8 Take Aways from the Super Legal Marketing Conference
The Internet is probably the greatest marketing tool in human history. It can help you spread your message almost instantly to anyone with an Internet connection anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, most lawyers are actually scared to use it.
Yes, you heard that right. Whether they don’t want to run afoul of the marketing rules or they don’t want to come across as slimy sales people, most lawyers actually fear marketing.
As Mark Britton, the Founder of Avvo, said lawyers feel more comfortable practicing law than marketing. Rather than step outside their comfort zone, most lawyers stick with the status quo “doing what the competition is doing and they don’t know what they’re doing either.”
What does this lead to? Bad attorney marketing.
If you attended last week’s Super Marketing Conference at Suffolk University Law School, where the focus was on online marketing, you know that attorneys need to keep up with technology and marketing trends. You know that lawyers need to dive in to Internet marketing with both feet to stay competitive with their peers and the new online legal service providers. You know there is nothing to fear.
If you didn’t attend, don’t worry. I’ve summarized my 17 pages of notes just for you. Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to find the courage to take the plunge.
1. Lawyers need to embrace social media.
Today, the majority of business connections are being made on-line. Everyone’s hanging out there, engaged in a giant virtual conversation about everything and anything, including your future clients.
If you aren’t there to engage and make the connection, someone else will. So where do you go?
Social media sites like facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn offer free, easy-to-use platforms for your law practice to connect with potential clients. Many lawyers are also using blogs to educate clients and other lawyers about their legal niche.
According to Lesley Ridge of Socialution Media, using social media the right way:
Amplifies your message;
Enables you to reach a much larger audience than traditional marketing methods; and
Allows you to grow that audience quickly and easily.
2. You don’t have to use everything, but you need to choose something.
Most attorneys are quickly overwhelmed when they start to look at all of their social media options. The good news is you don’t have use every platform to be effective. In fact, not every social media platform is right for you, so it’s important to be selective.
How do you determine which platform(s) work best? You need to:
Identify your target audience;
Find out where they hang out on-line;
Determine how much time and money you want to spend; and
Know why you’re going to invest.
According to Mark Britton, attorneys must be intentional and strategic. You need to understand what you hope to accomplish through social media use and create a plan to accomplish those goals.
If you choose only one social media platform, Stephen Seckler of Seckler Legal Consulting and Coaching recommends LinkedIn. Why? LinkedIn is aimed at connecting professionals like you with other professionals. If everyone is there for the same purpose, you don’t have to be afraid of coming across as too salesy.
3. Have a message.
Once you’ve decided on a platform, you have to decide what you are going to say. You have to be intentional about what you will and won’t talk about. As Attorney David White said, “Don’t blog crap.”
Nobody wants to hear you rattle on about yourself and the law. Only talk about things that are relevant to your target audience. As one panelist put it, lawyers should always write about the same 1 or 2 topics. Consistently writing about a specific area of the law gives you the opportunity to become an expert on that topic, increasing your reputation.
In order to focus your message, you need to know who your ideal client is. The most important thing you can do on social media is continually answer the questions that your prospective clients are asking.
4. Be a real person.
Lawyers often think that they’re hired because of their expertise in a particular area of the law. Unless you truly are the go to attorney in a niche practice area, this isn’t necessarily true.
People hire lawyers they know, like, and trust. According to Stephen Seckler, expertise is secondary when making legal hiring decisions.
To improve your chances of being known, liked and trusted online, be authentic. Show your personality. Have an opinion. Don’t be shy. Don’t be boring.
Also, actively engage with your audience. Social media allows you to connect with potential clients and referral sources. So talk to them. Answer their questions. Be helpful.
5. Be consistent and timely.
Building real relationships take time whether their in-person or online, so it’s important that you are willing to invest the time.
Your audience expects that you will be active, focused, and timely. This means blogging, tweeting, and posting updates on a regular basis. You can’t wait to answer their questions. It looks like you don’t care when your accounts go stale for too long.
I know what you’re thinking. How much time is this going to take? Well, I’m not going to lie. You will have to take time out of your busy schedule to make this happen. How much time depends on how much you decide to do.
If this seems too overwhelming, create a marketing calendar and schedule your social media activities just like you would schedule your appointments. Amy Danzinger Shapiro suggests that attorneys use tools like Hoot Suite (which I personally use) or Tweet Deck to manage multiple platforms from one place.
6. Look at the Data.
Many of the speakers talked about data analytics and measuring your return on your investment in social media. You need to measure and track your progress on social media so that you see if it’s working. If you know that one particular platform isn’t resulting in clients, you can adjust your efforts. Once you know what’s working, you can spend accordingly.
7. Be mobile.
The number of people accessing social media and the Internet from smart phones and tablet computers is increasing exponentially. You need to make sure that your message is available on these devices.
This means have a mobile-friendly website that’s easy to view and use from a mobile device.
And speaking of websites…
8. Make your website the center of your on-line world.
Too many lawyers treat their websites as online brochures and fill them with “interesting facts” about the firm alongside pictures of courthouses and gavels. Static and boring, these websites say more about the attorney than the client. If this sounds like your website, you’ve got it all wrong.
As Todd Curlett of FindLaw said, “you need to wow your audience with visitor-focused content.” What does that mean? Talk about the clients issues, not the attorney. As he so aptly put it, “don’t ‘we’ on them.”
Potential clients aren’t looking for you. They’re looking for a solution to their legal problem, so make your website about them.
Start with good design. Stay away from boring and cliché. No blacks, grays, and browns. And please, no more pictures of gavels, the scales of justice, or courthouses.
Strongly consider using video. While it may be expensive to hire a professional videographer, you get a lot of bang for your buck. YouTube is the #2 search engine behind Google. 60% of web traffic today is video and it is estimated to increase to 95% in the next 10 years. According to James Ringrose of Real Cool TV Productions, lawyer videos should be short, high quality, and client-focused.
Add the right messaging. Clients are stressed and they want answers to their legal questions. Tell them how you can solve their legal problems.
Make your website the hub of everything you do online. All your online activity should feed into your website. That means visitors can see your twitter feed, read your blog, connect with you on LinkedIn and Facebook all from your website.
As you can imagine, the Super Marketing Conference was an amazing day, filled with learning and meeting new people. Listening to all the great speakers left me inspired to increase my online marketing efforts.
Of course all of this is easier said than done. For some of us finding the time is the issue. For others, it’s the money. But the truth is there are low-cost and easy to implement and maintain options. You just need to find what works for you.
You can learn to be a great online marketer. You just need to get over the fear of the unknown. Stop with the bad excuses and get started.