What Is Law Firm Marketing? A Guide to Marketing Your Firm

Developing a law firm marketing plan is the key to reaching new clients and growing your practice. However, you don't have to be a marketing genius to get clients in your door.   Law Firm Marketing Guide

Chapter 1

How to Promote Your Practice

Our technology-driven age has made it easier (and cheaper) than ever to promote your law practice like an expert. A good marketing strategy for your firm can be implemented quickly, affordably, and with little stress.

This three-part guide will walk you through what you need to know about how to market a law firm. In this chapter, we’ll answer the following questions:

  • What is the goal of marketing in law firms?
  • What are the benefits of marketing my law firm?
  • How much should law firms spend on marketing?
  • How do I promote my law firm?
  • What are some marketing techniques used at law firms?

We’ll follow up in Chapter 2 with a breakdown of law firm marketing strategies. We’ll conclude in Chapter 3 with actionable marketing ideas for law firms of any size, useful for law firms of all sizes, from solo and small law firms to medium and large law firms.

What Is Law Firm Marketing?

Law firm marketing is the process of promoting a legal practice to attract more clients. Steps in the process include:

  • Raising brand awareness
  • Capturing lead contact information
  • Persuading prospective clients to schedule initial consultations
  • Converting leads into clients
  • Cultivating repeat business and referrals

Techniques for marketing law firms range from traditional methods such as referrals and local advertising to digital tactics such as website promotion and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Legal marketing can be handled in-house or outsourced to third-party providers

Why Is Law Firm Marketing Important?

Effective marketing is critical to law firms’ success because it ensures a steady supply of new business, directly impacting your revenue. The efficiency of your marketing also affects your profit margin by determining the Return on Investment (ROI) you get for your marketing dollars and whether the money you spend generates results or is wasted on ineffective strategies. Knowing how to market a law firm cost-efficiently can mean the difference between a successful practice and struggling to turn a profit.

Law firms that implement marketing strategies across traditional and digital marketing channels achieve greater brand awareness, reach more prospects, and attract more clients, making marketing expenditures a profitable return on investment.

For example, in 2021, legal marketing and technology blog Justia conducted a survey of lawyers across the United States, which found that 64.7% of firms in the United States see a positive return on investment when they dedicate a portion of their marketing budget to developing their law firm’s website, with 38.9% finding that this marketing channel brought in the most leads.

Despite the importance of marketing, many law firms aren’t investing enough in it. In 2021, just 7% of solo law firms and 35% of firms with two to nine partners had an annual marketing budget, according to an annual survey by the American Bar Association. In contrast, 55% of firms with 10 to 49 lawyers and 84% of those with 100 or more planned an annual allocation for marketing.

As this discrepancy illustrates, many successful firms share a common trait: they invest time and resources into their marketing efforts. Knowing where and how to invest your marketing dollars can help you get the most bang for your buck and give your practice a winning edge.

Who Is in Charge of Marketing at Law Firms?

Legal marketing may be handled in-house or outsourced to an external law firm marketing agency. The person responsible depends on a law firm’s size and management strategy. The head of solo law practice may handle their marketing personally, while a more prominent firm may have a legal marketing specialist or marketing department.

However, the more time you invest in marketing, the less time you have to practice law. Because of this, many firms of all sizes opt to outsource. Whether you perform your marketing in-house or outsource it to a marketing agency, you can amplify the impact of your marketing efforts with the right technology stack, increasing efficiency while cutting costs. With the right technology, even a small marketing team can scale up your promotional efforts and attract more clients for the same investment of labor and resources.

What Is the Goal of Marketing in Law Firms?

The ultimate goal of law firm marketing is to gain new business and maintain more clients. Achieving this goal requires meeting several primary objectives.

