Collaboration That Works: 2017 LMA Technology Conference Midwest

The event will be held on September 25th and 26th at the University Club of Chicago. Check out more about this years Technology Conference Midwest and LMA!

 

The National Law Review is proud to be this year’s Metabyte Sponsor!

5 Killer Online Marketing Strategies for Law Firms

Certainly by now we can all agree that the Internet has transformed the legal industry, from how you market your law firm to how legal services are delivered. Still, for many lawyers, the Internet is a confusing place with so many options that can either make you or break you. So let me help simplify things for you. Here are five online marketing strategies that are gold when it comes to delivering leads and boosting your brand:

Laptop on a desk, Online MarketingNarrow your choices. Unless you have an unlimited marketing budget, you can’t do it all — SEO, social media, pay-per-click, content marketing, email marketing, etc. If you throw a little bit at everything — the shotgun approach — you are wasting your money. Instead, focus on two things: (1) where your potential clients are, and (2) what you can measure. You have to be able to measure your success (or failure) to discover what works for your area of practice and to be able to build on the successes.

Use Facebook ads. There are 1.4 billion monthly Facebook users and half of those log in every day. One of the most powerful features of Facebook is ad targeting, the ability to layer targeting options on top of one another to create a highly specific audience. This enables you to target locally and get your ads in front of people who need your services now. Facebook ads are low-cost, so you can experiment to see what resonates with your potential clients and then repeat what works.

Capture leads with what you know. There is a vast amount of basic information you know that prospects want. And there are a number of tools available for you to disseminate this information to them, including blogs, eBooks and free reports. Offer these in exchange for contact information as added value and the leads will follow.

Think mobile. If your law firm website is not already optimized for mobile, make that happen fast. Mobile-friendly sites perform better in search results and also provide a better user experience for prospects.

Automate your lead conversion. A comprehensive law firm marketing program that embraces multiple marketing tools – SEO, PPC, ads, email marketing, social media, blogs, etc. – means leads come in from many different sources. If you don’t have an automated way to deal with them, leads will slip through the cracks and all that hard work and financial investment will be for nothing. Small law firms lose tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars every year because they aren’t tracking their leads and quickly following up with them. Mid-sized law firms are losing millions. Lost leads also hurt your reputation with your referral sources if they supplied the referral and your team doesn’t follow through on the lead.

© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved

2016 Update to Top 25 Law Firm Website Clichés to Avoid

As a group, lawyers are quite literal, often too literal for good marketing.

As a result, more than half of law firms simply illustrate their website home pages with the obvious icons that represent the general concept of “Law,” like columns, jury boxes, striped books, rowing, and “Smiling Lawyers.”

The four most-prevalent explanations seem to be:

(1) “Our website developer recommended this.”

(You apparently hired the wrong developer.)

(2) “We didn’t know what else to do.”

(Then find someone who does.)

(3) “Well, if everyone else is doing it this way, it must be right.”

(Does your business card say “Lawyer” or “Lemming?” Stand out! Excel!)

(4) “No one hires us because of our website. It doesn’t matter what it looks like.”

(It’s a bit circular to create bad marketing, then say, “See, marketing doesn’t work.”)

Your marketing should set you apart. 

Good marketing can help you stand above the crowd.  It can show how you are different, or add more value than your lookalike competitors. But doing exactly what all the other firms do simply buries you in the anonymous middle.  Sure it’s “safe,” but safe doesn’t create market leadership.

Here’s a random accounting firm’s website, illustrated by tax forms, a calculator, eyeglasses, a pen, and paper with columns of numbers. Do you feel assured that their CPAs will find the innovative solution to your challenging financial issues?  Are you compelled to read the “About Us” section or click to learn about their Services?

(Really, think about it — how do you feel about their skills and creativity?)

Website, Design, law firm website

That is, if your website’s home page shows a skyline or column, aren’t you telling visitors that (1) your firm is average, and (2) there’s nothing worth reading inside?  If you want to claim to be an A-tier firm, then you must look like it — and a photo of a handshake, building, or chessboard won’t cut it.

There are no exceptions — unless you’re a Wachtell or Cravath. 

