Law firm marketing has gone through tremendous changes in the last ten years.
In addition to television, radio, and billboards, the internet has become an integral part of the buyer’s journey of legal clients.
Whether through digital or traditional media, law firm marketing can be the key to transforming a legal practice and the careers of its partners. This guide will help you understand what goes into successful law firm marketing, whether you are looking into marketing a bankruptcy lawyer needing a steady stream of new clients or a law firm serving other businesses.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to law firm marketing. One must consider how clients tend to find representation when hiring a lawyer in a given area of law. While a homeowner wishing to stay in their home may turn to Google when looking for a bankruptcy lawyer, a real estate developer is less likely to find representation by searching for “real estate lawyer near me.”
That said, almost any law firm has channels it can use to market itself online.
It’s all just a matter of tailoring the law firm’s marketing strategy to the clients it serves and the realities of the market the law firm is competing in.
How to Market a Law Firm in 2020
Law firm marketing can include many different activities, including:
- Branding campaigns through television
- Having and maintaining a website
- Content marketing through social media and blogging
- Speaking at CLE events
- Running webinars/getting people to sign up for them with Facebook or YouTube ads
- Managing an email list and email marketing
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Paid search (otherwise known as PPC advertising)
- Old-fashioned networking
Ultimately, the success of your law firm’s marketing efforts will depend on how well you craft your marketing mix and how well you execute it. Pick the right marketing channels and you’ll enjoy a steady stream of new clients only if you execute effectively.
Crafting a Law Firm Marketing Strategy
A law firm marketing strategy always starts with the client you serve. You need to understand your client’s preferences and buyer’s journey.
- How does this client typically find representation? Are there typical media that they turn to when looking for legal services like yours? Do they search on Google or do they just “ask around?” Do they wait to hear a jingle on the radio and call the number in the ad? (Don’t laugh, this strategy works with some demographics).
- What are the criteria they use to choose a law firm? What are they looking for in a law firm? What are the typical objections?
- Are there opportunities to get in front of your clients before they even explicitly look for a lawyer? Are there legal issues you can write about that only your potential clients would research?
- Are there opportunities to niche down and position your law firm as one that serves a specific type of client? Some examples could be:
- A law firm focused entirely on representing clients with business continuity insurance claims
- A personal injury firm that caters to the African-American community in a major city
- A workers’ comp lawyer that focuses on representing healthcare workers
There are many tools and techniques available answering these questions, all of which I will go into more detail about later in this article.
Once you understand your client’s buyer’s journey, you’ll be able to identify better the best way to deliver your messaging to them, be it online, radio, billboards, networking, thought leadership, or some combination of all of the above.
Branding Your Law Firm
When non-marketers think of branding, they think of logos. This is a very narrow view of branding. While a logo can be an essential part of branding a law firm, it is not synonymous with it.
Effective branding creates a mental association between the law firm and an idea or type of law practice.
Auto manufacturers do a great job of this:
- Volvo = Safety
- BMW = Performance
- Ford Trucks = Reliability
This may mean that through mass media advertising and a catchy slogan, a law firm may become synonymous with workers’ compensation in a specific city—or even better, it can become synonymous with an area of law and an adjective.
It could mean that a sole practitioner has made a name for herself among other attorneys as the go-to expert in a niche area of law, generating a steady stream of referral work from attorneys focused on a related area of law. It could mean that a law firm becomes synonymous with auto accidents. It could mean that it becomes associated with serving Spanish-speaking personal injury victims in a specific city.
Effective law firm marketing consciously chooses the mental associations it wants its target clients to have with a law firm and crafts its messaging accordingly. The law firm’s website, logo, business cards, and all other materials all aim to support this messaging.
Your Law Firm’s Website
Your website is the hub of all your marketing activities. At one point or another, it’s highly likely that a potential client or attorney referral will visit your website.
Often, it will be the first impression the visitor has about your firm.
The old saying “you only have one chance to make a first impression” comes to mind, but the impression your website leaves is only part of the equation.
The messaging is arguably the most crucial aspect of your law firm’s website.
The aesthetics of your website play a role in delivering this message, but “a beautiful website” is not the goal—sending a clear message about the firm is the goal.
With the cost of law firm websites continuing to go down and down, it has never been so easy to get a world-class website without having to spend a fortune.
Communicate Clearly Your Areas of Practice
Do not make people dig around to figure out what areas of law you practice. Whenever possible, visitors should be able to clearly understand what you do and who you represent without scrolling or hover over navigation items.
It is vital to cover all of your bases; each area of practice should have its dedicated page on your website. The page should be reachable through the navigation, as well as boxes on the home page.
Be sure to have your developer create a sticky header; the navigation shouldn’t disappear when visitors scroll down the page. This will ensure visitors can get to your areas of practice pages most easily.
