Don't Get Fooled by the Standard Marketing Advice

I was just reading a blog post by a lawyer who offered "5 easy marketing tips" for young and experienced lawyers. It offered the standard marketing advice but left out something crucially important.

The blog post advised staying top-of-mind with referral sources, making referrals, public speaking, joining organizations and doing excellent legal work. Check, check, check — this is all basic marketing information I've given to lawyers myself. It appeared to be standard advice until I hit the end of the article and found a titanic omission.

Pulling back, I thought to myself — you wouldn't market your law practice without paying attention to your website, would you? No — especially knowing that 76 percent of consumers seeking an attorney in the past year used online resources at some point in the process, according to TRiG research.                          

The standard marketing advice was right out of the 1980s, before the Internet went live. The guidance was tailored for a world with rotary phones, fax machines and VHS video cassettes. Today, the lives of consumers are filled with smartphones, iPads, computers, email, social media and blogs. These are marketing breakthroughs because they allow a lawyer to be many places at once.

In the old days, a lawyer could reach only the crowd he or she was addressing, talk only to the person he met at an organizational event and send a file only to referral source he had on the phone. Marketing efforts were limited as one-to-one activities.

But it's a different world today. Consumers are likely to look up your profile on the Web before they ever see you. They'll find you online before they ever hear your presentation or meet you at an event. When they look you up, consumers more are likely than ever to use their smartphones — smartphones are already outselling PCs and are regularly used by consumers to make purchasing decisions.

The Web has become an essential step in the way today's consumers really search for an attorney. Consumers don't start by looking for a lawyer — instead they begin by researching their legal issue. This naturally makes consumers seek out lawyer blogs and attorney websites that have detailed FAQ (frequently asked question) articles. Consumers will have a positive impression of a law firm if the website is mobile-friendly, and can easily be viewed on a two-inch screen on a smartphone.

So don't be fooled by the standard marketing advice from the 1980s. Get your website in shape so that it generates new business for you. Need some help?  Contact a LexisNexis Law Firm Marketing Specialist.

Basic Design Tips for Law Firm Websites

Today's post originally appeared on the LexisNexis Law Firm Marketing Blog by Donald Rohan, a Law Firm Marketing Specialist.

Bad website design is like a bad tattoo. You went into the process wanting something that highlighted your uniqueness and attracted positive attention. Unfortunately, you got something indistinguishable from thousands of others — or worse, something that stands out for the wrong reasons.

Traditional limits on legal advertising and inexperience with design often lead law firms to overspend on websites that don't deliver maximum impact. Some firms may think they don't need to invest much in their site. But even if your firm maintains a conservative approach to a practice area like estate planning, you can present and promote yourself in a unique, attractive way.  

You don't need to be a design expert. Just keep a few basic tips in mind, and check out these examples of firms that are doing design well:

Tell a story with one dominant image.

Before viewers read a word, they should get the message you're trying to transmit. Don't distract from this message by clouding the viewer's perception with different images. Find one dominant image that works.  On this homepage, you would immediately understand the firm's international focus.

Resist visual clichés.

A picture of courthouse steps does not send a message of trial brilliance. Instead, it leaves viewers with the inability to distinguish your firm from the thousands of others with similar imagery. The first people to put a pink flamingo on their lawn might have evoked curious questions as to whether exotic waterfowl lived there, but now those plastic birds are so common, people don't even "see" them anymore. Here's a website that uses symbolism to get away from the typical images of personal injury firms. 

Think like a newspaper editor.

Without reading any of the text, a newspaper reader knows which stories merit the most attention. Those appear on top with the largest headlines and graphics. Other important stories are presented lower on the page. Interesting items that don't merit front-page treatment receive a brief mention in the table of contents with their page number. On this site, the main headline is large, clear, and well promoted, even as the images behind it shift. As you move down and outward from the headline, the secondary items appear and are easy to access.

At each stage of your website process, you should be able to identify your firm's headline, the dominant image that will accompany it and why it is uniquely matched to your firm.

VIDEO: How Paid Search Quickly Drives Law Firm Leads

WATCH THIS VIDEO to learn how a paid search advertising campaign can provide the broad online visibility you need to quickly generate high-quality leads for your law firm.

