Do you own a law firm and want to compete with the big-name law firm brands?
Would you like to build a premium legal services firm?
If so, you’re in the right place.
Marketing your law firm can be time-consuming. We understand. So we created this guide for busy attorneys like you who need help with marketing. You’ll discover practical strategies used by many law firm marketing professionals.
Attorneys specialize in law, not business promotion. But love it or hate it, marketing is the key to a thriving law practice.
The science and art of marketing make it confusing, especially in the digital realm.
Where do you start? What should you focus on? And how do you avoid wasting money on marketing that doesn’t work?
I’ll answer these questions in this post—and more.
When you finish reading, you’ll know how to:
- build a robust, competitive brand that attracts better clients
- use a brand development strategy to promote your legal services
- improve client acquisition using professional digital marketing tactics
The strategies and tactics in this post apply whether you’re a sole proprietor or run a large firm. So, I’ll use the terms “attorney” and “law firm” interchangeably throughout the content to maintain simplicity.
Essential Marketing Terms
Before we go any further, let’s explore a few branding and marketing terms.
Most people associate a brand with a logo. But branding is a business development process. It includes client targeting, messaging, and competitive positioning.
The branding process begins at ideation and never ends.
The term brand has two meanings in this post:
- The law firm itself is a business brand.
- A business’s identity is also its brand (sometimes called a brand identity, see below).
A brand identity (or brand) gives a law firm unique qualities. These qualities are visual and experienced. All work together to form an identity.
Some components of visual identity are:
- a logo
- the brand color palette
Examples of experienced identity elements are:
- core values and philosophy
A brand identity makes it easier for a business to connect with its ideal target audience. Consumers use identities to compare law firms when deciding who to hire.
Marketing is any form of business promotion. The purpose of marketing is to generate leads and sales. Ads, speaking engagements, and networking are examples of marketing activities.
Digital marketing relates to promotion through technology, primarily online. For example, social media, pay-per-click ads, and search engine optimization (SEO) are digital marketing tactics.
Marketing Messages: The purpose of a marketing message is to generate a conversion. Advertisements are the most common, but any promotional content can be a marketing message.
Advertising: Advertising usually refers to a paid marketing campaign designed to get leads or sales.
Conversion: A conversion occurs when a prospect takes a step toward becoming a customer. Here are examples of conversions:
- a website visitor signs up for your email list
- someone downloads a free giveaway on social media
- a prospect comes in for an appointment and becomes a client
Law Firm Marketing: Brand Development
Your brand is not just a logo and color scheme. It’s the perception clients have of your law practice. Prospective clients use brands to compare firms when deciding which to hire.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, your law firm already has a brand. People are getting an impression of it right now. So, your legal services brand should reflect expertise and professionalism while communicating other influential buying factors.
I’ll explore buying factors in a section that follows. The next concept you should know about is brand development.
Brand development is the ongoing process of building a law firm brand. Development strengthens your current competitive position and creates more value for your services.
The brand development framework we use consists of three steps:
Step One: Brand Profile
A brand profile is an in-depth analysis of a firm, target clients, competitors, and services. To develop your brand’s profile, assess your current position versus where you want to be. This assessment is also called a brand audit and reveals competitive gaps and steps needed to achieve growth goals.
With this information, you can create a marketing plan that gets results.
Want to know how to build a more competitive law firm?
Step Two: Brand Positioning
A brand’s position is the client’s perception of a firm compared to competitors. The purpose of positioning is to create unique benefits that set you apart from other law firms. Here are some components that build your law brand position:
- type of law firm and size
- target client
- practice philosophy
- fee structure
You can’t completely control what your clients think. However, you can influence their views. Positioning is an intentional process that enables you to influence the client’s opinion of your law firm.
Step Three: Brand Promotion
This is where marketing begins. A lot of work needs to be done first.
Successful promotion includes traditional and digital marketing tactics. It also involves other activities such as networking, speaking engagements, and referral programs.
Now, let’s dive into two brand strategy concepts that will change how you promote your business.
Law Firm Marketing: The Customer Journey
Did you know the process for hiring an attorney is the same one used for every purchasing decision?