Communicate Your Key Differentiators
It is not enough to say “I’m a workers’ compensation lawyer.”
Express to the visitor why they should choose your law firm.
Are you the most experienced in your area? Do you have a track record of obtaining large settlements? Have you been covered in the press? What makes you unique?
Your website cannot be shy about convincing your visitors that you are the law firm they need to contact.
Have Clear, Appropriate Calls to Action
A personal injury law firm website should have the “call us now!” buttons and forms all over the website, including a phone number in the header.
Below is an example of a law firm website we did for a young catastrophic personal injury attorney in Philadelphia:
You do not have to dig around to contact him.
At the same time, overdoing this can come across as “cheap” or “tacky” for some law firms. Consider White and Williams, a law firm that mainly represents corporations:
Inserting “call us now!!!” all over the website would undermine its credibility. Ultimately, it is essential to keep in mind the visitor and employ the most appropriate calls to action given the target client.
Keep In Mind Attorney Ethics in Your Website Messaging
Be careful to avoid attorney ethics violations in your website messaging. While usually only the most egregious cases of ethics violations on attorney websites result in any attention from the bar, if you are accused of any other ethics violations, there’s a good chance your website will be checked for problems.
If you can’t prove it, you can’t claim it. The kind of puffery allowed in other industries is not permitted in your law firm’s ads. Unless you can demonstrate that you are the best personal injury lawyer in your market, you can’t claim it.
You are forbidden from comparing your firm to others. While you may be tempted to state that “no one will fight harder for you” or make a similar statement, you may find yourself in hot water with the ethics board.
Do not imply that you will get a client similar results to your past settlements. While it is ok for you to list some of your past settlements, you should add a disclaimer that explains that just because you have gotten such settlements in the past doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to get them for the prospect.
Some states require that you register your website and advertisements with the state. Look into whether this is the case in your state.
Online Advertising: SEO vs. PPC vs. Facebook vs. Attorney Directories
These four channels are the main ways a law firm can advertise online. Each has its merits and drawbacks.
- SEO – When done well, SEO can theoretically last forever. Spending money on your law firm’s SEO is an investment that will pay dividends for years to come once it starts working. Unlike every other advertising channel, it doesn’t disappear the second you spend on it.
- PPC – Pay-per-click advertising can get client leads for you immediately. The downside to it is that once you’ve gotten the click, your advertising dollar is spent, unlike with SEO. As soon as you stop spending on PPC, your leads will dry up.
- Facebook – Social media works well for retargeting visitors to your website (you know, “following them around” after they’ve visited your website). It can also work well for law firms that are willing to dedicate the resources to create a community focused on the clients they serve. For example, a law firm that caters to digital marketing agencies could potentially drive up a lot of business by creating and moderating a Facebook dedicated to helping digital agency owners better manage their companies.
- Attorney Directories – In a way, attorney directories such as Findlaw are a type of SEO. These directories occupy many of the top results on Google for law firms in your market. Paying for preferred placement on them may result in a positive return on ad spend (ROAS). Look into what directories are ranking for the top spots in the markets where you compete.
SEO Works For Most Law Firms
It’s no secret that people are turning to Google more and more each year to find an attorney. Just take a look at the Google Trends data for “lawyer near me:”
Search engine optimization (SEO) can increase the likelihood of being the law firm these visitors find when they’re researching their specific legal issues or when they explicitly look for an attorney.
What Is SEO?
SEO is the process of increasing the visibility of a website on search engines such as Google and Bing. This is achieved by ensuring that the website is optimized to be easily crawled and indexed by search engines, ensuring that the website has content aligned with the topics and keywords people are searching for, and increasing the “trustworthiness” of the website through acquiring links from other websites.
If you’d like to read an article that goes into more detail about SEO, I wrote an article on SEO for divorce lawyers that is currently ranked as a top result on Google. It dives into the nitty-gritty of SEO for lawyers in the context of SEO for family law.
Law Firm Blogging and How it Helps SEO
Simply writing lots of articles will not help your SEO, contrary to what many believe. The goal of writing blog content for your website is to have content relevant to the questions and problems people have, demonstrate that you possess the expertise to help them, and get in front of them early in the process of searching for a solution to a legal problem.
Let’s consider the following scenario:
Joe is a cashier in a department store in Cherry Hill, NJ. He was on his way to Wawa to pick up lunch for himself. As he was leaving, he asked everyone in the break room if they wanted him to pick something up for them and his boss asked if he could pick up a bottle of water. On his way there, he was seriously injured and will be out of work for several months. To make matters worse, he has been denied workers comp because he was injured while he was on break.
He googles “can you get workers comp in NJ if you were on a break” and clicks on the first result:
After reading the article, he realizes that his workers’ comp claim denial falls into a gray area because he was on break, but picking something up for his boss. He sees the phone number for the office and gives Phil a call.
