Legal Marketing: 5 Tips to Help you Find a Marketing Partner

December 5, 2010

People talking

Some simple recommendations can make selecting a law firm a much easier process and improve your opportunity for a successful relationship.

As a partner of a firm knows, successful legal marketing requires a little more finesse in its approach than a standard marketing plan. With so many talented agencies vying for your business, it can be difficult to identify which one would be the best choice for your law firm.

Next time your law firm is searching for a marketing partner, consider these five tips to help you choose an agency that’s a perfect fit for your firm:

1. Chemistry

That’s right, chemistry, first and foremost. Consider your gut feeling for the personality type of the representative meeting with you and of the agency as a whole. That connection makes a difference in how well you and your representative are able to communicate with each other.

A lot more quality work gets done when the client and the agency genuinely like each other and have similar work styles. People say you can’t choose a vendor based on whom you get along with. All other things being equal, I say, “Yes, you can, and you should.”

2. Legal expertise

An agency may have a dashing presentation and a sizzling portfolio, but if it doesn’t have solid experience in legal marketing, the learning curve may require more time than you are able to give.

An agency that is already well versed in the nuances of legal marketing – and has impressive experience to show for it – will be able to hit the ground running and develop a campaign that hits the target dead on. Ask to see samples of work they’ve done for other law firms and the results their campaign brought in.

3. Knowledgeable about your law firm

Similarly, the agency should have at least some understanding of your particular network, audiences, challenges and competition… or at the very least, have looked at your website  (You’d be surprised how often they haven’t.)

It’s helpful if someone on the agency’s team has legal experience on your side of the desk; someone who can provide the creative team insights and advice as the project takes shape.

4. A leader in using social media

Marketing today is changing quickly, due to the meteoric rise of social media and its increasing importance in communications, and it will likely continue to evolve. For law firms – or any organization – it’s imperative to have an agency that is staying at the forefront of issues and opportunities in social media.

Your marketing partner should be able to recommend the right mix of traditional and new media for your specific needs.

5. Stellar creativity

While legal firms don’t tend to have the luxury of doing campaigns that are highly unconventional, your agency should bring in novel ideas that set you apart from the competition in a fresh, compelling way.

I feel part of an agency’s role is to offer a new perspective; to introduce creative ideas that challenge you to look at your firm’s public image in a new way.

Ultimately, of course, the agency’s work should have your target audience looking at your firm in a new – and favorable – way.

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Legal Marketing: 10 Tips When Writing for an Online Audience

November 27, 2010

Book Stack

Writing effective online articles requires a much different approach than any other type of writing so leave the “legalese” for your legal briefs; here, your words should be short and your message clear and direct.

Online readers scan quickly for content and move on if they don’t quickly see  information of direct relevance to them. Your copy must be concise, easy to scan and objective.

This type of writing may seem simple but is harder than it looks. Remember these 10 tips when writing for an online audience:

  1. Brevity is key. Readers want to find information quickly, get the facts and get out. Don’t you?
  2. Your post should be information rich. “No frills” writing will allow you to create a substantial amount of information into a few paragraphs.
  3. Keep headlines short, simple and focused on the point of the article. Include key words that will help get your article picked up by search engines.
  4. Sum up the main point of the article in the first paragraph. This lets the reader know exactly what the article is about and what knowledge they can expect to take away at the end.
  5. Readers will be turned off by promotional writing, so don’t sell. Blogging is a much more subtle type of marketing – the purpose is to establish yourself as a thought leader in your area of specialty by sharing your expertise. The minute you talk about your firm’s benefits, readers lose interest.
  6. Use meaningful sub-headings (not “clever” ones)
  7. Highlight keywords (hypertext links serve as one form of highlighting; typeface variations and color are others).
  8. Use bulleted or numbered lists. Readers love them.
  9. Keep your articles within 350 to 450 words, or about 3 to 4 short paragraphs.
  10. Include at least one high quality graphic.

Legal Marketing: Top 10 Web Design Mistakes That Hurt Legal Marketing

October 22, 2010

Designing a website

Usability is critical to a Website’s success. If yours is hard to navigate, it reflects poorly on your law firm and prospects won’t stick around.

Web design expert, Jakob Nielsen states that, ”Web design is not a matter of taste or aesthetics — it’s a matter of science … what we actually know from our studies is that the average user experience on the Web is that of failure.”

Nielsen practices what he preaches. His own Website registered some 5 million hits last year, and he estimates that some 200,000 visitors read his bi-monthly column on how to make Web sites more “usable” — that is, easy to navigate and clearly organized so that visitors can find the information they’re looking for.

