A law firm is only as good as its next injury case. For continued growth, that means a rock-solid online marketing strategy supported by offline methods.
A personal injury firm needs a clear marketing strategy to predictably bring in leads and cases. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a solo car accident lawyer or an established injury firm with multiple attorneys: it’s a highly competitive market.
Knowing what works is a good place to start whether you’re just getting started or revisiting your existing marketing strategy to fix what isn’t performing.
The core things to focus on are knowing where your customers hang out (physically and digitally), how to reach them, and how to define what winning looks like.
The Problem with the Current State of Personal Injury Law Firm Marketing
Most personal injury firms are marketing the wrong way.
These four major problems we see injury firms getting wrong are:
- Too much focus on themselves and not enough clients
- A lack of focus and commitment to a single strategy
- Treating every channel the same (check-the-box marketing)
- Too much emphasis on capturing demand and not enough on generating it
Rather than continuing on the hamster wheel of attempting to do it all with marketing, it’s worthwhile to take a step back and evaluate your perception of what it means to market your personal injury firm.
Problem #1: Not Enough Focus on Clients
Most legal marketing is completely out of date and out of touch with clients by putting the focus on the lawyer.
Practically every personal injury firm out there markets with a “me me me” message. Your injury clients don’t actually care that much about you. They care about what you can do for them.
If every lawyer out there is qualified, experienced, and educated similarly, there’s no differentiating factor to make a client want to contact your firm above another one.
Donald Miller’s Storybrand concept is vital for lawyers to understand. In the classic tale of the hero’s journey, a hero undertakes a challenge or faces an obstacle, ultimately achieving success.
In marketing personal injury services, too many of you make yourselves the hero. The client is the hero, and as their lawyer, you’re their guide, assisting them on the journey and allowing them to succeed in the end.
Problem #2: Haphazard Marketing
The second most problematic behavior is a failure to focus on a single strategy, channel, and a set of complementary tactics that go with each.
Due to the plethora of marketing options out there, too many personal injury firms attempt to do it all and fail to ever get any meaningful success from any of them.
Trying to do too many things at once spreads your efforts too thin.
When it comes to strategy, you want to define a single strategy and stick with it long enough to let it work. If you keep changing your strategy more than once a year, you’re doing it wrong or don’t have a real strategy to begin with.
Once you’ve defined your strategy, you want to figure out which channel enables that strategy to drive results for your firm and master it.
For firms new to marketing, this should be a single channel. For more established firms, you should only add an additional channel once you’ve mastered the first one.
The Acme Personal Injury Firm is marketing to get new clients for nursing home abuse cases. They’re posting on Facebook and Instagram, sending an email newsletter once a month, publishing blogs on their site, paying for clicks via Google Ads, and running a few TV ads during the daytime.
They’re getting some leads and cases, but aren’t sure what’s working and what isn’t.
- Email – They have a feeling that the email newsletter isn’t working all that well because few people ever open it and those that do, rarely click any of the links inside.
- Social Media — They’re also not sure how well posting on social media is doing. They get a few likes and comments from people who are close friends of the firm but not much beyond that. It’s rare that anyone engages with them in a meaningful way on a social post.
- SEO — They get a ton of traffic to their blog, but only a small percentage of people who do visit ever submit a form and become a case (less than 2%).
- Google Ads — They’re definitely getting leads from Google Ads, but only 1 in 5 have a case worth taking and it’s getting pretty expensive.
- TV — They’re completely unsure how well the TV ads are working because they’re not very trackable. They do ask clients how they heard about them during intake and some people mention the TV ads they run—so that’s a good sign.
What’s the problem with the scenario we laid out above?
Are they using the wrong channels? Are they using the wrong tactics? Do they lack a clear way to track results?
The core problem above is that there is no strategy.
Each of the channels and tactics above can work for a law firm (though we rarely see email work well), but only if you have a clearly defined strategy.
We said their goal was to get new clients for nursing home abuse cases but a goal is not a strategy. The strategy is the high-level plan on how you’re going to get those cases using the channels and tactics.
