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digital marketing primer

Digital Marketing for Law Firms: What Is Your Strategy?

Questions to ask before you begin spending on digital marketing.

By Mark Homer

“What tactics are working for law firms that want to use digital marketing tools to grow?” As a digital marketing agency, lawyers are always asking me questions like this, looking for advice on whether to invest in social media, paid advertising or SEO, among a variety of other tactics.

My reply is always the same: “What is your marketing strategy?”

Most firms stumble trying to answer that question. I often hear, “Well I want more leads” or “I need more business.” That’s a start, but you need to define your goals more narrowly. That way, you can invest in the right digital marketing tactics and avoid those that won’t help you reach your goals.

Many marketing companies are ready to sell you on specific marketing tactics, but tactics are the last things you should be thinking about.

Digital Marketing for Law Firms: Goals Before Strategy

The first question you need to answer is: What are the goals for your law firm?

Every law firm has unique goals. After all, they are based on the owner’s personal goals or the individual goals of the firm’s key partners.

  • I hear from lawyers just getting started who want to feel they have a consistent flow of business so they can hire some more staff.
  • I have worked with law firms who felt they are getting enough business, but it is mostly the type of cases they don’t enjoy.
  • And I have worked with a law firm that wanted partners to take five weeks of vacation every summer without having to worry about lead generation issues when they returned.

The “Why” Questions: What Is Your Three-Year Vision?

It takes time to really home in on your “why.” To get you started, write down your answers to the following questions.

  • Where do you see your law firm in three years? You should be able to close your eyes and picture it:
    • The number of employees?
    • The office environment?
    • The amount of money the firm is able to provide for you at the end of the year?
  • How do people describe your law firm?
  • What need in the community does your law firm best meet?
  • What revenue is needed to support the firm’s three-year vision?
  • What are the types of cases your firm is best at and enjoys the most?
  • Do you want to spend more time practicing law or managing the business?
  • Since there is no law firm business without you, think about your health and well-being. For example:
    • How much time away from the office do you want each year? (What did you do last year?)
    • Are you working more or less than eight hours a day?
    • Are you able to spend quality time with family, friends and hobbies?
  • Do all of your partners, or your management committee, agree on these responses?

Once you’ve answered these questions, take time to create business goals and agree on a consistent vision for the firm with your partners. I recommend creating your mission, vision and values statements. At my company, doing this led to our ability to set and achieve business goals and strategies, as well as a positive change in team morale.

Without a clear vision, you could wind up investing resources in marketing strategies and tactics that help build a law firm that is nothing like what you want. If this happens, you will quickly find yourself burned 0ut and frustrated with your practice and your marketing team, who probably did exactly what you asked them to do.

As you can see, different goals will drive different marketing strategies. Once you can answer these questions, you can start to think about what marketing goals support that vision.

Year One: Start to Build the Fire

Based on the goals you’ve set, what can you do this year that will put you on track toward your three-year vision?

I’m a big believer that goals provide the focus for a firm. I read somewhere that you should think of the sun’s rays hitting the earth every day, lots of independent rays that don’t cause issues. But if you have a magnifying glass, you can take a few of those rays and focus enough heat to start a fire. In the same vein, if you scatter yourself too thinly across multiple goals, you will not be focused enough to cause real change. If you focus on just one or two goals, you can start that fire.

So, that means your annual goals shouldn’t consist of everything you think you should do. Instead, settle on one (two at most). What is the one thing you need to do this year to get closer to the three-year vision? Is your top priority a consistent flow of new cases because you want to confidently invest in staff and technology? Maybe you need to tackle basic back-office systems and operations before you can open up capacity for more clients. I sometimes hear that a goal is to reduce the “crazy” cases that you don’t enjoy and get more that are in your zone of genius.

Once you set this goal, try to boil it down to a number. In the examples above, you should know:

  • How many more cases do you want to have per month?
  • How many more hours per week do you need to gain more capacity?
  • How many cases do you take each month that you don’t like, or that you want to replace with better cases?