Instead of battling it out for “workers’ comp lawyer,” Phil got a lead from merely answering a question that enough people were searching for, but that wasn’t super competitive. Usually, you need an experienced SEO content strategist to find these topics, though we have done posts that explain some basics of how to do keyword research yourself.
In addition to knowing how to find the right keywords to target in your content planning, it’s essential to understand how to maximize the likelihood of ranking for the keywords you target. Google leverages a type of artificial intelligence (AI) known as natural language processing (NLP) to interpret the quality of the content you write on your blog and determine the author’s level of expertise.
In other words, be thorough when you write a blog post. Google will be more likely to rank your content highly if it determines you’ve covered the topic thoroughly.
Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC) for Lawyers
PPC advertising on the Google Ads platform will get the phone ringing faster than any marketing channel you’ll find. Unlike traditional advertising, which takes years to build a brand, and SEO can take months or even years to bring in cases, PPC works immediately.
The key is to work with a high quality PPC management service.
With PPC, also referred to as paid search, you bid on keywords and pay only when people click on them.
When someone types in a search such as “I need a workers comp lawyer,” your result is one of the first things they will see:
Lawyers have learned that PPC works like a charm—so they’ve bid up the costs of clicks quite a bit. As a result, some areas of law can have a cost per click of just a few dollars, while others can have clicks that cost hundreds of dollars (the most expensive click I’ve ever seen was $400+)
Rest assured that your colleagues are working with agencies that know what they’re doing. If a click costs $75, it’s almost certainly delivering a return on ad spend that makes it worth that much.
Paid search is not the only way you can advertise on the Google Ads platform.
Display Advertising for Law Firms
Display ads, or banner ads, are the oldest type of online advertising. My experience has been that they don’t perform particularly well when delivered to cold traffic, but can be extremely effective when used for retargeting.
Retargeting is the practice of delivering video ads and display ads to people that have previously engaged with your ads or visited your website.
Retargeting visitors to your website can help budget them towards contacting your firm if they haven’t done so already. People don’t fill out forms or call for all kinds of reasons; your retargeting display ads may remind them that they need to.
Facebook Ads for Lawyers
While Facebook ads can be incredibly effective in converting users that match their targeting abilities, it cannot target users who are currently looking for your presentation.
For this reason, Facebook ads are much like display ads in that they are best leveraged to retarget visitors and that have already interacted with your website or landing pages.
In other words, someone may have come to a specific page on your website through organic search or a paid ad, but they did not contact you. Through retargeting, you can get back in front of these visitors to convince them to take some action. Facebook has several useful options that can be leveraged while retargeting.
Facebook messenger ads can allow the user to chat with someone from your office, ask any questions they may have, and potentially even allow them to schedule a consultation.
Facebook ads also allow for lead forms to be shared through paid advertisements. This would allow you to collect a retargeted scissors contact information should hear she asked to do so. This makes collecting information easy for the user since everything would be pre-filled with Facebook’s information.
A note about Facebook targeting call if you get creative with your ad targeting, you may be able to get in front of prospective clients if you practice specific areas of law. For example, someone who has recently become a parent can be targeted, which could be an attractive audience for an estate attorney.
Offline Advertising for Lawyers
Law firm marketing does not necessarily need to be done exclusively online. However, it is quite different from digital marketing in that it is typically focused on brand building and not direct response.
In other words, a lawyer who puts up dozens of billboards in a city for years could create awareness of his practice and an association between his name and a specific area of law. What is highly unlikely to happen is that this lawyer will put up a billboard, large numbers of people see it for the first time, and immediately call.
In the conversations I’ve had with attorneys that have done extensive amounts of mass media advertising, they’ve shared that it typically takes months, if not years, to start seeing a return on their offline advertising spend. This is quite different from PPC advertising, which can usually drive leads almost immediately.
This is not to say that offline advertising doesn’t work. If you are marketing to the general public, absolutely can work if done right.
The difference is that it takes time, and it is imperative that you get your messaging and positioning right. One also must approach it as a long-term strategy and not a short term solution.
One exception we have seen has been in Spanish-speaking and African-American radio. Several personal injury firms have had tremendous success driving leads through radio ads on radio stations that cater to these audiences.
Marketing Fundamentals Lead to Success
Ultimately, what are you advertise online, offline, or both, the key to successful law firm marketing is sticking to fundamentals.
If you decide to leverage a direct response strategy, you’ll likely be looking at some sort of combination of PPC advertising and Facebook ads, while possibly doing direct mail for some areas of law.
If you decide to leverage a branding strategy, you’ll likely be focused on offline advertising such as radio, billboards, and television.
The key is to understand what each medium excels at and crafting a strategy accordingly. With that knowledge, you can meet with media buyers or a law firm marketing agency that can help execute your strategy.