Many of our clients, particularly the solo practitioners and smaller firms, express frustration at having so many different ways to spend time and money on their business marketing efforts. Large law firms often have entire departments and teams dedicated solely to marketing and public relations, or they have the financial resources to hire consultants to handle such matters with very little oversight. Smaller firms do not have this luxury and must decide whether it is more important to spend time writing blog posts or posting on Facebook, tweeting or adding website content, purchasing pay-per-click campaigns or investing in premium placements in lawyer directories.
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer for these smaller firms, here are some observations that may help you reach a decision.
1. Nearly all prospective clients will visit your website before deciding whether to call you or someone else.
Whether someone finds you on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else on the Internet, they will almost certainly check out your website before they decide whether to contact you. With that in mind, you will want your primary focus to be on the quality of your website. No matter how many times per day you tweet or post on Facebook, if your website is lackluster, then you may still be losing potential clients.
To ensure that your website is up to snuff, ask yourself the following questions: Would a visitor to my website easily find (A) whether I can help them with their particular issue and my qualifications for doing so, (B) whether I practice where they live or where they need representation, and (C) how they can reach me? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you have some work to do.
The first question is possibly the trickiest. If you practice personal injury law and would accept as a client someone who was injured due to medical malpractice, be sure that you have a full page on medical malpractice on your website. Listing it as one of many practice areas you handle is not sufficient; the prospective client might not read that far into your site before looking elsewhere.
Similarly, as to the second question, if you practice family law in Southern California but are licensed in Nevada and Arizona as well, you want to make it clear to prospective clients that if they have, say, a custody dispute with an ex-spouse in one of those states, then you may be better prepared to help them than another attorney who practices only in one state. You should specifically address prospective clients in every location where you hope to get (or anticipate getting) clients.
Example: A client, we will call them Firm X, practices immigration law. Because immigration is an area of federal law, the client has offices in multiple states and is looking for clients nationwide, as well as from abroad. Firm X originally did not target any particular state, for fear of alienating prospective clients in other states. As a result, their website did not perform well in any state. When they followed our suggestion and added pages targeted at specific states (while mentioning that their practice is global), their rankings improved and they started getting contacts from the states they targeted, as well as from other states.
Finally, being reachable is not just about having a prominent contact form. Do you provide a 24-hour phone service? Do you reply promptly to inquiries? Free consultations? Travel to remote clients? A prospective client should be able to easily find answers to all of these questions on your website.
2. Spend a few minutes distributing any content you write across your social networks.
When you post a new piece of substantive content (e.g., a blog post or website page), take a few minutes to share it on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks. It takes very little time (especially compared to writing the content) to do this, and the returns on that time can be huge. All it takes is one influential person to notice your tweet/post and retweet/repost it to others for you to benefit from a huge increase in recognition and traffic to your website or blog.
A prospective client who doesn’t otherwise know about your blog might see a tweet about a blog post you wrote that he finds interesting and follow the link to your blog, and subsequently to your website. Thus, even if you don’t have the time or resources to post regular social media updates, you should still use these networks to distribute the content you have written and drive your social connections to your website and blog.
3. Incorporate the demands of marketing into your practice routine.
Many attorneys feel that marketing is peripheral to their practice. That could not be further from the truth. While the substance of your practice is certainly the most important thing that you do, getting new clients is crucial to your continuing business. These days, even if you spend several days a month schmoozing and meeting people and getting your name out there, inevitably your prospective clients will look for your website. Impress them, or potentially lose them.
We have found that attorneys who dedicate even one hour per week to writing a high-quality blog post—whether about a recent judicial decision (or even a not-so-recent one), a legislative development in their state, or even an interesting legal issue in the news—can quickly build a strong presence on the Internet, via their legal blog, as reliable and knowledgeable source of information in their practice area. Plus, once you have written a piece of content, it lasts forever. It’s hard to beat that kind of value. One hour per week is all it takes.