Yet, fully 73% of small law firms report facing a challenge acquiring new business, and only a fraction of them are actually taking the step of even making a plan to improve this vital skill set.
Now, we’ve reached a point where you can no longer wait to improve. The world has rapidly shifted, and with it, the way potential clients view and consume information. We have been in the midst of a shift to an increasingly digital marketplace for some time; now, due to the global pandemic, we hit the accelerator last month. And I don’t think we will, or should, go back.
Nielsen reports that online streaming of television increased 85% in March. This news comes a year after the Motion Picture Association of America announced that streaming video had surpassed cable viewership. As of the end of 2019, 51% of people in the US reported having listened to a podcast, up 7 percentage points in just one year. That number is likely even higher now. Even before the virus lockdowns hit, YouTube saw an average of 2 billion active users every month, with 30 million people hitting the site every day.
Now ask yourself, how many of these digital eyeballs are you getting in front of as you try to market your law firm?
If you’re relying on outdated, analog business development efforts, the answer is likely zero.
Your law firm needs to make a concerted movement toward digital channels. I wrote in December that your future depends on developing new business and laid out what a proposed strategic plan could look like for improving your business development acumen. In that post, I touched on the concept of creating a more effective digital presence. But let’s dive deeper into some of the specific tactics and tools you should be strongly considering now.
Creating a Meaningful Web Presence
Yes, you need to have a website. But simply having a basic webpage isn’t enough — that’s just the basic skeleton. A truly effective web presence needs to be connected to a robust digital strategy that conveys all the essential information that potential clients will need to evaluate whether they want to hire you.
The site also needs to be optimized for online search using modern search-engine-optimization (SEO) techniques, relevant and insightful content, integrating clear, targeted social media strategies. It has to look modern and clean. And it has to have a way for you to facilitate lead conversion — to move a client from prospective to signed.
Think about it from your prospective client’s viewpoint. They have a legal issue, so they start running some searches online. How do they find you and your website? Once they’ve found you, what information communicates your brand effectively and tells them you’re the right lawyer for them? Do they have a way to contact you? Does that tool allow them to communicate their issue to you well enough for you to be able to effectively gauge whether they’re the right kind of client for you? Is there a way for them to provide preliminary documentation to you?
If you don’t manage these steps effectively, you’ll miss attracting a large audience and ultimately, fewer people who do visit your site will actually sign on as clients.
Beyond the Website
We’ve looked at one potential path that clients will take to your online presence, but your ability to reach them needs to expand beyond having your website show up in search results.
Here are a few suggestions of places to consider building a presence:
- Podcast advertising — More and more people every month are following podcasts. Podcast platforms give you the ability to place both graphic and audio ads. The former appears as listeners are navigating the app; and the latter can appear as a commercial before, during, or after a podcast episode, and often go with the episode if a user downloads it. The advertising teams on the various podcast platforms should be able to help you target appropriate audiences and types of podcasts that are most likely to have the kinds of listeners you want as clients. You can also target listeners geographically so you’re sure your message is reaching people who are proximate to you and thus more likely to hire you.
- YouTube — With such a huge platform, YouTube is a logical place to build a presence. YouTube is not just for watching cat videos — it’s actually incredibly versatile and prime digital real estate for business. You can create your own channel with helpful videos that show off your expertise, and even provide valuable insights or how-to tips that demonstrate you really know what you’re talking about. You can also place ads on YouTube, targeted to catch the viewers you think are your most likely prospects. Nota bene: Be sure you deliver something impactful in the first six seconds before users get the option to click past the ad. Leading with “Hi, I’m a lawyer” will have them hitting “Skip Ad” very quickly.
- Pandora and iHeartRadio — Lawyers have advertised on radio for a long time, but not as many have made the jump to advertising on digital streaming radio. Here again, you can target your audience for optimal impact. And contrary to a traditional radio ad, an ad on a digital radio service can enable users to simply tap and be taken immediately to your website, making the possibility of client conversion that much higher.
- Local news websites — In our current situation, many people have become voracious consumers of news, not just from national outlets, but from local ones as well. As I think of the local media market where I live, I can think of at least 10 local and regional media outlets that all sell advertising space on their web pages. These sites are constantly trying to attract additional readers to their pages, and those eyes will ultimately see your ad, particularly if you can execute well on something that will engage readers’ attention.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. To figure out what’s best for your firm, think of how you used to reach eyeballs before and consider where those eyeballs are now. Billboards and bus ads help you reach people on the road. When no one is driving, those eyeballs are on screens. Get creative.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of all these efforts go back to your core digital presence, which is your website. A poor client experience on your law firm’s web page can ruin the effectiveness of even the most well-planned advertising campaigns.
Think of the worst online buying experience you’ve ever had; now, think of the best. Copy the latter.