Learn actionable insights into how high-growth law firms are effectively leveraging inbound marketing strategies for improving effectiveness of any legal marketing strategy, as well as increasing new deal flow and ultimately increasing billable hours.
Whether this is true or not, it doesn’t matter if nobody knows your law firm exists. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s how things are in 2020.
- 95% of potential clients looking for legal advice use the internet to find answers first.
- 70% of potential clients who start their search for legal services online, contact a law office by phone
- The most likely people to use the internet to search and find legal services are those earning over $150,000 per year
- Online Rating is the most important factor used by consumers to judge a law firm
You’ve got some of the smartest, most hard-working people in the world in your office. You’ve worked with high-profile clients and major corporations. Your work has saved (or won) millions of dollars for clients. Your partners are hands-down the most brilliant minds in the legal industry.
Inbound Marketing for law firms is more important than ever in 2020, especially for attracting new clients. because your legal marketing digital presence search engine visibility ditermine if a potential clients will schedule a legal consultation with your firm or a competing law firm.
In 2020, it doesn’t matter how savvy your legal team is or how many clients success stories your law firm has online —having an inbound marketing strategy for your law firm is essential to growth and future success in our current world. While it is true that good legal firms will get a lot of clients through referrals and recommendations, not having a strong digital presence will leave a lot of the profit on the table.
In this post, we’ll break down a few key things to remember specifically for Legal organizations to understand how to execute an inbound marketing strategy for your firm successfully.
However, if this is your first time reading about Inbound Marketing—we suggest that you first read some of our recent blog posts, including “CliffNotes on Marketing” or “4 Easy Steps to Inbound Marketing.” Those will help set the stage for what you’re about to read and provide a context of some of the key terms and strategies that you need to know.
Inbound Marketing For Law Firms
Your firm should have a digital strategy in place, period. “50% of Law Firms claim they are not ‘organized enough’ to get the most out of their marketing spend.” These are excuses that aren’t acceptable today. If you want to increase your revenues, gain thought leadership, and establish dominance over your segment—the BEST way to do this is with inbound marketing methodologies and best practices.
If executed correctly, inbound marketing will have high yields in terms of fresh clients calling your office. While it can work for any practice, for law, inbound marketing shines. You already know that most of your clients are experiencing substantial problems when they ask for help, which is why they turn to you (and also why they are willing to pay you all that money you charge, without asking too many questions!). It is important that you realize most of these clients conducted some Google research of their own before hitting the phone.
As you can see, numbers tell that having a strong online presence matters significantly. Especially considering that so many people have similar issues and search for answers to their questions using similar keywords and terms, but not many legal companies have the right presence to answer all of those questions.
There is a gap that exists, and the smart move is to fill that gap with some quality inbound marketing. As you are about to see, the process is not that difficult, but it does require you to regularly track, monitor and improve your inbound marketing strategy, as it is not a one-time quick fix, but a continuous effort.
Legalities of Inbound Marketing for Law Firms
So you may already be aware of the 1977 Landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, which freed up advertising for the legal industry. The Bates decision was a protection of First Amendment rights that allowed for legal firms to advertise under the basis that you’re providing information to any prospective clients on the cost and availability of your legal services.
You should (if based in California especially) be aware of “California Rules of Professional Conduct,” Rule 1-400 and Business and Professions Code sections 6157-6159.2. Rules 1-400(A) and (B) are important because they create a distinction between the terms “communication” and “solicitation.” Communications are permissible so long as they do not meet the definition of solicitation.
It is essential to understand the differentiation of those terms and how your language needs to be framed not to step over any boundaries. For a deeper dive on this, see a post here.
*One way that legal teams can make sure they are following the rules & regulations properly is to work with a qualified inbound marketing agency, by having an experienced team on-board it can help you navigate these waters with confidence.
3 Benefits of Inbound Marketing In Legal Marketing
Benefit #1: Content creation and distribution is what builds trust – your potential clients have a genuine problem, and you have the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to solve it. Because they will find your article and read it while in real need, you can expect them to start trusting you very fast, and have a good relationship for years to come. Happy customers translate into loyal and active promoters of your business. They can bring more business to you.
Benefit #2: Digital presence and search ranking is the new ‘word of mouth.’ You can still get clients the old school way, but ignoring your digital identity is not recommended. Make your digital presence top-notch, and then let the clients refer you to other people if they want.
