a skyscraper—it takes care, precision and professional work to do it right. Luckily, we can launch your law firm’s website in just 5 business days.
- Social media — When your website is complete and perfect, establish your presence on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and wherever else your target audience spends time mindlessly scrolling to infinity.
- Local directory listings — Submit your firm to online business directories such as Yelp, Google My Business (GMB). When doing this, it’s critical you use the same business name, address and phone number across all listings. It also helps to submit to a listings management platform, which we offer in our Ongoing SEO plan.
- Content Marketing — Write blog articles that provide value to your audience and you’ll be rewarded with favorability in the SEO department. We’ll expand on this later.
Once you feel you’ve got a handle on these fundamentals, then you can think about more robust SEO, PPC, SEM, Reputation Management & Review Generation services, Social Advertising, etc. My honest recommendation for a comprehensive small law firm marketing strategy: Do the above, buy into an effective monthly SEO plan, write your own legal content and generate online reviews—nothing fancy.
#2 — Know your audience, build your brand identity
The perfect law firm branding was a distinct identity. When someone thinks of your brand and your unique values comes to mind, you’ve done it right. For instance, take the vehicle manufacturer, Volvo—what do you think when you think about their brand? “Safety.”
They’ve built their brand, products and marketing right on top of that adjective and it has paid off tremendously. Automotive consumers immediately recognize the benefit of buying a Volvo—because Volvo leans hard into their adjective.
To develop your law firm’s brand identity, consider things such as your legal focus, target consumers and competitors—then try to define yourself with a single adjective. For a small firm, first consider the cases that you have had most success with in the past in terms of quantity, quality, outcome and income.
Who were the clients in those cases? Can you draw comparisons in those clients that might help you determine a marketing angle? It’s not until you define your audience that you can determine how to develop a brand that speaks directly to them, to present your brand’s Unique Value Proposition (UVP).
Once you’ve defined your brand and audience, you can develop your visual identity—your logo. A great logo has purpose; it should embody the essence of your law firm and legal services. It’s important know your “brand” and your “logo” are not the same thing: your logo merely a visual representation of your identity, the silent ambassador of your brand.
#3 — Create awareness around your brand
Relationships begin with an introduction. Each time you meet someone, you hear their name, see their face, and develop a perception of that person—you begin to understand their brand. Creating awareness for your firm is no different. Still, over 60% of legal searches are not “branded,” and have no distinct identity.
Consumers in every industry have preferences and loyalties that drive their buying decisions—brand loyalty is linked to those decisions, and the process starts by creating awareness, introducing yourself to the market.
Note that building awareness doesn’t help much if you’re targeting the wrong audience. It’s important to build awareness in the right places, so the traffic you get, whether it be walk-ins, website visits, or phone calls, be inline with your service offerings.
Building a client persona is a great way to understand your audience so you can build awareness in a way that appeals best to their preferences.
There are many methods to build awareness: Search Engine Marketing (SEM), social media, online business listings, building a referral network, etc., but my hands-down favorite route is content marketing.
Content marketing is a strategy that involves delivering value in the form of blogs, videos, infographics, podcasts, social posting and more. Every lawyer should be publishing to their law firm’s blog: small businesses that blog get 126% more leads than those that don’t.
When writing content, it helps to use strong SEO fundamentals and writing practices. Check out 20 SEO Copywriting Tips for Lawyers.
#4 — Hire an expert law firm website designer & developer
Not having a website for your law firm is not an option and having a bad website is a waste of money. Appalling is the number of low-quality, outdated and simply unprofessional law firm websites. Inc. calls law firms “clueless” when it comes to website design, with many law firm sites looking “like the work of some cut-rate freelance designers.”
In 2020, it’s best to simply assume that regardless of where a lead found your firm (referral, online, billboard, magazine, television, etc.) there’s a good chance they will visit your website. Only 35% of law firms have updated their website designs in the past year, so there’s a lot of room to capitalize from going big on digital marketing.
All the time, I hear attorneys say, “well, most of my new clients reach me by telephone. If my website was working, wouldn’t they reach me there?” Not exactly, as even back in 2014, 74% of legal consumers who started their searches online ended up contacting law firms via telephone.
“DESIGN IS NOT JUST WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE AND FEELS LIKE. DESIGN IS HOW IT WORKS.”-Steve Jobs
Calling a website “poorly designed” is not the same thing as calling it “ugly.” Sure, it can be ugly, but it can also be confusing, hard to navigate, full of ambiguity, incomplete, outdated, incompatible on mobile devices, load slowly, lack Call-To-Actions (CTAs) and much more. All of these things can have negative impacts on your bounce rate, lead generation, brand reputation and conversions.
Building your digital presence can be difficult and time-consuming. But this is the foundation of all of your inbound digital marketing efforts—it’s the last piece of the puzzle before a legal consumers decides to take action. Referencing back to item #1, take your time building a great website, and then pursue other avenues. Rushing extrapolates error and leads to waste.
Consider these website characteristics & elements:
- Simplicity. Many law firm website designs we have seen are cluttered with pop-ups, chat windows, award logos, etc. Not giving your user a simple set of options, or laying out your service offerings clearly and concisely can cause high bounce rates. A simple, results-driven, client-focused welcome statement and contact info might be the strongest homepage out there.
