To survive and thrive in this competitive economy, your firm needs a well-designed and well-executed marketing plan. An effective marketing plan will raise your profile, establish your reputation, and generate leads that can be turned into new clients. Most attorneys understand the need for a strategic marketing plan, but few have the time or expertise to implement one.
The rise of the Internet, Google search, social media and mobile phones have changed the way attorneys reach and engage their clients. Traditional tactics such as yellow page ads and face-to-face networking used to drive prospects. Now people expect real-time access to information about your firm on their phones and make decisions by reading reviews – the online equivalent of word of mouth. This means that attorneys need to ensure that their message is well crafted and that it can be found on the web easily.
Because the stakes are so high, more attorneys than ever before are outsourcing marketing to firms of all sizes and abilities. Many of my clients find us after a disappointing experience with FindLaw or Martindale-Hubbell. They are looking for alternatives to the big firms’ high prices, poor customer service, and lackluster results.
How do you know whether a marketing firm will work out for you? There are four main things you should look at when hiring your marketing firm: size, location, focus and expertise.
Big vs. Small
Marketing firms come in all sizes, from solo practitioners to huge global agencies. The main difference between a small firm and a big one is flexibility. The dynamics of the Internet are constantly changing. A big firm such as FindLaw that has tens of thousands of clients simply cannot react to changes quickly. FindLaw is so big that changing tactics is like altering course for a massive cruise ship. You are on board with the many thousands of others waiting your turn to get the attention you need. To take advantage of new opportunities, or avoid a Google penalty, a marketing firm needs to be agile and flexible.
For example, in April 2015, Google changed its algorithm to penalize websites that were not mobile friendly. It announced the change well in advance and gave people plenty of time to prepare. Yet many people were surprised to find their mobile rankings changing because their marketing firm hadn’t made the necessary adjustments. Look for a firm that’s lean and mean. A smaller firm will be more nimble and able to accommodate your needs better.
Local vs. Remote
Marketing firms can be found next door, in the next state or across the country. Some think that because so much business is conducted online and via email these days that it doesn’t matter where your firm is located. But most attorneys’ business actually comes from within a twenty-mile radius. Having a local firm is a huge advantage.
This is because you need localized Internet marketing. This is local marketing done by people who know the area, the resources that are available locally, and what works and what doesn’t. For example, local news is a great source of content that you can write about on your blog. But it will be off the radar of a company that’s in Minnesota or California.
The other advantage of a local firm is that you’ll be working with someone who can meet with you face to face. Attorneys want to be treated the way they treat their clients. You invite them in, meet face to face, and grow a long-term relationship. A marketing firm is more invested in your success when they can meet you and get to know you. And your relationship is better than when you call into a call center and speak with someone you’ve never met.
Legal Clients vs. All Businesses
But just because a firm is local doesn’t mean it’s the right fit. A local marketer may work with clients from all industries — insurance agent, dentist, attorney, architect, restaurateur – and not just attorneys. Each industry has its own marketing channels, trade outlets, advertising, and media. In the legal community alone there are many different marketing options and different professional rules and regulations marketers need to know. Shifting gears to another industry means getting up to speed on its unique outlets, opportunities, and regulations. It takes time to get to know a new field. Look for a niche firm that specializes in legal marketing and is up on current trends for your practice area as well as the rules and regulations of the legal community.
Integrated vs. Siloed Approach
The last area you need to look at is a firm’s ability to put together a comprehensive marketing plan customized for your goals. A comprehensive marketing plan looks at all the available tactics that are right for your firm and how they will work together to generate results. This includes your website, paid online advertising, social media, blogs, videos, and all the other digital assets that create your online presence. The most successful marketing program has lots of different things working for you in an integrated way.
Many FindLaw clients pay $25+k a year for marketing without a comprehensive marketing plan. They are forced to work within FindLaw’s limited product family and miss out on many online channels that could be very successful for them. For example, FindLaw doesn’t offer paid advertising on Google, Yahoo or Bing; assist with reputation management or reviews; or actively manage or monitor any social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
Effective marketing pulls all the pieces together so that you can see what’s working and what’s not. If you want to leverage all the opportunities you can, you need a firm that can manage all the various online marketing channels for you.
Hiring a marketing firm is a cost-effective way to improve quality, consistency, and results. If you’ve made the decision to outsource your marketing, the next step is finding one that fits your firm’s goals, budget and values. Before you hire someone, take a look at size, location, focus and expertise to find the right fit for you.
To find out more about alternatives to FindLaw, read “5 Things To Consider When Creating Your FindLaw Exit Plan”.
To find out more about comprehensive online marketing, contact us at Bardorf Legal Marketing.