No matter what legal services they need, every client goes through the same five phases to choose and hire a law firm. It’s called the “client journey,” and according to Bigger Law Firm, it has to factor into your marketing strategy if you want to see serious results.
Clients have different mindsets and priorities in each phase of the journey, so it makes sense that your marketing has to change based on where they are. So what are the five stages of the client journey, and how can you reach clients every step of the way?
Humans love stories; it’s been scientifically proven time and time again. But what exactly makes us love them so much? One study found that when we read a powerful story, our brains can’t differentiate between what we’re reading and what’s actually happening. A happy story makes us feel as if the good experience is happening to us.
Marketers in every industry have caught onto this, but few industries are as well suited to storytelling as real estate. Buying property is extremely emotional, and a successful sale depends largely on the buyer’s ability to envision themselves living in their new home. Of course, the facts are important: potential buyers want to know how many bedrooms there are and how big the backyard is. But oftentimes, the deciding factor is whether the buyer can imagine their kids sleeping in the bedrooms or picture the parties they’ll host on the deck.
Social media in particular is a great way for agents to share stories about the properties they have and help potential clients picture themselves living in them. If you’re looking for fresh content for your social media pages, here are four quick ways to incorporate storytelling:
Social media is a great marketing tool, but just like every other form of advertising that law firms use, it comes with certain ethical guidelines. Breaching those standards can have serious consequences, too—a misguided Tweet or unclear Facebook post could, hypothetically, lead to a penalty or even disbarment. It’s a worst-case scenario, but it is possible.
However, even if the consequences of misuse can be severe, you shouldn’t be afraid of social media, as long as you’re familiar with the basic ethical guidelines. Here are a few you might not be aware of, rounded up by NewsBlaze:
Don’t call yourself a specialist if you’re not one
Many career-focused websites and social networks (like LinkedIn) prompt users to add their specialties to their profiles. That might be a simple task for professionals in other industries, but unless you actually have the proper certifications, you should avoid writing anything that might imply you’re a certified legal specialist when you’re not one. Take the information on your online profiles seriously and make sure that nothing can be misconstrued.
Sending a friend request could be considered solicitation
No matter how harmless your intentions may be, connecting with someone on Facebook or another social network when they need legal advice could be considered solicitation. If someone has expressed a need for an attorney, adding them on social media is off-limits, especially if you have no prior relationship with them. In general, it’s a good idea to only friend people you have genuine relationships with, and be judicious if current, former or potential clients try to add you online.
Your competitors might be watching
This isn’t exactly an ethical concern, but it is something important to keep in mind. Especially if you’re at a large firm, competitors might be watching you closely online, and they may have no problem reporting you for seemingly unethical online behavior. Sometimes, it has less to do with what you actually mean and more about how it appears to other people. Imagine how others will perceive what you post before you hit “enter”.
Your jurisdiction isn’t the only one you have to worry about
By nature, the internet isn’t confined to one place. Every time you post online, you’re communicating across jurisdictions, each one with different laws and ethical standards. Something that is acceptable in one area could be a serious offense in another, and that can impact you no matter where you’re posting from. When in doubt, be conservative about what you share on social media and you’ll limit your chances of violating any guidelines.
Legal sales is an emerging field in law firms, and you couldn’t have hoped for a more experienced panel speaking about it at the recent LMA conference. The panel members were: David C. Burkhardt, Client Service Director at Wyrick Robbins; Sheila Ardalan Chief Operating Officer at Summit LA; Jonathan Mattson, Director of Business Development at Baker & Hostetler; and Catherine Zinn, Chief Client Officer at Orrick.
It’s a growing trend among large firms, and we’re now starting to see it among smaller firms as well. By legal sales, we mean a non-lawyer who is client-facing – someone who is going out and opening doors for the firm’s partners and other attorneys to bring in new business. Twenty percent of the Am Law 100 has at least one person in this capacity.
When it comes to having a salesperson, firms need to think about the role of sales versus marketing. It is generally agreed that marketing concerns itself with creating awareness; sales is about creating relationships.
Sometimes there’s a tension between marketing and sales because the salesperson has more visibility and you can draw a more direct correlation between bringing in business (or the salesperson opening the door to bring in business) than you can with marketing.
There’s this tension because marketing may feel that sales is getting all the glory.
This panel emphasized the fact that sales could not do their job without marketing and that the marketing engine always needs to be going in order for sales to be successful.