Here are his top 10 mistakes in Web design:

  1. Bad search. Search is the user’s lifeline when navigation fails. Overly literal search engines reduce usability in that they’re unable to handle typos, plurals, hyphens, and other variants of the query terms.
  2. PDF files for online reading. Users hate coming across a PDF file while browsing, and law firms are often guilty of using this method to post information. A PDF is an undifferentiated blob of content that’s hard to navigate. Reserve it for printing and distributing big documents.
  3. Not changing the color of visited links. Knowing which pages they’ve already visited frees users from unintentionally revisiting the same pages over and over again.
  4. Non-scannable text. A wall of text is deadly for an interactive experience. Intimidating. Boring. Painful to read. Write for scanning, not print.
  5. Fixed font size. Respect the user’s preferences, and let them resize text as needed.
  6. Page titles with low search engine visibility. Search is the most important way users discover websites. The page title is your main tool to attract new visitors from search listings and to help your existing users to locate the specific pages that they need.
  7. Anything that looks like an advertisement. It is best to avoid any designs that look like advertisements. Selective attention is very powerful, and Web users have learned to stop paying attention to any ads that get in the way of their goal-driven navigation. This applies to ads for upcoming firm events too. Make it easy to find, but don’t make it look like an ad.
  8. Violating design conventions. If your firm’s site deviates from what is commonly done on other sites, your site will be harder to use and users will leave. Jakob’s Law of the Web User Experience states that “users spend most of their time on other websites.” Consistency is one of the most powerful usability principles: when things always behave the same, users don’t have to worry about what will happen.
  9. Opening new browser windows. Designers open new browser windows on the theory that it keeps users on their site. But even disregarding the user-hostile message implied in taking over the their machine, the strategy is self-defeating since it disables the back button, which is the normal way users return to previous sites.
  10. Not answering users’ questions. Users are highly goal-driven on the Web. The ultimate failure of a website is to fail to provide the information users are looking for.

Why do many Websites neglect to ensure usability? Neilson says,

  • First is that they just neglect the entire issue because everyone thinks their own Web site is easy to use because they designed it, they are on it frequently and they don’t understand the need for usability testing.
  • The second reason is that even if they recognize the need for usability testing, they make it too complicated. They think ‘we’ve got to bring in a team of five Ph. Ds, build a special laboratory with one way mirrors and test fifty users’ — no you don’t.

Nielsen also points out that there are 2 things that anyone can do to improve usability:

  1. Run a very simple user test in three days…just bring in some typical users and see what they say.
  2. Or, get a professional analysis, which requires an expert with many years of experience to assess a Web site’s design and structure.

    Read the full version of Jacob Nielsen’s article, Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design. See also: Usability 101: Introduction to Usability


    Legal Marketing: LinkedIn Tips for Law Firms

    October 14, 2010

    LinkedIn Login Page

    Utilizing LinkedIn will not only build your legal network, but it will allow you to reach and gain more clients.

    LinkedIn is the number one social media network for businesses and law firms, and believe it or not, it is utilized in almost every country in the world.  LinkedIn has 80 million users, and it’s estimated that a new member joins every second.

    So that means 80 million people who might be your next client, right?  Wrong. What LinkedIn doesn’t tell you, is that you are only as visible as the size of your network.  So if you have a small (5 million or less) network (1st, 2nd, 3rd tier + group members) you are missing out on both your own ability to be seen by others, as well as the ability to find and target strategic clients for your law firm.

    Steps to Growing your Network:

    • ONLY invite people already using LinkedIn when using LinkedIn’s connection tool. (Due to 3K limit)
    • Join Groups that have a lot of members (toplinked, LinkedHR, Open Networkers) as well as law groups such as Legal Marketing Association (that I’m apart of). You can join up to 50 groups – which will grow your network.
    • Go to  www.toplinked.com/top50.html and invite the top linked people (who have less than 30K connections – another limit imposed by LinkedIn)
    • Join www.opennetworker.com (an affiliate site) and for $49 a year YOU will receive invitations – from complete strangers – but they might know someone you need to know. (And you can use this opportunity to ‘touch’ new folks who might become a client.)