Building brand awareness with your target market lays a foundation for attracting clients. Brand awareness sets the stage for lead generation, where you capture contact information to cultivate prospective customers through follow-up marketing efforts. Lead acquisition is the follow-up process of converting prospects into customers through social media and email marketing tools. Lead acquisition reaches its climax through the scheduling of initial consultations, giving you the direct opportunity to convert leads into clients. Finally, once a client has been acquired, follow-up marketing can promote repeat business and referrals from past clients, perpetuating the customer lifecycle.

What Are the Benefits of Marketing a Law Firm?

Marketing can benefit your firm in multiple ways. The four most important benefits are growing your client base, building your brand’s reputation, collecting market research, and planning your future marketing strategies.

Grow Your Client Base

The most direct benefit of legal marketing is growing your client base and increasing your firm’s revenue. A well-targeted marketing plan will generate qualified leads that are already looking for your law firm’s services. You can convert new clients to your customer base by nurturing these leads. A solid customer base represents exponential opportunities to gain new business and additional clients through referrals and repeat business from satisfied clients.

Enhance and Manage Your Law Firm’s Reputation

Another outstanding benefit of legal marketing is that it empowers you to improve your firm’s reputation. Your reputation is critical for building the trust you need to attract prospects and gain clients. Through marketing, you can get your name in front of your target audience and develop their perception of your firm as a reputable brand and reliable resource. Strengthening your brand’s reputation supports your sales by cultivating trust, which wins over clients and motivates satisfied customers to refer you to others.

Learn More About Your Target Audience and Local Market

Marketing also supports your market research process. When you interact with your target audience through marketing, you open up a conversation that helps you understand their needs and where you can create opportunities to serve them. You also gain opportunities to learn what the competition is doing to attract clients, and this information helps you hone your marketing and sales strategy to make it more effective. With data analytics and technology such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, you can personalize marketing efforts to meet the needs of individual prospects.

Inform Your Future Marketing Plans

Your marketing efforts give you valuable business intelligence about your target audience that you can use to make ongoing optimizations to your law firm’s marketing plan. You can track which marketing tactics are winning you clients and which aren’t. You can test different approaches to see which ones generate more leads and attract more customers. A/B testing makes your firm’s marketing more effective and cost-efficient, helping you identify the best way to invest your marketing budget.

How Much Should Law Firms Spend on Marketing?

The short answer is that you should spend between 6% to 20% of your gross profit on marketing. Of course, your budget varies based on your marketing objectives, where you are today vs. where you want to go, and so on, but it’s essential to know just how much having a marketing budget will set you apart from your competitors. According to the ABA Tech Report, less than half of law firms of all sizes have a marketing budget, and only 32% of firms with between two and nine lawyers say their firms have a budget.

Your marketing budget isn’t just about money; it’s about your time. If you don’t have much money to invest, you need to carve out time. Don’t forget there is a cost to that too. Ensure you consider the cost of the software you use, the events you attend, etc.

Keeping a realistic marketing budget to support your goals and hold you accountable is vital. You can use reminders in PracticePanther to help you keep track of this budget and manage it monthly.

What Are Some Marketing Techniques Used at Law Firms?

Marketing tactics used for law firms include both traditional tactics and digital tactics. You need both types to promote a law firm effectively today, so we’ll cover both here. Let’s start by looking at traditional marketing tactics, which paved the way for today’s digital methods and continue to play an important role.

Six Traditional Marketing Tactics for Law Firms

Traditional marketing tactics use promotional channels which predate digital technology, such as referrals, print media, broadcast media, posters, billboards, and local promotional partnerships. Law firms have used these methods successfully for decades, and they remain effective today because they reach people when they’re not on their smartphones or computers. They can work as standalone methods or in conjunction with digital tactics. Let’s look at six essential traditional marketing tools to include in your arsenal.

