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Marketing your law practice online

“The best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google search results” is a joke bouncing around social media forums at the moment.

If you didn’t get it, the humour lies in the fact that nobody ever looks on page two, and if you or your business is on page two of a Google search you will never be found.

For New Zealand businesses this modern rhetoric is a concern, as according to business monitor MYOB’s national report in April 2012 presently only 32% of businesses have a website.

Regionally Auckland leads the online market as 38% of businesses have a website. The capital lags behind with only 31% of Wellington businesses online, and in post-quake Christchurch the number of websites has declined since the earthquakes and now sits at 27%.

The study indicated online businesses are more likely to have had an increase in business than those that aren’t, and those with websites are more optimistic about the future.

General Manager MYOB Julian Smith says 42% of businesses with a website grew their revenue, in comparison to 29% of businesses without a website.

Those with websites were also more optimistic about the future. 51% of businesses with a website expected future growth whereas only 37% of businesses without a website expected to grow.

Lawyers and professional services in general have been slower to take up websites than other industry and it could be stunting their growth according to Justin Lanigan, the Managing Director of website development company 123 Online.

 “Without effectively marketing yourself online you’re not going to be able to generate leads and grow. The internet is the backbone of any form of marketing whether it is online or offline,” Mr Lanigan says.

“When was the last time you actually called someone from a print ad?” he asks.

“You might have gone to the website from the print ad and looked around further. But you didn’t just pick up the phone and make a call.

“The internet has made people researchers. People will short-list people to call from advertising, or Google results, but they won’t make the actual call until they have gone: ‘yip this has answered some of the key initial questions I had – these are the guys I want to talk to.’

“You can spend $1,000 to drive them to website A, or $1,000 to drive them to website B, but then the return on your advertisement is what people do when they get to your website. Did they pick up the phone and enquire? Did they sign up to your newsletter?”

Mason Lockhart, principal at Lockhart Legal, decided his “holding page”, one page of information on the legal services he provided which he began in 2009, needed to be upgraded after prospective clients told him his website was not answering their questions.

To upgrade his website adequately, he trawled online, looking at what other law firms were doing.

One common flaw he observed in legal websites was they were often written for lawyers rather than clients, as they contained jargon generally not recognised or understood outside the profession.

“Remember who your audience is,” he says. “It’s not other law firms.”

“It’s about the clients and supplying relevant information for clients so they go: ‘that’s exactly what I am looking for’.”

Marlborough’s first law firm, Hardy Jones Clark, is one of the longest established in the country. However its solid regional and national reputations did not stop it from becoming an early website adopter.

The firm has had its website up for over a decade and is currently in the middle of developing a better presence.

“We are quite proactive with keeping up with technology,” Practice Manager Jim Ward says.

When asked why Hardy Jones Clark commits resource into a website, Mr Ward answered: “Why would you not invest in a website when all people nowadays are very tech savvy?”

Firms must have an online presence 24 hours a day, every day of the year, he says.

The firm also “definitely receives” business queries from the website.

“It is an easy way for clients to contact us. They don’t have to contact us in office hours. They can contact us at their convenience,” he says.

“Websites nowadays for professional services are a necessity. They make it easier for clients to contact us and to research us.

“The other thing about websites in today’s environment is they are affordable to most businesses. They are a much more cost-effective resource compared to what they used to be.”

This article was published in LawTalk 795, 11 May 2012, page 12.

Last updated on the 22nd May 2012