Without a legal marketing plan, you're putting the future of your practice at risk. And yet, only 46% of law practices have a marketing budget across big, solo, and small law firms.
Lawyers have to face several challenges to create a solid marketing strategy, but whether you're trying to market a small law firm or a national-level firm, a few tips can help bridge the gap and bring you more high-quality leads and new clients.
Ethics Rules Restrict Marketing Options
Selling legal services requires awareness of various ethics rules. Rules on law firm marketing vary from state to state but generally follow several common guidelines. Bar association ethics restrict what can be said to promote fair and honest marketing among lawyers.
Ethics rules that don't apply to other businesses mean that you can't always take your attorney marketing as far as you'd like. Legal professionals must push their marketing message as strongly as they can without violating guidelines for state and national bar associations.
In general, here are some of the most common things for marketing addressed in attorney ethics rules:
- Requiring the use of disclaimers that your content is not considered legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship
- Prohibiting marketing messages that guarantee wins or make promises
- Forbidding marketing messages that use terms like "best" or "specialist"
This is one aspect of marketing that you can't change.
To comply with these rules, get familiar with any local or state requirements and review the ABA rules on lawyer marketing, so you don't run afoul of them. If you partner with any marketing vendors, make sure they are familiar with the same rules.
Competitors Outspend Your Firm on Advertising
If you're in a competitive market, such as a big city or in the field of personal injury, it's easy for others to outspend you if they're more established. Big competitors in the legal space have a first-mover advantage, and there's almost always someone willing to pay more than you.
Trying to get into the game with a bigger ad spend to generate new business is dangerous since it can become like a bidding war where your costs always go up.
Instead, get creative with your own marketing. Advertising is only one of five ways lawyers can get more clients, so don't rely too heavily on it if it isn’t viable for you.
Related: See our article on marketing ideas for law firms for some ideas.
If advertising feels out of reach because of the cost involved or because of saturated ad space in your practice area (which is common for personal injury), your marketing plan should hinge on something attainable for you and an effort that can pay off over time, too.
This is where SEO for your law firm and content marketing can bridge the gap and give you a competitive advantage.
You can create best-in-class resource content for your website that addresses your reader's questions while highlighting what makes your law firm stand out. While creating great content is still a cost, it's not a one-time spend like with ads.
With SEO content, you'll watch your law firm grow in search engine rankings with content that entices readers to reach out to you with their legal issues.
Just look at the Levin Firm for an example of this in action. They began working with Rankings.io with two big problems to fix: the firm had a blacklisted website, and their competitors were spending millions on ads in a big market.
Partnering with the right SEO firm helped them establish themselves as a leader in their field and generated an organic traffic increase of 3400%.
Lack of Strategy Scatters Your Marketing Efforts
Most attorneys who fail at marketing themselves do so because they don't have a clear strategy and spread themselves too thin.
In an effort to be listed and promoted on multiple channels, you don't gain traction with any of them and end up frustrated and burned out. There's only so much you can do effectively when you first step up your marketing efforts, and it's much better to focus on a handful of things you can do really well.
A lack of focus and commitment to one solid strategy leads to disappointing results. That's the point where most lawyers throw up their hands and exclaim that nothing is working.
Instead, you need a clear marketing strategy and an attorney marketing plan. Your marketing plan is a big-picture guiding document that explains how you'll execute your strategy. It’s unlikely to change since it's designed to help you meet goals over the course of a year or longer. But the tactics and channels you use to implement your strategy may shift over time as you either get results or need to change things based on the data you analyze.
Investing in Ineffective Check-the-Box Marketing Tactics
One of the main ways you'll attract top law firm clients to your law firm is through strategic marketing that highlights what makes you unique in the marketplace. That's why it's a big mistake to follow "check-the-box" marketing based on what you think you "should" do or what your competitors are raving about.
What works in one market or practice area may not work for you. Adding more and more to your to-do list only ups your budget and stress level, so avoid treating all your marketing channels the same with a square-peg-round-hole approach.
Think about the way you consume marketing messages as a consumer. You use different platforms for different things, and the marketing that most likely resonates with you is tailored to that channel.