 

6 Traditional Marketing Tactics for Law Firms

 

 

1. Referrals (Word of Mouth)

Referrals are the bread and butter of legal marketing. Your satisfied customers are more persuasive than any ad could hope to be since they speak from experience. Clients often talk to their friends, family, and colleagues, carrying personal credibility and making referrals your highest converting lead generation method. Plus, referrals are generally free, representing your most cost-efficient marketing tool. Note that referral sources don’t have to come exclusively from customers. Consider offering incentives for referrals from attorneys in other practice areas. The ABA provides guidelines on what is allowable in this area. Note that sharing fees with non-lawyers is not permitted.

2. Print Advertisements

Advertising in print is one of the oldest methods of law firm promotion, and it remains an important tool today. Print advertising encompasses a wide range of media, including direct mail, newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and flyers. Advertising in these media can help raise your brand awareness so that your firm remains top of mind when clients seek legal assistance. Your print ads can also include your website, supporting your digital marketing efforts.

3. Television and Radio Advertisements

TV and radio provide an excellent way for law firms to reach local audiences. Spots on TV and radio can help you build brand awareness with specific target demographics. They also can help reinforce your digital marketing strategy by driving traffic to your website. Note that some time slots are considerably less expensive than others, and radio ads cost less than TV ads.

4. Public Transportation Advertising

Public transportation ads allow law firms to reach local audiences every time they ride a bus or subway, consistently reinforcing brand awareness. Ads geared toward public transportation passengers may be placed on static locations such as bus stops and benches. Ads also may be placed on the exteriors and interiors of vehicles, including buses, trains, and taxis, carrying your message from one location and audience to another.

5. Outdoor Advertising & Billboards

Outdoor advertising is a way to build brand awareness for your firm with clients in strategic locations. The most common outdoor advertising method is billboards. Not only do billboards help you reinforce your brand with your target market, but every billboard you occupy is one your competition can’t use. Choose strategic locations to reach your target audience and keep competitors from grabbing your customers.

6. Local Sponsorships, Networking Events, and School Advertising

Local promotional partnerships offer an effective, inexpensive way to market small and large firms. Get involved in your community—network with community leaders and local businesses. Go to local events frequently and get your name out there to build your reputation in your community. Consider setting up speaking engagements or sponsoring an event in the community. These public engagements will allow you to hand out business cards and promotional flyers and make beneficial connections in your immediate community. Keep your firm on people’s minds, and you will get more referrals.

Six Digital Marketing Tactics for Law Firms

The digital age has changed the business and marketing fields. Lawyers must have a good web presence to draw in more clients. Lawyers can use online marketing to increase their firm’s visibility without spending much money. This statement is especially true for solo and small firms as they compete with larger firms for clients.

Legal marketers have many digital tools available to them. The six most important are websites, search engine marketing, content marketing, social media, paid ads, and email marketing. Let’s look at what each of these tools offers law firm marketers:

6 Digital Marketing Tactics for Law Firms

 

1. Website Design

Today, clients are more likely than not to find your firm online. A law firm website is like a business card. It looks unprofessional if you do not have one. Also, if potential clients cannot instantly find your website, they will find someone else.

Most of your competitors now have websites, with the number of firms employing sites climbing from 77% in 2018 to 94% in 2021, according to the ABA’s 2021 Legal Technology Survey Report. However, while most visitors access sites through smartphones, just 69% of firms know if their site is mobile-friendly, creating an opportunity to gain an edge on firms that aren’t prioritizing mobile users.

Moreover, many firms are behind the curve in using websites as customer service tools, with just 6% offering live chat and only 17% offering the opportunity to schedule consultations online. Adding these capabilities to your site can put you in an advantageous position and turn your site into a tool for two-way communications with your audience.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Prospective clients are searching for you right now — do you know where your law firm ranks on Google? Lawyers must familiarize themselves with search engine optimization to get more organic website traffic. The higher your website ranks in search engine results, the more visible you will be to potential clients. Local SEO (which we will cover later in this guide) can be particularly valuable for outranking local competitors on searches by prospects in your area.

