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: Your firm’s marketing and business development departments should be in sync

November 11, 2010

Hands creating teamwork

Gain a competitive advantage by bringing marketing and business development together.

Most large firms have a marketing staff as well as a business development staff. Even though they work for the same team, they don’t always come off that way to prospects.

In a firm, marketing and business development have the same goal and hope for the same outcome – more clients. So why don’t they have the same point of view? Why aren’t they on the same page? What happens during that dreaded “hand-off” or time gap when the marketers hand off clients to the business development team? Why are both teams trying to sell so many different ideas and services?

You will gain more clients, which ultimately leads to more money, if you integrate these processes. Make sure you are hiring people that can handle your firm and all of its practice areas. Have a public relations person/team, a social media expert, writer/editors and business developers. All of these people must have the firm’s principals at the core of all their decisions. This not only helps you to gain more clients, but it also strengthens and demonstrates your expertise and intellect. You don’t want to be the firm known for not having a concise plan. You want a consistent brand message across all your marketing channels.

When you are selling these ideas, whether through marketing or business development, make sure all ideas are well-researched and can be backed up with white papers, articles, and expertise in that legal area. Once you establish these strategy, make sure you are pitching the same ideas throughout your firm. Don’t focus on selling too many different services, but rather on a few well-thought-out practice areas. Create a process that is clear-cut and gives roles to each department. With this process, there won’t be any knowledge gaps and hand-offs between the marketing team and business developers will go smoothly.  Like I said before, stay on the same page!

Working as a collaborative group will lead to many more future prospects and CLOSING the deal!

To read more about this and to see survey results and graphs check out, Getting Marketing and Business Development on the Same Page in the Legal Marketing Reader.


Legal Marketing: Make sure your Law Firm has a Social Media Policy

November 2, 2010

Social Media and Law

A strong social media policy will keep you and your firm out of trouble.

According to the National Law Review article, “eDiscovery & Social Media,” two-thirds of Internet users are on social media sites. Thus, making it even more important to implement social media rules and policies for your law firm.

Law firms are just like any other business when it comes to employee conduct, and having some rules for social media is important. Sit down with your firm and come up with some formal guidelines that everyone can follow. Make sure the purpose of these guidelines is clearly defined, and there are no questions regarding the information. Whether your firm is small or large, every single person must follow these policies, otherwise, social media could ruin your firm.

Give examples of the social media sites people are using – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Make it clear about what you can and cannot say. You don’t want employees creating posts on Facebook or Twitter that discuss cases, your attorneys, or even worse – office politics. Once it is out on the Internet, it’s there to stay.  Also, just to be safe, make sure all employees have their personal social media sites set on private, otherwise anyone and everyone can see what they post.

Make sure these guidelines reflect your firm’s principles, and reflect all the other guidelines already implemented in your firm. For example, anti-harrassment, confidentiality, etc.

Finally, assign someone in your firm to be the face of these policies. If anyone has questions, this is the person they can go to for answers. This person should monitoring your firm’s social media presence to make sure no one slips up at the cost of the firm. And if someone slips up, there must be a process to correct this mistake as soon as possible.

As long as everyone is on the same page with social media, there shouldn’t be any problems. The hardest part is just understanding the far-reaching impact social media can have on your firm, both good and bad, and making sure every employee is aware of, and living by, the guidelines.

Check out the American Bar Association’s latest article on this issue or the National Law Review’s article, “eDiscovery & Social Media.”


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 SFweekly.com 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: 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: Using LinkedIn’s Introductions

September 10, 2010

People shaking hands

LinkedIn only allows you five introductions, so make sure you use them well.

How do you BEST use your five introductions? Does it work well?

I am not a fan of Introductions. I think they are good in theory, but in the end, you are relying on someone else to pass along your introduction in a timely manner (if at all).

As well, with the free account, you only get five introductions at a time (fifteen with the paid account).  That means if you ask five people in a company to introduce you to a client, and none of them pass along the introduction, you won’t have any more introductions to use again – indefinitely!