People use a thought process to make buying decisions. This process is called the customer journey. The term accurately describes the path consumers take as they make buying choices.
Here’s an illustration of the customer journey for legal services:
The customer journey occurs in stages and takes place consciously and subconsciously. The same principles apply to all industries.
Here’s a summary of each customer journey stage:
The journey begins when a prospect is introduced to the firm. This initial contact might come through a television ad or social media post. Or, the person may have discovered the law firm while searching online.
You only get one chance to make a first impression. You must be memorable in this stage. A well-developed, professional brand builds a faster, stronger connection with the target audience.
Learn how to create a brand identity that sets your law services brand apart from competitors.
The cultivation stage is often the longest. Law firm marketing pros know you must stay top-of-mind so people will remember you when they need legal services. In this stage, the goal is to build affinity and authority while lowering the trust barrier.
Prospective clients in the consideration stage have an intent to hire. Most select from a pool of two or more law firm brands. Brand differentiation is critical in this stage.
Because prospects usually choose the firm that has established unique value the fastest. So the attorney or law firm with the strongest brand position often wins.
Conversion (not shown)
The client has chosen your firm to represent them at this stage. Now, you must exceed the expectations developed in the previous customer journey stages. Client onboarding and service processes are vital in the conversion stage.
All prospects, including referrals, use the customer journey process to select a firm. Most are in different stages.
For example, not everyone you meet will be ready to hire an attorney. So, making a great impression during the connection phase and staying in touch with them means they will be more likely to call you when they need legal services.
Other potential clients might have an attorney on retainer. Showing these prospects the benefits of switching may persuade them to change.
The customer journey helps you connect with prospects based on their decision-making process. This method of gaining new clients is reliable and effective.
The customer journey transforms the way you think about client acquisition. To illustrate, I’ll examine how most law firms look for new clients.
Many firms and attorneys develop their marketing strategy by asking:
“Where would a potential client search for an attorney?”
The typical response to this question is to create a list of places to find new clients. For example, most people watch television. Some are members of professional organizations. And almost everyone uses the Internet. So, most law firms run TV ads, build a website, and become members of organizations to get new clients.
At first, this seems like a logical starting point. But this broad-brush marketing approach makes finding new clients more difficult.
1. Most law firms and attorneys look for clients in the same places and use the same tactics. This creates market saturation, making client acquisition tougher for everyone.
2. Some of the marketing tactics you use might work, but most won’t. It’s also difficult to track the return on investment. This means you’re more likely to waste money on ineffective marketing. For example, billboards are expensive, but tracking the number of new clients you get from them is difficult.
So, rather than trying to figure out where potential clients look for attorneys, it’s best to consider:
How do clients choose which attorney to hire?
This question puts you in the client’s shoes. As a result, you can create a marketing strategy that targets prospects in each customer journey stage.
This enables you to align each marketing message with a client’s frame of mind.
The purpose of marketing messages is to generate leads and sales. So, the more specific the marketing message is, the more impact it makes.
Targeted messaging shows clients you understand them because you’re “speaking their language”. Targeted messages also connect quicker. Brands that use customized marketing messages build better relationships faster.
The words you use mean everything in a court of law. The same is true for marketing.
Now, let’s examine how buying factors influence a prospect’s decision to hire you.
What Is a Premium Brand?
Law Firm Marketing: Buying Factors
It seems the brands with the largest marketing budgets get the most clients. That’s because they have the resources to hire law firm marketing agencies and run massive brand awareness campaigns. But a firm’s marketing budget does not always reflect the quality of its legal services. Yet, the “brand power” large firms have often created this belief in the target audience’s mind.
Buying factors help you level the competitive playing field.
People use buying factors to decide which products or service providers to choose. While factors vary from one person to the next, there are similarities.
There are four fundamental categories of buying factors, listed below, with examples.
Situational buying factors relate to the prospect’s circumstances during the decision process. This includes available options and how involved the client is in the decision.
Examples: Is the prospect the sole decision-maker, or is someone else involved? How many options do they have?
Personal buying factors relate to demographics, financial resources, and education.
