By Jon Quick
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has said the main quality he looks for when considering an investment in a company is “an enduring competitive advantage.”
There are a lot of elements that make up a competitive advantage. Very simply put, it’s your point of differentiation between your firm and your competitors. It may be that you are able to provide services at a lower price, or you might provide additional services for the same price. This may change over time, depending on changes in the business of law or a new competitive atmosphere.
Before doing any kind of marketing, law firms should look at the following:
Customer service, first and foremost
Without great customer service, you will lose. If the “personality” of your law firm is wrong, no amount of marketing will help. In fact, marketing will hasten your demise.
Think about it. Would you go back to a doctor who is insensitive to your needs? How many times have you been treated rudely at a restaurant or a bank? Chances are, you don’t go back.
Great customer service begins with the first encounter a prospective client has with your firm.
I have used this example before: a prominent Indianapolis law firm calls its receptionist the “director of first impressions.” This firm gets it.
The welcoming feel for your practice should weave through every aspect of your practice, including your marketing.
Appealing website presence
Aside from many other reasons to have an amazing website, it’s an integral part of your customer service. Today, your website is the first impression potential clients will have of you and your work.
I have worked with law practices that had websites that would cause people to run to their competition. The site may be dark and ominous with a photo of the staff looking like mannequins in black suits, plus paragraph after paragraph of legalese that no one will read.
Remember, your website should be your “hub.” Drive any other marketing to your site. Build your followers.
Elements of a great website include:
• Bright, upbeat colors;
• Photos that show your lawyers as human beings who look compassionate;
• Easy to read;
• Cutting-edge appearance avoiding the cookie-cutter approach;
• Current information that gives the impression that you are the top authority in your practice area. This includes regular blogs that are topical;
• Write like people talk. Make it consumer friendly;
• Consider podcasts;
• Let your clients contribute online reviews. Ask them for an endorsement and post it; and
• Video. The statistics proving that video can dramatically increase results are amazing and convincing. Example: 80% of people recall watching a video on a website, and almost half took some action as a result. Replace those lines of dull verbiage with a well-produced 90-second web overview video. Most will watch, but they won’t read beyond the first paragraph.
SEO: How people find you
Law firms often fail to invest in good search engine optimization, or SEO. There are beautiful websites out there that are never found in a Google search because they don’t come up until the fourth or fifth page or later. Generally, people will not go beyond the first or second page in their search.
You need to come up near the top of the heap. Of course, your goal should be to come up first in your practice area. SEO is a science. It’s well worth the money to hire a specialist to help you gain the best results.
Keeping your site current with changing content, relevant, regular blogs, and, yes, video will — on their own — help increase your position in searches.
Come up with new billing strategies rather than the billable hour. Make “house calls.” Be approachable.
When it’s time for marketing
This brings to mind a classic quote from advertising legend David Ogilvy: “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.”
Are you sure you want people to see you dressed the way you are?
Once you are double and triple sure your practice is solid and you’ve adopted the above suggestions, it’s time to market. Not sure? Ditto Ogilvy above.
Many law firms spend thousands and thousands of dollars on expensive TV commercials. Many are ineffective. Why? The content of the spot is bad. So many just look the same.
A great commercial that is emotional and with believable information will go miles further than some of the junk lawyer commercials out there.
Unless you have a huge budget, stay away from regular network TV stations. There is so much waste, and it’s much more difficult to target your audience.
Instead, be smart and use platforms such as Google or Facebook online advertising. You can target the exact region of your practice and further zero in on your ideal customer base. The cost is much more efficient than the older, traditional media.
Have up-to-date Facebook and LinkedIn sites. Post news about your firm. Post any blog from your website.
Podcasts, done well, can have a dramatic effect. A great friend who is a very successful attorney has been regularly podcasting for several years now. The result is that he is now considered one of the top go-to experts in his practice area. He has followers around the world. How much has he spent on outside marketing? Virtually nothing.
Fact is, you can market your firm in this new world with little or no budget if you effectively utilize the newer platforms.
Get out there
There is still no better marketing than face-to-face. Be present at important community events. Urge your staff to be involved. There are so many great grassroots marketing opportunities out there, from sponsoring a Little League team to having a signature charity you support.
Offer yourself as a speaker at law industry events. Mentor students. Offer meaningful internships.
Finally, follow up
Send clients a personalized thank you note. Show appreciation for their business and ask them to provide feedback on the service you provided.
Collect email addresses from your friends and clients who give you permission to receive email from you – let me underscore that “permission-based” is critical to avoid people marking your emails as spam. Send them relevant news about the activities of your firm. Make it consumer friendly with no legalese. Integrate your videos into them. Most of all, provide several links to your website. Sending e-newsletters is very inexpensive when you use a service such as Constant Contact or Mailchimp.
And, in case you haven’t heard, drop any spending in the print Yellow Pages. They are nothing but doorstops these days.•
• Jon Quick — 317-432-0309 or [email protected] — is president of Carmel-based QPR and Marketing, specializing in law firms, and a partner at Videopolis.tv. He is a former executive with CBS and Emmis Communications. Opinions expressed are those of the author.