Digital Marketing for Solo and Small Firms – HOW TO REACH AND BE RELEVANT TO POTENTIAL CLIENTS

By Deborah E. Kaminetzky

Digital Marketing for Solo and Small Firms

Especially in competitive markets, attorneys need to attract and retain clients in order to stay in business. Traditionally, attorneys used to get most of their clients through referrals or perhaps advertisements in the yellow pages or, more recently, through television commercials and advertisements in general circulation and specialty print publications. Another popular choice has long been the lawyer referral service offered by the New York State Bar Association, which matches clients with attorneys who have the appropriate skills to handle their cases. And, of course, there is the old standby – word of mouth. While all of these choices remain relevant today, the internet has opened up a new way for potential clients to find legal services – without speaking to anyone or divulging their secrets. Especially with consumer-based law, many potential clients will go straight to the internet rather than ask around and let others know that they have a need for an attorney. This is the reason it is so important to pay attention to digital marketing trends. Lately, even when someone is referred  to you, they vet you online prior to calling. Attorneys should be aware of their online presence which most likely includes a website, some directory listings, perhaps a blog and some social media pages. It goes without saying that prior to implementing any internet marketing the ethics rules should be consulted.

First, a few marketing terms.

Organic reach – when you or your firm show up naturally, without an advertisement either in response to a query when someone is searching the internet or in a social media feed.

Sales funnel – the process which leads a potential client toward becoming a client. The idea is that there are many more people at the beginning of the process than actually become clients. First you need your ideal clients to know that you exist (awareness), then you need to get them to your webpage (interest), and ultimately to call or email for a consultation and sign a retainer (action).

Blog – an informational online page or website that has a conversational style.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization – the likelihood of your content being found online, how relevant your content is to people’s questions.

Voice Search – people searching for everything from restaurants to attorneys speaking into their device rather than typing.

Analytics – data on measuring the effectiveness of advertising and marketing.

Live Chat – a pop-up window offering to help a user on your website.

CHANGES IN ONLINE MARKETING

Some social media platforms have changed their algorithms. You used to be able to post on your page and reach at the very least the people who liked your page. This gave solo and small firms the ability to advertise by using what is known as “organic reach.” This was a game changer in that it was free, it only required someone who knew how to post, and some time. Smaller firms could delegate this to a junior attorney, paralegal or pay a marketing manager to do this for them at a fairly low cost. Now, according to an article in Social Media Today on May 17, 2019, Facebook will be showing less of what they consider shallow content which impacts what is known as organic reach. If you are paying for advertisements1 or boosts2 of your content, you also want to be sure it is something that is a conversation starter. There is also a difference between boosting a post and putting in a paid advertisement. The cost of the advertisements depends on a bidding system not unlike pay per click, although usually less expensive. Advertisements will often allow you to customize and test out your ad on a look alike audience of your choice to see which content will be more relevant to the potential clients you are trying to reach. This means that smaller firms, in addition to creating the post and taking the time, may also have to pay if they want their content to be seen by a wider audience. This could be a game changer for a solo practitioner or even a small firm with a limited advertising budget.

WHAT STILL WORKS

There are still ways to market effectively for a very low cost. For SEO purposes, your website or blog is still an effective way to show up organically online and it is something you should own. If you are not sure whether you actually own your website and domain, check into it.

Some trends in SEO are that people are using more voice search these days with their phones as well as devices such as Alexa and AI such as Siri or Cortana. That means that they are speaking their queries rather than using keywords, and if you want your website to appear in answer to their question you need to have the right answers. This is known as a long tail keyword. People generally speak differently than they type. They might type in “Estate lawyer near me.” They might say, “Who do I go to to have a will done?” or “Need a lawyer to do an estate plan who has evening hours.” Remember when you learned how to do legal research and you could do it with Boolean or natural language? There is a similarity with online search.

Another helpful and fairly inexpensive thing to implement is getting an SSL certificate for your website. Not only will it make it more visible online it will not warn the potential client that your site is unsafe, and really, why would a potential client trust an attorney with their information if a warning pops up?