With their hard-earned reputations, they have nothing to prove. Bad marketing doesn’t hurt them as much as it does most other firms.  But keep reading if your firm doesn’t yet possess a Wachtellian level of credibility.

So here they are, the 25 most typical and tedious photos law firms use — followed by what I think these icons actually convey to the average website visitor.

The Top 25 Visual Clichés:

[The Image:]  1.  Globe/Map (Always featuring North America)

Globe, World

[What it means:]  “We did a deal in Toronto once.”

2.  Firm handshake (Usually diverse in some way. Rarely two white men.)

“We’re your partner.”

3.  Building (My favorite is when it isn’t even the firm’s own building.)

“I did it, Maw! I work in a building!” 

4.  Smiling lawyers (See “The Smiling Lawyers Website Trap” blog post here)

“We must be smart, because obviously we’re not photogenic.”

(The worst are the group shots. Play the “Find the most-uncomfortable lawyer” game.)

5.  Skyline (or alternating skylines, for firms with multiple offices)

“We work in a city!” 

(Is that a dispositive hiring issue? Has any prospect ever thought, “If I could just find a law firm that worked in a city — that’s the firm I’d hire!”)

Generic, City Skyline

6.  Gavel (often resting on a striped book)

“We’re small-firm lawyers with a cheap template website.” 

7.  Columns/Courthouse

“We’re a law firm — here’s our column.”

(Yeah, we get it. <yawn>.  This category also includes empty courtrooms and jury boxes.)

Court House, Columns

8.  Light bulbs (formerly incandescent, now they’re swirly energy-efficient fluorescents)

“We have good ideas.” 

(One such “good idea” might have been hiring a better branding firm. Just sayin’.)

9.  Chess pieces (the king is often laying on its side)

“We’re strategic.”

(Why is the king sitting in the middle of the board so early in the game here?)

Chess, Board

10.  Diverse conference room (Everyone is perky and gorgeous. There’s “one of each.”)

“We know how much clients value Diversity.  So we spent $25 on a stock photo.”

(Other “Diversity” options include flags, crayons, colored pencils, and a circle of hands.)

[That’s Part 1. We’ll detail clichés #11-25 next week in Part 2.]

Seven Ways a Blog Can Help Your Law Practice

blogFor many attorneys, maintaining a blog is like eating kale – we know it’s really good for us, but we just can’t seem to get all excited about it. But if eating kale was the best possible way to get your law firm coffers to overflow status, I bet you would be digging into a plate of it every day.

And so it is with blogging, which is one of the best possible ways for you to dramatically increase your lead flow, improve your firm website’s SEO and traffic count, and build a sterling reputation online – all of which can lead to a healthier bottom line for your firm.

Many attorneys I speak with feel they should be blogging, but are not really sure why. Here are 7 ways that blogging can help your law practice:

  1. Increase client engagement. A blog provides an opportunity for you to open a dialogue with prospects and clients and share with them more about who you are, what kinds of legal issues you can help them with, and why they should hire you.

  2. Improve SEO rankings. Blogs are the number one way to add new content to your website, which search engines like Google reward with higher rankings. Over the last few years, Google has favored larger websites with more content over small websites.

  3. Humanizes your firm. People don’t want to hire faceless companies. They want to know they are cared for personally. Blogs provide you with the opportunity to tell the stories of clients you have helped (leaving out their real names and identifying information to protect the innocent), and nothing is better for putting a human face on your law firm. Include videos in your blogs to really humanize your firm.

  4. Showcases your areas of expertise. Regular blog posts keep your website up to date and relevant, letting prospects know you are on the leading edge of emerging legal trends. You can highlight the areas you truly specialize in.

  5. Market segmentation. If your law firm includes more than one practice area, you can segment this more effectively by creating blogs for each specialty area and speak directly to those targeted prospects.

  6. Repurpose content. Your blog posts can be effectively repurposed for free reports, e-books and in your monthly newsletters.

  7. Build trust. Current research shows that 81 percent of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs.

ARTICLE BY Stephen Fairley of The Rainmaker Institute
© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved

Gamification in Thought Leadership; not Just a Game: Education, Good Habits and Competition

gamification in thought leadershipFor the past few weeks, Pokémon Go has been a conversation starter.  The game has made headlines for getting kids out of the house bike riding and taking walks, and everyone seems caught up in the craze.  If you’ve been to a museum, or a park, or a shopping mall lately, you’ve most likely seen people bent over their phones wandering around talking about Pikachus and Rattatas. If the game has taught us anything, besides the location of the nearest PokéStop, it’s the motivational power of games.

