Law firms will have to adopt a more forceful marketing model if they are to survive in the post-alternative business structure (ABS) marketplace, a specialist in growing online businesses has urged.
To win legal business against ABS competitors who are already skilled retailers, lawyers will have become expert in such things as “networking, selling, social media, internet marketing, branding”, internet marketing consultants Moore Legal Technology (MLT) predict.
In a report, Generating business online, MLT argues that successful firms will have to move from a “passive marketing model to a more forceful one… The traditional model of opening an office and generating business through the golf club, old school contacts or clients wandering in through the door will no longer suffice…
“Law firms will have to embrace technology… As modern, dynamic firms engage more with technology and import expertise from other industry sectors, traditional law firms will have to embrace the internet for marketing purposes and automate those parts of their work which they can.”
Firms should accommodate new behaviours by consumers, who first attempt to solve a legal problem themselves before shopping around for someone else who might help them, MLT advised: “This is where the ‘conversation’ happens. Consumers look for peer review, advertisements, useful information, news sources, blogs and other online sources to influence their decisions. Being a part of this conversation is important – perhaps even vital – to the success of law firms post-ABS.”
An internet search for a law firm is equivalent to a telephone enquiry in the old paradigm. “If you don’t appear with useful information, advice or a means for them to actually buy from you, you aren’t answering that call.”
In place of simple websites, firms must make use of sophisticated marketing techniques, including search engine optimisation (SEO) to drive internet traffic and attract customers with content such as blogs, videos, podcasts, articles and news items – the object is to build an online brand.
Converting web traffic to purchasing of services is key, MLT said, which means having a website that is compatible not just with PCs but also the mobile phones and tablet computers that people are increasingly using when they conduct research into potential providers. Web traffic from tablets almost quadrupled in the year between the first quarters of 2011 and 2012 and having “responsive” web design can help firms “capture this nascent section of the market”.
Law firms should encourage employees to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter and increasingly Google’s network, Google+, in their personal and working life. Twitter in particular is frequently used to exchange information and views on products and services, MLT observed.
“Social media facilitates conversations and connections. In this way, Twitter and Facebook are the new golf course… Your name, your firm’s name and your brand are passed on to others who may potentially become clients.”
However, engagement with social media should be part of an overall strategy, and to avoid possible reputational damage its use by employees should be subject to a policy that defines acceptable limits.