 

Finding Yourself Can Be Harder than it Seems

This is an interesting post by Brian Farrell, one of LexisNexis' Law Marketing Specialists, that includes helpful information to get you ranked higher in your name's search results.

If you Google the name Brian Farrell, you'll find a lot of "us." There's Brian Farrell the Artist, Brian Farrell the Doctor, Brian Farrell the Lawyer, Brian Farrell the Harvard Professor and Brian Farrell the Irish Footballer. And then, there's me, and many, many others.

Among all of these other Brian Farrells, it's critical to me that my name appears at the top of search results. Not an easy task when competing against professional athletes and distinguished Ivy League professors! I've spend a lot of time working on this, and so should you. You want potential clients to find you, not the person with an identical name who lives halfway across the country. And while "Brian" and "Farrell" are both relatively common names, even attorneys with more unusual names may share those with others.

So how do you set yourself apart online from those with names exactly, or almost exactly, like yours? It will take some research and a small investment, but the results will help secure your online identity.

First, buy your name as a domain name, and then grab your Twitter handle. Next, customize your Facebook URL and your LinkedIn profile URL (replacing the random string of numbers with your own name). If you haven't done this already, you may find that the obvious ones have already been taken, particularly websites that end with the .com extension or @YourName on Twitter. If that's the case, try to snatch up domain names that end with .net, .name or .me as an alternative. You should consider taking www.YourNameSucks.com while you are at it, as a preventative measure. Many of these will be free, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, but you will have to pay for domain names. However, the fees are nominal, and once you "own" them, they are yours as long as you keep renewing them.

There are also free services, such as www.knowem.com, that will help you identify different extensions and domain name availability, as well as searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database.

If you find that the obvious names have been taken, you will need to consider Plan B, or even Plan C. For example, seek out domain names that include your middle initial or your full name with your practice area or location (but don't use your city or state if you don't plan to practice there a long time), such as www.JohnDoeLawyer.com.

Throughout all of your social media activity, remember to abide by the rules of the state bars where you practice. And stay up to date on rulings and ethics opinions, since this is an area that is quickly changing.

Next, figure out which of these names you want to use to market yourself. You don't need to create a website for each of the URLs you secure — you just want to make sure no one else uses them. You can always redirect your chosen URL to your Lawyers.comSM profile, too. Once you have settled on one URL, Twitter handle, personalized LinkedIn page and business Facebook profile, be sure to use those consistently to brand yourself.   

Read original post here.

Bankruptcy Lawyer Sees New Business from Participation in Online Legal Advice Forum

LexisNexis recently spoke with David L. Gibbs, senior associate attorney for The Gibbs Law Firm, APC, a bankruptcy, business and real estate firm in San Clemente, Calif. Gibbs is an active participant in Lawyers.com'S Ask A Lawyer.

LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell®: Can you tell me about your law practice? Who are your typical clients and how does a new client typically find you?

David L. Gibbs: Our clients are primarily homeowners in our small town in South Orange County, Calif., who experience problems with their homes or other real estate they own. Most of it is residential foreclosure activity. The single biggest driver of our business is word of mouth, because it is such a small community.

But more and more we are receiving leads from online sources, including Lawyers.com and the Ask A Lawyer section on Lawyers.com.

LNMH: How long have you been participating on Ask A Lawyer?

DLG: It's been almost a year.

LNMH: I heard that you've gotten several new clients as a result of your Ask A Lawyer work. Some of the other attorneys I've talked to have told me that lawyers shouldn't expect to get new business from Ask A Lawyer because its primary benefit is search engine optimization. Why do you think you've had success in driving new business where others haven't?

DLG: It's probably a combination of factors: The sheer number of answers I'm providing and the areas of law where I'm posting.

LNMH: What about the other benefits you've seen from your participation? You mentioned the links back to your website.

DLG: I haven't tried to quantify the search engine optimization benefits. I have gone into Google Webmaster Tools, looked at the profile for our website and seen click-thrus from Lawyers.com to our site, so I assume it's working. I just have to think that just being on Lawyers.com and posting frequently is helping drive traffic to our website.

