They say experience is the best teacher.They must have heard of Lauren Clark. When she launched her own solo practice right after law school, Lauren knew she was signing on for a lot more schooling in a much tougher classroom. Lauren hung her shingle without an established client base and, like any small business, needed to build her roster as quickly as possible. Lauren knew what she was getting in to. She understood that the tale of a solo startup is often a tragic one. Fortunately, Lauren’s story is no tragedy. While she wasn’t exactly an expert in online marketing, Lauren was able to learn enough about website design, SEO and PPC to survive and even thrive. Her hard work and smart decisions paid off and after a few years of running her own online marketing, the scales began to tip in her favor. As Lauren gained more clients, she faced a wonderful challenge: More time spent working with clients meant less time for marketing. To continue on her successful path, something had to change. Lauren took a look at her options and, along with the advice of an established mentor network, made the decision to contact FindLaw. Her goal was simple: build on the success she had already achieved without having to spend even more time learning the ins and outs of law firm marketing. In her own words, “I went to school to be an attorney, not a website developer. Partnering with FindLaw took that pressure off me.” We’re proud to report that, with FindLaw’s expertise behind her, Lauren’s story has continued to get better and better. Find out how by reading the case study.
But change is in the air.Consider FindLaw’s own 2015 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey. Completed late last year, the survey’s respondents were primarily 55 or older. But would you have guessed that the second-most represented group was 18-34 year-olds? Look at the contrast between these two groups in the graphic above. One prefers the telephone to such a degree that nothing else can break into double digits. The other has a more distributed preference, but places telephones at the bottom of their list. It’s a staggering contrast for most of us to comprehend. You might even find it hard to believe that people could prefer you contact them via Facebook Messenger rather than by telephone. (Especially when they’re reading Facebook on an actual telephone.) But as any savvy businessperson can tell you, you don’t always have to understand something in order to benefit from it. If you’re running a law firm that hopes to find success with the next generation of clients, it’s time to start thinking beyond the telephone. Where do you start? Take a fresh look at FindLaw’s chat solutions and social media marketing services, then schedule a time to talk about your next move.
So what does this mean?Facebook is continuing its trend toward requiring businesses and news publications to pay for visibility with users. You may have seen others in the marketing or advertising industry decrying this as potentially very negative for businesses. AdWeek proclaimed that this is… yet another blow to publishers. Other bloggers have forecast that businesses’ “Facebook referrals will likely go down…way down”. And for some businesses, this doom and gloom perspective may be accurate. When Facebook first launched, early adopting businesses took advantage of the free publicity. But the network, and social media in general, has moved on. Any business that is still relying on organic reach on Facebook – that is being seen by many, many people without paying for that visibility – will likely see some downtick in their Facebook marketing results. For FindLaw clients, however, the good news is that Facebook’s news feed algorithm changes only impact organic social traffic. That’s not how we do social. Here at FindLaw, our social media strategy heavily leverages paid advertising to build our customers’ brands on Facebook. Here are the two reasons I’m not worried about this week’s announcement, and why FindLaw customers don’t need to worry either:
- Facebook has always prioritized organic posts from people you are connected to over news and other posts. In fact, this is third time Facebook has announced a similar algorithm change to further reprioritize organic business posts. That’s why FindLaw has been integrating paid Facebook advertising into our marketing solutions since 2015.
- Facebook’s preference for showing personal stories in users’ news feeds only applies to organic postings. Meaning that yes, your firm’s latest non-paid Facebook post about, say, your participation in a charity golf outing might be de-prioritized. However, this change does not affect paid ad placement within the news feed.
What should we take away from this change?First, that not much has changed for your firm. Facebook is still the best social network for law firms to be seen by thousands of people in their communities. Yes, it requires paying for Facebook advertising, but that was already true before Facebook’s most recent announcement. Secondly, what it says to me is that Facebook is constantly striving to keep users happy. Facebook makes algorithm changes based on their data about the posts that users are most likely to engage with (by clicking a link, liking, commenting or sharing). This change is simply another case of Facebook keeping its users happy. And while the two things may seem disconnected, happy Facebook users are good for law firms who advertise there. Happy users check their Facebook news feeds more often. Making them more likely to encounter an ad for an attorney, and engage with that ad.
Benefits Language Simplifies Complicated IdeasThis slice of text from Samsung is a great example of how to take a complex idea and present the tangible benefits for the reader. I have no idea what 1,000-nit High Dynamic Range is, and honestly I don’t want to know. I assume this is how some of the people who visit legal sites also feel when the content starts delving into jargon and citations of specific legal code. This copy demonstrates how the marketer understands that what I really care about is a great picture on my screen. The mention of HDR 1000 helps reinforce that Samsung is using cool technology, but it doesn’t linger on the point or the technical details. Similarly, the threshold for convincing a potential client that you understand complicated legal terminology is a small one, and the real play is to relate your knowledge into some benefit for them. Here all I need to know is that Samsung TVs come with some kind of cool, possibly alien, HDR technology, and it means if I buy their TV I’ll get great picture quality.
Benefits Language Relates a Service to Normal LifeBack to Samsung again for this one: I’ve no doubt that a Quad HD Super AMOLED screen is amazing, but what I really need to know is whether the phone is going to fit in my pocket, or if I’ll need to carry it around in a wheelbarrow. A curved screen sounds cool and all, but knowing that it allows me to get to texts quicker is what actually makes the difference. Similarly, when you’re writing web copy for someone who’s already gotten five calls today from bill collectors, a detailed analysis of the Means Test for Chapter 7 isn’t going to drive a contact. Telling them that their phone will stop ringing tomorrow while we figure this out will.
