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: How to Write your Firm’s Blog

November 12, 2010

Notepad and Keyboard

The inverted pyramid style of writing works well to produce the kind of content that generates significant targeted traffic to your law firm’s blog and allows you to be a thought leader in the legal world.

Journalists have been using the inverted pyramid style of writing for years, and it works well for legal blogs as well. Using this method, you place the most important information at the top of the story, then follow with details. Writing for the Web has to be different, because people read differently online. Actually, they don’t “read” at all, 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. A newer study found that users read email newsletters even more abruptly than they read websites. People prefer sites that get to the point and let them capture information quickly.

Most readers are impatient and want stories to get to the point immediately. The inverted pyramid style of writing helps compel the writer to get to the point quicker. For this style of writing, you put the most newsworthy information at the top, and then the remaining information follows in order of importance, with the least important at the bottom.

The pyramid style of writing is valued to your readers because they can leave the story at any point and still understand it, even if they don’t have all of the details.

I would suggest actually leading your article/post with what I call the “takeaway or benefit” statement. Simply answer the question, “What is my benefit if I commit to read this article?” You actually lead the story by starting with the conclusion.

“The inverted pyramid organizes stories not around ideas or chronologies, but around facts. It weighs and shuffles the various pieces of information, focusing with remarkable single-mindedness on their relative news value.” – journalism historian, Mitchell Stephens

Legal Marketing: Is the Phone Call an Outmoded Communication Tool?

October 26, 2010

Phone in Hand

A growing number of people consider phone calls to be interrupting and annoying. The phone call is rapidly fading as e-mailing, followed by an explosion in texting and social media, has pushed the telephone conversation into serious decline.

The debate is raging. Is the phone call dead for law firms and their clients? Most attorneys keep in touch with their clients through phone calls, but is that out of date now? Should they be combining phone call with new technology? Read more and figure out where you fall in this debate.

TechCrunch writer, Alexia Tsotsis, recently wrote an insightful article that has been stirring a lot of debate, “The Phone Call is Dead.”

She writes, “Less obsolete, but more annoying than a handwritten letter, the phone call is fading as a mode of communication even if the nostalgic will be singing its praises for a while.”

While Alexia points out that saying something is “dead” in the tech industry actually means it’s on the decline, she provides some good points regarding the fall of the call.

  • We reached a breaking point in 2008, when text messaging topped mobile phone calling in usage, and we’ve been living in a world dominated by text-based communication ever since.
  • According to Nielsen data, voice usage has been dropping in every age group except for those past the of age of 54.
  • 78 percent of teens recognize the functionality and convenience of SMS, considering it easier (22 percent) and faster (20 percent) than voice calls.
  • Voice activity has decreased 14 percent among teens, who average 646 minutes talking on the phone per month.
  • Interest in voice calling is now sharply differentiated by age, and few technological advancements have ever survived while failing to capture the interest of 22-year-olds.
  • The fall of the call is driven by 18 to 34-year-olds, whose average monthly voice minutes have plunged from about 1,200 to 900 in the past two years, Nielsen research shows.
  • iPhone users (and to greater extent smartphone users in general) are not primarily using our phones to make calls.
  • We now have access to a plethora of free, internet-based calling options like Google Voice.
  • Not only are people making fewer calls, but they are also having shorter conversations when they do call. The average length of a cell phone call has dropped from 2.38 minutes in 1993 to 1.81 minutes in 2009, according to industry data.
  • Between 2005 and 2009, as the number of minutes people spent talking on cell phones inched up, the number of cellphone messages containing text or multimedia content ballooned by 1,840 percent.
  • Cellphone industry group CTIA saw text messaging double from June 2008 to June 2009, when Americans sent a staggering 135.2 billion text messages, and its data backs up the idea that phone calls are declining.
  • Land lines are disappearing. Verizon, the country’s second-largest land line carrier after AT&T, says its hard-wired phone connections have dropped from 50 million in 2005 to 31 million in 2010.

“The fundamental way we people communicate is just about to change again,” said Delly Tamer, CEO of Letstalk, which sells a variety of cellphones. “We humans will now start to rely less on our mouths and more on our heads and our fingers.”

Alexia Tsotsis, is LA Weekly’s internet culture reporter, and SF Weekly’s web editor. Before she joined TechCrunch, she ran the website while staying on top of memes, the tech scene, and human behavior in the digital age. Read here entire article: “The Phone Call is Dead”.

Legal Marketing: 5 Ways to Turn Your Law Firm’s Website into Solid Leads

May 27, 2010

picture of a web address

There are some simple things you can do to make your law firm’s website more effective in generating new business leads.

A law firm’s website gives valuable information about your firm and what it does, but people have to find it first. Don’t make them work to find you; creative use of social media can drive traffic right to your doorstep.

Here are 5 ideas to help you turn your law firm’s website into solid leads:

1. Extend your online presence far beyond your website.

I recommend making your blog the central point of your online presence, as it can be the prime source of leads to your website. The idea is that Twitter, Facebook, search engines and other forms of social media will provide links to your blog, which should be a newsworthy resource on topics of interest to your clients in your area of expertise (it should not be marketing-oriented).

Clients who click-through to your website from your blog already feel as if they know you – a key factor in signing new clients – and have already gotten valuable information from you.

2. Reap the benefits of viral marketing

If your blog is relevant and informative it may be referenced by and linked to other sites and blogs, extending your reach exponentially. Post your blogs and other news on Twitter, which automatically alerts search engines to your post and makes it available to people searching the topic on Google or Yahoo.

3.  Use landing pages

Have website visitors land on pages specific to their interests. For instance, if they click to your site from a blog you posted about employment law, take them directly to that portion of your website.

4. Make it easy to contact you

Every page of your website should have a prominent, easy-to-find “Contact Us” button. On the firm’s contact page, provide several different forms of contact – phone number, email address, physical address. To make it more personal, provide the name of the staff member they will be contacting.

5. Solidify the relationship

Now that social media has driven warm leads to your doorstep, follow-up quickly with a phone call or personal email to greet clients and find out more about their needs.