Your law firm’s SEO performance depends on factors like producing quality content, using relevant keywords, optimizing your keyword placement, the user-friendliness of your web design, and the number of backlinks to your page. Because of these complex variables, you’ll get the best results if you hire a professional SEO consultant. However, in 2020, just 27% of law firms were using outside consultants for SEO, according to the ABA, leaving an opportunity for law firms to prioritize SEO to gain an edge over the competition.

3. Content Marketing

A blog is one of the most effective marketing tools firms have for driving SEO results. A blog hosted on your law firm’s website will allow you to draw more people to your site if you offer interesting and informative content. Blog posts are also an excellent way to share your legal knowledge with others, establish your firm as an expert in your field, and portray your firm more professionally to clients. Blog content also can serve as the start of a sales conversation, addressing the needs of legal customers and showing them that you have the know-how to help them.

Despite the importance of blogs, many firms are underutilizing this tactic. According to the ABA’s survey, just 37% of firms say they’re using blogs. Adding high-quality blog content to your site can help establish your authority as an industry expert and boost your online presence. You can write your content in-house or hire a marketing firm to develop content for you.

4. Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is one of the easiest ways to advertise your law practice to clients. You probably already use and are familiar with Facebook or Instagram. If not, creating an account with them is free, and they are easy to use. A Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn account for your firm can help you connect with locals in your area. Thus, you can advertise your firm’s services, specialties, pricing, and brand through these platforms.

If you’re not on social media, you’re behind the curve, 2021 ABA survey data shows. 86% of all firms have a social media presence. Among firms that are active on social media, LinkedIn is the most popular platform (87%), followed by Facebook (61%), Twitter (37%), and Instagram (13%).

Just opening accounts on social media isn’t enough, though. You need to make social media part of your content strategy to leverage this powerful marketing tool. Sharing content on social media helps you attract followers and build your brand’s presence.

5. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads (Google Ads, Bing Ads, Facebook Ads)

Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is quickly becoming the new norm in online marketing. PPC platforms like Google Ads or Bing Ads will host your ad on a website or their search engine for free. You pay them a fee every time someone clicks on your ad. Moreover, you have the freedom to set up ads in multiple places and track where you are getting the most clicks. When done correctly, paid advertising platforms are one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of marketing your firm.

It’s essential to invest time in developing a solid PPC strategy and making adjustments as necessary to avoid the risk of spending money on ads that aren’t working. Market research, keyword selection, ad design, and ad campaign testing are some keys to the effective deployment of PPC. An advertising agency can help you get the most out of your PPC investment.

6. Email Marketing

Email marketing provides a versatile tool for promoting your legal services. You can capture visitor email contact information by offering free content in exchange for an email address. Once you’ve captured email contact information, you can use follow-up emails to share content, build brand awareness, develop client relations, and promote your services. Email also may be used to send customized alerts to clients.

The use of email marketing by law firms has grown in recent years. In 2020, 26% of firms used email newsletters, which rose to 41% in 2021, according to the ABA. Meanwhile, 72% of firms use client email alerts.

Law Firm Marketing Best Practices: Top Six Tips for Lawyers

To deploy traditional and digital legal marketing strategies effectively, it’s essential to follow best practices. Let’s look at six of the most important rules for successful law firm marketing. Adhering to these proven guidelines will help ensure that your legal marketing strategy attracts more clients and generates a positive return on investment.

To deploy traditional and digital legal marketing strategies effectively, it’s essential to follow best practices. Let’s look at six of the most important rules for successful law firm marketing. Adhering to these proven guidelines will help ensure that your legal marketing strategy attracts more clients and generates a positive return on investment.

1. Follow the American Bar Association Marketing and Advertising Guidelines

Both federal and state consumer protection laws govern advertising, requiring ads to be truthful, avoid deceptive or unfair tactics, and make evidence-based claims. The American Bar Association recently updated its rules of professional conduct to provide marketing guidelines for complying with advertising regulations in the digital marketing age.

