“The Internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet,” said Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler on February 26, 2015.
Regardless of your area of practice, these three Internet-based actions should be the foundation of your law practice’s marketing plan.
Face it, you barely exist as a professional without a website. Prospects and clients must be able to find you, and the first place they will look is the web. Will you let others’ websites define you, or will you define yourself? The first step in your marketing plan must be creation of your website.
If you are opening a practice do nothing —nothing — until you have secured your desired URL. Your firm name and website name should match. Assuming your state ethics rules allow, perhaps you are planning to call your firm “[city][practice area].” What if CincyElderLaw.com or MiamiDogBiteLaw.com is already taken? You could end up sending business to a competitor inadvertently. Or, if you use a brand already in use to register your business, sign leases, establish phone lines and print business cards, you might have double expense as well as other issues. Better to start right.
Many vendors stand ready to help lawyers set up a web presence quickly and with minimal effort. Articles abound on Attorney at Work and elsewhere that explain what your website should include and how to figure out the terms for optimal search engine optimization (SEO) to help the best prospects find you.
Once you have published your website, show it everywhere. Include the URL on your business cards, embed a link in your email signature and include it in published biographies. Adding a link from your LinkedIn profile summary to your website will display an image of your landing page. Refer people to your website with pride.
Less obvious, and more difficult, is targeted email marketing. Lawyers have always found ways to notify clients of new developments. Firms have sent newsletters with varying regularity for decades. Studies show that sending marketing emails to your subscribers results in a higher response rate than Internet advertising or social media activity.
Effective email marketing requires two things: compilation of a subscriber list and regular creation of targeted content. Constant Contact, My Emma and MailChimp are well-known email marketing programs that will manage your list and provide ready-made templates for your newsletter.
Building the list. The legal industry’s average open rate for marketing emails is about 14 percent. That means you need a significant subscriber list for effective market penetration. You probably already have multiple contact lists:
- Current clients
- Current mailing list
- Email contacts directory
- Holiday card recipients
- LinkedIn contacts (you can see the email address on the profiles of your first-degree connections)
- Twitter connections
- Facebook friends
- Contacts in your mobile phone
Contact information in Excel can be easily exported and loaded into your email marketing program’s database. Include one or more of your own email addresses so you can confirm publication. Input your own first name as “Subscriber.”
Don’t feel stymied by the size of the job. Do what you can when you can, and keep adding names. Consider hiring a temporary worker to compile your initial list.
Keep adding to your list. At client intake, let the client know the firm regularly transmits helpful information and secure the client’s permission to be added as a subscriber. When you attend a networking event, collect business cards and ask prospects if you may add them to your newsletter list.
Look at the card! If the prospect’s email address does not appear on the card, ask for it and write it on the card. Invite people who attend your speeches and read your articles to subscribe.
(To be clear, you should never add names of people you don’t know, or you’ve just met, without their permission. If you do, you’ll risk the person reporting your email as spam — and too many spam reports can lead to your email marketing vendor shutting down your account.)
Create useful, relevant content. Even though you are sending emails to subscribers as part of your marketing outreach, they will quickly unsubscribe if your communications are not helpful. Just sending an ad will turn people off. The content you send must be informative and relevant. You get useful content from your practice, for example:
- Turn an aspect of the cases you handle every day into a story. (Omit identifying details.)
- It’s okay to brag when the fact is true and public: “Lulu Lawyer of our office secured a defense verdict in Hokum County last month.”
- Tell your readers about the most interesting case in this week’s advance sheets.
- Pass along your lawyerly take on a story you read in the news.
The articles in your email don’t have to be long. Recipients are more likely to read a 300-word article than a 1,000-word one.
Don’t commit to an email marketing schedule you can’t meet. Failure to regularly communicate dissipates the value of your marketing effort. If you can put a quality piece together once a week, that is fabulous. But sending good information once a month, or once every other month, is better than sending it when you get around to it. Setting a deadline makes it more likely you will get it done.
Too busy? Get help. If your firm uses a marketing professional, you will coordinate all your efforts with that person. Posting an ad for an e-marketing consultant on Craigslist should bring numerous responses to help with technical issues. (Specify which platform you are using.) A legal marketing or public relations professional can write an article for you under your supervision.
Don’t put off email marketing just because your subscriber list is small. Start writing now and, over time, as your list grows, your email app will create an archive of all of your posts so they can be easily accessed via a link included on every email you send. New subscribers will be able to see all the great content you created before they discovered you.
Once your email is sent out, post the link to the message you received in your own mailbox on social media. (Simply click the option to view it on the web to get the link.) The personalized greeting will appear as “Dear Subscriber” rather than “Dear << Test First Name >>.”
Articles you write for email marketing go to permission-based recipients. Articles you post on the web, in a public blog, can be seen by the world. The good news: You can recycle the same article for both. Keep it as is, or lightly revise.
Your blog should be part of your website. Depending on the architecture of your site, the blog can be a page on your site or, if you host your blog on a different platform, such as WordPress, you can add a link to it on your website’s home page. Linking to an external site can save money if your website’s host limits the pages for your site. The user experience should not be different.
Sixty percent of blogs are published on WordPress. More good news: it’s free. WordPress templates allow you to add categories and tags for SEO, and easily share your post across multiple social media platforms.
As for scheduling, alternate publication of email communications and blog posts. If you send email marketing communications monthly, post the same information to your blog two weeks later. If you send emails in odd-number months, post a blog article in even-number ones. This way, the same information impacts social media at least twice.
Go Three for Three
These three techniques are basic to your marketing plan. Everything else you do integrates with them.
Theda C. “Teddy” Snyder mediates workers’ compensation cases throughout California. An attorney since 1977, she has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management. Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at www.WCMediator.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @WCMediator.