Examples: Can the prospect afford premium legal services? Do they prefer male or female attorneys? How knowledgeable are they about legal issues?
Psychological buying factors are linked to a prospect’s beliefs and attitudes.
Examples: Have any life events shaped the prospect’s views of attorneys? How do they perceive the value of legal services?
These factors tie into a prospect’s associations and cultural influences.
Examples: Was the prospect referred to the law firm? What opinion do their friends and associates have of an attorney or firm?
Clients use a combination of these factors to determine which attorney or law firm to hire. So, the key is to leverage the right buying factors to your advantage.
Most prospects aren’t qualified to assess an attorney’s expertise or level of service. So, they need indicators to help them decide.
I listed four broad categories of buying factors listed in the previous section. From these, we can identify specific factors for legal services to attract clients.
The price of legal services is not the deciding factor for most clients—even if they say it is.
Because the price of an item or service is relative to its perceived value. Most service providers charge what they think their service is “worth”. So, as an example, a consultant might charge $4,000 for “$4,000 worth” of service.
But what if the service delivers $10,000 in value, yet the fee is still $4,000?
Clients will almost always choose the service with higher perceived value.
Now, you may wonder, “Why would anyone ‘give away’ $6,000 by charging $4,000 for $10,000 worth of service?”
To understand, you must release any preconceived ideas you have about value.
Value is subjective. For example, I may value an item, but you might think it’s worthless, or vice versa. So, is it not true that each individual defines the actual value of a product or service?
Fees are a factor in the hiring decision. But there is less emphasis on fees when your legal services have higher perceived value.
Remember: people will pay more if you show them why they should.
PRICE POSITIONING: Could You DOUBLE Your Prices?
The actual value of legal services depends on the customer’s perception. Legal services that appear average or ordinary face more price resistance.
A brand strategy empowers you to build unique perceived value for your services. The more unique a service provider appears to be, the more difficult they are to replace. Perceived value is a catalyst for higher value and profitability.
Examples of Buying Factors in Law Firm Marketing
In this section, you’ll see how buying factors influence customer acquisition.
Attorneys get paid for their expertise. But prospects aren’t always qualified to evaluate an attorney’s expertise because they aren’t sure how. So, they need your help.
Telling clients, “You can trust me,” or “I’ll get results,” doesn’t influence the client’s hiring decision. Why? Because every attorney makes these same claims. So, your prospects hear the same promises from everyone, which means no one stands out.
Instead, clients want confidence in your expertise. Here are a few marketing ideas for law firm partners that will build expertise:
- Publish blogs on current laws, cases, and guidelines relevant to your field of law.
- Become a member of legal organizations that enhance your authority.
- Create content for clients on your website that teaches them about rulings and legal procedures.
- Promote trust indicators. Badges (i.e., Better Business Bureau) and testimonials are examples. Include them on your website, social media, and other marketing content.
Being reliable means clients can depend on the accuracy of your information. You can show people you are reliable by keeping appointments on time.
Here are some other examples of reliability as buying factors:
- Filing paperwork well before the deadline and reviewing it with the client beforehand.
- Responding to calls after hours.
- Information given to the client is up-to-date. Examples of how it will support the client’s case have been discussed.
Professionalism is determined by many elements.
- A process for scheduling, confirming, and conducting appointments
- You and your staff present yourselves like a winning law team
- Your office space and website reflect success and authority
Communication is a crucial component of professionalism. Here are questions that help clients assess an attorney’s professionalism:
- Are explanations of fees, procedures, and expectations clear?
- Do they provide written documentation, contracts, and updates at the proper times?
- Do they return calls within a reasonable timeframe and discuss all aspects of a case?
Communication is a primary buying factor in every industry, especially in law. One of the most commonly reported criticisms of attorneys is a lack of communication and clarity.
Whether or not your clients show it, they are experiencing fear when they come to you. They’re concerned about losing their life savings, businesses, relationships, or health. Sometimes, a client’s life may be at stake.
Attorneys learn to compartmentalize emotion and rely on the facts. Critical thinking pays dividends in the courtroom. But clients need to know you care.
Emotion is a powerful human motivator. It’s also the most powerful buying factor. Showing people you understand the seriousness of their situation makes a tremendous impact.
