At solo and small firm conferences around the country, lawyers gather to polish their skills, learn about new technology—and pick up a marketing tip or two. At the Illinois State Bar Association’s Annual Solo and Small Firm Conference last week, one of the key marketing themes heard was how to use technology to attract new clients. Here are four of the best marketing tips heard for building your digital presence—and your client base.
1. “I found you on the Internet.” How do your clients find you? Frequently, you might hear them say “on the Internet” since it has become a vast resource filled with opportunity for exposure. At the same time, however, it is easy for clients and prospects to view a blurry digital footprint for your practice. Sometimes your name turns up in surprising places—including inaccurate or incomplete listings that can negatively affect what they learn about you online. It’s important to learn how your clients find you (ask them!) and be aware of what they are seeing, to ensure your message is solid, on target and reflects your best strengths. Conduct a digital audit (start by Googling yourself) and find out where you are on the Internet and what is available for public view. Use the analysis to develop a strategic plan to polish and build your digital presence to best reach prospective clients.
2. Unlock your digital presence. Online marketing has leveled the playing field for many lawyers—so using social media, keyword searches, online advertising, directories and more, you can easily and cheaply reach more of your target audience than ever. With all these options, though, you want to be strategic about your digital presence to ensure you properly position your firm. So, in addition to checking to see where you are showing up online, you need to know where potential clients are looking. Then you can decide how and where to share information about your practice. Remember your website is the cornerstone of your online marketing efforts, so make sure it communicates your skills—particularly the attributes that differentiate you from your competition—and consistently provides fresh, useful information.
3. Social media is a powerful tool. In the recent “2012 Legal Marketing Survey Report,” conducted by Avvo and LexBlog, 70 percent of surveyed lawyers said they are using social media. Social media channels—whether “big three” (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter) or more targeted professional networks—help you build online relationships. In other words, they are a way to pursue the connections and introductions that lead to referrals and new business. Beginning can be daunting. So start by listening: Join and create a professional, consistent profile, then read enough so that you understand potential issues or concerns. Add to the conversation with content that illustrates your approach, provides effective solutions and ideas, and punctuates your role as a trusted advisor on key legal issues. Invite more personal conversation through email and telephone if you want to further develop a connection. And, of course, always be mindful to avoid offering specific legal advice unless, or until, you are properly engaged for legal services.
4. Networking really does lead to increased referrals. Solos and small firms depend on a strong referral network to bring in new work. Technology does a terrific job of stoking the networking fires, but you must take the time to create in-person connections with your legal peers. Traditional networking is still the best method of developing and continuing to build relationships. So attend conferences, meetings or lunches. Cultivate and develop relationships with a goal of better understanding each others’ practices. Share news of your significant accomplishments, types of cases and clients handled, and what types of clients you are seeking to grow and develop. And always, always listen for ways you can support your peers to make a more valuable connection.
BONUS: Go mobile! Make sure your site is enhanced for mobile viewing. A high-functioning mobile version of your website helps you better engage your clients, prospects and referral sources. A non-mobile-enhanced website … doesn’t.
Ellyn Caruso is principal of CarusoPR, a public relations and marketing firm that combines strategy, creativity and technology to deliver results. Ellyn is passionate about delivering persuasive integrated marketing communications programs to help a variety of clients, including individual attorneys and law firms of all sizes. She brings more than 25 years of public relations experience serving national and international clients. Ellyn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.