There’s no reason a smaller firm’s online marketing program can’t be just as successful as a megafirm’s—even with a much smaller budget. But it does require focus. No more knee-jerk decisions, no more keeping up with the Jones’s—and certainly no more random acts of marketing. Here’s a guide to a purposeful online strategy.
1. Define Your Brand
Would you put a roof on a house when there’s no foundation to support it? No. Yet most firms try to do just that as they experiment with digital marketing tools. It’s tempting to add a pinch of optimization or a handful of Google AdWords to your online marketing mix to feel you’re moving in the right direction. But if you haven’t first developed and defined your brand, you are making your marketing dollars work harder than they need to.
A brand is a promise of value, different from your competitors, that resonates with the right buyers and gains traction with consistency and repetition over time. Stake out your brand position. Own it. And, allow it to drive everything that represents you. Your website is your single most important digital marketing tool. Without a brand strategy, there is no way your website can be any different from the competition.
2. Use Your Brand to Differentiate Your Website
Each day, the Internet serves up a near whiteout of clutter, and the bar to stay competitive just keeps getting higher. To do its job, your website needs to rise above it all and communicate your brand—who you uniquely are—loud and clear. Website visitors determine their impression of the quality and nature of a firm within the first .05 second. So it’s no time to be humble. Speak up—clearly and consistently. Communicate emotion, a difference and a message. Create a dialogue and engage your audience. More than static facts, offer value that keeps them coming back.
3. Work Hard to Get Found with Search Engine Marketing
Today, 78 percent of executive-level buyers say they go online to search for outside legal, accounting and consulting professionals, and 67 percent of C-level decision-makers use the Internet as their primary source for business information. Deploying these tools wisely—and, yes, opening your wallet—can greatly improve your chances that key prospects will find you. This kind of help is usually worth paying for.
- Organic search. A careful selection of a dozen key words that best capture what you’re about, woven throughout your website content, is step one to help people find you. But it doesn’t end there. Headers and subheads, buried text and incoming links, among other things, all determine whether buyers wind up at your website. Yes, it’s complicated. Google, among others, constantly changes its secret algorithms to keep it honest when ranking relevant searches, ensuring that what worked last year won’t work as well next year. But you can educate yourself, and there are helpful experts out there who can advise you on search tactics.
- Google AdWords. For advertising on the Internet, the best campaigns inevitably include Google AdWords—hardly surprising, since Google has 67 percent of the search engine market. Call it a monopoly, but Google delivers. Text-only web ads have a low cost of entry and offer perfect search matches for various skills, specialties and location characteristics. And, because AdWords can be changed on a dime, your program can capture time-sensitive opportunities. However, you can waste time and money with poor scheduling, or by not adjusting your words to match desired results. Getting help here is a good idea.
- Analytics. Sure, you can experiment with keywords and switch on a new AdWord campaign overnight, but without the ability to track, analyze and manage your website or campaign, you’re shooting in the dark. Google Analytics and AdWord reports are free to anyone who wants to track and evaluate their website performance or AdWord campaigns, and there are plenty of how-to resources online. If you are new at this, it can be difficult to know what to look for in the raw data. Find help to parse the analytics so you know what’s truly working—or not. Ask for recommendations on how to adjust your site and content to attract the type of visitor you want.
4. Work the Crowd with Social Media
You may think of it as the playground for the young and restless, but social media—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr—are now the foundation of any effective online strategy. Twenty-two percent of Facebook users today are between the ages of 35-65—and that’s the fastest growing demographic on the site. Facebook offers a bevy of options for building a community, and more features for business pages are coming. Twitter, meantime, has morphed from celebrity gazing to public relations with the means to personally engage clients in near real time. Twitter posts now include corporate announcements, links to updated blog content and invitations to speeches and webinars. Companies like H&R Block and Home Depot hold “ask and answer” sessions via Twitter. Jet Blue and Comcast offer alternative customer support. Whole Foods Market asks for feedback on customer preferences and recommends food podcasts to its followers. You can see the potential.
5. Integrate Online and Offline Marketing
Even the most dynamic website and on-point print campaign are significantly compromised when not tightly interwoven. Neither is as good alone as they are together. Print campaigns are typically meant to drive action—including traffic to your website. When your site delivers the promise expressed in the ad, you convert interest into engagement and shoppers into buyers. An integrated program builds a forum where buyers ultimately wind up in the same room as the firm’s lawyers, and the payoffs are considerable. A one-dimensional program barely scratches the surface of what you can achieve with an integrated effort.
A Focused Message Is the Ticket
In the end, you want a globally coordinated brand message. Every interaction with your firm needs to evoke your personality—whether people visit your website, read your brochure or see one of your ads. Plenty of firms pay attention to one or even two marketing channels. Very few—the really good ones—spend the time to coordinate their presence across all of them. Stay focused on your brand, online and offline, and you will reach the audience you want, and move ahead of your competition.
Kim Proxmire is a senior strategist for Greenfield/Belser, with a background of in-house and entrepreneurial law firm marketing and brand development. Kim brings knowledge of developing and managing strategic level marketing and business development programs to small and mid-sized law firms. Previously, she was an in-house director of marketing for several Midwestern law firms and corporations, including Anheuser-Busch.
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