    Targeting your Ideal Client

    Once you have grown a decent-sized network, you will have access to more people, including target clients:

    • Use the Advanced Search feature, which will allow you to specifically target the “type” of person who would make an ideal client (sort by “relevance” and “expanded” view). Use a Boolean Search (AND, OR, NOT “”).  Invite the strategic people you find to connect using Groups, if possible, or get “Introduced” through a mutual connection.
    • Find and “follow” ideal clients in groups. (This is not the same as connecting – but gives you many of the same benefits). Use search within the member section of a group (Boolean).
    • Search “law firms” to find key people you might want to connect with (a wealth a valuable information is often over-looked here).
    • Use the new “tagging” option in your LinkedIn contacts list once you are connected (only good for 1st level).
    • Download vCards of your 1st level connections and organize them using Outlook, Act, Apple Mail, etc.

    Optimizing Your Profile:

    • Your LinkedIn Profile is your professional identity, autobiography, brochure or ad on LinkedIn. Think of it as a website showcasing your career and your law firm.  Like any brochure, make sure your content is grammatically correct and free of spelling errors.  Use secondary applications like Slideshare.com and Box.net to import legal literature and videos.
    • Use the professional headline on your profile to share your areas of expertise and interest. You have 200 characters to work with. This field is weighted heavily in both the LinkedIn search and Google search, so use your keywords.
    • Use the summary section to expand upon information in your profile. This section is searchable, so include keywords that are appropriate for your industry (example: law firm, legal, practice areas, etc.). Sometimes it’s easier to write your summary in a Word document first and then cut/paste it into LinkedIn. This allows you to check spelling and grammar, as well as create attractive formatting with bullets and spacing.  The most common symbols and bullets will transfer over. You have 2,000 characters to use.
    • Change the link/url in your Profile by editing Public Profile so that it includes your name, your law firm and/or practice area expertise (www.linkedin.com/in/legalmarketingexpert) and include it in your email signatures, business card and resume.
    • Put ALL your job titles in the Title Field of the “experience” section.  This field is also heavily ranked in a LinkedIn Search.

    By creating a rich profile, and taking advantage of the many tools LinkedIn provides, you’ll make the contacts you need to expand your practice.


    Legal Marketing: Blog Opportunities

    September 28, 2010

    Blogs will change your Life

    As social media becomes a more credible source of information, it’s becoming a major influencer when choosing a law firm.

    Lawyers are getting younger and younger. As each month, year, and day passes, a new generation is rising to the plate – a generation that has grown up in the social media world.

    According to a recent survey taken by LTN Law Technology News, “43 percent of in-house counsel turn to blogs as a primary source of information.”

    This is a huge number, especially when most law firms have not caught up with the social media craze. Common skepticism aside, blogs are a way to get hired and gain clients. This is a way to market your firm, basically for free. This is an opportunity for smaller firms to grow their client base and compete with much larger firms. With social media in the mix, everyone is on the same playing field.

    The survey also pointed out the huge age difference when it comes to adopting social media. Attorneys between the ages of 30 and 39 are using social media a lot more than lawyers over the age of 60.  These younger lawyers are getting onto their social media accounts daily – LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – and they are getting some of their legal and industry news from these sites.

    As time goes on, social media will be something all lawyers HAVE to do to keep clients and to stay in business. This is the generation of social marketing. Welcome.

    To read more about these surveys, click here.


    Legal Marketing: Social Media Philosophy and Tips for Law Firm Partners

    August 4, 2010

    To give your law firm a jump-start in using social media I thought it would be beneficial to share my personal observations, opinions, philosophy and tips on how to use it to grow your inbound leads and personal networks.

    Most problems law firm’s have with their social media efforts are the following:

    • No primary target audience
    • No point of differentiation
    • No strong appeal
    • No time left to create a “consistent” theme

    My Social Media Philosophy:

    • Social media “teaches” firms to promote themselves the way they should have been doing all along; to lead with benefits instead of your firm’s capabilities and credentials.
    • Firms need a differentiated and appealing position to a particular target audience.
    • Enlarge the firm’s online footprint so it can be found by your best prospective clients that match up with the core strengths of the firm.
    • Through social media, you build relationships, trust and a position of expertise. People always prefer to work with people that they know, trust and like.
    • Even though social media is very time-intensive in the beginning, as you get up to speed, it becomes an extremely efficient use of time. Clients have an opportunity to check under the hood, kick the tires and examine the upholstery within their own timetable.
    • The central platform for social media is a firm’s blog. As important as it was for your firm to have a website, it is becoming essential that your firm have a blog. Your firm’s website is becoming more like an online static brochure. A blog provides better SEO, fresh and rich content, is more personable, easier to update, provides a reason for your prospective clients and readers to visit often.

