Every new law firm owner comes to a point where they realize that finding and signing new clients is MUCH more complex than they imagined when they opened the doors to their practice. Suddenly, “marketing” goes from a tertiary concern to a primary concern, which is why so many law firm owners MUST learn legal marketing at some point in their career.
Marketing for law firms is no easy task. Many vendors are willing to sell you the solution to your legal marketing woes, but purchasing an SEO package isn’t going to be enough to help you bring in more clients… no matter how much you pay your SEO company.
To get great results from your legal marketing, you must make marketing a core part of your business. Some law firms have marketing directors participate in their leadership teams, and we’re not just talking about TV law firms either. These law firms have realized that their business succeeds or fails based on their marketing strength, so they make marketing a significant talking point in their leadership meetings.
How do you begin to build a legal marketing program in your law firm that WORKS and attracts the right kind of clients to your practice? We’ll explain in this article, but first, we need to clarify a few terms…
Common Legal Marketing Terms You Need to Know
Lead – This one seems obvious, but law firms vary on their definition. Some firms define a lead as anyone who has contacted the law firm about a legal issue, even if that issue falls outside the law firm’s practice area. Other firms define a lead as anyone who contacts the firm with a case that meets certain criteria. For the purpose of this article, we’re using the latter definition. Leads are anyone who contacts your practice about a legal issue.
Qualified Leads – Leads are anyone who contacts your law firm with a legal issue, but a qualified lead is someone who contacts your firm with a case you want to take. The client and their case meet all the internal criteria your law firm has created, and the client is ready to hire an attorney.
Marketing Channels – Channels are categories of marketing platforms through which potential clients can find and learn about your law firm. Organic search is a marketing channel, and so is social media.
Call to Action – A call to action (or CTA) is the action you want your potential clients to take when they see your ad.
Copy – Copy generally refers to any text you will use on your ads, landing pages, and follow-up emails. Marketing copy differs from other forms of writing because it is designed to be persuasive, entertaining, and easy to read. Good copywriting can be difficult to do but is absolutely essential to your ads.
Return on investment (ROI) – Return on investment is a formula for calculating how much money you made on your marketing investment and the metric businesses use to judge a marketing campaign.
Search engine optimization (SEO) – Search engine optimization is the process of making your website more likely to appear in search engines when your potential clients use a keyword relevant to your business.
Pay Per Click (PPC) – Pay per click is any paid digital marketing campaign where you are paying the platform when someone clicks on your ad. The most popular PPC platform is Google Ads.
Conversions – When we talk conversions in legal marketing, we are typically talking about a signed client. However, “conversions” could refer to any marketing goal. It is vital to define conversions whenever you create a marketing campaign because not all marketing campaigns will drive the potential client straight to a fee agreement.
Our Ten Step Process for Marketing Your Law Firm
Now that we’re all speaking the same language, let’s start drilling down what you need to do to get your law firm’s marketing off the group. Lawyer marketing is tricky because each law firm is different, and there’s no “one-size-fits-all” option. To add an extra layer of complexity, the most popular and talked about marketing tactics ARE NOT well suited for law firms.
If you are just getting started with marketing for lawyers, then you are probably familiar with things like billboards, TV ads, and pay-per-click. However, those are expensive marketing investments, and if you don’t have the lawyer marketing basics in place, they won’t bring you much value even if you make a significant investment.
When you have the lawyer marketing basics in place, you can build upon what you’ve created and scale your marketing to bring in even more clients!
All of this starts with this 10-step process for marketing your practice. After you are done with these ten steps, you will have a great base of legal marketing that will immediately start bringing in clients to your practice and set you up for future successes.
Step #1 – Prepare to Market Your Law Firm
For too many law firms, marketing is an afterthought. These law firms believe that 1) marketing is unseemly or 2) they don’t need to do marketing to succeed. After years of running and marketing a law practice, I’ve realized that there is no “magic money bullet.”
Your law firm must market itself. No matter your practice area, no matter the size of your law firm, marketing is THE business you are in. And maybe that’s something that you’re not used to hearing, but you cannot ignore the facts at hand.
Every element of your law firm involves an aspect of marketing, whether you realize it or not. The ads you create, your phone script, and even the materials in your reception area ALL fall under the category’ marketing.’
You’ve only just begun, but the sooner you accept that EVERY single piece of your law firm functions as marketing, the sooner you will be able to succeed.
