Ask the Experts
Three Questions for the Legal Marketing Experts
Question: I’d like to do some advertising for my practice. Aside from the traditional routes like print ads and directories, what opportunities are out there?
Tina Emerson: Advertising comes in many forms, and the print ad is the first that comes to mind for many lawyers. But, of course, there is also online, television, radio, direct mail, outdoor, event sponsorship — you name it. Before purchasing anything, you have to ask yourself the following question: Who are my target clients, and is this message going to reach them specifically?
Advertising can be a valuable tool, but only if the placement of the ad is appropriate and relevant for your audience. You need to consider the content related to placement of the ad. Sure, anyone can buy an ad in the local business magazine, but if your business is elder law, does it really make sense to advertise there? Outdoor advertising is another option (billboards, benches), but if your practice is mergers and acquisitions, you’re wasting money. However, if you handle plaintiff’s work for car accidents, maybe it’s perfect. Online advertising may be the most targetable because platforms like Google AdWords and Facebook let you use keywords to drive ads directly to people interested in related topics.
Advertising dollars can be spent in any number of ways. Your options are going to depend on what you expect to gain from your spend. Just like the conferences you attend and speaking engagements you book, you and your advertising need to be where the right clients are.
Question: What are the benefits of using CRM programs? How should I work with my marketing team to get maximum results?
Nathalie Daum: Client relationship management (CRM) tools — list management, email marketing, business development tracking, databases — are important to a law firm, as they enable a direct connection to your clients, prospects and referral sources. You have a direct line to make sure your contacts know about new laws, legal trends, the impact of a new court decision, and upcoming seminars and events. Most notably, the contact you initiate needs to make sense for the recipient. Categorizing and filtering your communications effectively is critical; otherwise, your list will have minimum effect.
For example, sending a notice on an eminent domain court decision will probably not make much sense to a virtually based company and will only reinforce that you are blasting communications rather than sending them a relevant message.
There are many CRM options available. Choosing the correct vehicle for your firm will depend on your connectivity needs, available staff, level of access for your attorneys and level of customization, among others. One option I’ve used with some success at a smaller law firm is MailChimp. Though not as sophisticated as many of the tools that are available, it gets the job done with a minimal amount of fuss. You can also use it as a starting place for your list building and email marketing needs before moving on to more advanced options.
Question: Our primary name partner left the practice, and we have to change the firm’s name. What do you think about law firm names that don’t include a person’s name but use a brand name instead?
Tina Emerson: Many firms that formerly had a long list of last names on their letterhead have opted for a brand name for a number of reasons. I don’t mean a kitschy brand name, but one that creates better recognition and ease of use. For example, “Dewey Cheatham and Howe, LLP,” can become “Dewey Cheatham” as a brand. Let’s say the firm has six or more names (and some do). That can be whittled down to just one as a brand. For example, Gomez Hoffman Brinker Childress Foster Oswalt and Bean can be simply “Brinker,” along with an interesting logo treatment.
If the brand name is not related at all to the legal business name, I’d hesitate to make that leap without great consideration. A name is a reflection of your firm’s culture, and you must decide if you are wedded to that culture. Valorem Law Group uses a brand name because the name reflects a culture of billing that is based on value and alternative fee arrangements. I have no affiliation with this firm, but it is clear that their name and their marketing are a reflection of their philosophy.
If you choose a brand name, it should mirror how you want your firm to be viewed in the marketplace. Think it through and envision how you use the name on paper, in your marketing and in conversations. Does it align with your firm’s culture and values? What feeling does it create when people hear it? And, of course, does it conform with your state bar’s ethics requirements? It may just be a name, but it is never that simple.
Tina Emerson is Marketing Director at Rogers Townsend & Thomas, PC, a full-service firm headquartered in Columbia, SC. With 15 years of B2B communications experience, she leads the marketing and business development efforts for the firm’s offices in North Carolina and South Carolina. Tina tweets at @tfemerson.
Nathalie M. Daum is Director of Business Development for Kansas City-based Lathrop & Gage LLP. She serves as strategic advisor to the Litigation Division regarding capturing market share and client retention initiatives. Nathalie served as the 2004 president of the Legal Marketing Association and now serves as 2015 president of LMA’s Southwest Chapter. She tweets at @ndninja.
That’s a Good Question! What’s Yours?
No, not every law firm has a professional marketer or business development coach on staff to answer questions. So send us your questions via email or in the comment section below, and we’ll pass them on to the experts at the Legal Marketing Association. Watch for the best responses here in Ask the Expert.legalmarketing.org
The Legal Marketing Association provides professional support and education as well as opportunities for intellectual and practical information exchange.