    The following 10 tips are my suggestions for creating a law firm’s new blog with the objective of building your social media capabilities and credibility:

    1. I recommend that you do not incorporate your blog into your firm’s website.

    If it is tied into your firm’s website, it is immediately constricted and has no room to breathe and grow.  It’s okay for your firm’s Website to show its diversity of clients, but a blog has to have a specific target audience.

    The Website is your online brochure, the place where capabilities, credentials and the work reside. The blog will compel you to focus your firm more narrowly without the risk.

    2. The firm’s blog should be reflective of its principals.

    You have to remember that social media is about people, not an entity. Don’t hide behind the veil of the firm, be the face of the firm. Again, people want to work with people they know, trust and like.

    Your firm needs a face. For most small to mid-sized firms, that face needs to be the firm’s principal(s).

    From my experience working with prospective clients of, small to mid-sized firms, they always are interested in the chemistry with and oversight of the partners.  You are the visionary of the firm. The only way you are going to “get” social media is to participate. If it isn’t a priority for you, it won’t be for your firm.

    Also, keep in mind that the firm’s principals are the least likely to leave the firm.  If you lose a staff member who you’ve allowed to be the face of the firm through social media, you lose your equity and a significant portion of your audience.

    3. Keep the design simple.

    The more people you involve in this process the more chance you will have a bottle neck that slows, and most probably stops, the process. Keep the people involved to a minimum. Remember that content is king. It is the fuel for the engine and don’t let anything inhibit generating the content. I would suggest to start out utilizing WordPress, TypePad or Blogger blog platforms. My favorite is WordPress. You can create a blog in minutes rather than days, weeks or months. It will be a constantly evolving process, and its important that you keep it moving. You can easily add pages, navigation and graphics without help from your IT department.

    You should be able to have your blog up and running in a matter of minutes, not hours, days, weeks or months. Keep the design clean, simple and easy to navigate. Stay focused on delivering the beneficial content. The site needs to be more personal and less corporate. Let it reflect your personality. Avoid using your firm’s logo. The firm should reside in the background. A side note: be sure that you own your domain.
    Make your target audience crystal clear.

    4. For your blog to be successful, keep you target audience in mind.

    You don’t want traffic for traffic’s sake, you want targeted traffic. This not only will help your SEO, but also when you repurpose content through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

    5. Before you begin to write learn to listen.

    Please remember this: reading fuels your writing. A great time saver for your reading is to use an RSS Reader. My suggestion would be to sign up for Google Reader. The key is to find sources for great content and have that content flow to you instead of you having to constantly search for it. Google Reader allows you to easily organize all of your online reading. It is very efficient.

    Learn about social media etiquette, understand the importance of transparency and motive when using this emerging media, but remember this one rule, there are no rules when it comes to social media. It is still evolving, and we are pioneers within the space when it comes to legal marketing with this channel. Watch your blog analytics, it will help to fine tune the appeal for your writing. Always look to your readers, what they care about and respond to.

    6. Write Concisely. People read online differently than they do print.

    They usually don’t read word-for-word, they scan.

    Nielsen Norman Group’s research found that 79 percent of their test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word. This makes it a tough transition for copywriters who tend to be clever and fluff up the copy.

    Make your posts scannable by:

    • Being brief, give your readers the Readers Digest version, the executive summary. Do the work on their behalf.
    • Dividing up copy into shorter paragraphs.
    • Using bullet points or numbered lists. Using compelling subheads, quotations, bold, italics, etc., so readers can scan for the information they need.

    Follow Hemingway’s example:

    “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of &*^$,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the s___t  in the wastebasket.”

    7 .Jump start traffic to your blog to accelerate lead generation.

    “Build it and they will come,” is not the answer to generate traffic to your firm’s blog. You must employ proactive tactics to create awareness and interest among prospective clients. The more traffic that you can generate from your target audience, the more rewarding your legal blog will be.

    The strategic use of Twitter and eNewsletters can significantly bump up targeted traffic to your blog in a short period of time.

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking, “If I’ve written it everyone must have read it.”

    The copy for your eNewsletter will come from your blog posts. It takes literally 10 to 15 minutes to create and send. That allows it to be maintainable even when you are at your busiest. Through these two tactics alone you can get 100% return on your time investment from writing your posts.

