Reaching significant milestones often leaves us feeling reflective. As 2014 draws to a close, most law firm partners will begin to look at their financial year in review, metrics they commonly track to gauge their business success, and bonus rates for their employees. Combing through your financial state is important; however, it is also important to look at the overall lessons you’ve learned during the past year in order to avoid mistakes and capitalize on successes in 2015.
I started Stacey E. Burke, P.C. (SEBPC) in 2010, to establish my own entity even though I was still working full time for another law firm. I used SEBPC primarily to write digitally optimized copy for law firms in practice areas that were non-competitive with my employer. At that time, my favorite part of digital marketing was writing copy. I have a public relations journalism background and enjoyed getting to write copy beyond legal pleadings and correspondence, which also did not require a litany of legal citations.
Now that I operate my own business full-time, I too find myself contemplative as I plan for 2015 and the future of my consulting practice. Looking back on 2014, I give you, my faithful readers, a list of the top legal marketing advice from this past year.
Position Yourself as an Industry Expert and Find Other Industry Influencers
Lawyers that individually maintain high visibility and are considered experts or influencers in their practice areas build the law firm’s brand. According to professional services marketing firm Hinge, visible experts at the highest level can have billing rates up to 13 times higher than their peers [FREE downloadable book if you click on the link]. A lawyer can maintain or increase his or her influence through speaking engagements, social media engagement, publishing articles in industry periodicals, authoring a blog, and more.
Once you become an influencer yourself, connect with other influencers in your industry instead of viewing them as competitors to avoid. The concept of “influencer marketing” revolves around identifying relevant influencers with large audiences and targeting them with your messaging for increased exposure. But, you ask, how can I find my tribe of influencers to target? Klout is one of the most popular influencer tools. It analyzes social media engagement and audience size data, among other things, and determines a user’s “Klout” score between 1 and 100 (the higher, the better).
Be Different By Making it Personal
Law firm brand differentiation within an overly saturated niche, such as personal injury, can be a huge challenge. To make your law firm’s brand stand out, make it different by encouraging your lawyers to develop their own personal brands. The combination of all of your attorneys’ brands will absolutely bolster the law firm’s brand. A lawyer’s offline reputation matters, but it is only one component of their personal brand.
Branding yourself requires a strategic, consistent effort to promote your skills and their relevance. You can accomplish this by claiming and building out the listings that automatically appear for you online (i.e. Avvo, Manta, etc.). You should also maintain and build your own network of referral sources, mentors, and industry contacts that will know you by name. Keep in regular communication with these folks via email or another easy-to-use method to remain relevant in your own name, so that you can bring in the business to the firm yourself.
Reputation is something that happens to you as a result of actions you take or other circumstances, a personal brand is something you actively work to develop. Be proactive as a young lawyer, and remain proactive as you move through your years of legal work, by putting forth a unique and memorable personal brand.
Mobile is More Important Than Desktop
It is a fundamental tenent of digital marketing that search engine ranking positions determine who clicks on your links (click-through rates) – to put it bluntly, you have to show up to have a chance to win. Responsive design is now considered virtually mandatory for online success, and mobile click-through rates are significantly higher than either desktop or tablet rates, as they have been for quite some time. Mobile search is perched to surpass desktop for search activity, organic traffic, and paid clicks in 2015. Is your law firm ready?
Your search position directly impacts your online success, but even more so in mobile or tablet than on a desktop. According to Marin Software, achieving the top position is most important on smartphones, and the distribution of tablet clicks tends to be more closely aligned with smartphones than with desktops, with desktop position the least influential.
At least one marketing industry report claims that Apple iPhones drive half of all mobile Internet traffic, dominating both app traffic and web traffic. More email is read via mobile than on a desktop email client. 78% of Facebook users are mobile-only. 71% of users access social media accounts solely from a mobile device.
Content Marketing is the Genesis of All Successful Digital Marketing
While the importance of adding fresh content to your website is not a new concept, this year it evolved. Whereas a blog author could previously post a series of short, unimaginative, but keyword-rich, posts each week and gain search engine credibility, that is now no longer possible. Google continually adjusts its algorithm to provide the best search results for its users and to weed out spam. Many marketing gurus now tell us that if you are going to add content, that content needs to be close to 1000 words – a dramatic increase from the previously acceptable 350 words.
What this means for busy lawyers is that they can no longer skate by on mediocre content. They must hire someone who will post content while abiding by current best practices for appropriate SEO or try to follow these practices themselves. The upside is that while quality content marketing is time-consuming, it is less expensive than traditional outbound marketing, and it also works just as well, or better in some cases.
Law firms can often be the places that big dreams go to die with regard to tasks like content creation. “Real work” gets in the way of maintaining digital copywriting on a regular basis. Keep your content creation organized, streamlined, and consistent with the use of an editorial calendar. Touch on each of your main practice areas at least once a month and optimize the posts for keywords and keyword phrases related to them.
To build on the personal brand concept mentioned above, allow a variety of lawyers to serve as blog authors. This will allow your law firm to become more transparent and relatable to clients and followers. With several different authors writing, however, each writer will need to focus on maintaining a somewhat cohesive and consistent professional voice.
If You Don’t Do Social Media, Still Use LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the most effective social media network for law firms when compared to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. LinkedIn boasts well over 300 million members, with two new members joining every second. Over 40% of LinkedIn users check it every single day and 31% of users have completed graduate school.
LinkedIn is your online professional resume and your best professional networking tool. Be sure to connect your employment listings to their appropriate company pages, and to build out those pages to list your firm’s practice areas. A recent American Bar Association survey showed that 95% of ABA members have LinkedIn profiles and that 70% of corporate counsel regularly use the network as a tool to find and vet outside counsel.
This year, LinkedIn pushed out a variety of updates, enhancements, and changes, including a publishing platform, adjusted company pages, and individual profile redesigns. Lawyers: if you are picking amongst social media networks to join and participate in, pick LinkedIn first.