Of course, I would never recommend using empathy to manipulate a client. But showing genuine compassion isn’t manipulative. It’s human.
But how can a law firm or attorney build an empathetic connection with a prospective client?
- Ask probing questions during interviews that enable you to understand the depth of a client’s needs. Don’t assume you know how they feel; let them tell you.
- Listen and take notes. Then, be able to recall the information the client gave you without having to ask a second time. This shows attention to detail.
- Follow up. So many times, the client-attorney relationship ends once the case is over. Ongoing contact will turn clients into raving fans, called brand advocates. Brand advocates become long-term clients and are a valuable source of referrals.
Law Firm Marketing Tips
Here are some things to keep in mind as you develop your marketing strategy.
Think like the client.
The key to successful client acquisition is to put yourself in the client’s shoes. This enables you to create a strong link between your services and the client’s needs.
In the section above (“The Customer Journey”), you learned about three prospect mindsets. So, each marketing message should align with one of the customer journey stages.
Here are some examples:
These prospects aren’t looking for an attorney now. So, add them to your email list. Sending newsletters and updates each week or month keeps your firm top-of-mind.
Prospects in this phase are researching attorneys. Educational content is an effective way to position yourself as a trusted resource.
People in the consideration phase need to know why they should choose you. Brand differentiation is critical to winning these clients. What does your firm do well? Explore specific niches, areas of expertise, and your team’s strengths to differentiate.
Focus on two or three marketing tactics before taking on others.
Marketing becomes overwhelming when you try to do too much. So, pick two or three tactics you’re comfortable with and master them before moving on to others.
I tell clients to find something they enjoy and turn it into a tactic. If you like to write, write blog posts and e-books. If you would rather speak at events, make frequent appearances.
It takes time to penetrate the noisy marketplace, so do something you enjoy. Consistency is critical for success, regardless of the industry.
Test each tactic and adjust.
The purpose of marketing is to generate leads and clients. Tracking website analytics, conversions, and other data will help you figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
Analytics can get technical, so you may need help interpreting them.
Also, calculate your sales cycle and factor it into your marketing strategy. Of course, many variables affect sales cycles. But it would be best if you track how long it takes to turn a prospect into a client. Without a consistent sales cycle, it’s impossible to create accurate revenue goals.
Law Firm Marketing Strategy
If you’ve worked through the previous steps in this post, then the foundation for your marketing strategy is complete. Now, let’s examine how to develop marketing tactics.
Goals and KPIs
The first step is to create short- and long-term marketing goals. A short-term goal ranges from thirty days to a year. Long-term goals have timeframes over twelve months. Each goal should be relevant and clear. Define expectations for hitting the goal and deadlines.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) tell you if you’re on track to hit a goal.
For example, one goal might be to get fifty new clients in the next twelve months. If you close one client out of every three you meet with, you need 150 meetings in a year to hit the goal.
Getting fifty new clients in a year is a short-term goal. Meeting with 150 prospects is a KPI. You can use KPIs to measure how well your marketing strategy is working. If you aren’t on track to hit a goal, you’ll have to amend the goal or adjust the tactic.
Unique Value Proposition
Your unique value proposition (UVP) summarizes what makes you different from competitors. A UVP should combine client desires with your expertise. This proposition can be one statement or several.
Competitor analysis was one step in the brand development process (above). The competitive strengths you discovered in that step can help you craft a UVP.
Here is a sample UVP:
“We are a full-service firm that provides expert legal counsel with complete transparency. Our team operates under one core philosophy that has proven successful for hundreds of clients.”
Once you have created a UVP, let it guide your marketing, sales, and services processes.
Target Audience Segmentation
Your law firm exists to serve clients. But who are they?
You may already have a definitive description of your target clients. But often, in-depth audience segmentation can reveal new opportunities.
Vertical segments are narrower groups within a broad target audience segment. These vertical segments are niche markets. Targeting a niche makes it easier to position your services as a customized solution.
For example, “wealth management teams” may be a target market. But there are many verticals within the wealth management segment. Insurance agencies also promote wealth management solutions, as financial advisors do. Within the wealth management market, these two businesses are competitors. Wealth advisors within the banking institution add another layer of competition.