      Here are some quick tips to help generate traffic to your blog:

      • Publish posts frequently and consistently.
      • Write evergreen posts that have a long shelf life and a good return for your time investment. I know when writing to a legal audience, many of your posts will be time-sensitive, but try to have some very simple and basic posts so you can repurpose.
      • Syndicate your new posts to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
      • Add your blog link to your email signature.
      • Use a program like SocialOomph to re-purpose your blogs older content through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
      • Add a share button at the bottom of your posts to allow them to be easily promoted by others to through their personal networks.
      • Provide subscription options for your blog through email or an RSS Feed like Feedburner.
      • Identify key words you want to dominate in Google search and consistently use them in your posts titles, such as law, legal marketing, etc.
      • One thing to avoid…don’t sell! The moment you start to sell on your blog is when you will most likely LOSE your audience.

      8. Create resources for blog post ideas.

      Because I know who my target audience is, and I have identified the categories that I’m going to write to, coming up with blog posts ideas is not difficult. From my experience, the narrower your focus, the easier it is to find things to write about.

      As I mentioned earlier, reading fuels writing. When I’m reading in the mornings, using Google Reader and scanning through hundreds of posts and articles I have filtered directly to me, I find a few that catch my eye. So that I don’t become distracted while reading, I use a tool called Press This, that will place the interesting posts/article title, URL link and synopsis into a draft posts in WordPress.

      When I write, I can go to my draft posts and work from there. I also keep a Word document on my laptop’s desktop with a running list of ideas.

      9. Be focused and consistent.

      It is as simple as planning the work and following the plan. I start out each day knowing who is my target audience. I write consistently to the stated purpose of my blog. I make irrelevant material relevant to my readers. I do the work on their behalf. I’m consistent with my timing and religiously follow a regular posting schedule.

      I follow a daily ritual to keep me on track and consistent. I start every day with my strategic reading. My homepage in FireFox is my Google Reader. I open it before I will dare to open my first email because if I open the first email, my day is done. I also enjoy getting a leg-up for the week by having one to two posts finished by Sunday afternoon of most weekends. These are preset to publish on different days of the week, and I’ll write the other posts before the week is up. My readers can be assured of finding fresh content.

      That doesn’t mean that you have to provide all original content for each post that you write. I usually recommend that one post per week be original content, other blog posts are highlighting other information, resources, research that will be of help to your target audience.

      10. To keep up, you must have the right mindset.

      We will experience more change in our industry in the next five years than we have in the previous 50.

      One of the main reasons law firms and partners haven’t been as inclined to participate in social media is that they are already over-extended with little time for anything additional in their professional or personal lives.

      When they make time to participate and understand social media, is when they’ve finally relented that it isn’t going to go away. What will make the social media pill easier to swallow is understanding the multiplicity of benefits it provides. Social media only becomes a priority when you understand the benefits generated from it for you and your firm.

      Before you brush off participation, the benefits you’ll reap through your efforts to write a law firm blog:

      • A blog is worth doing if only for this one big benefit, professional enrichment. It provides a system for you to stay ahead of the learning curve in communications technologies and in front of your clients and prospects. A position of leadership – thought leadership.
      • The interaction with your readers, clients and other attorneys is priceless. If you really want to know what your prospective clients’ obstacles are and become a thought leader, then write a blog.
      • Learn to create a strong appeal for your firm. A blog will help you to stop using legal speak and speak in a language that resonates with your target audience. It will teach you how to generate an appealing message.

      Legal Marketing: The Eight Word Mission Statement

      July 30, 2010

      Hands Holding Mission Statement

      Your law firm’s mission statement can have new business value and measurable results.

      Most firms have a mission statement. Most are filled with wordy jargon that is often forgotten, misremembered or flatly ignored by staff and is meaningless to prospective clients. Your mission statement should foster clarity.

      Kevin Starr, executive director of the Mulago Foundation, has created a compelling approach to developing a focused and useful mission statement that warrants the attention of law firms.  Starr insists that the companies he funds, express their mission statement in under eight words.

      The Starr Method: Clients must follow this format: “Verb, target, outcome.”

      This concise method is a fresh approach to developing a usable mission statement that will clarify thinking and keep the firm focused on a single issue. This way your firm can incorporate the mission statement into all printed and online materials, including social media. Having a clear-cut mission statement will set the tone for your social media plan and policy. You should create your mission statement before starting any social media projects – it will get everyone on the same page.

      For example, “Representing Businesses in Times of Transition,” or “Helping People Through Divorce,” or even “Helping Clients Prepare for the Future through Estate Planning.” (Okay, that last one is 9 words, but you get the idea.)

      How long is your firm’s current mission statement? Do you think you could get it down to under 8 words using the “verb, target, outcome” format?

      Try this exercise and share it through the comments’ section below.