Sales can also be in competition with the partners in terms of generating new business. The salesperson needs to be somebody (and this gets into the terms of what makes a successful salesperson) who is resilient, willing to be in the shadows and willing to let the partners have the glory. They need to be energized by making other people successful.
It’s difficult to say what’s going to make a successful salesperson in a legal environment. Some have industry backgrounds, but that doesn’t necessarily make them successful salespeople. They not only have to be a good salesperson, they have to be someone who can create humor, who can lighten the situation and be resilient. And be someone who, when networking, poses “intentional” questions that draw people out, such as “What’s your role at your firm?” and “What brings you here today?
Effective legal salespeople also understand that research is the gateway to business development. Knowing as much as possible about prospects and clients prior to meeting with them can help direct sales conversations and is critical to bringing in new business and expanding current relationships.
In terms of compensation, there’s no fee-sharing in law firms, so the compensation is usually some sort of bonus program (typically 20%-30%) above salary.
Not everyone is an early adopter of the latest business trend, but if you’re still in the mindset of “Nobody’s going to look for my firm online” or “Do I really need a LinkedIn profile?” you’d better stand aside because the world is going to steamroll right over you.
To be competitive today, every firm needs to build a long-term, ever-evolving digital strategy – words of wisdom from Kalev Peekna, Chief Strategist at One North Interactive, at the recent LMA conference. Whether for your website, search engine optimization or social media, it’s vital that your digital strategy and related tactics are always on a continuum of improvement.
One of the main characteristics of a long-term digital strategy is endurance. Think about your website. Websites are evolutionary; they’re never finished. Peekna advised thinking of your digital marketing in “release” stages. For example, finishing the Herculean task of getting a new website up is Release 1.0, and you deserve kudos. However, take a deep breath and start on Release 2.0 – the incremental refinements that are going to tell your firm’s story today. Add new case studies and success stories, and consider what graphics you can add, etc., then on to Release 3.0. Also, accept the fact that the life cycle of a website is much shorter than before.
When it comes to your digital strategy, you need to think about the future. People invest in the future, not in the past. Embrace a long-term vision for an ongoing digital marketing strategy. You’ll see the benefits in your client relationships and in your firm’s bottom line.
Your website homepage is one of the most important marketing tools you have—and one of the most difficult to get right. It must explain your services to people who may have no clue what you do, and it should do it in way that’s concise and intriguing. It’s a tricky balance, and many firms have yet to find it.
To make your homepage the best it can be, learn from other firms’ mistakes and leave these five things off your homepage:
This year’s Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Western District Conference, held in Riverside, CA, covered a number of emerging issues in public relations. In case you missed it, here’s a recap of a couple of the panels.
These days, the professional services landscape is a buyer’s market – there are so many great options that people often fully research different agencies and make a decision before even reaching out to a company. With this glut of choices, differentiating your business is harder than ever.
In his session on successful differentiation, David Arvin, President of The Visibility Coach, discussed the importance of determining the practice area or service your company has that puts it ahead of the rest – the one thing that you do better than your competitors. It’s also important to determine what question or problem your brand is the answer to. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible for consumers to pick out one good option from all the other good options populating the market.
In his keynote address, Jim Lin, SVP and Creative Director at Ketchum Digital, covered best practices for working with influencers and shared his perspective on how influencer marketing fits in with public relations and marketing as a whole.
An influencer is a person or group with the ability to influence the behavior or opinions or others, and who has a significant effect on a consumer’s purchasing decision. Influencer marketing is the act of incentivizing influencers to spread awareness of a product or service to their audiences, in the hopes that these audiences will be inspired to try the product themselves.
Though influencers may sound similar to journalists you’re hoping will write about your clients or company, don’t make the mistake of conflating them with the media. While it’s true that influencer marketing, like media exposure, contributes to the overall perception and visibility of a brand, influencers’ objectives are fundamentally different. Journalists report on stories because it’s their job to do so, whereas influencers need more incentive than just a story, as they are working to build their personal brands and names. This incentive usually comes in the form of free products/services, as well as additional payment.
Another common misstep companies can make when leveraging influencers is the failure to properly vet an influencer, and to take their audience claims at their word. Always take the time to research an influencer’s social media follower counts and engagement to ensure that they and their audience are the right fit for your brand.