Targeting each vertical will have more impact. To use vertical targeting, you must identify the segment’s unique needs and desires. Then, incorporate those specifics into your marketing.
Once you have created goals, a UVP, and target segments, it’s time to figure out how to reach your audience.
Media consists of paid and organic (earned) communication sources. Advertising is an example of a paid media source, and blogging is organic.
You will use a combination of paid and earned media to reach target audiences. Therefore, it’s vital to set KPIs and track the success of each.
Organic (earned) media is less costly but usually takes more time to get results. Likewise, paid media can be expensive and isn’t always feasible. So, you must experiment to find the combination that works best for you.
Because of its technical nature, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a frustrating and confusing subject for most businesses. But search engines have gotten better at interpreting the context of content and websites. So, quality web content will consistently outperform technical SEO hacks.
To grow organic traffic with SEO:
- Keep it simple—use relevant keyword terms people search for online to create content topics. For example, what words do clients use to describe a legal problem? Use their language in your post. Again, avoid legal jargon.
- Run pay-per-click ads if you can afford them. While costs can add up, paid advertising is one of the best ways to target qualified leads.
- Researching terms via web browsers enables you to create content people are looking for instead of guessing what they might like.
Building a Marketing Strategy
The goals you set will determine the tactics you use in your marketing strategy.
Just because something works for one firm does not mean it will work for yours. Everything you do should align with your goals and play to your strengths. Don’t feel pressured to use a marketing tactic you don’t like.
Use marketing tactics that make sense for the target audience you’re going after. For example, if your audience doesn’t use social media, you won’t get much traction.
Consistency is key, so stick with tactics long enough to figure out if they’re working. It takes at least 90 days but often much longer before you can assess results accurately. On the other hand, avoid changing directions too soon. Marketing is an art and science. You’ll get better with practice.
Digital Marketing for Law Firm Brands
This section summarizes the most common digital marketing tactics and how to use each.
Content writers publish over four million blog posts every day. YouTubers launch five hundred hours of video per minute. The number of online media channels is growing at an astronomical rate.
These facts may cause you to wonder if the world needs another blog post. The answer is no. But the world definitely needs another good blog post.
The key to content marketing is to develop content with a purpose. Create each piece of content with a target client in mind.
Here are some content marketing tips:
Plan. Do your research and make each piece count—quality trumps quantity. For example, a fantastic blog post once per month is better than weekly posts that are mediocre.
Answer questions clients might have about your area of law. Be sure to cite sources.
Combine video and blogging—some people like to read, others like to watch. Repurpose content so the audience can consume it in a variety of ways. For instance, you can write a blog post and shoot a quick video containing the same information.
Share updates, case studies, and insight on specific legal issues. Be clear and concise while avoiding legal jargon.
It’s critical to develop content for prospects in each customer journey stage. Here are some examples using real estate law:
Connection Stage: A free download that summarizes real estate laws for home buyers.
Consideration Stage: A series of resources, such as legal form templates for homeowners. You could include a free consultation as a bonus.
Conversion Stage: A case study showing how you helped a client resolve a real estate suit. The case study shows your attention to detail and highlights staff support.
Content Marketing That Actually Works
Social media audiences are massive. Here are some popular channels and audiences on each:
- Facebook: 2.9 billion
- YouTube: 2.3 billion
- Instagram: 1.3 billion
- TikTok: 732 million
- Pinterest: 459 million
- Twitter: 396 million
- LinkedIn: 310 million
The access to large audiences makes social media a valuable marketing tool. But many law firms and attorneys find it difficult to reach clients on social media. That’s because people rarely log on to social platforms to conduct business. LinkedIn may be the exception.
To succeed with social media, think of it like having a conversation in a café. For example, potential clients might go to a local café. So you may go to get coffee and talk. With any luck, you’ll leave with a couple of leads.
But the conversation in the café must be natural. So, apply this concept to use social media marketing. To be successful:
Have a plan. Posting random content sends mixed messages and confuses the audience. Instead, pick a theme for each week and create posts related to that theme.