It’s no secret that it can be a challenge to get attorneys to commit to a thought leadership strategy. It takes time away from billable hours and it can take awhile to see results. One intriguing strategy is gamification—game mechanics applied to non-game situations to encourage users to behave in a certain, desired way—to get marketing initiatives off the ground. Heather McCullough1 of Society 54 is an expert on gamification platforms, so NLR reached out to her to get our questions about gamification and thought leadership answered.

An important ingredient in any gamification initiative is buy-in. Heather says, “It is important to have an internal champion who will help to lead the effort and encourage participation. I have seen time and again efforts fail because they are being led by the Marketing or Business Development department with little to no visible support from management or other attorney(s).”  It is key that firm leadership indicate their support for the efforts, and nothing communicates that better than consistent, active participation in the efforts.  This visible approval and leadership can help encourage buy-in.  Having an enthusiastic participant in a leadership role can encourage participation firm-wide. This helps get the ball rolling before the fun of the game –and the spirit of competition– takes over.  Heather shares, “ We have a client whose managing partner is the champion for their gamified business development efforts and he communicates regularly with the attorneys about the competition – who is doing well, who needs to improve and then sharing some best practices which can help everyone improve their efforts. This firm not only seen tremendous buy in from the attorneys but also are realizing real monetary returns from their efforts.”

McCullough made it clear that any gamification strategy had to be clearly thought out—it is not just a game. It is important to understand your goals: what do you want the final product to be?  McCullough  says, “It is incredibly important to know what the firm is hoping to accomplish with the increased effort around writing thought leadership and design the gamification strategy with that at the center.”

For a thoughtful, effective, educational gamification strategy, it’s important to remember the unique challenges of thought leadership development, as well as the best practices for content.  Folding good thought leadership principles into any game is an important tool to maximize the efforts.  Heather says, “When we design gaming platforms for our clients, we always include thought leadership efforts into the activities available. . . this includes research, writing, publishing, repurposing and educating his/her peers on the issues discussed.”  Breaking down a large task—like writing for a blog—into smaller pieces—and rewarding those pieces can make it easier to get started.  If it’s easier to get started, more content is created.  Additionally, breaking the process down allows attorneys to see opportunities to create content on their own, again increasing the amount of content produced.  As McCullough points out, “The effort of writing is most important because there are many avenues to distribute content, even simply adding it to the individual attorney’s bio. With more content for a firm to choose from for distribution, the success will come.”

Creating thought leadership can be a very solitary process–but that doesn’t mean that it can’t get competitive. Heather says, “Attorneys are amazingly competitive and while the actual act of writing is a solitary endeavor, game-like elements can be incorporated into the process and competition can happen among the individuals and points can be awarded for a variety of different components.”  What those components are can be up to the individual goals of the firm–but it is a solid strategy to reward good habits so the game encourages good habits–and also educates attorneys about what those good habits are.  For example, McCullough says,

There is a plethora of ways that writing can be rewarded and rewarding for the attorneys involved.  For example, writing for a business audience vs. a legal audience (no legal-ease, please), keeping the article under a certain number of words, writing one article and then providing the specific content that can be used on various platforms (e.g. condensing the message to 140 characters for Twitter and also providing a solid synopsis to be included on LinkedIn), or co-writing with an attorney from another practice area.

Along with encouraging behavior, gamification is a great way to encourage attorneys to educate themselves about good practices.  Heather says, “I believe that you could use gamification elements, such as badges and status symbols, to ‘reward’ attorneys for participating in educational sessions. Additional badges and status symbols could be provided to attorneys who chose to lead the educational sessions which encourages enhanced participation and preparation.”  The educational sessions are great chances for top-content producers at the firm to share their secrets, and to share the firm’s overall strategy for content production.