Benefit #3: You’re selling yourself, and inbound marketing creates the ‘digital brand’ for your firm – the best thing you can do is to create a digital identity for the whole firm, and not only around you as a person. This will help you scale better, and you will seem more professional and be viewed as a team player. Also, if you make changes in the future, it will help your firm stay agile.
If you’re not ‘the boss’ or maybe you’re not even a partner yet…if you help your organization implement (or hire a team) to run a digital marketing strategy—you will be remembered and rewarded. Inbound marketing strategies for law firms are no longer an option—they are the norm.
The sooner your law firm implements one, the more effective it will be, inbound marketing is for the long haul and will pay off more over the course of years, not days or weeks like outbound marketing (see below).
Inbound VS. Outbound Marketing for Law Firms
We’ve all seen it, on the back of a bus/bench/billboard, a phrase like “Injured? Call 1-800-555-2020 to settle your case today.” This is outbound marketing…it’s intrusive, a bit annoying, and (sorry if you’re a bus ad type of firm) just tacky.
The clients you will get off these ads are not your A+ leads, at best these are C- leads that could waste time and money from your law firm’s marketing budget. Outbound strategy, in a sense, is a way to cast a wide net of potential leads, without considering their probability of becoming clients, or ensuring their quality.
Outbound marketing is excellent for product companies, but as a law firm you don’t want a ‘flash in the pan’ approach to marketing, but a sustained effort over time. That’s why inbound marketing is a much better choice for this type of business.
Marathon, Not a Sprint.
Focusing on Inbound Marketing means setting a framework on social media, blog posts, e-books, webinars, SEO optimization, and more. These are the tactical efforts of Inbound Marketing for your law firm that pay dividends.
When you’re marketing your law firm, you are selling your experience and expertise—you are primarily a service provider. The aspect that is most important with any service provider is consumer trust.
People hire attorneys because they cannot navigate these complicated matters themselves, inbound marketing establishes YOU as the best option they will find and distances you from the FaceBook banners or ‘bus bench attorneys.’
Keep in mind however, nothing will happen overnight. But if you take the right steps, inbound marketing will continue attracting users in months and even years to come. And one of the best advantages of inbound marketing in a digital era is that it is all trackable, and you will be able to tell which of your marketing channels achieves the highest ROI, and which needs more optimization or even canceling.
As such, almost nothing goes to waste, and the overall value you get for the money and time invested is massive. That’s because the whole idea is to let your ideal potential clients come to you. That is primarily done by focusing on the content that will provide genuine value to them.
Inbound marketing for law firms is totally opposite from most outbound strategies that only focus on you and your firm. This is user-centric.
Legal Inbound Marketing Strategies
Now that you understand the difference between inbound and outbound marketing, and the benefits of a solid digital presence, let’s explore the strategies you can implement.
1. Build Your Messaging and Thought Leadership
The first step of any marketing campaign is to establish your brand messaging. This is true for any company within any industry, law firms included.
Now it isn’t enough just to develop a logo to use on letterheads and email signatures. Branding is more than that. In order to stand out amongst other law firms, you need the right message.
First, it is important to consider what makes your law unique. Maybe you are more efficient than the rest, or maybe you thrive off of a more friendly approach, rather than other more aggressive lawyers. Figure out what makes your specialty, well, special.
The second aspect to consider is your value proposition. Why should anyone listen to what you have to say? What value do you provide?
This is where becoming a thought leader and developing authority and credibility by sharing the most helpful content can set you apart from the rest. It can help you convey your value. A law firm that is viewed as a thought leader within their specific area of expertise is one that is trusted.
The third important element for you to determine is what you do differently and consistently compared to other law firms. Branding does not have to be overly complicated. When you focus on the needs of your clients, it becomes clear how to best present you and your law firm.
2. Turn your Traffic into Leads and Leads into Customers
An inbound marketing strategy moves through three primary phases: attract, engage, and delight. Before you are able to begin this process, it is important to have a clear understanding of who fits the criteria of your potential client and how to reach them.
One of the most important things to do is create a Target Persona. This is the ideal customer you want to work with (or that would want to work with you). The more detailed you make your persona definition, the higher the likelihood your marketing spending will return on investment.