Benefits – Everything Old Is New AgainI love this example so much — except maybe that the text is hard to read against the background at this size. Don’t do that! I can just imagine the marketer sitting there saying, “How am I going to say our camera is even better for the millionth time?!” I assume that saying your phone has a great camera is the tech equivalent of attorneys using “we answer our phone” as a marketing pitch. There’s something compelling though, about the idea of suddenly wanting to quickly take a picture of some weird thing you’ve come across that translates all these tried and true ideas (good image, auto-focus, stabilization, quick access) into a meaningful moment that the user can relate to. Just as evoking that feeling of waiting on hold, or getting your attorney’s voicemail for the tenth time when you have an important question about your case moves the needle far further than just saying, “we answer our phones.” Using benefits language unlocks the opportunity for you to look at the marketing clichés we’ve long since exhausted through a new lens. Take advantage of that.
Lessons From Another IndustryI know I’ve felt at times like writing for legal consumers has left me out on an island, dealing with problems it seems so many other marketers don’t worry about. But, the consumer electronics industry actually struggles with some of the same problems you and I face. Most notably that communicating the subtle, small differences between one product and the next can lead to a spaghetti-tangled knot of jargon. The key is getting people to feel a sense of how products integrate into their real life, how they help them solve a problem. The same is generally true for law firms. Attorneys like you need to relate complicated ideas into a real life scenario that your targeted audience is likely to care about. That, at its core is what benefits language is all about, and it’s why we think it’s so important to focus on.
Do you guarantee top search engine rankings?If the answer is “yes,” take a hard pass on this person. The truth is, no one can make such a guarantee. Even the most highly-optimized website’s page rank is fluid. The rules change. The internet changes. Anything from search engine algorithm revisions to content freshness to competitors’ site performance can disrupt your current page rank. There are simply too many variables in play for any provider to honestly guarantee top rank to your firm. We outlined this years ago in a FindLaw white paper explaining why chasing after this “silver bullet” called top page rank is a waste of time. Similar to promised page rank, watch out for timelines that are simply too good to be true. Real SEO involves multiple elements, including site architecture, keyword usage, linking strategies and the like. As a result, the effects of SEO often take a bit of time to appear. Choose a provider who understands this and doesn’t approach your business with short-term thinking.
Can you explain your SEO processes?Yes, SEO is complex, and the salesperson you meet quite possibly isn’t the developer actually optimizing your website. Regardless of their personal technical expertise, a competent consultant will be able to explain, in simple terms, their company’s approach and what you can expect from working with them.
Do you follow accepted best practices or webmaster guidelines?Google, Bing and Yahoo have well-established guidelines for acceptable SEO practices. You don’t need to memorize these yourself, but you should at least be aware that they exist. If your provider is following them, it’s likely that they’re also following widely accepted, ethical SEO practices. This is also a good time to listen for the vendor to concede that SEO isn’t a recipe or magic formula. A consultant you can trust will be honest about this and tell you that their success is the result of high-quality content, “natural links” from other sites that value your content and a well-crafted website structure.
How much experience do you have in the legal industry?It may seem obvious in hindsight, but choosing a provider with experience in your specific industry can be a huge advantage. Particularly in the legal industry, there is a unique set of parameters that can influence your SEO performance. This could be which types of content are most relevant to your audience. It could be regulations around marketing your law firm that are unknown to the general public. A provider with industry expertise will also see the bigger picture, understanding how SEO fits into your overall online marketing strategy.
Excuse #1: Clients won't find me on social media anyway.Last year, 20% of legal consumers who found their attorney online learned about that attorney on social media. (2015 FindLaw Legal Consumer Needs Study) That number continues to grow each year as more and more consumers turn to social networks for everything, including legal services.
How to get past it.
If you haven’t already, set up a social media account for your law firm. At the very least, make a Facebook page for your business. This will create a space for your firm to list your contact information on Facebook and link to your website. If you’re unsure what to post on your account, check out this free playbook for some ideas.
Excuse #2: No one wants to hear what I have to say.Remember that people in your community are looking to social media for information about nearly everything in their lives. Many legal consumers start their search with the idea that they'll handle the issue on their own. One of the best ways you can use social media is to provide helpful information that guides potential clients to realize that they are better off seeking help from your firm, rather than attempting a DIY legal solution.
How to get past it.
Say something that people will care about. Spread the word about your firm’s recent success, share a throwback story to build some history or chime in on the hot topic of the week. You don’t need to be controversial, but go ahead and show a little personality. Honestly, social media demands a bit of an ego. Stop being so humble.
Excuse #3: My competition isn't on social media, so I don't need to be.First, it's unlikely that none of your competition is using social media. According to the American Bar Association, more than 45% of American law firms are using at least one social network. More importantly, social media is becoming an increasingly critical component of a complete digital marketing strategy. With the explosion of mobile device capabilities, consumers are truly everywhere, all the time. If you want to attract new clients to your law firm, you need to be visible everywhere, all the time. And that includes being on social media.
How to get past it.
Think bigger than your competition. If none of them got referrals, would you stop taking them yourself? Look back at that opening paragraph: 76% of Americans are on social media. If you feel like you’re the only attorney you know doing social media, then feel proud – you’re the only attorney that is actually taking advantage of the opportunity.