As with any initiative, gamification is not something to set into motion and then walk away.  It requires nurturing and re-evaluation to make sure your original goals are still being met by the game.  Heather says, “Many companies who have used game elements to improve or increase desired behaviors have reported  fantastic results. The gamification aspect served to not only motivate the individual(s) initially but also proved to help sustain the efforts longer term. That being said, there is a natural fatigue that happens with any new effort so steps should be taken to regularly shift the parameters of any of game, reset certain elements and also maintain consistent dialogue with participants to uncover areas of improvement.”

Understanding your goals and defining them can simplify the design process and bring your efforts to bear on the behaviors you want to encourage.  The sky’s the limit–creativity is a tremendous asset in designing a gamification program, and generating something that helps meet your needs and brings fun, excitement and competition into the firm is completely within reach.

Copyright ©2016 National Law Forum, LLC

Heather McCullough is Certified in Gamification by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business.  She has spoken about Gamification within law firms, along with her business partner Jill Huse, from coast to coast.  The National Law Review had the opportunity to hear Heather and Jill speak at the recent LMA Midwest Legal Marketing Technology Conference.

5 Ways to Use Email Drip Campaigns to Convert Leads [INFOGRAPHIC]

Is everyone who calls your law firm ready to hire you right away? If someone downloads a free report from your website, does that mean they are ready to commit to hiring you? Not likely. In fact, research shows that more than half of leads are not ready to buy at the time of first contact, which is why you need to nurture those leads along a specific path to becoming a client using email drip campaigns.

We have used drip campaigns for years for our clients for one simple reason: they work! Research shows that companies that are good at nurturing leads enjoy 50% more sales at a 33% lower cost than companies that put no effort into lead nurturing.

Since email is a one-to-one communication, it can be personalized for whatever stage your lead is in the buying cycle. It is much more effective than blast email campaigns that don’t take your prospect’s buying journey into account. In fact, personalized emails generate up tosix times higher revenue than non-personalized (blast) emails.

This infographic from Eliv8 provides five different email drip campaign opportunities to help you increase your lead conversion rate:

5 Ways to Use Email Drip Campaigns to Convert Leads

© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved

Wasted Time and Money: Top 10 Ways Firms Squander Precious Marketing Resources

effective marketing top 10At the conclusion of a recent presentation I gave to a local bar association, an attorney in the audience asked how law firms are wasting their marketing dollars. “After all,” he said, “our firm only has a limited amount of money for marketing, and I want to make sure we are spending it wisely.” I was honest, and told him that, in my opinion, many fine firms are squandering their marketing dollars by the bucketful. And it’s often in the same familiar ways.

Let me begin with the assertion that, for most lawyers and law firms, effective marketing is all about personal relationships. It’s not about brochures, advertising or other marketing gimmicks. It’s especially about relationships with existing clients and referral sources. Consequently, I almost always recommend that a law firm begin “marketing” by making darn sure its clients are satisfied. If they are, they’ll be loyal to the firm and come back when they need legal counsel. Beyond that, they’ll tell their friends and business associates about you. Too often, firms get caught up chasing prospective clients, forgetting about solidifying and expanding relationships with the clients they already have.

After ten years of experience marketing legal services, I have developed some strong views on what firms are doing right and wrong. But before writing this article, I thought I’d post that attorney’s question to the 1,000-member law marketing listserv, a cyber-community of law firm marketing directors and consultants. The responses came back fast and furious and I’d like to share our collective opinions with you.

So here we go – the “Top Ten Ways To Waste Money Marketing Your Practice,” in David Lettermanesque ascending order of wastefulness.

#10 – Random Acts of Golf and Lunch

Golf and lunch are fine marketing activities, very conducive to relationship building. But playing golf with an endless array of acquaintances who don’t have the ability to hire or refer you is hardly an effective use of your marketing time. Nor is that monthly “skins” match with your brother-in-law and his drinking buddies. The profession’s top rainmakers have a plan — even if only in their heads — when they go on their boondoggles… er, I mean, marketing ventures. They have determined who they want to get to know better and, from there, they develop a systematic plan to go about building and enhancing relationships with them. The key word is plan.

