As a law firm owner, you wear many hats. From accounting to customer service to practicing law, those early days require a lot of business savvy for someone new to the legal profession. The most important thing for lawyers to master is marketing and sales in the firm.

Without a consistent flow of ideal clients, the entire business will suffer. Putting your law firm’s name and phone number in legal directories just won’t cut it; you need an ongoing plan for attracting ideal clients.

Sensing the importance of bringing new clients in the door, attorneys often go all-in in multiple acquisition channels, believing it best to be everywhere at once. With five primary acquisition channels, it’s far better for lawyers at new firms to focus on mastering only one at a time before adding on others.

There are two general buckets for acquisition channels: platform-based and people-based. Platform-based channels are paid media, owned media, and earned media. People-based marketing includes affiliates and partnerships and word of mouth.

Each of these five options has its strengths and deciding which is best to focus on first depends on your marketing strategy, goals, and budget. The most common approach is to start with a platform-based channel and then graduate to people-based as you expand your professional and word of mouth networks.

1. Paid Media

Paid media is simply advertising. Paid advertising is the best place for a new law firm or a firm with no strong marketing history to start with, but it is costly in the long run.

Consider that 78% of all law firms are involved in paid search marketing, but 82% don’t think the ROI is worth the input required.

There are many challenges with paid media, especially since what you’ll spend here depends on multiple factors. Things to consider when deciding to use law firm advertising include:

  • The competitiveness of your practice area: for example, personal injury lawyers typically spend more
  • The age of your law firm: newer firms have to spend more because they have less brand recognition or market trust
  • Your current legal marketing context: for example, do you have any other channels that help drive high-quality leads already?

The big benefit of paid ads for law firms is that, to some extent, it’s more predictable than other methods. There’s an element of “put money in, get clients out” if you have the budget to build a consistent pipeline.

But that’s expensive for linear growth. Further, not all paid ads perform the same across channels or time periods, making it hard to determine what elements of your ads need to be tweaked. To jumpstart your successful law firm, paid media like Google ads or billboards may help you get a foot in the door, but don’t neglect other channels.

Examples: Using Paid Media as a Law Firm

For example, imagine placing an ad on Facebook to reach car accident victims. At first, the ad might perform well: you see clicks and views on your website, leading to an increase in completed contact forms or phone calls. Your law firm might focus more on this client acquisition method or boost the budget with such promising results.

A sudden change in Facebook’s ad placement rules or demand for ads could require a total (and costly) shift in copywriting or graphics or a reduced ROI. If you rely too much on that channel, it can easily become a game of quickly shifting to whatever’s performing well on that platform at the moment.

Placing a Google pay-per-click ad can also make sure that your law firm shows up at the top of the list when someone searches for valuable keywords in your industry. Over time, as more attorneys discover Google ads as a means of growing a client base, the cost of placing the ad and getting that click increases, but your conversion rates from those clicks don’t necessarily increase alongside ad spend.

If you’re not getting high-quality new clients, but you’re spending a lot, it’s time to evaluate adjusting your strategy.

2. Owned Media

Owned media refers to all the contacts you already have, such as those in your CRM and email list or followers on social media. When you have an audience through things like social media, it’s likely that some brand recognition and trust are already built, making it easier to convert these followers.

With owned media, you acquire customers through assets or platforms you control. Then you continue to share content or contact them about your services.

Not all owned media is created equal in terms of the potential returns it offers for law firms. Email marketing can bring great ROI for other service providers or product sellers. In general, across all niches and industries, email marketing gets an ROI of $36 for every $1 spent if you’ve got interested subscribers.

That’s because people who proactively opt into an email list generally want to hear from that company.

Most people aren’t interested in getting a law firm newsletter in their inbox every week or month, so the potential engagement and relationship built over email usually won’t pay off when promoting legal services. 

Even though your prospective clients may not be open to you showing up in their inboxes, you can build a great website that’s a resource hub of information about your practice area. Owned media also includes content on your law firm website, although rankings on Google for content are earned, not owned.