If you're looking at short videos on TikTok, you wouldn't expect to see those same videos succeed on your LinkedIn. Likewise, the copy on a PPC ad for lawyers will be completely different from the copy in a law firm blog post.
Successful lawyers tailor their message to individual platforms and channels to increase their chances of connecting with prospective clients.
Start with one channel. Invest the time, energy, and money to succeed there. Once you've mastered it and have a clear system for creating and sharing that content, add another channel. You'll pick up things from that new channel that may alter your overall approach as you go.
Lack of Clear Marketing Goals and KPIs
As a lawyer, you feel the pressure to market all the time. After all, you won't grow your client base if you're not constantly putting your name out there.
But a haphazard trial and error approach is frustrating and repetitive. It makes you feel like you're doing nothing but losing money.
One big reason is that you haven't established what winning looks like before diving into a campaign. If you have nothing to measure your results against, you'll end up feeling like you get no results, and you're also missing out on valuable data that might enable you to tweak your campaigns.
A good marketing plan is just your starting point. Within that plan, you need to outline key performance indicators. Then you can track these KPIs against your goals so you can see how things perform in real-time.
Don't overload yourself and your team with too many KPIs. This is a common mistake that spreads out your efforts. Focusing on too many things at a time makes it hard to truly analyze and improve your current plans, so choose a handful of KPIs that tell you a lot about how your marketing performs.
Here are some high-value KPIs for a personal injury law practice:
- Volume of website traffic
- Percentage of conversions from landing page visits
- Number of keyword rankings on the first page of Google
- Average fees won per client
- Intake calls vs. new clients received from calls each month
- The number of testimonials or case studies received quarterly
When you know and track these metrics, you're equipped to respond to real-time data from them. You can spot downward or upward trends more quickly and adapt your marketing plans as needed.
For example, you may notice that your team is spending a lot of time on intake calls, but many of those calls are unqualified clients and don't turn into paid relationships.
When you review this data regularly, you can train your staff, update your marketing message to disqualify poor-fit clients faster and do more follow-ups with potential clients who are a fit.
If you're not tracking anything, everything you do in your digital marketing plan is a best guess, and by the time you realize there's a big problem, you're weeks or months behind in fixing that issue.
Focusing on "Your Brand" Instead of Your Clients
Lawyer branding is important. It's how you stand out in a crowded marketplace full of attorneys and firms. The more recognizable your brand is, the more likely you are to get new clients through word-of-mouth referrals from current clients.
But most attorneys spend too much time talking about or promoting themselves rather than making the client the center of the relationship.
As a lawyer, your job is to serve your client. Your client cares the most about what you can do for them. Even when it comes to credentials, your client only cares about your education, law firm awards, and distinctions so much as they think it can make a difference in their individual case.
As you share information about yourself on all your marketing channels, make it relevant to your clients.
Instead of brand marketing, which can often seem like something we do to potential clients, focus on category marketing, which is all about how you help your clients.
With category-focused marketing, you move your potential clients from how things are to a new and better way. For lawyers, you must reflect on what matters most to your clients and their potential perceptions of their legal issues or what it means to work with a lawyer.
Even drilling down to web design and the copy on your web pages, you need to speak to what's relevant for your clients.
When fusing brand building with client-centered marketing, here are some things to remember:
- What does your law firm do better than others?
- What things do past clients consistently remark about their experience with you?
- What factors are most important to new clients when they decide to hire a law firm?
- Can you spot your brand's core values in your marketing messages? Would a client?
It's hard not to pay attention to your competition. There are only so many legal clients out there, and it's natural to wonder if you're losing traction because of other firms in your area.
But if you get too focused on what the competition is doing, you'll get distracted from the marketing strategies most likely to bring you success.
Focus on the channels and tactics that are most likely to bring you clients from your target audience. That's probably not what another law firm is doing, so don't get sidetracked from your own goals.
Don't take all your cues from other firms. Instead, make them play your game by setting yourself up as a unique and leading law firm in their area. When you stay focused on what you do best, you'll lose interest in figuring out what the competition is doing.