You can withdraw introductions, but sometimes that takes weeks as well, often depending on if LinkedIn is having a good day or not.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Start the introduction process with the person to whom you want to be introduced. LinkedIn will give you a list of people to choose as the “Introducer.”
  2. When you choose a person to pass an introduction along for you, choose someone:
  • You know.
  • Who uses LinkedIn regularly. (You can usually tell by how fully formed their profile is and how many connections they have.)
  • Someone who likes you.

In that order.

Someone you don’t know might not pass along the introduction.

Someone who knows and likes you, but is never on LinkedIn might pass it along – eventually.  But by that time, it might be too late.

To avoid wasting introductions, make sure you:

  1. Be very clear to the person you want to be connected to AND to the person doing the introduction WHY you want to connect.  Give them details.  Needless to say, a sales letter is going nowhere.
  2. If your introduction hasn’t been passed within a week’s time, withdraw it and try someone else.
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Don’t use all five introductions with five different people all at once asking them to introduce you to a single person. At the most ask three different people for introductions to your intended connection, and as soon as your introduction is passed through, withdraw the others.

On the other end, your firm might already have a policy in place for passing along introductions. If not, I recommend creating a policy.


Legal Marketing: How to Optimize your Law Firm’s Advertising during a recession

September 9, 2010

Don’t cut your advertising budget during a recession, instead increase it to gain market share and propel your law firm ahead of the rest.

Normally in a recession the first thing to go is the advertising budget, but that isn’t smart. Advertising is what draws new clients to your law firm.  Cutting costs and sticking close to your budget is what your firm wants to do and I bet you feel as though you can’t do that with advertising in the mix, right? Well wrong!

Even though people think consumers don’t spend money during recessions, they’re wrong. People just choose what to buy differently and that is why it is important to invest in your advertising so you can stay top of mind awareness to clients against your competition.

Deborah C. Scaringi, former president for Legal Marketing Association’s New England Chapter,  shares some tips for marketing in a recession in a recent Legal Marketing Reader article.

With some of my own thoughts, here are 10 cost-effective advertising strategies for your law firm to survive in this economy:

  1. Keep Existing Clients Loyal. Keeping past clients is less expensive than putting all of your energy into gaining new clients. It’s important to continue getting new clients, but make sure you don’t lose your old ones.  Loyalty to clients is also something that will bring in new clients.
  2. Understand your Audience. Understand your clients’ needs in this economy. Advertise based on what they need.
  3. Partnering. Host a trade show or speak at a conference. Work with other people to advertise. This type of work will cut your advertising down tremendously. Make sure though that these endeavors match with your principals and business practices.
  4. Continue Advertising. Since a lot of law firms are cutting their advertising budget, you now have more places to advertise.  You have more options and more people will be aware of your law firm if it’s the only one advertising. Stay top of mind!
  5. Outsource. Contract some of your employees. You don’t have to have everyone working full-time. It may be cheaper to outsource a few people for a period of time.
  6. Keep Market Share. Make sure your firm is keeping a positive presence in this economy. Do some small public relations campaigns to keep clients informed. This, along with advertising, will give you the competitive edge.
  7. Word of Mouth. Build relationships! Keep a positive presence in the market and people will spread the word of your firm’s work and reputation. This is probably the cheapest and most effective way to stay at the top of your clients’ minds.
  8. Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Make sure people can find your website easily. People do research before they pick a firm they want to work with, so make sure you have optimized your website. This will allow your site to show up at the top of search results in search engines such as Google and Bing.
  9. Web Analytics. Track what people are clicking on when they are on your site. This will allow you to better serve your clients needs.
  10. Utilize E-newsletters. Create a weekly newsletter. This is a good public relations tool as well. For example, in your newsletter, discuss pressing legal issues. Be a thought leader, focus on a practice area and stand out, and this will increase your accreditation.

Use these tools and clients will come, even in hard economic times.

Click here to read more about of Deborah C. Scaringi’s article, Recessionary Thinking: 12 Smart Marketing Tips for Tough Times