Without this, you will attract random visitors to your website that may or may not read your articles with little chance of actually calling you. For example, an attorney that specializes in divorces and settlements will want to attract a different kind of person than someone who only does tax advising. While there is always some overlapping, try to have the majority of your strategy developed with a specific client in mind.
The following tips will help you establish your ideal client’s persona and properly engage with them.
- Implement a CRM or customer relationship management platform. HubSpot is a great option to consider. This platform will help you manage leads and works as a centralized location for all of your inbound marketing resources.
- Track your website visitors. Collect their basic information, and turn this anonymous visitor into a lead. As long as you meet GDPR (where applicable), you have a right to do this, so don’t worry about breaking privacy laws.
- Use web forms or ‘call to action’ (CTA) buttons that help you get the information you need, such as name, phone, email, message, or legal needs. But keep it short and simple, the easier to fill, the more likely they do. And don’t spam! Have the right number of CTAs in the correct places, but never overdo it. You want to look like a professional who cares for the client, not like a sleazy salesman trying to push another Kirby.
- Now that you’ve got these leads, you need to aggregate them into lists and nurture them from traffic, to lead, to hiring you. Lead scoring can help you qualify leads effectively and efficiently. Even if a lead doesn’t contact you or hire you the first time they call, don’t forget about the potential clients. The leads should enter your sales funnel, and you should start sending them emails with the content you are creating. So, the next time they need legal help, they will be more likely to call you first.
- Follow up with any leads who send a message as soon as possible. If they don’t send a message or just leave their info, you should add them to an emailing list for continued follow up via digital marketing or email campaigns. Immediately following up is essential as most of those people have an ongoing legal problem, and if you don’t respond promptly, they will find one of your competitors that will. And you know how it goes in law—once you do a good job, the client will call you for other legal business they have, and they will be willing to recommend you to their friends, so you never know where a single follow-up can lead you.
3. Create Compelling Content
Content is the most powerful tool to help potential clients learn about your firm, the services you provide and it gives them something that is valuable to them to earn their trust and view your firm as a leader of its kind. There are several types of content to curate to appeal to and attract the right audience.
A. Blog Posts
Start by creating a blog—we would suggest you use WordPress or HubSpot. These platforms are flexible and will let you do a lot of work yourself, without needing to hire a developer that will need to go through all of your posts.
Blog posts can be posted directly to your blog or as guest posts on other major publications to grow your brand awareness. They can include informative how-to guides, helpful tips, your opinion on current events happening within your industry, or more. It is especially effective to include videos and visual graphics to enhance your blog.
These blog posts are what a customer will read first—this lets potential customers see your expertise and it is almost a ‘Free Trial’ for your services. Your potential clients are likely to come to your blog straight from Google while trying to find out more about the problem that is bothering them.
Also, the chart below illustrates how updating evergreen content on your law firms blog can significantly increase your search rankings to increase organic traffic.
Therefore, try to write blogs in detail. And don’t be afraid that you will solve the problem to your customer for free, as that rarely happens. People will still contact you even if you explained the whole issue, just because they are much more confident that way, and they know you are the expert after reading the post.
B. Case Studies
Another incredibly useful method is to create case studies to share on your website. A case study is a success story of a previous client. It explains the problem your client had and how your services helped solve that problem. This can also be done through customer testimonials, either through video or written content.
Explain the nuances of your previous cases (that you are allowed to share without violating confidentiality agreements) and value propositions, so that other prospective clients know you’re the right choice for their similar issue.
This is vital, as it will definitely separate you from the competition, and give potential clients some real insights into your processes and thinking. They will also see how every case is a story for itself and how they need to have an expert on their side if they want to win their case.
C. Gated Content Downloads
What is gated content exactly? Gated content can be free trials, informative content, video content, newsletter and more that is only viewable or downloadable once a potential lead has provided contact information. This is a valuable tool for growing your potential client base and understanding who stands out as more likely to become a client.
D. Social Media Footprint
While your law firm will not likely be snagging new clients from social media, it is crucial in 2020 to have an active social media presence as it builds awareness level credibility by giving allowing you to give advice, connect with potential clients, respond to questions and concerns, receive feedback about your services, and establish yourself as a thought leader.
But it is wise to pick the right channel for your area of expertise and target audience. It is likely that people are less likely to follow you on social media platforms like Pinterest or Instagram. There are exceptions to this rule, and any platform can work, but in general, it is best to use those types of platforms that are more connected to your audience, but also the type of work you do.
