Law firms need to become “cuter” in their marketing as the ever increasing competition for work – particularly online – means that even recently established ways of operating are delivering diminishing returns, it has been claimed.
A roundtable organised by marketing collective First4Lawyers, also heard that the ‘personal touch’ remains a critical part of attracting clients, but that firms still have a long way to go before they effectively cross-sell their services.
The event officially launched the Legal Marketing Network UK, a LinkedIn network created by First4Lawyers for like-minded marketing professionals to collaborate, learn, share and develop best practice in legal marketing.
One of the firms around the table, Manchester law firm JMW, explained how vital social media has been to its practice. Not only does the firm distribute news and take out advertising on sites like Facebook – which are substantially cheaper than traditional pay-per-click (PPC) adverts or search engine optimisation tactics – but clients also do the work for them.
JMW’s marketing director Dan Clark explained how for some group actions his firm is working on, clients have created Facebook pages and “started championing us” of their own accord. Further, social media advertising allows for much more precise targeting – such as of the employees of a particular company against which a group action is being built.
“It’s about being cuter,” he said.
Exposing a firm to negative comment on social media was a concern, but participants gave examples of how clients have been turned around online, and the benefits of that spread into their networks.
As more firms focus on online marketing, the more expensive it has become for all and the fewer results were achieved, participants said.
Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers, told the roundtable how much more expensive PPC has become to generate enquiries. “It’s just squeezing the market. Lots of firms have tried to go for the full approach in terms of going after the main keywords, but they find that they run through their budgets very, very quickly because the cost per click is so high.”
The smarter firms were being much more niche with their search terms, which may deliver fewer clicks but were more likely to be people looking for specialist advice – plus the cost of the PPC was much lower.
At the same time, Tricia Bint, head of marketing at Sheffield-headquartered Graysons, said she continued to find that “the local element and local branding are very important for people”, as shown by how some firms which had embraced national branding have since gone back to their original names.
Nick Symington, business development director of York and Lincoln firm Langleys, agreed. Though his firm has national conveyancing and defendant insurance practices, for private client and commercial work, it was much more about local reputation.
“There is more of an emphasis on the local presence, particularly for private clients when it comes to agriculture matters and wills and trusts advice,” he said.
Customer relationship management and cross-selling were extremely important, said Anne Pendlebury, a partner at Huddersfield firm Eaton Smith: “We want to work with our clients at each point in their lives: doing their will, buying their house, whenever they need advice. I’m a notary as well and able to offer services as a company lawyer – it’s really great to say I can offer this service. Anybody who doesn’t think about all the services their existing clients need is throwing away money.”
But it was acknowledged that some firms spend a lot of money bringing in potential clients and then either fail to convert them at all or to make the best of them once they were on the books.
Simple tactics such as offering the children of clients a discount on the conveyancing of their first house were suggested. One firm was introducing a system that allowed staff to record cross-selling activities, which would then form part of their annual appraisals.
But while Nick Symington said “the personal touch is what will keep lawyers in business”, others questioned how long that would be the case. Dan Clark said: “The high street presence is still important now but will it be in five years’ time, when clients want instant advice and access to expertise?”
Speaking after the event, Qamar Anwar said: “One of our participants said he was about to pull his firm’s longstanding advert in the Yellow Pages, and that demonstrates how marketing has evolved. In marketing as much as other aspects of the law, the old certainties are disappearing and new ways to operate are being developed all the time.”
Andy Cullwick, head of marketing at First4Lawyers, added: “We hope that our roundtable will launch a legal marketing network that will help specialists exchange ideas and work together for the benefit of all. It was certainly the view of our roundtable marketing delegates that there is a real need for this type of network.”