Sending out a firm newsletter using software such as Constant Contact or MailChimp is another way to push out content out to people with whom you have already interacted. The wonderful thing about email marketing is that you already own your list. “But people don’t read those” you say. Let’s say that you have a list of 2000 contacts that you have honed and continually updated over the years. When you send out your newsletter, there are analytics that show how many people opened the email, how many clicked through to articles, pages on your website etc. You can even see exactly who looked at what which can help you plan for future newsletters. Granted, some people will not open it at all, some will open it days later, a few will unsubscribe. On average you should have a 20-30% open rate which on a 2000 contact list is 400-600 contacts. At the very least everyone who receives the email is reminded that you exist and may think of you for a referral.

Lastly, informational videos on your website and on your social media channels (not to mention all the live capabilities these days) are still an inexpensive way to drive traffic to your website.

HOW CAN YOU TELL IF IT’S WORKING?

If you think all of this is too much work and you are skeptical, remember, all of these marketing activities have the goal of getting potential clients to your website. If you are not already using analytics to measure and track the traffic on your website you should start now. Having this information is invaluable to see if any of your marketing efforts are actually working. You want to be sure that the time you or your staff are spending are productive. You also want to be able to track your ROI “return on investment” for any paid advertising. The information gleaned from analytics will help you decide how much time and how much money to spend. Getting potential clients to your website however is not the end of the marketing funnel.

HOW DO I GET THEM TO TAKE ACTION?

Once the potential client is on your website there is still something you can do to motivate them to contact you. Many potential clients look at several different attorneys when searching for representation. What can make the difference between you and another attorney? Even with the internet age, people like good old-fashioned customer service. They like it in the middle of the night and on weekends too. So how can a solo or small firm attorney who needs sleep compete? Believe it or not, Live Chat can be invaluable. Many potential clients will be doing their research nights and weekends when the office is closed, but they can still feel that you care about customer service. There are several live chat options out there at varying price points. Some offer the live chat software but not the agents, so you have to provide agents to chat with potential clients or have someone in your office be responsible for the interaction. Some providers offer live chat software as well as the agents to interact at varying price points. There are some providers that cater to the legal industry and train their agents in legalese and protocol so that you can be assured that they are not giving out legal advice when they should not. Even then you may want to give a carefully scripted flow chart of responses so that you have control over the types of conversations that happen. Some of the live chat companies have a flat fee with a certain amount of “leads” included in the flat fee. Make sure to determine when interviewing a live chat provider exactly what their definition of a lead is to be sure that you understand what you will pay for.

CONCLUSION

Implementing even one new trend in digital marketing can be effective in getting your telephone to ring. Don’t feel that you have to implement them all – or all at once; in fact, one at a time will give the beginner a much better idea of whether the chosen platform is working. One thing you can count on is that the landscape for marketing going forward is an ever changing one and the New York State Bar Association Law Practice Management Committee will continue to bring you the latest information to help your practice. Like, comment, share!


  • Facebook ads are accomplished through ad manager, which is a much more complicated process and also costs more. There is a lot more than can be accomplished with an ad. Facebook has several different ad formats which are not available as a boost (see below). The ability to select an audience is significantly more robust in ad manager. There is also the possibility to do what is known as A/B testing with a “look alike” audience so that you can decide which ad to place. Facebook ads also require a privacy policy on your website, which many small law firms do not have. For gaining actual clients, Facebook ads are likely more effective, though also more costly.
  • Facebook boost is taking a post you have already published on your page, such as an article or event, and paying a fee to have it show up in other people’s feeds who are not already members of or following your page. It is basically extending the organic reach. There is an ability to select the audience by demographics and geography and to budget how much money to spend over a certain time period. Boosting is easier to do, but it is significantly less precise (and arguably less effective) than an ad for sales, but may be effective for growing your fan base, which is people who will like your page.
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