These guidelines cover topics such as what makes a claim false or misleading, what constitutes advertising, when solicitation of clients is allowed, what firms must say when representing their specialties, and what must appear in firm names and letterheads. Make sure to follow ABA guidelines strictly to avoid unnecessary problems.

2. Keep Your Ideal Client Front of Mind

Effective marketing must focus on your target audience. To reach your ideal client:

  • Take a customer-centric approach to your marketing.
  • Use market research to help you identify the needs of your target audience.
  • Design your messaging around their needs, creating content and ads which speak to topics relevant to your audience.

Be quick to follow up with new leads. Use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to help you track client interactions and customize your outreach.

3. Use Your Law Firm’s Website to Your Advantage

Your website is the centerpiece of your digital marketing strategy and is one of the only marketing methods you have complete control over. Present yourself the way you want your clients to perceive you. Don’t overlook the value of a professional-looking website to establish credibility with a prospective customer.

Invest time in making improvements to your website. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. Lay out your site to make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for, including your contact information. Optimize descriptions of your services to emphasize benefits to your clients. Add relevant blog content to showcase your expertise and position your firm as a reliable resource. Include a form to capture client contact information for follow-up email marketing.

To get the most out of your site:

  • Include tools that let customers communicate with you.
  • Allow prospects to schedule initial consultations through your site.
  • Incorporate customer service tools such as client portals and live chat to promote client engagement.
  • Choose Your Marketing Channels Strategically

It’s vital to select your marketing channels carefully to reach prospective clients where they are. Think about which channels are accessible to your target audience. For example, do your clients find you through referrals, search engines, ads, social media, or other means? Surveying clients about how they found out about your firm can help you collect this information and eliminate guesswork.

When selecting marketing channels, think in terms of quality over quantity. You don’t want to spread your marketing budget thin over too many channels. Track which channels are gaining the best results, and adjust your marketing budget accordingly. Pay attention to which channels your competitors are using as well.

4. Make the Most of Your Positive Client Experiences

Since referrals play a crucial role in legal marketing, showcasing positive client experiences is critical. To document client satisfaction, ask past and current customers to leave you a review on Google or to write a testimonial you can use in your marketing campaigns or website. You also can incorporate testimonials and case studies into videos. Include sections of your website where visitors can see your testimonials and case studies.

To increase customer reviews, consider offering incentives for referrals from attorneys in other practice areas. The ABA provides guidelines on what is allowable in this area. Note that sharing fees with non-lawyers are not permitted.

5. Make Sure Your Marketing Results Are Measurable

To get the most bang for your marketing buck:

  • Make sure you can evaluate which marketing efforts are paying off in a quantifiable way.
  • Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure success, such as the number of website visitors generated by SEO and ad campaigns, number of leads generated, prospect-to-client conversion rates, and revenue generated.
  • Segment your tracking by variables such as campaign, media channel, and target audience so you can see what’s working and what isn’t.

Tracking your results sets the stage for optimization. By using A/B split testing, you can track different versions of marketing campaigns to determine which is pulling the best results. This data allows you to focus your efforts and budget on high-performing campaigns while avoiding spending on underperforming efforts.

To keep your budget on target:

  • Keep careful track of your return on investment for marketing activity.
  • Remember the rule of thumb mentioned earlier about allocating 6% to 20% of your gross profit toward marketing.
  • Work with your financial planning team to build your marketing into your budget and keep your investments profitable.

Put Law Firm Marketing into Effect by Developing a Strategic Plan

Law firm marketing lets you maintain a sustainable supply of clients by building brand awareness, bringing new clients in your door, promoting client retention, and encouraging referrals. While you can use in-house talent to pursue marketing, hiring an outsourcing partner is often more efficient and effective. In either case, a winning marketing strategy consists of a mix of traditional and digital strategies.

In this chapter, we’ve outlined some methods to develop a successful law firm marketing strategy. Chapter 2 will show you how to incorporate law firm marketing strategies into a winning promotional plan.


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