New competition in legal services is putting venture capital funding into digital marketing built on brand, data and market reach, including getting to your clients. At the same time legal aid, PI and conveyancing panel squeezes means there is less through flow of ready work – you have to go out and get it yourself. So, it’s time to safeguard your futures by marketing effectively to your client base and build new channel alliances and digital is where it is at.
But is your law firm set up to adopt digital marketing? Who is doing it now? What are the results? What could you do better? Simple questions but it helps define if the activity is earning real income from the effort.
You may have a small ring fenced marketing budget engaged on modestly successful “traditional” marketing within your local area, whether its community sponsorship or a regular legal column on a variety of topics in the local rag, but it is hard to measure any of it. It’s a brand and opinion builder and may enable recall of your brand versus others, but you can’t really see it.
This is where digital marketing comes up trumps. In fact, it scores over other media for 5 reasons: –
1) It’s cheaper, not just to trial and test response, but also every time a campaign is deployed relative to fixed print and direct mailing.
2) It reaches a far wider audience more regularly than one off print media
3) You can measure every part of the process to capture a lead and adjust your campaign based on clear results.
4) You have 24/7 access for as long as you are running the content – your shop stays open even when your office does not
5) There is an inescapable demographic shift. As younger consumers come through life stages, digital and mobile media is the only way they consume and seek content.
Building the digital plan
So, where to start? You need to look at your existing marketing budget and rethink this as a comprehensive digital plan. This needs expert outside support to help you assess what you need and each of the elements required to deliver it.
You need to think about the timing of your campaigns, messaging and how this fits into new products, alliances or offerings you will make to the market over a 12-24 month period. This will help build your communications plan. View it as a set of “breadcrumbs” laid out that build awareness and respect for your calibre, quality and innovation over time.
You also need to assign management resource– is it well set up to accommodate an expansion in marketing – does your practice manager have the core skills? – unlikely. Do you need to hire in a permanent head? – could be expensive and you won’t get a rapid payback. Do you outsource? Well, more are doing so, as long as you define a really tight programme.
You also need to agree what success will look like as a management team and assemble some meaningful measures around response, lead generation/conversion and cross sell across each campaign.
Make your content relevant
Then it’s time to define what will be in your digital marketing mix. This is determined by the audience, its interests and the geographies you want to reach. You may have a niche specialism in your practice that you want to exploit and this is where search marketing kicks in.
By putting your in-house expert at the centre of your content and ensuring your website, blogs and features shared with other sites and networks are all optimised with keyword tags, it will make the act of searching for you that much easier and therefore the practice will be more visible.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be a bit of dark art and there are plenty of charlatans out there, who say they will get you a front page listing on search engines. The key thing is to make sure that everything that you write and publish gets tagged for SEO. Also, the more you share your content with others, the more likely this will get a prominent ranking on Google and other search engines.
You want to place SEO in the context of all other media you distribute content through, including social media. If you choose to invest in Google Adwords promotions, you want to make sure firstly that you have accurate keywords linked to your specialism and geography, bearing in mind that the cost per click for wills and conveyancing will be large! Beware the money pit!
Safeguarding data and your reputation
At the heart of the digital marketing plan is data management – both in terms of tracking responses to campaigns, but also how you gather and store client and prospect data.
Data and content can really run out of control with social media, unless you manage your online reputation to protect your brand security. We’ll cover this in more detail in a future article. The headline is you need a very strong operational policy on social media use by employees and messages via channels such as twitter and Linked In should be consistent to other email, telemarketing and other communication routes.
Your brand must, of course, speak of trust, compliance and quality service, but it also needs to be outward and accessible. There will continue to be plenty of headwinds in the legal services marketplace going forward, but by adopting a customer-centric, data-driven digital outlook, those with the appetite to compete with the big boys should carve out profitable futures.
David Kempster is a consultant with Legal Eye . He is a seasoned legal services marketing professional and works with law firms to devise and implement strategies and communications for market growth. Legal Eye offers a comprehensive range of law firm marketing services.
For more information visit www.legal-eye.co.uk/services/marketing/  or call 023 051 2049