- Call-To-Actions (CTAs). Your website is there to bring in leads, so make it easy for your leads to get in contact. Your CTAs should be seen before your visitor has to look for them. I’m not encouraging a pop-up window. Instead, use an accent color or other visual element to make your CTA “pop” relative to the background.
- Photography. Include relevant, high-quality photography and visuals where applicable. On each of your blog posts, include an image or two so as to break up the body content and be sure to add alt text. According to global digital content marketer, Jeff, Bullas, articles that include images receive 94% more total views than articles without images.
- Speed. Your website needs to load quickly if you want visitors to stick around. 25% of website visitors will abandon your site if it does not load within 4 seconds. You can check your website page load speeds using Google PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix.
- Usability. Some law firms buy custom websites that are very creative but not very easy to navigate. Don’t make your visitors have to solve a maze to find your About page—if you make it even the slightest bit confusing, they’re gone.
- Aesthetic. Give your visitors something nice to look at. Consumers judge the credibility your company by the design quality of your website. Presenting an unappealing, outdated website does not tell visitors you are a modern firm with appreciation for modern business & marketing practices.
- Typeface Styling. Optimize your text to enhance its readability by using font colors that stand out against the background and increasing line-spacing so paragraphs are not so dense-looking (we recommend a line height of 120-150% of the text size).
- Services. Upon landing on your homepage, 86% of visitors want to see information regarding your legal services. Ideally, your top services are featured with links for visitors to read more.
- Responsive. Mobile-friendliness is a must. Google has announced that the majority of web searches are on mobile devices and 8/10 people will leave a website that does not properly display on their mobile device.
#5 — Write copy with SEO in mind
The copy on your website is meant to present your unique value to legal consumers, your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). A strong UVP directly addresses the reason your visitors came to your website in the first place—another reason why building a client persona is so powerful.
Although your website is there to market you and your legal services, don’t approach copy with a “this is who I am” mindset. Stronger copy addresses, “this is how we can help you with your legal situation.” Use your marketable qualities to tell your user why they’ll benefit by choosing you as their attorney. And remember, more often than not, legal consumers don’t want a lawyer—they want a solution to a legal problem.
Make sure people know what you offer simply and immediately— you have about 10 seconds to do this. If a visitor can’t determine specifically what your firm does and how you can help them, they’ll bounce. For this reason, your UVPs should be concise compelling. Be unique, be branded and present your value. For example, A Family Law Attorney website welcome statement could improve from “Experienced Divorce & Family Law Representation” to “Family Law & Divorce Attorneys To Help You and Your Loved Ones.”
When refining your CTAs, have one action, and that should not be to get newsletter signups or Twitter followers. Your aim should be to get your visitors to contact your firm through either a form, email or phone number. Provide info for all three options so your users can choose how they would like to reach you.
The best law firm marketing campaigns are the ones that show up to help legal consumers need it. A 2013 Google Consumer Survey found that 96% of people looking for legal advice use a search engine. Astoundingly, 97% of law firm websites have not published any personalized content. Your law firm only has to compete with only 3% of competition to get in front of the legal consumers! If you’re planning on using SEO to generate organic traffic, this is a must!
#6 — Engage with your audience & publish content
Update your website and relevant social profiles regularly with legal content that delivers value and news about your firm. Publishing content targeted to your audience gives them a reason to return and slowly nurtures leads into clients.
Be just as active, if not more active, on social media platforms. It doesn’t take much time to share your content, reply to people who engage and answer questions on forums like Quora and Reddit.
The people who are actively discussing legal issues within your focus are likely the people that are in search of legal services. Being their most responsive and helpful contributor gives you an advantage by showing them (and other readers) that you exist and, more importantly, care about helping them with their legal problems.
Given that your clients are in close proximity to your law office, gaining local awareness through networking events and community groups can be a powerful marketing method. To find groups and events, visit your local Chambers of Commerce website.
#7 — Law firm reputation management & local listings management
Referrals are a huge source of new business for solo attorneys and small firms. The digital equivalent is generating reviews—social proof is powerful! Over 80% of people trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations.
Displaying reviews allows legal consumers to use the experiences of your past clients to grow confidence and trust in your firm. For this reason, it’s important to build and maintain strong profiles on the most popular review platforms. Legal consumers trust Yelp more than others, such as Google My Business (GMB), Facebook Business, Avvo and common lawyer directories—but never stick to just one platform.
To get reviews, subtly nudge your happy clients to the platforms that generate the most traffic and leads. Tell them it helps to get feedback and make it easy for them to find your profiles by providing links—and put them in your email signature.
Business owners sometimes directly ask clients for reviews and most people will. But be careful, as Yelp is strict about review solicitation.
When you get a review, write a response thanking your client for a great experience. Directly addressing your past clients shows them gratitude and shows review-readers that you care about your clients enough to maintain a relationship even after the they’ve paid their bill.
Marketing-savvy law firms have started using their positive reviews to build social posts—I love this idea. Some firms just take a quick screenshot of the review straight from Yelp while the very savvy ones have designed branded templates to plug reviews into for a more engaging presentation and increased brand awareness. ATL Law’s Instagram does a great job with branded review posts.