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Posted by Nick Salloway on 26 May 2016

Part two in our series looking at the top digital marketing trends for Legal Firms

In the first blog of this two part series, we learned about the significant benefits that law firms could gain from implementing a strategic digital marketing approach.

We outlined a number of important digital marketing trends which we believe will help legal firms become more competitive, successful, and differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace.  

The five trends we outlined in part one were:

  • Mobile Optimisation: The importance of a mobile first strategy can’t be over-emphasised. It’s no longer optional; it’s mandatory.
  • Content Marketing: Law firms can become recognised and valued as thought-leaders by delivering insightful content that is useful to their audience.
  • Social Media Strategy: It’s no longer good enough for law firms to “be-on-twitter”; firms need to build social marketing strategies around great content that invites conversations and creates engagement with their brand.
  • Data and Analyticsare the lynchpins of digital marketing. Law firms need to build a data-driven culture within their marketing departments. Robust data analysis, alongside qualitative research with target audiences, should shape marketing and business development strategies, not gut instincts. 
  • Marketing Automation: There is potential to reduce marketing costs through the use of marketing automation platforms. A well planned digital strategy will help your firm understand where it’s appropriate to automate and, conversely, where a personal interaction might be more beneficial to creating engagement, and ultimately a sale.

So, I’ll now take a look at my final five recommendations to ensure that law firms remain competitive, differentiated and, importantly, more closely connected to their clients in 2016 and beyond.

6. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO has changed. Long gone are the days of simply peppering low quality spammy content with keywords and hoping that got you higher in search rankings.  Gone, hopefully, are the days of SEO consultants pedaling the black-art, “We’ll get you to the top”, message, and employing black-hat techniques to get you there.

Today, creating quality content which considers customer needs and intent, is, arguably, the number one priority for a successful organic SEO strategy. The trick to delivering great content is to understand customer needs and behaviors. Ask yourself - or better still ask your customers - What is the searcher looking for exactly? What words, phrases or topics does your content need to satisfy that intent? When you have this understanding you’ll be able to create content that is genuinely useful and is written using natural language that allows search engines like Google to return relevant results to its users.

Of course, alongside quality content it remains important to maintain a high quality website. As previously discussed, Google have mandated that your site should be mobile-friendly; good mobile optimisation equals good SEO. Google are moving inexorably towards improved UX; sites where users “complete their search goals” will rank highly, sites that demonstrate they are “ethically and morally” strong will rank highly (hopefully great for law firms), and sites that take UX seriously will in turn rank highly.

Fortunately delivering a great UX isn’t particularly difficult. Your website pages should load quickly, and bounce rates – a key indicator that your content is high quality – should be low. Your site should also be well structured around a logical information architecture and navigation and internal links that enable visitors to easily navigate around your site to find what they’re looking for. A poor experience in any of these areas is likely to negatively affect your organic search rankings.

Law firms are uniquely positioned to position themselves as thought leaders and deliver great content. They employ highly qualified experts, often in several different areas of law. They are able to provide customers with valuable content regarding key issues that their market cares about.

If you still need persuading about the importance of quality content to SEO, take a look at this video produced by Dr. Andy Williams (@AndyWilliamsSEO), it’s quite an eye opener!

7. Delivering a great customer experience through on-demand interactions

Do you currently offer your website visitors the option of an online-chat facility? Does your law firm segment how you engage with your existing clients by offering them a client-portal where they can find real-time information and data? Are your partners taking advantage of online networking and publishing platforms to build their reputations and reach a larger audience? Does your digital strategy include online payment facilities, SMS messaging, or do you use live streaming for your client events?

If you’ve struggled to answer yes to any or all of these on-demand user interactions, your law firm could be losing out significantly. As digital marketing continues to become more sophisticated (in both business to consumer and business to business markets), the expectations of your target audience grow.  This will result in your audience expecting an 'always on', instantaneous experience on all of their preferred devices from all of their chosen suppliers - don't get left behind.

8. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A 2013 article from The Lawyer  identified that six out of seven professional services organisations “fail to get substantial and sustained benefit from their CRM programmes” and lose market share as a result.

Research into the legal sector carried out by Econsultancy in 2015 indicated that the alignment of data and communications is slow with less than half of respondents claiming to have an established or mature eCRM strategy.

One of the central themes discussed in The Lawyer article is around getting closer to, and understanding more about existing and prospective customers, with a view to providing more relevant solutions to what is important to them.

Therefore, it would appear crucial for any aspiring law firm to ensure that their CRM programme and strategy is effective, integrated and, aligned with their overall business objectives.

9. Multi-Channel Marketing

Another general theme to be highlighted concerns the integrated nature of a forward-thinking law firm’s digital marketing strategy.

Many legal firms can be guilty of adopting either, a head-in-the-sand philosophy or, worse still, a knee-jerk-reaction to the newest marketing trend being touted as a silver-bullet. Unfortunately, that silver bullet doesn't exist (if it did we’d be offering a DVD instruction manual on how to use it, and then relaxing on an exotic beach somewhere!).

The reality is that building a law firm requires lots of hard work, over a long period of time, with a consistently integrated and joined-up marketing approach. In our opinion, a truly integrated, multi-channel, highly targeted digital marketing strategy is the best opportunity to ensure success for legal organisations in today’s challenging market.

Linking and leveraging social media, website activity, e-mail/direct mail campaigns and, highly optimised blogs and other content is the clever way forward. Ensure all of these elements mesh seamlessly together, and are deployed in an intelligent, strategic manner and you will be well equipping your firm to be effective in today’s business environment.

It will take investment in both time and resources but the rewards for getting it right will be lucrative and long-lived.

10. As Nike says, “Just Do It”

In our experience, those professional firms who haven’t yet dipped a serious toe into the digital marketing opportunity that is waiting for ambitious organisations, do so for one of two or three reasons:

  1. They’re content with their current revenue levels
  2. They don’t believe it will work
  3. They don’t know how

With regards to the first scenario, then that's great - we wish you the very best for the future and hope your firm maintains that position.  But we would urge some serious caution at being complacent - the legal market is only going to become more competitive and other law firms may quickly take strides in front of you.  Hopefully this blog series will have highlighted some of the reasons why you can't ignore the need for a strategic digital approach, and also the many opportunities that await. 

If you're of the view that this approach won't work then we would love the opportunity to provide an alternative view, we're always a fan of a good debate! Get in touch and we'll put the kettle on...

And if you sit in the camp of not really knowing where to start with a digital marketing strategy for your law firm, then hopefully this two-part blog will have given you some serious food for thought and highlighted some key areas that require focus.  

If you're interested in taking advantage of our digital marketing experience and want to find out more about how we can help your firm then please drop us a line - we would love the opportunity to learn more about your business. 

We'll also be featuring a number of legal sector focused blogs over the coming weeks so please subscribe to our blog alerts to make sure you don't miss out. 

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