Examples: Owned Media for Law Firms

One of the best ways to establish owned media that can also turn into earned media is by investing in a well-designed website supported by a content marketing plan. Make sure your website loads quickly with a great design, even on mobile. Invest the time and money into great content that addresses misconceptions, legal concerns, and hot topics around your practice area.

Your organic social media presence, too, is part of your owned media. You should set up these accounts and maintain a regular presence there when starting out, but investing too heavily in organic social media is inferior to other options. Many lawyers choose to use social media as a marketing channel to publish content, build a brand, and to stay in touch with potential contacts and prospects. Trying to stay top of mind on social media is challenging due to short attention spans.

Remember that you don’t fully own your social media pages or their reach. Platforms change algorithms and rules that, if you’re leaning too much into organic social, can harm your marketing efforts overnight with a big change.

Focus more on building your own website and driving traffic there through search engine optimization (SEO) efforts to avoid some of the downsides of digital sharecropping (building your business on someone else’s land). Make sure you don’t exclusively use social media at the expense of other ways of building your online presence. Whether you use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, or some other platform, leverage other channels so you’re never at risk of losing your full pipeline.

3. Earned Media

Investing in an earned media strategy takes longer to ramp up than paid marketing options but is more sustainable over time. Earned media is simply coverage you get for free because of actions you’ve taken. It is not media that you paid for to promote your law practice, though.

While some areas of earned media lead to print mentions, digital marketing placements are valuable and continue to live on past the day of publication.

For example, pitching a reporter a story on daylight savings car accidents and getting quoted in the published version is earned media. So is a podcast interview in which you talk about settlement techniques in personal injury cases. 

Other examples of earned media include:

  • News coverage
  • Earned PR
  • Reviews (Such as Google Business Reviews)
  • Search engine rankings for your website

Each of these requires effort, such as pitching a podcast host or writing and publishing great content on your website. Putting a lot of effort into search engine rankings is great for attracting people to your law firm because the results build on themselves and position you as a leader in your industry. 

The best results come when you can use your tactics repeatedly to get in front of the right audience with your earned media since this shows authority in your field.

Examples: Earned Media for Law Firms

If you’re regularly quoted as a workplace accident expert and can feature this on your website, this gives you a competitive edge over other workers’ comp lawyers in your area.

These earned media items can pay off over time, especially if you stay consistent. As opposed to paid options, you’ll get ongoing results if you can invest the budget and time into developing great content for your website that Google then ranks.

Here’s just one example: imagine that you’re quoted in a regional newspaper about typical challenges whiplash victims experience.

That could open the door to future interviews, outreach from a local yoga practitioner who regularly works with accident victims, requests for you to serve as a panelist or speaker on related topics, or even as niche credibility on your website.

The more earned media you get for both offline and online marketing, the easier it becomes to target bigger publications to earn even more media, establishing you as a leader in your field.

Earning traffic through ranking for content on Google is vital as part of your earned media plan. A few tips can help you make the most of your content marketing strategy: 

Finally, your online reviews are great earned media that you can repurpose and use in other aspects of your marketing. Good reviews can be used as testimonials on your website, help boost your Google Business Profile, be used as social media content or featured in an email newsletter, and even help your law firm win credentials and awards such as recognition from Super Lawyers.

4. Partnerships and Professional Referrals

If you want to build a brand successfully, you can’t be the only one shouting your praises. This is where partnerships and affiliate programs come in.

For a law firm, this looks like forming beneficial relationships with your peers. This can lead to a lot of new clients, but it depends on your networking ability and overall reputation. Think of this as your business development efforts to meet new people and form relationships that continue to pay off over time with potential legal clients.

As you brainstorm what this might look like in the legal industry, consider partnerships with other business owners who have access to your target audience. New lawyers may benefit from partnerships, but these efforts can take time without a track record and reputation in your region. With some work, these relationships might pay off in spades.

For example, a car accident lawyer might want to connect with:

  • Other lawyers in a different region or practice area
  • Chiropractors
  • Physical therapists

The biggest benefit of forming partnerships is that it is free outside of the time spent building that relationship. Be mindful of ethical rules around how you build these relationships.