Influencer marketing is a great way to reach a captive audience and leverage the trust that influencers instill in their followers. Wait…what? Influencer marketing? I digress. Influencer marketing is a buzzword in our industry to describe a form of marketing which is focused on key individuals to drive your brand’s message to the larger market. You are essentially hiring, or inspiring or paying an influencer to get the word out.
Let me give you an example. You have 1,734 followers on Twitter, which is nice and you are proud of it. Plus, it took you some time to get there. An influencer on the other hand, who reaches the same market, has 465,799 followers. It would be difficult for you to reach that number of followers and may take much time and effort. Instead, you hire, inspire or pay them. By connecting your brand to a trusted influencer, some of their credibility inevitably rubs off on you.
Now that we’ve covered that, I’ll continue. Like anything else in this world, this tactic can backfire. For every well-done influencer post, there are a dozen that are forced, nonsensical or downright tacky. And while influencer marketing might seem like it should be easy, Adweek notes that there is a science to developing good influencer content. Avoid the pitfalls of bad influencer marketing, and you’ll likely see strong engagement. Here are some considerations to make if you’re going to include influencers in your marketing plan:
• Do allow influencers to give their own opinions. To get the most out of influencer marketing, you have to be willing to give up some control. Readers can tell if a post is forced, and that will negatively impact your results. The most realistic, engaging and successful posts come from influencers who are allowed to be honest and creative.
• Don’t be misleading. All sponsored content has to have a clear disclosure statement. If you fail to meet their requirements, you could face consequences, including a fine from the Federal Trade Commission. Luckily, according to AdWeek, disclosure statements don’t deter viewers from reading and engaging with your content—in fact, they can actually increase positive sentiment.
• Do use great visuals. Photos and videos draw readers in and illustrate your point much more effectively than words can. Of course, you can supply images and your logo, but it’s also a good idea to let influencers take their own photos. Authentic photos, taken from the influencer’s perspective in their own style, will enhance the post.
• Don’t let branding get in the way of relatability. Most companies have strict brand guidelines, from naming standards to trademark usage. And while branding is important, working with influencers is one case when brand sticklers should relax. Insisting that influencers adhere to every brand standard completely can ruin a post’s flow and conversational tone. I am speaking to law firms on this one – no, it’s not necessary to include LLP, Corp, PC or whatever other extensions you have.
• Do offer readers a valuable takeaway. Ultimately, readers should gain some usable knowledge from your content, whether it’s sponsored or not. Encourage influencers to include a review, tutorial or easily saved and shared how-to guide as part of the post. Readers won’t mind the “sponsored content” label if they get something valuable from the article.
In the business world, it’s not uncommon to hear people speak about the importance of setting SMART goals. The phrase was coined more than 30 years ago, but it’s no wonder why people continue to use it as a guide today; it’s a great tool for creating objectives that you can actually accomplish.
The problem many firms face when determining marketing objectives is that there’s no magic bullet. What works for one firm won’t work for another. Finding the right marketing mix takes time and experimentation, and since results don’t happen right away, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up. SMART goals can help keep you on track.
Whether it’s increasing website traffic or converting more leads, every company has at least one area that needs to be improved (and usually several more areas that they would like to improve). SMART goals can help you prioritize and evaluate your goals before sinking a lot of time and energy into them. So before jumping into a marketing plan that may not work, or before giving up on meeting your marketing goals altogether, take some time to make sure your goals fit the SMART criteria:
The more explicit you make your goals, the better. Just saying that you “want more leads” is a quick way to fail. What percentage increase in leads do you want to see? What type of leads do you need more of? When is your deadline? Really pinpoint the exact results you want.
How will you know you’ve reached your goal if you don’t measure how far you’ve come? Choose key indicators that are easy to track, and paint a clear picture of improvement. And don’t wait until your deadline to measure change—check in periodically to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.
It’s important to aim high, but don’t make your goals too lofty. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how hard you work; there are just some goals that you won’t be able to reach (at least not overnight). Make sure it’s actually possible for you to attain your goals.
Reaching your marketing goals exactly in the way you anticipate is not only hard—it’s virtually impossible. Understand that some objectives will be easy to meet, some will be challenging, and some you’ll never reach. That’s okay! Be honest about what you’re capable of and don’t get bogged down in goals that don’t come out as planned.
Give yourself a hard deadline and stick to it. Beyond just choosing a final date, break down your objectives into small, actionable tasks and block off time on your calendar to work on them. Without making time to reach goals, it’s easy to let them slide.