Lack of Consistency and Patience
Too often, lawyers don't wait long enough to get any real results from their marketing. Some forms of advertising may provide more instant gratification than others. To some extent, turning on pay-per-click ads may get high-quality leads sooner rather than later. But not every marketing channel or tactic delivers results that way.
In fact, some of the more instantaneous options can peter out over time. If your competition starts investing in PPC ads and driving up the cost, what was once a "quick win" tactic for you can fall apart in a few days.
More attorneys should rely on consistency and patience in their marketing because that's where you get real and meaningful results over time.
Marketing takes time to ramp up, but when you do this, you build a strong foundation to multiply your results. The first few months of an SEO campaign might seem slow, but as your website content gets indexed by Google, you'll see more traffic from potential clients. That's a strong return on investment that keeps paying off for you.
As many as 80% of people enjoy reading about companies and firms through content marketing, so it's a tactic that can really connect with your potential clients. Your messaging should always connect with your ideal clients, which has a twofold purpose: it draws in people you want to work with while discouraging those who are bad fits or wouldn't work well with your style.
When you create content for your website, you own it. That's unlike your social media presence, where rules and engagement can change overnight. SEO content marketing is more sustainable and reliable than other methods, so it's worth investing in for your law firm.
Once you publish between 21-54 blog posts, your chances of traffic go up significantly. Research shows that you might see 30% more visits to your website from that alone. If you start with any strategy, give it time to work.
Focusing on Lead Gen and Neglecting Demand Gen
You must have leads to convert them into new clients, but too many law firm marketing plans focus on bottom-of-funnel lead generation rather than building a relationship with people starting at the top of the funnel.
Instead of worrying only about creating leads from your marketing, create demand.
Publish content on your website that directly addresses their biggest concerns and questions. You put your law firm name in your client's minds early and build positive brand value. Remembering to create demand for your category and practice is one of the best marketing tips.
Lack of Internal Resources
Most lawyers don't have the resources to market effectively and instead can turn to experts to get the best results. Over 80% of law firms outsource some of their law firm marketing because it's such a heavy lift.
If you try to rely on yourself or you try to delegate to an internal staff member who doesn't have the experience, it's usually a recipe for disaster. Marketing is a unique skill, and it's not something you can dump on your admin and expect to turn out well. This eats up your valuable time that is better spent serving clients.
Rather than trying to figure out the shifting marketing landscape on your own, partner with a marketing agency that has the capacity and knowledge to handle your campaigns for you. It's the best of both worlds since you can remain focused on your zone of genius without worrying about whether you're doing enough marketing.
Working with Inexperienced Marketing Partners
Don't rush to delegate your content marketing and SEO to someone else without doing your research first. Outsourcing requires the ability to find the right person or team to help.
Too many companies promise the world with lawyer marketing but simply can't deliver. Some of them drag campaigns on for months with minimal or no results.
Only work with a partner who has experience in law firm marketing.
Here are some questions to ask when searching for a good law firm SEO partner:
- How long have you worked with the legal industry?
- How many other firms have you worked with in my practice area?
- What do you see as the biggest marketing challenges ahead of us with SEO?
- How do you see us working together effectively?
- What KPIs do you track, and how often do you report on those?
- Will we need to invest in any other software or services?
Matthew Dolman, owner of Dolman Law Group, fell into the trap of trying to take on all the marketing tasks himself.
After years of paying inexperienced SEO companies, he was saddled with a website that didn’t rank for any valuable terms and was almost at the point of being penalized by Google for spammy links built by unscrupulous vendors. Matthew then had to step to try fixing some of the problems, using up his time teaching himself marketing.
Then Matthew came to Rankings.io. Our team of law firm SEO experts used our deep knowledge and experience in the legal industry to turn things around for the Dolman Law Group. After working with us, the firm saw a 400% increase in new cases from their website and an over 300% increase in website visits from search.
If you're tired of wasting your own time or money to get disappointing SEO results, contact us today to see how we can help your law firm develop a marketing strategy, improve your online visibility and get more high-quality cases.