These days, there are many competitors in every niche of the legal market. If you don’t make an effort to get your name out there, you’ll struggle to attract clients. You need to establish a marketing strategy for your firm, but before you can do that, you need a deep understanding of your firm’s brand, its customers, its personality, and its goals. Here are the 10 essential questions you should ask yourself before you start your law firm marketing campaign. These questions will help you decide which marketing strategy to pursue and shape the overall brand identity for your campaign.
1. Who is My Target Audience?
First, you need to know who your law firm serves. This will inform every other aspect of your marketing strategy: everything from what platforms you use to your imagery and how you write your messaging is influenced by your target clientele.
Law offices tend to serve a somewhat wider demographic than certain other businesses, which can make this challenging. The kind of people who come to you seeking your legal services could hail from many different backgrounds.
But at a minimum, you’ll want to determine the following about your target audience:
- Average age. The age of your clientele impacts the channels you will use to reach them with your marketing. For example, if your clients are primarily older, they might not be as active on social media or the internet, and traditional offline advertising might be an easier way to reach them.
- Education and income level. A law firm serving low-income families will market itself differently than one that exclusively serves the upper middle class. Specifically, the types of services you provide and the language and imagery you use in your marketing will often depend on the demographics of your target clientele.
- Location. Law is a local service in the majority of instances. Generally, you’ll target your marketing campaigns to people in your city or at least your state. You might want to even try hyperlocal marketing, where you narrow down to specific neighborhoods and parts of town.
You’ll need to do a bit of market research here, but it will be worth the effort. When you know exactly who you’re marketing to, it becomes a lot easier to target them.
2. Who Are My Competitors?
The first step to establishing your brand and differentiating yourself from competitors is to understand who your competitors are, and also how they market themselves.
Do some research to figure out what other firms are targeting your same clients. Take note of the marketing strategies they are using. If it works for them, chances are that a similar strategy might work for you.
Also, by learning about the marketing tactics your competitors use, you can find ways to promote your own services in a way that distinguishes you from them.
3. What Differentiates Me From My Competitors?
An effective marketing campaign should not only resonate with the target audience, but also help you stand out from your competitors. You don’t want to come across as “just another firm,” but instead convey clearly why you are the right firm for a certain type of client.
Think about your law firm’s core values, the personalities and backgrounds of your attorneys, the expertise of your legal staff, and the distinctive services that you can offer. Think carefully about why you practice law and why you established your firm in the first place. Pay special attention to unique things that you can offer your clients that no other firm can.
These are just a few of the things that make your firm unique. They can be used to create your unique selling point, or your value proposition. With this information in mind, try to come up with a tagline that embodies your firm in a concise yet compelling way.
4. What’s My Business Plan?
There’s no sense in marketing a business without a business plan. You’ll just waste your money.
Your business plan is where you determine your mission and core values, set your goals, and define your processes. It helps create organizational structure within your firm so that when you do receive an influx of new inquiries from your marketing campaign, you are able to capitalize on it.
To create a law firm business plan, you should start by conducting a SWOT analysis (i.e. identify your firm’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). Use this information to create an action plan with clear goals and a framework for how every part of your business will operate, including but not limited to marketing, staffing, finance, and sales.
Ultimately, a comprehensive business plan is your roadmap. It’s what provides you and all your staff members an idea of where your business is headed and how you will get there.
5. Will I Handle Marketing Internally Or Outsource?
Another important question is whether you’ll bring a marketing director into your organization or simply hire an external firm to manage it. Both options have their pros and cons.
The advantage of handling marketing in-house is that you’ll have tighter control over your brand and the way you manage your campaigns. There will be fewer communication challenges and it will be easier to respond to any challenges that may arise.
The downside is that it can be very difficult to hire a good marketing director, particularly if you don’t know much about marketing yourself (which is why you should plan to learn some marketing basics before hiring). Making a bad hire can set you back substantially in terms of both time and money.
With outsourcing, it can be easier to see immediate results, especially if you hire a reputable agency with a track record of success in legal marketing. The downside is that your costs will likely be quite a bit higher, since the agency’s fees will cut into your profit margins significantly.
