Don’t Get Internet Marketing Wrong at Your Law Firm: Avoid 7 Digital Mistakes

Let’s say someone’s searching for a lawyer. They make their way to your law firm’s website. What are they hoping to find there?

Definitely not a whole bunch of information about you.

Does that seem counterintuitive?

What they want is to read about their problem — maybe they have a personal injury, workers’ compensation or Social Security disability case — and how to get their life back on track.

Many law firm websites get this wrong.

Firmidable President Nathan Chapman recently led a webinar on how to avoid this and other common mistakes in internet marketing. It’s called “Catch a Digital Wave: Avoid the Undertow of 7 Marketing Mistakes.”

You can watch a recording of the webinar here. Or read on for the main points.

Mistake #1: Not Having a Law Firm Marketing Plan

A Firmidable client in Phoenix — who we worked with on TV advertisements but not its website — asked us why its site wasn’t attracting clients from Tucson.

We took a look and discovered an astonishing fact in light of the question: The website didn’t have ANY content about Tucson. How was Google to know that Tucson internet searchers should see this site?

The vendor who built the client’s site made a costly assumption about the geographic goals of the firm.

If step one of the project had been careful, methodical planning with actual goals and objectives — written down — that included reaching clients in Tucson, the firm could have avoided this oversight and not missed out on all those website leads and cases.

“That’s the difference between marketing and just having somebody execute your strategies,” Nathan said in his webinar.

And that’s the first legal marketing mistake: having no foundation of written goals.

Here are some things you might put in your plan:

  • Types of legal cases you want to attract
  • Geographic areas you want to reach
  • How many cases you want over certain timeframes
  • How much return on investment you need, factoring in the typical legal fees for different kinds of cases
  • Possible non-case goals, such as your image in the marketplace, your appeal to prospective employees or growing your social media following

Mistake #2: Not Planning for Sustainability in Law Firm Marketing

You didn’t go to law school to be an accountant. But sometimes, that shows.

An accountant Nathan spoke to said attorneys often have this way of handling money: Pray for a big case, hang on while you wait, get one, spend a lot, and then hang on while you wait for the next big case.

“That’s not my favorite strategy,” Nathan said.

When you’re planning your marketing initiatives, you’ll minimize your risk and maximize your return on investment if you think through how to sustain your investment until you reap the rewards.

Here’s how to impose order on your cash flow:

  • Measure your current cases, their status, how long each case takes and their fees.
  • Keep a reserve fund, allowing you to invest in growth.
  • Maintain a responsible line of credit. “The best time to get a line of credit is when you don’t need it,” Nathan said.

Often, the biggest challenge is getting the data you need for good planning. But you can do it with case management software, spreadsheets and other systems.

Mistake #3: Not Being Multichannel

These days, people often watch the TV screen with another screen in their laps, shifting quickly between TV and internet. And no matter where they see you, whether a little smartphone screen, a TV screen or a giant billboard, you want people to instantly recognize that it’s you every time.

This builds familiarity with your brand, increases your professional image and leads clients to you.

“Big professional brands, the names that you know — the Home Depots, and Avis and Holiday Inn — every time you see … the company name, it’s consistent,” Nathan said. “And you’re going to want to do the same thing.”

But being multichannel also means that, despite the internet’s power, you shouldn’t necessarily put all of your investment online. You should consider traditional marketing efforts as well to get people to think about you even before they do any searching.

“When Americans search for answers, the internet is where they turn,” Nathan said. “But sometimes, they don’t search.”

Mistake #4: Neglecting the User’s Experience on Your Legal Website

This is where you have to remember how people looking for lawyers don’t visit your website because they’re interested in you. You may be the solution to their problems, but at the heart of it, they’re looking for information about themselves.

Here are ways to apply this to your law firm marketing:

  • Fill your website and non-digital advertising with stories about people like your potential clients.
  • Give your website a clean, simple design that readers can easily follow to find the information they need and then connect with you.
  • Try to use custom photography to authentically represent your clients and attorneys.
  • Add videos to your website. Videos are increasingly popular. And Google rewards you in search results for having videos.
  • Design your website for mobile devices, which now account for a majority of site visits for many law firms.

Mistake #5: Not Keeping Up With Your Blog

Blogging regularly is a constant challenge for law firms. The green lines represent weeks when each firm posted a blog. The red lines are weeks when each firm posted nothing.

Blogging has two great benefits:

  • More people will find you because Google favors websites with fresh content.
  • And once they find you, you’re more likely to answer their questions. The more material you have, the more topics you have to draw people in.

Nathan told a story about visiting a friend in the hospital and overhearing doctors worrying that she got too much anesthesia. He Googled what happens in that situation.

He found an informative article on the subject, worthy of the Mayo Clinic. He was deep into it when he realized it was a blog posting from a law firm. He was surprised, but he forwarded the post to his friend’s family with a note that they ought to read it too because it talked about their legal rights.

The challenge is that writing of that caliber takes time, effort and money. Law firms are notoriously bad at maintaining a program of regular blogging. So you may want to consider a service or a marketing agency.

Whether you delegate the writing or write it yourself, you can make a list of good topics based on questions you hear from new clients.

Mistake #6: Wasting Leads With Poor Conversion Tactics

When potential clients fill out your lead form on your website, how long can you take to get back to them?

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Forbes magazine found that you should call potential clients (not e-mail back) within only five minutes, or you risk losing them to a competitor.

This is because within five minutes, you’re still on their minds. And if you call right away, you stop them from searching for more law firms.

But you and your staff are busy. It’s understandably hard for you to call everyone back so fast.

Here are two solutions to this problem:

  • Hire a 24/7 call center to make the callbacks and establish that first contact with clients.
  • Install a live chat feature on your website, in which a professional offers assistance — at all hours — and after gathering some introductory information, asks the potential client if your firm may follow up. In many cases, if your office is open at the time, the chat can be turned into a phone call for you immediately.

Mistake #7: Violating Legal Marketing Ethics Rules

Most states have similar rules for ethics in legal marketing:

  • Don’t mislead people with your messages.
  • Don’t over-promise and give people unjustified expectations.
  • Do include the name of at least one lawyer and an address for the firm.

When you’re planning new marketing, check your bar association’s rules in case they’ve recently changed.

And Nathan has another point about ethics: Be careful about buying leads from third-party vendors.

There are some lead-selling companies — not subject to bar association rules — who use misleading marketing tactics to identify potential law firm leads. Then they sell the lists to you.

This could make you complicit in those companies’ behaviors.

“I prefer to do things that are branded under your own name,” Nathan said. “Not only does your firm get the benefit of branding … but you also know what’s going on, and you don’t have to worry what’s being done” to get cases for your law firm.

Get Help Getting Everything Right

Your law firm can prosper by avoiding these seven pitfalls. Firmidable is arguably the nation’s best legal marketing and consulting agency, well poised to help you avoid such mistakes while guiding you to the potential of a well-planned and executed marketing strategy.

Services include growth planning, law firm branding, television, video and print production, data-driven media buying, targeted digital advertising and user-focused website design.

If you want to be one of the law firms that gets everything right, call us at (504) 525-0932 or contact us via e-mail.

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About the Author: Mark Waller

Mark Waller is the senior writer/editor at Firmidable. He has written book-length websites for law firms, enhanced content on dozens of law firm sites for search engine optimization, written and optimized law firm Paid Search ads and developed scripts for law firm TV ads—helping firms across America grow their caseloads. Before he started in legal marketing, Mark’s writing and communications career included working for a university president and as a local journalist. He was a member of the staff at The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans that won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

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