If you are feeling like you are not seeing results from your current offline marketing efforts, it’s time to go online. Before jumping into the tactics, you need a digital marketing plan. A realistic and sustainable one given the resources and time you have available.
The steps below provide a guide for lawyers ready to get more out of their marketing efforts by attracting, engaging, and building relationships with potential clients through their online presence.
Step One: Assess Where you are spending your time and money.
Outline where you are spending your time and money. Using the Internet to market your practice requires a reallocation of time and money. By identifying the ineffective drains on your valuable resources, you’ll find the resources you need to get going online. At the bottom of this post, there is a link to download a resource that will help you assess your current marketing efforts.
Step Two: Take stock of your marketing assets.
Organize and inventory all of your marketing collateral, online profiles, and other important files. These may include:
- Your contact list
- Your content
- Marketing collateral (brochures, photography, logoed merchandise, etc.)
Step Three: Make quick fixes to your online profiles and monitor your reputation.
Do a quick Google search of “your name + attorney”, or “your name + your city”. (Ginny Allen attorney, Ginny Allen Raleigh NC) Make sure that all search results are optimized to make a good first impression. The search results page will most likely include your Avvo profile (whether you’ve claimed it or not) and your LinkedIn profile (if you have one). These are important profiles to pay attention to.
Set up a Google alert for your name, and for your firm name. You’ll receive an email notification if and when you’re mentioned online.
Step Four: Focus Your Marketing Focus.
Commit to marketing one specific area of your practice, to one specific audience, in 2017. Many attorneys grow frustrated with their marketing because they are trying to reach too many types of potential clients, with too many services. Here are ideas to consider:
Look at the profitability of past clients. Is there a trend? Is there a client that would love to work with again? Consider how you can attract and engage with similarly situated clients.
What are the issues that are growing with your current client base? For instance, if you are an employment law attorney, consider focusing on working with businesses who need “Bring Your Own Device” policies for employees who have confidential client information on their personal phones.
Experience and Interests
Write out the experiences and interests you have outside of the law. Maybe you put yourself through school by working in the restaurant industry – focus your business law practice on helping restaurateurs. Perhaps you have a family member with special needs and could focus your estate planning practice on helping families plan for the care of their own family members with special needs.
There are 1.3 million attorneys in the US. It’s imperative you share your story in a memorable and authentic way to connect with potential clients online.
Step Five: Understand Your Audience.
Once you’ve identified your area of focus and the type of client you want to serve, you’ll want to dig into the details to better understand them. This will have a big impact on your marketing efforts.
- What are your clients’ challenges?
- What are their goals?
- What do they read regularly? (online and print)
- What types of content do they prefer? (short blog posts, longer white papers, video)
- Are they active on social media? If so, which platform? (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
Harvard Business Review’s recent September 2016 issue is packed with information on the importance of understanding your clients and providing value. The following articles are worth a look:
- “The Elements of Value“ by Eric Almquist, John Senior, and Nicholas Bloch
- “Know Your Customers’ ‘Jobs to Be Done’” by Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David S. Duncan
Side Note: While you are there, you may want to check out “Putting Products into Services: A revenue-growth playbook for consultants and law firms.“
Your Secondary Audience
You will also want to identify those who can influence your target client. These can include trade associations, conference planners, reporters, bloggers, other professionals and service providers.
Step Six: Build Your Content Development System.
“Content marketing is the only marketing left.” Seth Godin
The Internet is the means to reach your target client, and your content drives engagement while also building your authority as a subject matter expert. You’ll need content to engage your target client at each stage of the buying process.
Create Your Baseline Content
Before investing in outreach activities to your target client, develop the following content.
- Refresh your bio page on your website with messaging that resonates with your target client.
- Develop 1 or 2 case studies that show how you have helped similarly situated clients in the past. Tell the story of how you helped: describe their problem, the solution you provided, and the outcome and value your client received as a result.
- Ask for testimonials. Identify past clients or other attorneys or professionals with whom you’ve worked for testimonials about their work with you.
- 5-10 FAQ blog posts: Write answers to the top questions you get from potential clients. Put them on your website, or as posts on your LinkedIn page.
Develop and Document Your Publishing Schedule
Consistently creating valuable content for your target audience builds trust and credibility, offers prospective clients a way to engage with you even if they are not ready to hire you, and improves your chances of being found via Google.
Decide on a manageable goal to get started with content creation in 2017. Even if it is one long post (1500-2000 words) each month, commit to making it happen. My content development efforts are most likely to stay on track when I schedule time on my calendar, one or two days a week, to write when I first sit down at my computer.