LNMH: How much time do you spend in the average week answering questions on Ask A Lawyer?

DLG: I'm not on there daily, but when I do get on, I usually spend about an hour at a shot, and I do that a couple times a week. So probably two to three hours a week.

LNMH: Are you doing this during office hours or on your own time?

DLG: Mostly during office hours. For example, I'll jump on if I have a half an hour free and don't have time to start something new. Or if it's slow, I'll go onto Lawyers.com and spend an hour or so answering questions.

LNMH: What's the strangest or most memorable question you've ever answered?

DLG: [Laughter]

LNMH: The laugh makes me think there must be one or two.

DLG: There are tons of them. I'd have to say that landlord-tenant law is the most frequent source of weird questions. They're all over the map. It seems that about half of the questions are comical in some respect. Not comical in the sense of making fun of people, but weird stuff happens in that arena. You hear about landlords peeping on their tenants or walking into apartments without any advance notice.

LNMH: Understanding that you probably don't want the competition, would you recommend Ask A Lawyer to a colleague with whom you weren't competing?

DLG: Absolutely. It's a great tool and the fact that it's still free is fantastic.

Ask A Lawyer is a good resource for consumers. And although the search engine optimization benefits are hard to quantify, it can't be a bad thing for attorneys.

LNMH: What advice would you give to other attorneys who want to participate on Ask A Lawyer?

DLG: Limit yourself to areas where you know the law. On other online legal advice forums, I've seen attorneys taking guesses on answers in areas where they don't practice. Don't do that, you look like an idiot. Focus on what you know.

Second, be human. I've seen responses on other online legal advice forums where attorneys seem very condescending and are talking above their audience.

Finally, jump in and get going. It's very easy to do.

What Do Online Consumers Do After Searching for an Attorney?

The recent Attorney Selection Research Study by The Research Intelligence Group (TRiG), taught us all sorts of things about where consumers go to search for attorneys online, how they obtain legal information from the Internet and even the specific types of devices they use to do this online searching.  Last week, we concluded our look at the substantive findings by sharing results regarding which areas of legal practice are the most popular when consumers search for an attorney.

Armed with this data, it would be fair to ask: So what? Does it really matter if we know about the online searching habits of consumers with legal needs, if we don't know what happens AFTER they complete their online research?

Follow the link to read the remainder of Amy Kovar's post.

What are the Most Popular Areas of Law Researched by Consumers?

On the LexisNexis Blog, Amy Kovar, a product marketing manager, posts about research determining the most popular areas of law sought by consumers.

Among adult Internet users in the U.S. who sought an attorney in the past year, the five most common legal matters sought were the following:Legal Matter Sought in the Past Year

  • Real Estate - 21%
  • Living Will - 17%
  • Estate Planning - 16%
  • Last Will & Testament - 16%
  • Power of Attorney - 15%

Interestingly, there were no meaningful differences in the practice area results between those who sought out their legal matter using an online resource and those who did not — the same five areas of practice were the most common regardless. 

We invite you to download a complete copy of the study report.

Lawyer Biographies Remain the Most Popular Content on Law Firm Websites in Communicating Expertise

LexisNexis® Legal & Professional ( www.lexisnexis.com ), a leading provider of content and technology solutions, last Thursday announced results from the latest LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® study on how international B2B law firms are using their websites as part of their marketing programs.

Based on initial qualitative interviews conducted in April 2012 and an online, quantitative survey in July, the study "The Use of Websites in Law Firm Marketing" reflects the views of 209 law firms across six world regions (excluding the United States). Amongst all participants, offline tactics currently account for just over two-thirds of all marketing spend, compared to 38% for online - though many respondents expect this to change in the future as online methods become more widely adopted in their marketing programs.