One good partner could be a consistent source of business. Make sure the partnership benefits both parties. If you can return the favor and send leads or support their business in another way, take the opportunity to do so.

Your method of finding good referral sources will depend on your local region and practice area. A car accident personal injury lawyer, for instance, might work to build solid relationships with local police unions if that attorney seeks more cases about officer-related injuries in vehicles that go outside of traditional workers’ comp.

An estate planning lawyer might work with other local experts, such as a financial planner and a tax professional, to provide comprehensive services within that network or by referring business back and forth to those other partners.

5. Word of Mouth

Have you ever told a client, “The greatest gift I can receive is you remembering my name and sharing it with someone else who needs a lawyer?” 

That’s a true statement. Word of mouth is by far the most powerful, although by no means easy, acquisition method for lawyers because it’s the only one that is capable of quadratic growth.

For example, if you have two happy clients who tell three other people about their experience, who either work with you directly or bring up your name to others, you can generate a steady stream of warm leads.

Unlike ads, where you’re purposefully putting your firm directly in front of a target client, word of mouth may feel less salesy to the person who’s hearing it. In fact, 43% of people used referrals from family and friends when deciding on a lawyer.

When starting out, word of mouth is one of the most challenging ways to market your law firm. That’s because you don’t have a “backlist” of referrals. Each new client counts, but not all of them will refer you to someone else.

To get word of mouth, you must focus on making your services so good that everyone they serve tells their family and friends. While every other acquisition method is linear, great experiences that lead to word of mouth can scale your law firm quickly. It can also lead to repeat business from the same clients, depending on your practice area.

If you’re a real estate lawyer and deliver an excellent experience to a commercial investor in your area, not only will they refer you to others, but there’s a good chance they’ll come back to you for all their future deals.

Answer this question from marketer Alex Hormozi to evaluate your own client experience:

“If you could only sell one more customer and you could not do any of these other five ways of getting new business. And that one customer had to be the source of new business for you. What type of experience would that person have to go through in order to become a raving fan and bring everyone they know to you?”

Alex Hormozi

Brainstorm the common pain points your clients might have to think about amplifying your service to them.

If you’re a personal injury lawyer and you frequently get clients with such complex injuries that they’re overwhelmed by the recovery process and all the doctor’s appointments, can you create a list of doctors and other practitioners in the area that your past clients have had good experiences with?

You could save your new clients time and energy by pointing them in the direction of someone familiar with common car accident injuries like back pain and whiplash.

Not only does your client get the benefit of your legal knowledge, but they will feel more cared for from beginning to end. Small steps like this help differentiate you from others in the market.

For an estate planning lawyer, hosting a monthly grief support group is a good place to connect with potential clients who may be grappling with the confusion of their loved one’s estate plan or deciding how to navigate their future planning. This extra step makes clients feel supported well beyond a visit to the lawyer’s office to review the specifics of a will.

These are the kinds of experiences that make a client even more excited to share your name with others who might be facing similar legal issues.

Create Your Marketing Plan

There are many different ways to reach potential clients in your law firm, but you won’t succeed in acquiring customers through any of these methods without a clear law firm marketing plan. Your marketing plan breaks down your unique value proposition, your target clients, and how you’ll reach those potential clients through various channels and tactics.

Most lawyers already know they need a marketing plan but aren’t sure how to put it into action without the help of an outside expert.

A marketing expert can help you understand the opportunities in your region and practice area, the budget required to achieve your law firm’s goals, and even implement various aspects of your law firm’s marketing plan.

Put together, your marketing plan is your roadmap for growing your law firm and continuing to get results out of your chosen acquisition channels.

Rankings.io has a strong track record in working with law firms based on experience and results. We know what works and what doesn’t. When you hire Rankings.io to help you craft and implement your marketing plan, you’ll get peace of mind from working with a dedicated team of people with a deep understanding of the legal industry.

If you’re ready to hit the ground running with your content marketing and SEO services, contact Rankings.io today to review your attorney marketing plan.