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Marketing your law practice online

05 May 2017 - By Kate Geenty

Lawyers and law firms need to make sure their online brand is visible and on point, are sending the right message to the right people, are blogging enough to keep Google interested, are LinkedIn, and aren’t committing a faux pas on Twitter. It can be a lot to get your head around.

Many firms are turning to marketing experts to help them navigate the brave new world. But what do you need to look for when selecting an external marketing partner?

Man and woman working

Before even before starting the search, it is crucial to work out what the key objectives are and who the target market is. Are you focused on retaining existing clients, or growing new business and attracting quality leads? Do you want to position yourself in a new sector? Or raise the profile of your firm’s junior partners?

“All of those things are quite different and will require a different approach. The more clarity you have around what you’re trying to achieve before you engage a marketing partner, the smoother the process will be,” says former lawyer turned marketer Sarah McGregor from The Marketing Loft.

Putting clients, or prospective clients, at the centre is key, says Kirsten Hodgson, from Kaleidoscope Marketing. “Often when you talk to lawyers about who their ideal client is, it’s not that well thought out and you find they are sending out the same message to quite a few different groups.”

Ms Hodgson says her firm has just completed an exercise that drilled down on identifying their ideal clients. “We put together semi-fictional representations of an ideal client segment. Large firms might have 20 clients, but a niche practice might be three or four. It’s based on research as well as any data that you’ve got through your website and any other online properties and also some assumptions.

“It’s about understanding what are the opportunities and the challenges that these clients bring. What’s their day-to-day like? Where do they go to get information? Once you’ve got that picture it helps shape everything that you do.”

Moving online contacts offline

Ms Hodgson says lawyers should look for a partner who can help them focus their messages on key groups and helps them draw out their key messages in a way that clients and potential clients can understand. The aim is to find someone who can help add value to clients.

“Also, you want to work with a team that can show how you can use online to get more face-to-face opportunities and help convert some of those online relationships to face-to-face opportunities in a way that isn’t really ‘salesy’.”

Importance of fresh content

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a key skill that marketers can bring to the table. While most sites will have some basic SEO functions and keywords built in during the design process – these need to be updated and tweaked regularly.

To get high rankings in search results on Google, the site content needs to be refreshed reasonably regularly with relevant news, blogs or other updates, says Paul Steele, owner of Law 2 Web, a web design firm that also offers social media and search marketing services for the legal profession.

“Firms can struggle to find an internal resource to keep content current,” he says. “That’s a critical point for Google ranking and optimisation of sites these days. Google is looking for current and relevant content, moving away from the sort of traditional long articles, some of which are provided by third parties, even if repurposed and firm-branded.”

What to look for in a marketing partner

Specialist knowledge of the legal sector can be an advantage, says Sarah McGregor, as marketing for business to business (B2B) or consumer clients is quite different from marketing for professional services. “What you can do in consumer marketing or even a lot of B2B, law firms don’t feel comfortable with. You need to have that understanding so you come back with some workable solutions that are going to fit with them culturally.”

As a first step, take a look at a marketing firm’s website. “Does the messaging on the consultant’s website speak to me? Is their content of interest to me? Is their branding throughout the website strong and consistent? It’s a bit like the hairdresser with a good haircut,” says Ms McGregor.

Also look for case studies, testimonials and examples of previous work. “Can they demonstrate success and do they have hard evidence that they can do what they say they can do?”

Ms McGregor also recommends ringing current or former clients and asking how they found working with the marketing firm, if they delivered what they said they would, and if it was on time and on budget.

Ask about their pricing structure. Are you clear about what you are paying for and what will be added extras? Do they have flexibility in their contactable hours?

“Often, marketing is a late-night activity for lawyers especially in small firms. During the middle of the day most lawyers are billing or working on things they can bill, so it’s important to have a marketing partner who can respond to you in a timely fashion, at the time you’re asking questions, not the next business day,” says Ms McGregor.

Another important factor is personal dynamics. Do you like them? Are they a good cultural fit? “Basically the aim is to have a long-term relationship, so all that time you spend upfront explaining to your business partner about your business isn’t wasted, because you’re not chopping and changing and having to go somewhere else and tell your story again.”

There are hundreds of marketing and digital marketing firms throughout the country. Here are some that are focused on legal and professional services firms. These listings are not an endorsement of their services.

The Marketing Loft

themarketingloft.co.nz

An Auckland-based boutique marketing consultancy for professional services firms. Services include client communications such as website strategy, website design and build, website security and maintenance, Google Analytics strategy and advisory, e-newsletters, database management; as well as marketing and branding strategies; business development assistance including help drafting tender documents and coaching and preparation for presentations; event management; and content services – developing content and a publishing strategy.

Market: Professional services firms.

Owner/Developer: Founded in 2014 by former lawyer turned advertising and communications executive Sarah McGregor and strategic management and marketing executive Anna Lundon.

Pricing: Services are provided on a fixed-price project basis, retainer or hourly rate.

Kaleidoscope Marketing

kscopemarketing.co.nz

Services include online client attraction, retention and growth, personal branding, social media and email marketing, social selling, using online tools to improve the client experience, copywriting.

Market: Legal and other professional services firms.

Owner/Developer: Kirsten Hodgson, author of the book LinkedIn for Lawyers.

Pricing: Prices are set per project.

Business Genetics

www.businessgenetics.co.nz

A research-based strategic marketing service. Business Genetics says it uses a ‘sequential process’ in its marketing strategy, which aims to differentiate your brand, build awareness of that brand differentiation and create first-brand preference, which will lead to a bigger market share and higher profitability.

Market: Professional services firms.

Owner/Developer: Founded by Ian McDougall, former marketing director for the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Pricing: Variable, so ask.

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Last updated on the 5th May 2017