Ultimately, it depends on your overall strategy. Some forms of marketing, such as content marketing and social media can be done in-house more easily, while more advanced things like PPC advertising should probably be left to the experts.
6. What Does My Web Presence Look Like Right Now?
Before you invest any money into marketing, you should make sure that your web presence is optimized. Regardless of where or how you promote your firm, marketing will inevitably attract more people to your website and other online profiles.
Take a careful look at your website, social profiles, Yelp/Avvo review pages, etc. Be sure all the information is accurate, consistent, and up-to-date, and that you convey a sense of professionalism across the board.
Also be sure to add your business to Google My Business, where you can get client reviews and improve your appearance on Google maps.
Double check that your firm’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) remains exactly the same across all these places around the web. If it is even slightly different (e.g. if you abbreviate Suite to Ste. in some places and not others), Google may penalize you.
7. What Are My Target Keywords?
Before starting a marketing campaign, you’ll want to have an idea of what language you will use throughout your marketing materials. This is important both for SEO and for creating clear, yet compelling calls to action that resonate with your audience.
Consider your area of expertise, and make a list of every keyword or phrase you can think of that are related. Especially consider what your clients are likely to search for on Google – for example “real estate lawyer in Chicago.”
Keep this list of keywords and phrases handy because you will want to use this language consistently when you design your website and write your ad copy and other content.
8. What Follow Up Process Do I Have For Prospective Clients?
If you have an extremely low conversion rate from prospect to paying client, spending money on marketing won’t yield many results. Once you’ve attracted a potential client, you must also consider how you’ll track and follow up with them.
Having a lead conversion process in place is equally if not more important than attracting the prospects in the first place. You should plan this out before you start your marketing campaign.
The main objective should be responsiveness, good communication, and creating a seamless, client-friendly experience. For example, you might consider a live chat service on your website so someone can respond in real time or using a virtual receptionist so no call ever goes unanswered. This ensures your client inquiries are always responded to by a real person in real time.
Also, using a CRM to track prospects throughout the retention process is a good idea. A CRM helps organize all your potential clients and matters to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. If you use a CRM for law firms, there may be other useful features, like the ability to send online intake forms and automated follow up emails. A simple drip email sequence can go a long way to nurture prospects and keep your law firm’s name in the forefront of their minds.
9. How Many Clients Can I Handle, At Most?
Getting an influx of new clients is great, but it will obviously add to your workload too. You need to determine your maximum client load, and create a process to handle clients that attempt to contact your firm beyond that quota.
A firm that takes on too many clients will either end up working itself to death, or having a lot of angry clients, as staff simply won’t have the bandwidth to give each case the attention it requires. As for how many cases you can handle at most, that varies by person and practice area.
But before you spend money acquiring new clients, take a close look at how your firm operates, and consider how many additional hours of effort each case will require before taking it on.
10. What Does My Marketing Budget Look Like?
Last but certainly not least, think about how much you’re going to spend on marketing. You need to determine your maximum cost to acquire a client, as well as the sort of return on investment you’re looking to achieve.
The cost to acquire a client must be far below the average amount of fees that client will yield your firm in order to have a profitable campaign. So be sure to keep this number in mind, and track it regularly.
By using these types of key performance metrics, you’ll be able to determine whether or not your marketing campaign is successful. By generating reports on your conversion rate and your overall ROI from different marketing channels, you’ll figure out what is working and find ways to adjust the things that aren’t working.
You need to market your law firm if you’re going to succeed in today’s competitive environment. There’s no doubt about that.
But don’t just haphazardly start pouring money into ads or hire an expensive marketing agency. You should always go in with a solid plan to minimize risks and ensure that you get the most bang for your buck.
Spend some time to write down a well-thought out answer to all ten of the questions above before you start your law firm marketing campaign. This exercise will get you in the right mindset and you’ll significantly improve your chances of finding success.
Ryan B. Bormaster is the managing attorney at Bormaster Law. The law firm practices in a number of areas but specializes in 18 Wheeler Accidents, Accidents with Commercial Vehicles such as Work Trucks and Catastrophic Injuries of all kinds.