You should publish your content in multiple places. The highly recommended platforms for law firms include Medium, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Everything you share to these media outlets should link back to your website, pushing your reach and discoverability.
LinkedIn is an especially interesting place to be in recent years, as it has grown tremendously. But it stands out also because it is a business-first social network, which means you will be able to get in front of many potential clients.
Facebook is also a popular option, so make sure you share links to the content you post to your blog on the company’s Facebook pages. It is recommended to create a Facebook look-a-like audience, which allows you to connect with the right audiences based on your ideal client’s characteristics and engagement with your previous campaigns.
4. Consistent Messaging
Consistency is critical, so make sure you write regularly, but also routinely update your past written content with new information that can interest potential clients. Staying on top of everything is the only way to beat your competition.
And if your team is too busy to write or create new content, then you should consider hiring an inbound marketing agency that specializes in inbound marketing for law firms or HubSpot for law firms to help. Consistency is where most (legal firms) fail, as keeping up and writing a blog regularly on top of your day to day responsibilities can be time-consuming, tedious and difficult.
5. Optimize Website and Content
You might be creating the most informative, eloquent and top quality blogs and other content, but if it isn’t optimized to stand out, it won’t do you any good. It is important to ensure that your content is set up to succeed.
6. Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) drives high-quality leads and usually produces the best ROI (it’s essentially free!) of any marketing efforts. SEO is the method of identifying the keywords and phrases that are most used by your ideal client and are relevant to your practice.
Search engines pinpoint, index and rank these keywords and phrases and push the content that includes them the most to the top of search pages.
75% of people never go past the first page of Google. (Source)
A quick ‘Google Search’ either places your firm in the top search results or buried deep on page 9 never to be clicked. The position is based on many factors, and the rules are frequently changing. That is why it’s best to hire an experienced SEO and inbound marketing agency to do the optimization for you.
93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. (SEJ)
Make sure your site is technically flawless. The code needs to be clean, and the site needs to be secure and fast. This is not only important for the user, but for Google too, as they want to see fast & secure websites, prioritizing them over the slower and less secure competition.
Use the right titles and terms for your content. Think about what people put in the search bar, and then work from there “What to do after a DUI” or “Best Divorce Attorney in Los Angeles”—this will make you relevant to organic searches.
A good idea is to type a question and browse through Google recommendations. See what potential clients also searched for, and incorporate those terms into your articles, or use them for article ideas.
Other important things to incorporate as best practices for SEO include the following:
- Increase the length of time visitors spend on your web pages
- Reduce bounce rates by choosing clear titles and descriptions and making your pages highly relevant to your chosen keywords and phrases
- Focus on long-form content marketing as it outperforms and is shared more frequently than short-form content
- Link-build with other major publications and authority sites
- Utilize citation building and review solicitation
7. Mobile Optimization
It goes without saying that in today’s world, nearly everyone has a tiny computer in their pockets. And it is how many people conduct research, learn more about businesses and connect.
40% of searches for legal help start on mobile.
so be optimized for the handheld screen. Unfortunately, this is technical, and something you won’t be able to do on your own. Also, this is something that often changes, and your site needs to stay updated and follow the latest trend.
You’re creating all this content, and it is worthwhile, but only if people can find it when they visit your site or search for related articles. Therefore, categorize your website in an intuitive way so that the least digitally-inclined person can figure out where to look for help.
8. Paid Ads: Search and Display
Another tactical approach for optimization is paid search, such as Google Adwords. The right paid Google Adwords campaign can drive a substantial amount of traffic to your website that will convert into paying clientele.
If you have tried using Google Adwords in the past and experienced low performance or conversion rates, it could have been because you’ve attempted to use the most competitive and expensive words: “attorney” and/or “lawyer”. Or it could be because you didn’t do enough research on what the best keywords are for your business. Or maybe because you were too stubborn to hire a professional marketing agency.
However, Google Adwords can be a powerful tool when it comes to raising brand awareness and driving more traffic to your website. It must be given the right amount of attention and done with a strategic approach.
9. Conversion Landing Pages
Landing pages can make a huge difference when it comes to converting visitors into paying clients. This could be a visitor’s (or future client’s) first introduction to your business. You want them to understand your messaging and the services you have to offer within the first few seconds. You also want to use this as an opportunity to start engaging with them and converting them from a visitor to a lead.
