Predictions on the future of marketing for law firms – part 1

Posted by David Kerr, client relationship director at Legal Futures Associate Moore Legal Technology

Kerr: there will be more marketing of firms based on what they provide, not who they are

We’re paid by our law firm clients to generate business in the here and now, but also to predict what will happen in the months and years to come to help them future-proof their business. With that in mind, here (and in no particular order) are our predictions on how marketing trends and technology will shape legal sector marketing by 2020.

Lawyers will stop marketing themselves as ‘Lawyers’ and ‘Solicitors’

The ‘brand resonance’ of the terms ‘lawyer’ and ‘solicitor’ is fading. The traditional lifelong solicitor-client relationships of the baby-boomer generation simply don’t exist for generations Y and Z and millennials.

Generation Y, those born post-1980, are more sophisticated, discerning, and technology-savvy than previous generations. From a marketing perspective, they have grown up with a constant stream of intrusive marketing and have become inured to it. As such, they are more likely to proactively seek out the services they need online than respond to ads.

Growing up in a fast-moving, flexible, content-rich environment where fashions and trends change rapidly means they are much more likely to seek out specialist legal advice for each of their specific needs than remaining loyal to a single brand.

What this means is that their recognition of the solicitor as the gatekeeper to certain services has been eroded. Later generations (particularly millennials) are preoccupied with their needs. They’re not as focused on the standing, status or qualifications of the person delivering it.

As we’re all aware, more ‘legal services providers’ are springing up. These organisations use pseudo-qualified staff to deliver advice, backed by a small team of qualified solicitors. The corollary of this is that they market themselves based on services and solutions.

Put another way, does someone who wants to write a will, buy a house or wind up an estate know they need a solicitor? Do they care? The answer is increasingly ‘no’. A competent, affordable, transparent service and experience which is akin to the service provided by other institutions – banks, insurance companies, healthcare providers – is sufficient.

The effect of this will be more marketing of firms based on what they provide, not who they are. This is already evident in the marketing of major personal injury firms.

Our prediction is that more firms will drop the words ‘lawyers’, ‘law firm’ and ‘solicitors’ and anachronistic designations like ‘LLP’, ‘& Co’ and ‘Partners’ from their brand name and marketing entirely.

Greater focus on lead nurturing and relationship management

One of the opportunities we see lawyers miss time and again is failing to market to their existing client base. When we speak to law firms, each one claims to have “thousands of clients, and that’s how we get our work”.

“Great,” we say. “How do you market to them?” Blank stares all round.

Nowadays, relying on the strength of loyalty from the traditional solicitor-client relationship is short sighted. Granted, there are some areas where a trusted provider will maintain a relationship with their client (crime and commercial law, seem two obvious examples) and word of mouth will still be huge (and your online presence is a massive part of that), but for most modern web users using legal services throughout their lives, their journey will take them from specialist to specialist.

Injured at work? Search for a specialist workplace injury lawyer. Moving house? Search for a solicitor in the local area. Moving again? Do likewise. Been offered a settlement agreement? Search for ‘settlement agreements lawyers in…’

Clearly, establishing a web presence to capture these terms is vital, but what is even more important is maintaining the relationship once it has been established. Simply relying on your ‘client’ to decide to return to your firm the next time they need a lawyer is short sighted. In 2017, lawyers will realise the benefit of targeting existing clients and begin proactively cross-selling their services using ‘demand generation’ platforms.

These platforms are designed to nurture leads over a period of time to bring in repeat business. Mainly driven by email, these platforms are more sophisticated than typical email newsletters. Drip-fed emails, with different emails sent depending on the prospect’s level of interaction with each missive, allow targeted, specific and long term nurturing of leads.

Not only that, but these platforms ‘score’ prospects based on what they do on your site and (here’s the beautiful part) let YOU contact THEM when they might be ready to buy.

Lawyers will flock to trusted advisers for marketing

For too long, many lawyers have attempted to market themselves using an array of marketing providers or solutions not fit for purpose. A general lack of understanding of marketing and BD on the part of lawyers, coupled with a focus on their budget has seen too many firms try to market their services on the cheap, or in the wrong way.

It’s not unusual to come across law firms that have had their fingers burnt by engaging with cheap marketing suppliers or those not fit for purpose because of a lack of sector-specific expertise, for example. Like instructing a cowboy tradesman, the usual way to fix this is to instruct a genuine (if more expensive) supplier to fix the damage.

This will be the year that many firms awaken to the possibilities that a trusted supplier can provide. As a result, law firms will loosen the purse strings to get the right team in to get things right first time, saving a lot of expense and frustration in the long run.

In the second part of this blog on Thursday, I will explain why social media marketing will die out, as will the ‘Internet of Things’, while ‘voice search’ will become commonplace.

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