The business of law has always been important but today it is far more complicated due to the web which has allowed the channels of advertising and business development to grow exponentially. From product placement in movies to handrails featuring advertisements, commercial culture serves as an omnipotent force and has yielded two great premises: that we as a people respond to advertisements and that the Internet is a powerful tool for advertising.
Mark Britton, founder, CEO and president of Avvo, teaches attorneys and marketing professionals to have no legal fear when it comes to the business of law. In his upcoming address at Lawyernomics 2013 entitled “Issue Spotting: Turning 10 Legal Marketing Challenges Into Opportunity,” he seeks to instruct attorneys how to establish a marketing protocol in order to expand their practices. Mr. Britton sat down with me recently to further school the legal community on web-based legal marketing and how to “sell” one’s self in the modern legal landscape.
Attorneys historically self-promoted by attending large gatherings at rotary clubs but now there are multiple outlets for them to sell their services, such as LinkedIn, YouTube and blogging. According to Mr. Britton, a practitioner can utilize any “set of variables” for advertising purposes and this is important, given the rising number of lawyers and the resulting competition. Therefore, in order to truly succeed in today’s legal marketplace, attorneys must remain strategic and learn how to manage their businesses effectively.
The Internet, which Mr. Britton characterized as “central to life” as the law, serves as the most influential avenue for legal marketing. Facebook alone hold 8 million registered users—a small nation of its own. Practitioners must therefore act defensively—while they frequently rely on word of mouth, they must transfer this technique to such Internet sources as Yelp, Reputation.com and the Yellow Pages. Mr. Britton advises that the attorney who is aware of her “Google status” is ahead of the game.
In addition, attorneys must act on the offensive by making use of the Internet to increase clientele. Mr. Britton relayed how in his interactions with thousands of lawyers on a yearly basis, the common complaint is that the less experienced attorneys obtain more business because they advertise more. Regardless of the level of experience and professionalism, practitioners must utilize the web as a “tremendous strategic tool” to attain a larger client base. For example, they can join blogging spheres and practice groups that exchange ideas, build networks and develop business. This sort of self-promotion might be considered “unseemly” by some lawyers, yet the Internet serves as the number one tool to generate clients.
Mr. Britton acknowledges the challenge of thinking in a technology-driven, business-geared mentality when one comes from a legal background. He stresses that the objective should be to take on the role of an opportunity-spotter rather than just an issue-spotter. However, in law school, we were trained only to take fact patterns and analyze them and when we practice, we spot the issue and mitigate risks, all without placing any emphasis on the business aspects of practicing law. As a result, when it comes to a tool such as social media, nine out of ten attorneys will focus on its privacy issues, entirely missing the point of its social networking benefits.
For all the attorneys and legal marketing professionals who struggle with how to go about conforming to the marketing must’s, Mr. Britton offers his insights on five baselines of legal marketing with the ultimate intention of converting contacts into clients:
#1. Establish your target audience.
Who are you searching for? Future and existing clientele? Law firms invest significant resources into bringing in clients so figure out who you are trying to attract so you can tailor your marketing strategies accordingly. For example, after establishing that you want to attract clients, refrain from writing your blog posts in legalese.
#2. Target your time and money as it relates to your target audience.
This should be preplanned and reviewed on a quarterly basis and should be initiated with a goal in mind. For instance, if your aim is to acquire a higher number of lawyer referrals, find space in your budget and calendar to start an e-newsletter or present at a conference.
#3. Target channels that you think are valuable one at a time.
Be deliberate about your marketing tools. Learn if your channels’ ROI is worth the time and money and either maintain the channel or turn it off accordingly. After you start that e-newsletter, get Constant Contact or any other service that provides monthly reports to figure out how many people are reading them and whether it is a successful investment.
#4. Measure your targets by figuring out the benefits.
Hire a consultant to see if you are actually gaining benefits from your investments. Paying high fees to place an ad in the Yellow pages is pointless if you do not know how many clients you are actually attracting.
#5. Establish a strong web presence.
Your website is the modern-day calling card so certify that it is in fact well-developed. To exemplify, if someone were to raise a point on Twitter and you respond by saying you wrote about this topic on your blog, the potential client may go to your website and develop her first impression of you through your website. This is often how social networking works—it all goes back to the website where people first connect with you. Make sure you also have strong seo controls in place so you can zero in on the demographics of your website visitors.