Once you set your annual goal, break that down into smaller quarterly goals that move you toward the overall number. Once you have that targeted, measurable goal for the year, you can start to think about what actions you need to take.

Time for Marketing Strategy

Now is when we recommend thinking about your marketing strategy.

Once you have defined the No. 1 goal for your firm this year, believe it or not, your marketing strategy will begin to form itself. For example, if you know you need more cases per month, you can dive into what drives that metric.

If more cases per month were your goal, you should answer these three questions:

  1. Do you know how many potential new clients convert to actual clients? Can you improve that metric?
    • Are you able to separate potential new clients into qualified leads vs. unqualified leads?
    • How quickly are you answering calls and responding to “qualified” inquiries? (The gold standard is five minutes.)
    • Does your intake team (or sales team) have a defined script that provides what potential clients are looking for?
    • Are you able to respond to clients after hours and on weekends? (Virtual call services like Ruby, Smith.AI, AbbyConnect and others can handle inbound and outbound calls and emails, so you can better hit that five-minute standard.)
  2. Do you know where most of your current clients are coming from?
    • Are they mostly referrals?
    • Is there a particular advertisement or marketing campaign driving a good portion of cases?
    • Do you know the ROI of your current marketing tactics?
  3. If you woke up tomorrow and learned that you received all the additional new cases set in your goal, would you have the capacity to handle those cases?

As you can see, your one annual measurable goal of a specific number of new cases per month can drive several key metrics that you may need to know. If you don’t already have these metrics, your first quarter strategy may be to get measurement systems in place to know these numbers. If you do have these metrics, answers to some of those questions will lead to tactics for the next quarter.

For example, if you don’t have someone answering the phones and getting back to clients within five minutes, that could be a goal this quarter. If your team doesn’t have specific, qualifying scripts to walk potential clients through, helping them understand the firm’s process and a range of costs, that could be a priority for the quarter.

If you know that most of your clients are coming from referrals, your goal could be to improve that metric.  For example, are you continuing to do everything to keep encouraging those referrals? Are your best referral partners getting thank-you cards or  gifts from your firm? Do they know everything you do? Do they understand what your perfect target client (and bad client) looks like? Is your branded search (searches for your name) web presence set up to protect all the referrals that search your name before they call you?

If capacity is a problem, your goal for the next quarter may be to figure out how to improve your processes, including staffing options. For example, you might implement a combination of customer relationship management (CRM) software, practice management software, and outsourcing to help you get the work done more efficiently. Virtual assistant services like LegalTypist and freelance lawyer sites LawClerk can help you by freeing up time for higher-value activities.

Let Your Goals Drive Your Digital Marketing Strategy

You can see that if you start your marketing strategy with questions like “Should I invest in SEO, PPC or social media?” you will get all kinds of answers — and many people willing to sell you services. But those are tactics. Tactics don’t drive marketing strategy — a marketing strategy based on measurable business goals drives your tactics.

So, instead of wondering about tactics, take time this week to review and redefine your laws firm’s business goals. Then let that drive your strategy.

Once you have your strategy, you can immerse yourself in articles and videos, get resources from your state bar’s practice management group, or talk to an agency to define the tactics you should be using to reach your goals.

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

More on Marketing Strategy …

“It’s Time to Overcome Your Fears of Narrowing Your Focus” by Jay Harrington

“Referrals or Search? Law Firms Need a Strong Marketing Strategy” by Mark Homer

“Writing Your Annual Business Development Plan” by Sally Schmidt

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Mark Homer Mark Homer

Mark Homer is CEO of GNGF, a leading law firm marketing agency. At GNGF, Mark leads the team to help empower and educate law firms to grow their practice. He is co-author of “Online Law Practice Strategies” and often speaks around the U.S. on marketing and social media ethics for law firms. Sign up for GNGF’s  Legal Marketing Academy here. Follow Mark on Twitter: @mark_homer.




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