In order to optimize your landing pages so that they are effective and working in your favor, it is essential that they are professionally written and inspire a specific action. They should be optimized for particular action-related words and phrases, and unique for each service you are offering.
10. User Experience
Inbound marketing is client-centric. This is because clients or customers should not be thought of as an end thought or just an outcome. They should be an active driving force for your business.
A client has the ability to refer friends, family members or colleagues. They have the ability to leave a review online for the world to see. That is why every encounter with a potential, present or past client should be handled with care.
This is also why you should have tactics in place that work to actively improve the client experience. This should include a non-intrusive live chat option on your website or virtual assistants. There is no better opportunity to engage with a future client than when they are already visiting your website. Live chats can answer questions and concerns that a client may have, at a time that they want and on their own terms.
Other methods to improve the client experience is to follow-up with surveys or thank you pages. These are great ways to receive feedback on your services and learn of any areas that may need a little improvement.
11. Be Kind To Local Reporters
While this one isn’t related to your digital identity, for law firms and attorneys it is a very important tip. Here, we are not talking about paying for press releases (which are still a valuable marketing strategy when used right). No, we are talking about quickly responding to reporters when they call you.
If something comes up in your local community, and a journalist decides to call you wanting to hear your legal opinion, you better be ready and responsive. First, if you are polite and you give them the answer they need, they will cite you. This has the ability of giving you free exposure, which is always of great benefit to you and your firm.
But, secondly, they will remember you. And that could mean that the next time a legal question arises, you will be among the first they call which can lead to even more exposure for you and your firm, which is again, an awesome advantage.
So remember, always return calls to reporters. And try to stay on top of things in your local community. Have some quotes ready so that you are prepared if or when the phone rings. In fact, you can even be proactive and cold call reporters with your story ideas, but that is usually better to do later when you have already become friends with them.
Inbound Legal Marketing Takeaways
According to research conducted at the Law Firm Marketing Summit, almost 50% of legal firms have already increased their marketing budgets by 5-10% this year, with many firms seeing much higher spending. This is not a trend… This is a must-do for your firm to stay relevant in the 21st century. The following is inbound marketing for attorneys, in a nutshell:
- The majority of new clients only start their search for a firm when they are in need, whether it is a divorce, patent needs, starting a business, or a criminal case. Even larger organizations are seeking out firms, just like yours, on a daily basis for their long-term legal needs. And today, most of these searches begin with a quick Google search. If you don’t have a strong digital presence, you won’t even be an option that exists—building an inbound marketing strategy will grow your leads, clients, and revenues!
- Start off on the right foot with the proper messaging and make sure that it is clear across all of your platforms. Ask the hard hitting questions that will allow you to think critically about your law firm and what makes it better than the rest. Establish yourself as an authority by knowing clearly what you have to offer and providing value to your potential clients.
- Inbound marketing allows you to nurture relationships with potential leads all the way along the various stages of the cycle. You can automate your messaging early in the cycle for potential clients, then spend your resources more carefully on interacting with those who are in the later stage. Law firms require a much different approach than most other businesses, but with the right custom inbound marketing strategy, you can see major success.
- Have patience! Use tracking tools to determine the right content for your firm and allow you to bring in high-quality leads to your attorneys.
- Stand out from the competition—while anyone can pay for clicks, to be a top law firm you are going to need to do more than that. Organic searches, boosted by excellent search engine optimization and compelling, thought-leading content are what will make your firm stand out and create the valuable trust that matters most when clients are comparing you to other competing law firms.
- Stay up to date! Inbound marketing for your law firm isn’t a ‘one and done’ strategy… search engines are continually re-ranking content with their algorithms. If you post a ton of content at once, it will put you at the top, but only for a little while. It is crucial that you plan out the right legal marketing strategy that allows you to push content on a regular basis and stay consistently highly ranked.
- Care for your clients! This means delight your clients throughout their entire experience with your business. Provide them with useful ways to ask questions and give you and your partners feedback. And always follow up promptly!
Legal Marketing Takeaways
Inbound marketing is incredibly important (if we haven’t gotten that across already), but we understand most firms don’t have the time, resources, or in-house talent to do it on their own. That’s why it is best to partner up with professionals that will take care of the marketing for you, while you focus on your legal business, which is what you do best.