Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Online Tools and Your Marketing Goals

Keeping up with technological developments on the Internet is virtually impossible for anyone that has another job to do. I’ve spent the last 10 years online and I can’t keep up . . . how can someone keep up (like an attorney) who has other subjects (like the law) to stay up-to-date on make sure they are approaching the Internet appropriately? Well . . . you can’t. But, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the opportunities that the online world can bring to building your practice.

Unfortunately, it’s very easy to become distracted by the latest fad. The media – and blogosphere – love fads. They are quite adept at over-hyping every possible development. Fads have no place in your online strategy. Rather, like every good marketing plan, you need to understand your objectives and pursue the tools that can best help you accomplish them.
Most lawyers and law firms have a very simple marketing objective: to get more revenue. That revenue can be broken down into two simple buckets. The first is getting revenue out of clients that already know you (we’ll call it “Customer Retention & Referral Marketing”). The second is getting revenue out of client that do not already know you (we’ll call it “Lead Generation”).

Customer Retention & Referral Marketing

Marketing consultants tell all companies to first focus on customer retention. I can’t remember the statistics, but it’s fairly obvious to most of us that holding on to the clients that you already have is a good idea. The next insight from the marketing consultants is the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Again, real world experience makes that well packaged common sense.
The best online tools to accomplish that are:

  • Your Website: Your website will be the first place that people that have your business card or email address turn to (or are given it by a referrer). It should communicate what your practice is all about and why it is unique.
  • Social Media: Tools like Linkedin and Facebook are great ways to stay in touch with people that you already know . . .and keep them up to date on any career moves that you have made.
  • Email Newsletters: Depending on the type of law you practice, an email newsletter can be a great way to push updates about the law or your practice to your existing clients. Email newsletters are tricky. If they are done well, they can be incredibly effective. Done poorly, they can come across as SPAM.
  • Blogs: Although blogs do not have hard and fast rules, the general idea of a blog comes from its origin – web log, or a log of activity or news. Again, blogs can be great tools for communicating news or other commentary to your existing clients.

Lead Generation/ New Client Acquisition

Some types of law lend themselves better to retention/referral marketing than others (corporate law vs. personal injury for example) and need to bring new clients into the practice. These prospective clients generally don’t know who you are, what you do or why they should call you. Turning to their friends is an option (and one frequently exercised), but there are numerous situations when that option is not the best and consumers turn to the web for an answer. For this type of marketing goal – attracting new consumers who do not know who you are – these types of tools are best.

  • Paid Search: Paid search – largely through Google – is a viable option for targeting prospects that search for keywords related to your business. Paid search is amazingly effective, but it is not cheap. There are plenty of marketing agencies that stand ready to help you spend your money, but this only adds to the expense.
  • Organic Search: Everyone loves organic search. And why not, its free!! The reality of SEO is that organic search is expensive if you want to rank for keywords that do not include your firm name. So, while this can be effective, you must have time and patience.
  • Online Directories or Lead Sources: There are many sites out there – the largest being FindLaw and Lawyers.com – that consumers turn to when they are looking for legal information or to find a lawyer. Compared to Paid and Organic Search, these sites can offer a superior ROI. The difficulty with these sites is separating the legitimate ones from the fly-by-night organizations. However, if you ask the right questions and approach the media buy correctly, this can be a fantastic source for acquiring new clients.

That’s it for now. We’ll get into more detail on all of these, but as we do, it’s important to always start with what your marketing goal is. It makes understanding where to invest your efforts a lot easier.


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