Steve Corney, senior digital marketing manager at LexisNexis International, commented: "The study shows that the legal industry is finally recognizing the role and importance of online content in lead generation, alongside traditional offline techniques. The 38% of marketing budgets allocated to online tactics now brings the legal sector slightly above the market average of 36%."*

As the table below illustrates, survey respondents across firms of all sizes do seem to be prioritizing their budget in online investment - reporting to allocate at least 3% of their marketing spend when developing a new website, and a further 1% on sourcing external support for the site once launched:

Size of legal practice

 

Small firms (1-20 lawyers)

 

Medium-sized firms (21-50 lawyers)

 

Larger firms (51+ lawyers)

 

Total annual marketing budget

 

Up to US$155,000

 

Up to US$775,000

 

Up to US$1.5 million(lower end)   up to $7.5 million(higher end)

 

Website development budget(involving a major revamp)

 

Up to US$15,500(10% of total budget)

 

Up to US$31,000(4% of total budget)

 

In excess of US$46,500(3 % of total budget)

 

Ongoing external support budget(annual)

 

Up to US$1,550(1% of total budget)

 

Up to US$7,750(1% of total budget)

 

Up to US$15,500(1%                                    of total budget)

 

Firms that responded to the survey perceive their website to be 'very effective' (34%) in helping to build their reputation and awareness of their brand. A disparity, however, lies in the role that their websites play to help generate new work. Here respondents are seemingly more ambivalent, with more than one third (36%) feeling that their website fails to sufficiently support lead generation - though this view was more prevalent among respondents from smaller law practices and firms that had not revamped their website for more than three years. On average, all firms surveyed tended to run their websites for two to three years before considering a re-design.

A quarter of all respondents report taking a formal approach to managing content on their website, with 25% (small, medium and large firms) using a content calendar to schedule regular updates, whilst the majority (66%) have yet to put this structure in place. When asked about the most popular content on their website, lawyer biographies are the most visited pages (85% of respondents), followed by information about practice area/sector expertise (52%) and thought leadership articles, case histories, etc. (50%).

The popularity of such content helps to explain why respondents also ranked online legal directories (61% 'very' and 'somewhat' effective) as the third most effective lead generation tactic, behind their website (74%) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO, 62%). Adding relevant content about their lawyers, market expertise and thought leadership to online directories provides firms with further SEO benefits beyond their own website and helps to surface their content to a wider online audience to help prove credibility and generate new leads.

Whilst 71% of firms do take time to track how content on their website is used, many recognise that there is room for improvement in this area. Of these firms, only 11% report extensively using the available reporting tools and data to help measure effectiveness and return on investment, whilst 43% make little or no use of the data available.

Derek Benton, director of International Operations at Martindale-Hubbell, commented: "Technology is one of the factors that is changing the competitive landscape in the legal sector. It is positive to see how firms are using relevant content on their own website and third party sites to help produce leads more cost effectively, rather than rely only on offline channels. The challenge for marketers is to use the available reporting tools to monitor engagement and continually measure and improve the impact of online content to deliver the best return on investment."

Download the full report of "The Use of Websites in Law Firm Marketing: Examining how corporate law firms use their websites in marketing and business development" here.

*Source: "The Marketing Budgets 2012 Report", Econsultancy, in association with Experian Marketing Services, Feb 2012.

About LexisNexis Legal & Professional

LexisNexis® Legal & Professional ( www.lexisnexis.com ) is a leading global provider of content and technology solutions that enable professionals in legal, corporate, tax, government, academic and non-profit organizations to make informed decisions and achieve better business outcomes. As a digital pioneer, the company was the first to bring legal and business information online with its Lexis® and Nexis® services. Today, LexisNexis Legal and Professional harnesses leading-edge technology and world-class content, to help professionals work in faster, easier and more effective ways. Through close collaboration with its customers, the company ensures organizations can leverage its solutions to reduce risk, improve productivity, increase profitability and grow their business. Part of Reed Elsevier, LexisNexis Legal & Professional serves customers in more than 100 countries with 10,000 employees worldwide.

Martindale-Hubbell® helps international law firms to enhance their online presence and drive more prospect enquiries through professional profiles on martindale.com® and coordination of Martindale-Hubbell lawyer ratings. martindale.com is a leading online law directory with over 13 million unique visitors every year.

The Use of Websites in law Firm Marketing

Must Have Plugin for Wordpress Bloggers of Legal News

WordPress offers a free plugin designed for bloggers who want to add legal news content to their websites. You blog's own content will be combined with fresh legal news from LexisNexis' legal news website, Lawyers.com at blogs.lawyers.com.

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