#9 – The “Really Big Show”

Reminiscent of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland deciding to “put on a show,” your firm decides to present the mother of all seminars. Over 300 people spend a half-day listening to you and your partners talk about the latest changes in state law. It was great. Problem is, there was very little follow up. When it comes to seminars and similar events, we suggest that you consider smaller, less formal and more interactive sessions. Think about a seminar series, focused on a particular industry, where participants get together repeatedly. This way, the follow-up is built in. Wasted Time and Money.

#8 – Other One-Shot Wonders

Come to think of it, forget about any marketing activity that does not include follow-up. All the marketing events that your firm sponsors — seminars, open houses, holiday parties, and the like — should be looked upon as relationship building platforms. And personal follow is the key to making them work. All participating attorneys should follow up with at least two or three people at each event, focusing on folks who can help them achieve their objectives.

#7 – Brochures and Newsletters That Cure Insomnia

Good brochures and newsletters have their place among effective marketing tools. But who wants to read mindnumbing tomes about the history of your firm and its 14 practice areas? Not me, and not your prospective clients either. Keep the copy concise and easy-to-read. Use bullet points whenever possible. Hire a talented graphic designer who will produce sharp, attention-grabbing marketing material.

#6 – Invisible Advertising

No doubt, print and broadcast advertising works for attorneys with consumer-oriented practices (like family and personal injury law) and I’d recommend an ad in the Yellow Pages in a heartbeat. But things like traditional “tombstone” ads and “one-time” ads in a newspaper or magazine are practically worthless. Studies show that it takes 7-11 impressions before somebody will recall seeing your ad. Consistency and frequency are essential. Here again, hire a good graphic designer and stay light on copy to make sure your ads are noticed. If you want to advertise, do it right.

#5 – Holiday Chochkes

Ahhh, the holidays. Talk about getting lost in the shuffle! Effective marketing strategies get noticed and stand apart from the crowd. The holidays are far too busy a time for your cards, parties, and gifts to be fully appreciated. However, if you must send holiday cards, by all means, sign them personally!

#4 – Directories, Directories and More Directories!

Over the past ten years, law firm directories have sprouted like cattails in the Everglades. Unfortunately, most have little marketing value. Decision-makers simply don’t use them very much. In fact, our friends on the listserv think that only a few directories, such as LawOffice.com, Martindale-Hubbell and Best’s (for insurance defense counsel), are worth the money. Bottom line….hold on to your cash.

#3 – Vanity Letterhead

We’re talking about the kind that features every lawyer’s name on the masthead. Every letter becomes two-pages long, and each time a lawyer joins or leaves the firm the old supply gets chucked and a new supply is ordered. Often, the new letterhead is out of date even before it comes back from the printer! Most firms have abandoned this practice and yours should, too. Consider adding a snappy firm logo and/or a splash of color. Don’t worry, it’s OK.

#2 – PPPPs (Powerful Partner’s Pet Projects)

Our #2 money waster was sent in by Bev Davis, chief operating officer for a well-known Oregon law firm….and you know exactly what she’s talking about! The firm’s $5,000 contribution for a table at the “Belles of the Confederacy” Dinner Dance, for example. Powerful Partner Jim thinks it’s a great idea. (So happens his wife is on the Board of Directors.) PPPPs are rarely budgeted and are hardly ever consistent with firm-wide marketing objectives. They tend to consume vast quantities of money and staff time. A firm-wide marketing plan goes a long way toward reducing the number of PPPPs. Show Jim the plan and just say no!

#1 – Consultants Who Don’t Know **** About Law Firms

Law firms are a different kind of beast — big egos, lots of democracy, convoluted compensation systems and, in many cases, a disdain toward marketing. Yet, I see it happen time and time again. “We hired Sally because we liked the work she did for our big banking client. But she never could manage to implement much of anything around here.” When it comes to building consensus for a new idea or getting people to focus on non-billable activities, there is nothing quite like a law firm. It takes someone who’s been there to make it happen. If you decide to hire a consultant, hire somebody who has a successful track record working with law firms like yours.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this round-up of marketing blunders. Perhaps you recognized one from your own firm’s recent efforts on the list. My objective was to help you think about how you and your firm can more wisely spend your marketing dollars. After all, you have limited resources. My best advice….develop a proactive, firm-wide marketing plan. See you at the 19th hole!

Copyright 2016 The Remsen Group