I have been working with law firms on their marketing strategies and initiatives for the last four years and I see some common mistakes that law firms make with their brand building and marketing. I hosted a webinar along with Clarissa Rayward on this topic in June 2020 and I thought it would be helpful to compile the key points. Take a look at the top five mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Push Marketing
What’s push marketing? A push marketing strategy is where businesses try to ‘push’ or get their offerings out in front of an audience. Think of Coca Cola as an example of push marketing, where it strategically uses trade promotions to get retailers to stock it’s products (e.g. offering Coke fridges and signage to takeaway shops). You’ll often see product-based businesses using push marketing strategies and that’s due to their business model. It requires they sell high volumes of product with a high frequency of sales being the core objective. When you sell more high-end services as law firms do, the decision making process for potential clients is vastly different to that of a low-cost product.
A common example of push marketing that we see in the law firm marketing space is billboard advertising. Many times firms see other successful firms appearing on billboards and believe that if they invest in billboard space they will attract more business. What those businesses are doing is fine, although it is usually only one part of a larger marketing strategy. We can see the billboard advertising but it’s what we can’t see that is interesting. When a firm that uses billboards is experiencing success with their marketing, it very rarely is solely due to the billboard, it’s usually only one of many other marketing initiatives that are in play. So, avoid falling into the trap of pouring all of your marketing budget into something like radio ads or billboard advertising only. It might bring you a short burst of new clients but unless you have the budget to continue advertising in this way, the leads will dry up and you can be caught in a cycle of spending money with very little long-term impact.
2. High Interest Marketing
Having a presence on social media is important in today’s marketing landscape however very few law firms (and businesses generally) do it well. Often because people enjoy being on social media themselves in their personal lives, this type of marketing is highly attractive and familiar to them. Many times partners of firms know that they can benefit from a social media presence and seek insights from people within the firm that use the platforms. They get a picture about how a platform works and look to determine whether it is worth pursuing. The first mistake that is made comes when social media is run by someone within a firm, as it’s often inconsistently delivered. Usually because that person has more pressing work to do in their role, it regularly ends up on the bottom of the to-do list. It’s also seen as an exciting opportunity for your junior staff so while you won’t have any lack of interest for someone to ‘do the social media stuff’, it’s often a fruitless exercise.
Why is that the case? This is because people within your firm look at the material they post to these platforms with a different lens to a professional that develops a strategy designed to meet business objectives. Social media posting is only one part of social media too so while your efforts might feel like it’s doing some brand awareness work, it regularly fails to get cut-through with the key segments of the market that you wish to attract. Social media is very appealing but it’s only worthwhile if you know what you’re doing with it. You need a long term strategy that is well executed and focused on reach versus solely on engagement.
3. Absence of Evidence
When I speak with the Directors of law firms about how they publicly demonstrate the quality of their lawyers and their work to the public, they usually think of testimonials and awards. Testimonials and awards do deliver a sense of trust and credibility but the missing piece for prospective clients is what puts them at the top of the list when they are in the decision-making phase. When people are looking for the right person or firm to provide advice or represent them, they do some online research. Even if a trusted source has recommended your firm, they will usually take a look at your site to do some degree of research to validate the opinion or their perception.
Oftentimes when firms write content (the wording) for their website, there is not a great degree of differentiation from other firms. If you were to remove the logo, branding, colours and images from a website, often the text is very similar in nature. What’s missing is the storytelling element that helps prove that a lawyer and a firm is going to be the best choice for them.
When done well, this can add an incredible amount of credibility to a firm. It is what we call ‘developing rapport at a distance’. So many firms develop rapport in person, across a desk or over the phone or in an online meeting, one client at a time. So when they are on your website researching you and your services, determining if it’s your firm they will reach out to, the content and how it resonates with them becomes the tipping point for your potential client.
But let’s say that a law firm’s site does do a great job of demonstrating authority, expertise and credibility in their field of law, there is another area that often misses the mark…
4. Articles written by lawyers
While lawyers are perfectly capable of writing articles, usually they are written with language that is better suited for professional dialogue with colleagues.
We research and keep up to date with best practices in search engine optimisation (SEO) and marketing, and as part of our ongoing analysis, we see that blog articles are lacklustre on a few levels. One of these is that the articles usually miss the mark when it comes to connecting with the intended audience. If, for example, you have articles that include references to a section of an Act, that are written for your colleagues in law, then that’s not a problem. However, if there are articles that include references to sections of an Act that are intended for your target market, then it’s not relevant and it doesn’t assist you from a prospect rapport-building perspective. This is one of a few errors law firms make in their blog article writing that isn’t immediately obvious. You know that it’s important to write articles so it gets done, but it does not cover all of the elements that truly make it connect with potential clients. Which leads us to the final mistake…
5. Unoptimised content
There are particular search terms (or phrases) that people type into Google when they are looking for something specific. It may be a business name, product or if they may be looking for answers to questions. The use of these search terms in your website content and blog articles can help your firm become more easily discovered online, as opposed to only being discovered if people were to come directly to your website. While it works hand in hand with creating articles that connect well with the intended audience, this is an area that can change over time. It requires ongoing analysis and strategy to ensure that the search terms are still relevant and that you are creating content that connects with the type of people you are looking to attract as clients.
Avoid these mistakes
So instead of push marketing, consider a strategy that will have you developing rapport and credibility at a distance while also adding to your long-term visibility.
Instead of approaching social media as something for one of your team members who is ‘good on the socials’; engage a strategist who will work with you to develop a broader strategy and as such, determine whether you should give any resources to particular platforms at all.
Instead of having web content that is similar to your competitors; engage specialists who can communicate and connect with your prospective clients wherever they are consuming information about you – on your website, through the blog articles you publish or via your social media.
And instead of having people within your firm write articles that don’t have the dual benefit of being found when a prospect searches on Google; engage a team that specialises in optimising these touchpoints with your potential clients in mind, to motivate them to select your firm over your competitors.
What we see in our work is that the majority of law firms aren’t doing any of this particularly well right now, so the opportunity to optimise is something you should seriously consider. If you would like your firm to have a competitive advantage on these fronts, then I invite you to join me for an initial discovery call to see what is possible for your firm when you work with us. Book a time here.