Law firms have gotten better, a lot better, about offering content that provides useful, digestible information to readers. However, the legal field seems to always trail a few feet back in marketing innovation. While this is partly a risk management strategy, law firms need to step up their game if they want to stay in front of their target markets.
Here’s how you can shake up your online legal marketing presence before your competition beats you to it:
Make Sure You’re Mobile
Mobile technology is not a passing fad. Millennials and Gen. Z-ers expect to find what they need regardless of the device they use. Pulling up your firm’s website on a cellphone doesn’t quite cut it. You, the people you work with, and your clients should all easily find any information they search for on a site. The website should feature user-friendly elements (i.e. comfortable to read on a small or large screen) and provide readers with the same experience you offer on your full website.
In addition to website-based mobile activities, start thinking about other mobile advancements this year. Accessing documents, e-billing, court information, and other routine activities are increasingly going mobile. Focus on the security your firm needs and stop carrying boxes of paperwork to access what you need on the go.
To App or Not to App?
A few years ago, law firms were scrambling to create apps. Unfortunately, many of these apps crashed and burned because they were redundant. Nobody will download an app if they aren’t going to use it regularly or can find the information through your mobile site. Unless you’re offering a client portal through an app, ebillling, or another value-adding solution, focus on apps for your in-house needs. Third party apps offer great solutions for case management, reference sources, and day-to-day activities such as dictation.
On-demand services are disrupting every industry including health care, education, and law. Most law firms already have live chat opportunities, and they are expanding their services to include client portals with secured document sharing and other value added services. Recently, Avvo started testing an on-demand legal program with limited, fixed-fee services. The program represents an opportunity for attorneys to get their names out there or to find innovative new ways to compete with the offering.
Focusing on on-demand interactions offers several business benefits. Part of retaining a client in today’s world means being there when a client needs information. Some clients may look up information or engage with an online chat function long before they ever set up a consultation or appointment. Make sure your firm offers client-focused convenience and value. On-demand services also gives your firm an opportunity to take advantage of micro-interactions. Each time a prospect or client interacts in a positive way with your services, he or she gets closer to choosing your firm for representation.
Reviews and Referrals
Building authority in the space with a regular blog, a news section on the site, and social media interactions only goes so far. Most people understand that testimonials are handpicked for marketing purposes and may not fully trust what they read. To really engage clients, show that other people think highly of your firm. In other words, let your clients and non-competitor colleagues sell you. Encourage all clients to provide an anonymous review or to participate in surveys indicating your satisfaction rate.
In addition to tapping into your clients’ experiences, consider working your referral network online. Demonstrate this presence online and ask firms that you have a referral policy with to do the same. Recognizing your limits as a law firm and building bridges with other firms is a great way to add value to prospects who you can’t help while driving referrals to your doors. Take advantage of what you don’t do as well as what you do.
Talking Online – Focus on the Client, Not Your Peers
Attorneys definitely have a challenge when it comes to online communication. You must demonstrate authority to your clients as well as to competitive law firms. As you change your communication styles in real life, extend those changes to your writing. If you’re writing for the bar association or an industry publication, write to other attorneys. Keep all of your website, blog, and client-focused communications directed at the average lay reader.
Break down legal jargon, the court process, and relevant statutes for your audience. Doing so is not insulting your audience’s intelligence but showing real connection. Whether your writing is directed at everyday folks or Fortune 500 CEOs, focusing on straightforward communication will make you stand out.
Email and Engaging the Client
Do you ever have trouble with emails because your clients not sure about the appropriate naming conventions? Your name is Robert J. Smith, but you go by Bob. Your client or prospect may not know how to address an email, particularly if he or she uses multiple devices. Instead of using just one email convention, consider setting up a few different naming conventions that direct mail to your primary inbox.
Maintaining a regular blog is a great start, but it’s only one type of content. Add more to your toolbox than blogs, LinkedIn articles, and industry publications. Try partnering with organizations in the community to do a legal question and answer segment. For example, if you handle DUI defense, consider partnering with the Sheriff’s department to give two different perspectives on avoiding a DUI, what to do if you’re pulled over, and the role of law enforcement and an attorney.
Think about infographics, videos, and short form content, too. Give yourself a break from writing! People want to read small, succinct bits of information that are helpful, stand out, and are easy to digest. Well branded content that answers a question, provides insight, and is interesting to read will raise awareness in the minds of your prospects.
Just Keep Swimming
As a small to mid-sized firm attorney or support staff, you may wear many hats. Constantly innovating while maintaining daily tasks may seem difficult, to say the least. Consider outsourcing some work when you can, and keep making small steps towards an increased digital presence. One thing is certain – the digital world is not going to slow down and wait for you to catch up.
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