Step #2 – Take Control of Your Image and Your Destiny
For the first big chunk of my professional practice life, I worked as an associate and then a junior partner at a firm that primarily did insurance defense work. I had zero control over my life, but if you had asked me, I would have just said, “that’s how things work.”
I thought that the chaos came with the title.
But how many times can you tell your wife and kids that you won’t make it to dinner until it clicks that that should not be the norm?
Every once in a while, I came across books like Think and Grow Rich or 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and I’d read them, only to put them aside because I would convince myself that self-determination was not actually possible. Besides, none of the other lawyers I knew seemed to be living a self-determined life, either.
When I discovered legal marketing, I realized that building the life you want is possible—no sacrifices or compromises.
If I could recommend anything 100 times over, it is to write down your short, medium, and long-term goals religiously. Decide what you can do and what you can delegate to your trusted team.
After all, your time is your most valuable asset.
Step #3 – Create an Ideal Client Persona for Your Legal Marketing
What’s a law firm without clients? No, I’m not about to tell you the punchline to a joke.
The actual answer is nothing because, without clients, there is no point in what we do. But do you allow yourself the grace of being selective with who you choose to represent?
For law firm owners who have ever waited by the phone in anticipation of it ringing, you don’t think you can be “picky” with the clients you get. After all, haven’t we been told to feel grateful to get anyone walking in the door?
But the truth is, you can be more selective in who you want to take on as a client. After all, you must decide for yourself what is worth your team’s time and effort.
What we have found to work well at BenGlassLaw (and our member law firms that we’ve taught this concept to) is to create a complete client profile.
Have your staff work on it with you. Write it down. Figure out who out of your clients you really like and figure out the defining criteria from those folks. Education level? Income? How they find you? Etc.
The clients you serve are an extension of your business, so it’s only natural that you should have a say in who you choose to invest time and resources into.
Step #4 – Add ‘Author’ to Your Resume and Deploy Your Book in Your Attorney Marketing
Having your name on the front cover of a book is one of the fastest ways to gain authority in a room full of others.
Imagine someone asks a question about getting more referrals for a law firm. Think about how much authority that you gain by being able to say, “I wrote a book about that.”
The fastest way (outside of licensing someone else’s book to use) is to create an outline of topics. Then, team up with someone who will interview you about each of the topics.
You are an expert. You know more about your area of the law than anyone else, and it’s much easier to talk on the subject than it is to spend time writing it. There are many great but affordable editors out there that can take care of the nitty-gritty.
Remember, we’re not writing Shakespeare here. We are creating a guide that you can send to potential clients and referral sources that establishes that you are an authority on the subject.
Your new book is the core of your legal marketing. All roads lead back to this piece, and you can add/edit content as necessary. This particular piece is everything, from lead gen to gifts, but only if you use it!
Step #5 – Build a Website That Will Get Potential Clients Excited About Working With You
Put yourself in your potential client’s shoes. They get into a car accident, go to the hospital, miss work, and then the medical bills begin piling up. At some point, they will pull out their phone and do a quick search for “personal injury lawyers near me.”
In that search, they will see many lawyers ranked by their reviews and their locations (attorneys closer to the potential client will show up first, that’s the way Google’s algorithm works).
Those potential clients may call you from Google without ever visiting your website, but a few will click through to check your case results, testimonials, and other major pages on your website.
What happens if your website is hard-to-navigate or lacks key information?
They will go back to their search and start over.
This is the 30-second process that your potential clients go through without you even being aware.
Your website should be the ultimate, all-inclusive resource for prospects to instantly know who you are and what your law firm is all about. There are a lot of ways that you can go about it, but here are some of my website’s “must-haves.”
- A great design that not only looks pretty but keeps visitors clicking through and scrolling around. Think about what headlines and images to include, but don’t overlook functionality.
- The ability to make edits at the drop of a hat. At BGL and GLM, we often make changes to reflect new promotions and updates.
- A way to add multi-media. Videos are a great way to quickly give your audience a “trailer” of your practice and offerings.
- Finally, as alluded to above, you need to have excellent reporting/ tracking on the site. Know what elements yield positive responses and which are better off being replaced.
Step #6 – Discover and Implement the Marketing Technology that Works for Your Law Firm
As you start building your law firm marketing, you’ll find out what the right kind of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software is for your practice.
If you want to keep track of all client information, send out mass emails, develop campaign sequences to ‘trigger’ what is sent to clients, and so much more (all of which we think is a must), then you need to invest in good technology that can handle all of that.
Whatever you are using, make certain that the CRM you select will...
- Capture user-generated information from your website
- Be easy for your staff to use, especially when it comes to inputting data from new inbound telephone calls.
