Market externally to generate more enquiries (Part 2): Advertising and Marketing

 In Practice Management

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marketing law firms

Mention the work ‘marketing’ in legal circles, and many solicitors automatically equate this word with advertising. This, of course, is simply the process of paying for space, either in a publication or somewhere else, to promote your own particular message. All that is required is a quick phone call or email to book the space and the job is done. However, more money is wasted on pure advertising than anything else when it comes to marketing.

ADVERTISING

Many private client practitioners fundamentally misunderstand the role of advertising. Advertising will almost never directly win you any work at all! Apart from name awareness, its usual practical purpose is simply to generate enquiries for you, which then should be converted into business.

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Therefore, an advert in a local paper or Yellow Pages about your private client department should be judged by how many responses it generates, not necessarily how much business comes from it. This takes you back to the concept of converting your enquiries into business.

I should also confess that pure advertising is my least favourite promotional technique, as experience shows it to be the most ineffective and expensive of initiatives as far as private client work is concerned.

Nevertheless, there will be occasions when you decide to give it a go, and for this purpose, a few practical tips follow.

Specialisation

The more specialised your advertisement, the more likely you are to receive a better response. A generic advert in the Yellow Pages, with a bullet point entry for administration of estates and wills, hidden among 20 other services, such as conveyancing, employment and personal injury, will not pull a huge response of enquiries in your area.

Focus the entire advertisement on your area. People have specific legal issues and do not usually buy general legal services.

Impact – Use questions as a headline

Headings in an advert are key attention grabbers. Questions prove stronger than a mere statement of the service. A question like, ‘How many thousands in inheritance tax could our specialist save your family?’ is likely to be more effective than the heading, ‘We provide an inheritance tax service.’

Message – Don’t fall into the name trap

From many advertisements I reviewed over the years, I have observed how many practices believe their name and logo is the most important aspect.

If you think about it carefully, you will realise how illogical that is. In the vast majority of cases, a person looking in the Yellow Pages or local newspaper for a firm to contact does so usually because he or she has no particular affinity to any particular practice. If a client doesn’t know your name in the first place, then he or she will not be influenced by a huge logo leaping out from the page.

I am not suggesting that you leave your name off, of course. It could easily be placed sensibly near the bottom of the advert. If you remain unconvinced, understand this . . . if the advert costs £3,000 in the Yellow Pages and a third of the space is used for your name and logo, then you spend £1,000 specifically on that. Wouldn’t it be economical to use that space and its equivalent cash for a more influential message?

Clarity – Make your contact details clear

Given that the purpose of the advert is simply to generate enquiries, making sure your number and contact details are absolutely clear remains vitally important. I may be stating the obvious, but there have been numerous occasions when this has simply been missed out.

WEBSITE MARKETING

This section highlights a number of simple, practical tips to enhance the private client section of your website. I am looking at this from a marketing and communication point of view and not a technical IT one.

People search the internet and visit various websites for three main reasons:

  • Information and advice – People look to find answers to questions and informative material to enhance their understanding or knowledge in any particular area.
  • Buy things – This can range from buying services and products such as a book, a DVD or booking flights, train or hotels online.
  • Entertainment – There are literally thousands of different types of entertainment to satisfy the Internet surfer.

Into which of these three areas does your website fall? I am willing to bet that it doesn’t provide a great deal of amusement or entertainment (nor am I suggesting it should). Most private client firms will not be selling anything online, so the only remaining possibility is that it provides information and advice. Let me be very clear here; by simply announcing that you provide a wills service, inheritance tax planning and estates administration and that you are efficient and friendly is not the same as actually giving information and advice.

Make your website rich in content

Put simply, your aim should be to put as much helpful information and guidance on the site as possible. The sites with the best results that are found most are often those rich with information, advice and content. Thus, fill with articles and helpful information about the process of will making, trusts, welfare benefits, residential care planning, inheritance tax, obtaining death certificates, funeral arrangements, dealing with being bereaved, dealing with estates, the role of personal representatives and anything else that might prove helpful.

Why should somebody just sit down at their computer and potentially find you? That sort of person has a situation, a problem or is anxious and looking for answers. The more information you put on your site, the more likely they will find you and want to make contact with you. Again, it is a way of showcasing your expertise.

The more information and guidance you provide on the site, accessible via the homepage, the more appealing the site will be, and the more likely you will be found.

Establish credibility

It is not simply enough to say great things about your department. For example, ‘We have a professional and friendly specialist department that provides the following private client services’ is not hugely influential in making somebody want to contact you. Enhance the marketing content by including the following:-

  • case studies of private clients you helped;
  • quantification of your experience;
  • quantification of your achievements;
  • client comments or testimonials; and
  • results of client satisfaction surveys.

Design tips

The best sites operate from the perspective that less is more. With this in mind, do not go for flashing images or pages of dense text. Keep the pages as clean and as minimalist as possible. Plenty of space with clear and easy to read links to information and advice is helpful.

Consider creating a speciality site

There is absolutely no reason why you should just have a departmental section or page within your firm’s website. You could have a separate specialist private client site altogether, rich in content.

Make your contact details visible

A pet irritant about websites is the difficulty in finding a telephone number or an appropriate contact name. You should have a general phone number visible somewhere on every page on your website; you should give a specific name as a contact for your area of work and it is good to put a photograph on the site with a few biographical details.

Create blogs

Consider creating blogs for your practice. These can be accessible via your website or independently. They can be an effective way of raising your personal profile, showing a modern approach and getting something of your own personality and approach across.

Additional tips

Of course, it is not simply enough to build your website and add it to the internet. There are a number of additional things you can do to enhance your chances of making it work for you. These include the following:

  • Search engine optimisation. I have already confessed that I am not an IT expert. I can tell you, however, that I have worked with specialists in this field who have derived great results for many legal firms and departments. Contact me if you require an introduction.
  • Tell your clients, contacts and staff about your website. Some months ago, I spoke at a seminar to the entire practice of a medium-sized firm about their marketing and business development. In front of me were more than 100 people, including partners, fee earners, support and other staff. Out of curiosity, I decided to give them a test to see how much they knew about their own firm’s website. Believe it or not, more than 50 per cent. of the firm could not tell me the firm’s website address and approximately 90 per cent. admitted to never having visited the site.

    How many of your firm’s staff know your website address and have visited it? How many of your staff know what your private client services are and understand them? How many of your existing and dormant clients have visited the private client section of your website? Instead of simply worrying about your Google ranking, make sure that your firm and clients with whom you deal regularly know the website and what is on it.

  • Joint venture website marketing. I already mentioned the potential benefits of joint venture marketing. Perhaps the simplest form of joint venture website marketing is reciprocal links with other organisations.
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