It used to be pretty easy: Get that big ad in the print Yellow Pages, next to dozens of competing law firms, and you’re done. But how do you market your firm in the digital age? Done right, your advertising can be done effectively and more reasonably than ever. It just might take a learning curve and some patience.
Let’s start with your brand. Is it reflective of what your firm does and how you do it? Is your logo one that’s easily read and understood? Simple is best, but gavels and Lady Liberty are cliché. For more on law firm branding, check out my April 17 article in Indiana Lawyer online.
Here’s a checklist of the major categories of what’s out there:
Your website should be your hub. Use marketing to drive everyone there. Never skimp on your website; invest in it. Realize, though, it doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune. There are many good do-it-yourself sites out there if you are just beginning. Later, as you build your practice, pay more for a professionally built site with effective search engine optimization. There are beautiful websites out there that virtually no one sees, because it comes up too far down the list in internet searches. Your goal should be to be on the front page of a web search. Few people go any further than the first or second page.
Make the content better than any of your competitors and a “go-to” site for your practice area. Seriously consider video, at least on your home page. Video will also improve your search results, as will regular blogging and keeping the content fresh. But be cautious. A bad video, such as an attorney stumbling through a script with a “deer-in-the-headlights” look, can look bad and be counter-productive. Consider hiring a professional.
Compared to more traditional advertising, digital platforms are showing dramatic increases. It can be more cost-effective and produce better results. With digital, you can more specifically reach your target audience, down to certain ZIP codes and neighborhoods, and track user response.
Forms of digital advertising include email, through platforms such as Constant Contact and MailChimp, potentially reaching a lot of people at little cost. Results can be high through a well-designed piece that embeds photos or video and links directly back to your website. Only send to people who have agreed to “opt-in” to receive your email, and beware of being seen as spam.
Consider offering a free mobile app. Make it useful for the consumer and filled with practical information. A family law firm, for example, could produce an app regarding all aspects of the divorce process. A personal injury firm might have an app that outlines the exact steps to take in case of a vehicle accident. In all cases, the app can link the user directly to your firm’s website, or even automatically call your office.
Paid digital advertising through social media sites such as Google, Facebook and LinkedIn is another option with which you can easily control your budget and really zero in on your likeliest customers.
In a word: expensive (generally). However, if you can afford it, you can reach thousands. The downside is the difficulty in targeting those you really want to see your message or track who’s watching. There is limited targeting through buying programs that your potential clientele might be most apt to watch. News and weather programming are still good destinations for adults. You often see law firm advertising on popular TV programs, such as the many variations of court programming.
There have been strides in the television industry to target specific audiences. You can now buy local cable channels at a fraction of the cost of traditional local network TV. Networks now have choices on satellite and cable. Production costs have also dropped.
It is also not uncommon for a law firm to buy a long-form “infomercial,” usually 30 minutes, in which they produce their own programming, including the possibility of interactivity with viewers. Again, this can be very costly, not to mention the price of the production. Smart television sales executives will offer a hybrid buy that might consist of a package of commercials, coupled with inclusion on the TV website or a news or weather app.
Like TV, terrestrial radio has its share of challenges with competition from “new” media. Yet radio is far from dead. According to Nielsen, “Each week, more Americans tune to AM/FM radio than any other platform. What’s more, according to Nielsen’s second-quarter 2017 Comparable Metrics Report, 93 (percent) of U.S. adults 18 and older listen to radio every week — more than those watching television or using a smartphone, TV connected device, tablet or PC.”
Radio is no longer an efficient way of reaching very young people, but this is usually not a concern for law firms. The best radio operators are those that have integrated their terrestrial content into expanded platforms, such as on-demand streaming, podcasts, digital radio services and satellite radio.
Depending on the format and choice of platforms, it is fairly easy to target certain demographics. What’s more, production costs are minimal, and that keeps the overall media costs down for radio.
This category includes billboards on highways and neighborhoods, transit (bus and train) advertising, mobile billboards and bus shelters. An advantage of outdoor is that you can easily target sections of the region where your best potential customers will see your message. The downside is that far too many advertisers display a message that has too many words and people just can’t (or won’t) read it as they travel 70 mph down an interstate.
The rule of thumb is to have a message that can be consumed in 3 seconds. You also need enough boards to create attention, and the cost can be very expensive.
Like so much of the other media discussed here, those selling print ads — whether in a newspaper, magazine or specialty publication — will offer packages that include a presence on their digital platforms to further your reach.
As is the case with any other media, your message must be compelling and eye-catching to be read.
Major newspapers and magazines have seen a dramatic decline in the sale of traditional print ads, again due to competing content on digital platforms. There are good reasons, however, for a law firm to advertise in highly targeted magazines, including suburban newspapers and especially trade publications such as the Indiana Lawyer. You’re reading it now, right?
Often a law firm will forget the value of creating “buzz” or “street talk” by integrating themselves into the community. Whether it be your team of attorneys banding together to stock food shelves, build a Habitat for Humanity home or support a local Little League team, participating in regular public service can do tremendous things for strengthening your brand as one that truly “cares” beyond the courtroom. Many other firms support local or professional sports teams by purchasing advertising in stadiums, on tickets or in printed programs that people take home and save.
Also too often overlooked, but a major platform for smart attorneys, is to develop effective publicity. The aforementioned community outreach effort example is one way to garner what we call “earned media.”
Developing relations with TV, radio or print reporters is an important first step to gain this type of exposure in another way. Offer media outlets the chance to be their go-to authority to speak about a major story in the news. Every day there are stories that are relevant to almost every law firm specialty out there. If you’re good, you’ll become their “go-to” person, and your phone will start ringing with reporters asking for analysis.
Another way is to offer to write about relevant topics in newspapers and magazines, including — again — popular trade publications such as this one.•
• Jon Quick — 317-432-0309 or Jon@QPRmarketing.com — is president of Carmel-based QPR and Marketing, specializing in law firms, and a partner at Videopolis.tv. Opinions expressed are those of the author.