- Allow you to keep track of who is doing what in your cases.
- Allow you to “tag” each contact entry with information that can later be used to extract particular lists to market to.
- Allow you to create instantaneous auto-responder email feedback to anyone who has filled out a form or requested information from your website.
- Allow you to create interesting email newsletters, complete with trackable links (so that you can track what they are most interested in) and embedded video (to make it interesting).
- Allow close tracking of your ROI on your marketing dollar.
Step #7 – Create Online and Offline Attorney Marketing
At this point, things have started to shift a bit.
You’re clearly no longer just an attorney. By now, you are an author, leader, marketer, and lawyer all in one. We know this, but now we need others to as well.
If you want to drive attention to those things you have been working on for your law firm (such as that book that we talked about), you need to get in front of a crowd. Find ways to involve your product or services in the lives of everyone that you can.
How many different ways can you say, “I can help you with your divorce?” “Arrested? We are aggressive.” It’s so much easier to put your book in front of potential clients and talk about that. For example, you can take your book and create 20 messages, each aimed at one part of the book. Each message speaks to the conversation that is going on in a client’s head.
Think of your offerings in a way that can be tailored to exactly what that potential client needs – they might not even know until they see it.
Step #8 – Convert More Client Leads with Killer Follow Up Marketing
If you expect every client lead to sign with your practice in the very first encounter, you’re in for a surprise.
In fact, in my practice, it is often 4 to 12 months before someone signs with us after their first contact.
Most lawyers would give up on those client leads, but we don’t. We’ve created complex follow-up systems that keep us in contact with our potential client leads for years.
To some lawyers, that may seem excessive. Those same lawyers would be surprised by how many potential clients sign with us months after they first called.
Our follow-up drives those ‘old’ leads to make an appointment with us. It’s one of our core attorney marketing processes.
At the bare minimum, you should be offering...
- An initial package containing a free report or book that is focused on the consumer and the problems you know they are facing.
- At least 3-5 email autoresponders, with additional reports spaced out over the next four weeks. The focus of the emails is always on them and addressing their needs.
- At least three “snail mail” mailings. These mailings could include the same report that they got the first time in/or they got via email, each with a different cover letter.
Step #9 – Create a List of Followers Who Will Become Your Greatest Source of Non-Attorney Referrals
One of the first marketing lessons I learned is that you have to build a following. No, I’m not talking about social media here (although you can use social media to deepen your relationships with your followers).
Instead, I want you to think of your following as your raving fans. They want to hear from you in many places, including print newsletters, emails, social media, and any other channel that may come along.
Your following, or a marketing list, sometimes begins with the people you know. These could be your staff members, family members, or extended social groups. While this feels like a small group at first, you will build this following over time to include clients, potential clients, and local community leaders.
You can add people to your attorney marketing list through a variety of means. Website contact forms are one place where new people can become your “followers,” or you can simply attend an event and collect business cards to add to your email list!
As your marketing list grows, so will your referrals. Keep up the hard work and grow your list where you can. Don’t forget to engage with your followers regularly! You want them to remember your name.
Step #10 – Get More Attorney Referrals
Do you have a system in place to get referrals?
Like, an actual proven system that almost guarantees that you will see new referrals each quarter?
If not, you’re missing out big time. Simply waiting around for a random person to walk in every now and then, saying that they were referred by so-and-so isn’t good enough. You’re leaving it to chance.
Building a strong system to receive and give referrals is not as difficult as you may think. What has helped our lawyer members the most efficiently is understanding these tips...
- Make sure that your referral sources know exactly what you do and who your ideal client is.
- Publish and distribute a book. It creates referrals for itself and/or adds authority to your name.
- Provide your sources with exclusive content as a way of thanks. Perhaps a special newsletter just for those who refer. If they are business owners, maybe you are sending them a marketing tip of the week/month.
- Celebrate your sources. Everyone likes to feel special, so recognize them somehow, perhaps by mentioning them in an article or post.
- Make sure you get to know the staff of other professionals or business owners. These are the folks on the front lines and likely are the folks actually giving your name out! It’s not that hard to systematize something like a bagel delivery program to them!
Marketing for lawyers is a specific marketing discipline. You shouldn’t follow the marketing rules for a restaurant or gym, because that style of marketing won’t attract clients (it may attract gym rats to your practice, but that’s not what you need). If you follow the steps I’ve outlined here, you will create a good base of attorney marketing that will help you sign more clients now, and also in the months to come.