Post relevant content and link it to your services. For example, if there’s a trending news story, post about it on social and start a conversation. How can you use it to teach the audience an interesting lesson in your area of law?
Be human. Avoid industry topics and jargon your audience won’t understand.
Know which platforms your clients use. For example, you won’t have success posting on Facebook if your best clients are on LinkedIn.
To keep your legal services brand fresh and engaging, you must use various content themes.
Some examples are:
- Live events
- Behind-the-scenes case studies
- Client testimonials and interviews
- Industry news
- Quick legal tips
- Polls and surveys
Experiment with each. Start with one or two social platforms and build momentum before moving to another. Over time, you’ll find your audience responds more on one platform than any others.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of the most complex digital marketing tactics. But it’s still a valuable source for qualified clients.
While the technical aspects of SEO still matter, the quality of content is critical. Google issued the EAT (Expertise, Authority, and Trust) update a few years ago. This algorithm favored websites that establish themselves as trustworthy online resources.
To grow organic traffic with SEO:
Keep it simple. Use relevant keyword terms people search for online to create content topics. For example, how do clients describe a legal problem? How might they ask you a question? Use their language in your posts.
One way to discover content topics is to pull up your web browser (i.e., Google Chrome) and type in a search phrase. As you type, the browser will make suggestions. These suggestions are actual search terms people have used.
Here’s an example:
In this example, I typed in “how do lawyers….”
The search bar filled in the rest (highlighted or bold text). The suggestions from the web browser are phrases people have entered into the search bar.
So, using this list, you might write a blog post on “How Do Lawyers Bill Hours?”
This is a great content topic. Here’s why:
- the post offers transparency
- it educates clients, which builds trust
- readers may share the content with their network
Also, notice that Internet users are more likely to use “lawyer” instead of “attorney”.
This technique allows you to discover content topics people are looking for instead of guessing.
Run pay-per-click ads. Paid advertising has become essential in the crowded search engine world. But costs can add up. So, it’s critical to be as efficient as possible when running ads.
Your website is the most powerful communication tool you have. So, your website should be more than a brochure for your law firm. Brochure-style websites are no more effective than flyers on windshields. Instead, you must have a plan to create a website that gets engagement from your audience.
Here are some website design tips:
Hire a designer with brand strategy or marketing management experience. It isn’t necessary to use a designer specializing in law services websites. Instead, find one who understands how to incorporate buying factors into the website’s design.
Build a site that gives users the information they want when they land on it. Many law firm websites make generic benefit claims. So, communicate a true value proposition and compelling benefit statements.
Create a “conversion path”. Give visitors free content. Then, ask for an email address in exchange for a helpful resource. Over time, you’ll build a list of potential clients. Then, stay in touch with subscribers using monthly or weekly emails.
Develop content that shows your personality. For example, provide legal tips with videos. The videos give visitors a feel for who you are before they meet you.
Include testimonials and references on your website, as well as certifications and accreditations. These are trust indicators that reinforce legitimacy in the visitor’s mind.
Almost every business wants to collect email addresses. An email list continues to be an effective way to cultivate new clients.
Here are some email marketing tips to help you build a list of potential clients:
Send updates to subscribers at least once per month. Consistency builds brand familiarity. So when you start, don’t stop.
Updates should be relevant and valuable. To keep ideas fresh, it’s best to plan content and avoid creating it on the fly. Content rule number one: quality trumps quantity.
Extend offers for free consultations in each email. Of course, people won’t always take you up on the offer, but this lets them know you’ll be available when they’re ready.
Don’t send too many emails. Given the number of marketing emails clients receive, fewer may make more impact.
Other Marketing Tips
Here are a few other comments on business development tactics:
Issue client satisfaction and fact-finding surveys to stay current on your clients’ needs. This will help you improve your service. These are a valuable resource for future content too.
Develop a consistent sales process for your staff. The client’s experience should be consistent from connection to “case closed”.
Define conversions for every marketing tactic. Decide what action you want the prospective client to take in advance. With goals, every marketing tactic will be more efficient.
If you have questions, contact me personally at email@example.com.
Until next time,
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By Chris Fulmer |
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