Use a simple editorial calendar to plan your posts. This could be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet with columns for the post title, publish date, first draft due date, and keywords you will use for the post.
- Write your first draft. Just write, don’t edit as you go.
- Edit for consumption on the web. Writing for the web is much different than writing for a judge. Think short sentences and bulleted lists. Headings and subheadings are good as well. Identify reputable sources to link to in support of your ideas, or link to articles (yours or others) that provide an engaged reader with the opportunity to learn more. If you don’t have someone who can help with editing, consider using a program like Hemingway, Grammarly, or WordRake to help.
- Optimize for SEO. Use keywords in your titles and the first 100 words of your post. Optimize your images and write enticing meta descriptions to encourage readers to click on from the search engine results page. If you upload your own posts on your WordPress website, consider using the WordPress plugin Yoast to help with SEO.
Step Seven: Create Your Channel Plan.
There are hundreds of channels available to reach potential clients. Focus on one to start with, and make that one be the place where your target client is hanging out. LinkedIn is a great place to start if you are targeting business clients, and Facebook is good if you are targeting consumers. Make sure you understand the ethics rules that apply to LinkedIn.
Complete Your Profile
Make sure your profile is complete. For LinkedIn, this means an engaging headline, a professional head shot, and a well-written summary of who you are and how you help your clients. Add presentations, awards, and recommendations from those that you’ve worked with.
Share Your Educational Content
As you post to your blog, share your posts on social media by providing a snippet of the article on the channel, with a link back to the full post on your site to drive traffic.
Read, Like and Comment on Other’s Content
Make a list of 5-10 thought leaders in your field or individuals that you’d like to partner or do business with. Share, like, and comment on their articles and posts.
Identify Third Party Sites
Go back to your answers for your target client. Research the professional associations with which they are involved, and the blogs they read. Is there an opportunity to publish on those sites? Many associations have blogs and are in need of content. Reach out to their staff with an offer to help and 2-3 article ideas that may be of interest to their readership.
Supplement with Content Curation
Increase your visibility on your preferred channel with content curation. Content curation involves regularly reading and sharing articles written by others that would be of interest to your target client. You can use apps like Feedly and Flipboard to find these articles, Pocket to save articles that you don’t have time to read or share immediately, and Buffer to schedule posts on your social media profiles.
Focus on One Offline Channel
Your initial assessment of where you are spending your time and money may likely show you that you are devoting your valuable time to networking efforts that aren’t providing you with any return. One big area of improved efficiency for lawyers is the time they are spending with other lawyers. Professional development and commitment to serving our profession are important pursuits – just make sure you aren’t spending all your time out of the office with other lawyers.
Identify one group that will regularly put you in front of your target client, or those who can likely refer you to your target client. In addition to joining that group, get involved on a committee or in a leadership role. Schedule coffee meetings with those you meet at networking events. Find out if they have a blog or newsletter for their membership and offer to write an article.
Step Eight: Design Your Lead Generation System.
Publishing content is not enough. Include a call-to-action (CTA) for each of your posts. A CTA invites readers to take a specific next step after reading your post. This may include downloading a helpful checklist, an invitation to schedule a free 20 or 30-minute consultation, or register for an event or webinar you are hosting. In exchange, they will provide their email address, which gives you permission to add them to your email list and continue to follow up with them with future articles and resources.
Step Nine: Measure, Iterate and Repeat.
Set up Google Analytics on your site if you haven’t already. Even if you have no plans to review analytics, it’s important to start collecting the data. Ideally, you’ll schedule an appointment on your calendar to review your analytics at least every 90 days.
Start small by understanding which of your social posts got the most shares and likes. Consider re-sharing them via social with a different headline. Make note of the day of the week and times of day that garner the most engagement. Share more during those times. If the post was an article you curated, consider writing your own post on the topic.
Ideally, you’ll measure the traffic to your site, the pages that people are visiting most, how long they are spending on your site, which of your content offers are garnering the most conversions, and which of your follow up emails lead to new opportunities.
Don’t let analytics overwhelm stop you from regularly publishing content. If you are just starting out, sticking to your content calendar and regularly publishing content is a huge achievement, and an important metric to measure.
Where to Start?
If you are ready to get started, I’ve developed a resource that can help. My Marketing Activity Assessment and Spreadsheet will help you identify where you are currently spending your marketing time and money. Effectively marketing your practice online usually requires attorneys to reallocate of both of these resources. Click the link below to download both resources.
Use these guides to identify inefficiencies in your current marketing plan to open up time and money to incorporate more online marketing into your plan for 2017.