The skeleton of all marketing campaigns are pretty much the same: spread the word, build buzz, find ways to get both new traffic and get traffic to return to your company for another sale. Gather, rinse, repeat. How you do these things is going to vary wildly by industry. You cannot expect marketing a law firm, in the same way, say, a grocery store owner would market her business. You cannot even emulate marketing campaigns done by other service-based companies like consultancies or advertising agencies.
The primary reason for these differences is privacy. The FTC has very strict rules about how a business represents itself both online and off (you’ve obviously heard of “false advertising”). Client testimonials, for example, cannot be faked or embellished. If you’re going to use statistics of a company’s performance as a result of your work, you need to be able to provide proof of those circumstances. Outside of the FTC, you have the rule of law itself: namely that communications between an attorney and her clients must remain confidential–at least on your part. A company that specializes in marketing and sales consulting can list their clients freely. As an attorney can ask for referrals from existing clients but you cannot reveal your client list without the express permission of the people or companies on it.
The nature of the business of law is also important to consider. Unlike grocery store shoppers or CEOs needing to hire social media experts, most individuals you work with are going to hope that they don’t need to hire you again. Sure, setting up a retainer agreement with a company or a client who does a lot of independent business is great for your profit margin, but often your clients are one-stop shoppers.
With all of this being true, how do you market yourself to potential clients and get the clients who do hire you to continue to do so?
It’s the 21st century. Every business needs a website. Most companies can set up pages dedicated to client testimonials, lists of services, client rosters, case studies, etc. For a law firm, your secret weapon is going to be your business blog. Sure you can have basic services offered, hours of operation, and contact page like everyone else. Where they can focus traffic’s attention on case studies and statistics, you need to focus your traffic’s attention on your expertise. The best place to display that expertise is via your blog (and, to some extent, your social media accounts). For a great example of this, check out the Popehat site.
Personalization and Video
The results are in: personalization and video will increase your conversion rate exponentially. These techniques are relatively straightforward for your average sales-based business. They can send emails to people reminding them of abandoned shopping carts, discounts on future orders, etc.
You likely won’t have a shopping cart (unless you’re selling something via your site like a book you’ve written or video of a talk you’ve given). Your personalization then will need to trend more toward your market research results and general blasts. For example, if you’re a personal injury attorney, you might want to focus your marketing efforts on direct mail pieces sent to a mailing list of contacts purchased from local hospitals (or the companies that market to their patients) or in areas with higher crime rates.
Pay attention to your market research results. Even basic demographic information can help you tailor your marketing methods to your audience and its needs.
Nobody likes cold calling. You have a website and social media accounts so you won’t have to do cold calling, right? In the legal market, however, cold calling isn’t something that you can avoid. You do not have to call blind, though. Pay attention to your local periodicals and community gossip. If you hear that a company is shopping around for a new firm, give them a call and explain that you’ve heard rumors and you’d like to offer your help.
If you do decide to call blind, treat it as a research expedition. This way you won’t lose morale when people tell you no. If people are happy with their current representation, ask them who is representing them. Then, research that attorney or firm. Look at how they build their sites, sign up for their mailing lists, see how they do their marketing. Emulating the pros is often the best way to learn what will and won’t work for your clients.
Simply put: how you market your law practice is going to be wildly different from how you’d market a store for tchotchkes. Still, there are methods that have proven useful. Start with these and then customize to your clientele.