If the firm is posting links to their blog post on social media (never do this, it’s a waste of time due to the suppression social platforms impose on you), accolades and awards they’ve recently received, and general around-the-office content, it’s no wonder why things aren’t working for them. None of that has anything to do with getting more nursing home abuse cases.
They should be posting and educating people on things like how to find a good nursing home, warning signs things are wrong, talking about abuse stats around the country and area, hosting live Q&As with the community to answer questions, etc.
The same applies to their blog content. If they’re writing all about general nursing home abuse questions, that’s great for top of funnel traffic, but content about specific problems people have whenever they think a loved one is being harmed would attract more of their target audience and result in higher conversion rates.
In addition to all of that, they should really focus on figuring out which channel they can gain traction on, dropping the others and only stacking another on once they have mastered execution on the first.
Problem #3: Check-the-Box Marketing
Each marketing channel requires its own unique approach to execution. You cannot treat all channels the same. What works on your blog does not work on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, TV, etc.
Publishing something for the sake of doing it or running a PPC campaign because you feel like everyone else is doing it are not strategic moves.
A common culprit of check-the-box marketing we see are firms running email campaigns.
Newsflash: most people don’t want to be on a personal injury lawyer’s email newsletter list.
Email can work, but it yields a poor ROI for PI firms. A reader only cares about dark topics like death and catastrophic injuries at the moment those things have touched their lives.
By extension, social media marketing is another place where most of you spend too much time.
For example, sharing a behind-the-scenes photo of your office can humanize your brand, but that’s unlikely to be the tipping point that makes an injured person contact you for legal representation. Too much time put into posts that disappear quickly in a social media feed hampers your ability to get better results from other activities.
Problem #4: Favoring Capturing Demand and Ignoring Generating Demand
A client is most likely to reach out in the immediate aftermath of an accident. So your firm should be there to capitalize on that demand, right?
You’re not the only lawyer who thinks so.
Demand capture/lead generation tactics are saturated. By the time someone starts searching for your service, you’re already competing against the rest of the market.
Firms with too narrow a focus on demand capture often live and die by their attribution software. This overlooks non-attributable drivers of business like word of mouth marketing, known as dark social. In some cases, dark social has a much more powerful influence.
Too much attention on demand capture also shows up as an overreliance on tracking the ROI of every single marketing activity. This gives tunnel vision to your marketers, who then focus on behaviors that drive the wrong vanity metrics.
What good are visits to landing pages or growth on social media platforms if they don’t lead to new clients? Spoiler alert: it’s also impossible to track every marketing activity.
As Chris Walker points out, every company must consider how to pivot from lead gen to demand gen. By focusing on demand generation instead, you can win people over before they ever even know about your competition. This is done through top of the funnel content that aims to educate people and make them aware that you exist, whether that’s on social media, your blog (via organic SEO), the news, community events, and any other channels where people who aren’t in-market to buy hang out.
There are three ways to tap into the power of demand gen:
- Measure the right metrics. One good example is qualified pipeline revenue.
- Pipeline Revenue: For attorneys, qualified pipeline revenue means how much do you project the cases you have in the works right now are worth.
- Redefine what a “lead” is (someone who downloads your PDF is a contact, not a lead). A lead is someone who contacts you in some way wanting to schedule a consult with you or retain your services.
- Scale your marketing efforts only once you’ve determined that your services and value proposition meet a clear target audience need (service-market fit).
Vital Principle: Marketing Serves the Business
Do not create or implement any marketing plan until crystal clear goals have been documented for the firm. Established business goals are essential for understanding how marketing connects directly to those desired outcomes.
Here are some examples of established business goals for personal injury law firms:
- We want to grow our firm’s revenue by 20% this year
- We want to expand into 5 new cities over the next 5 years
- We want to increase our team by two associates who both have caseloads of X at a time
- We want to branch into trucking accidents by earning 4 new 18 wheeler cases this year
If you’re stuck on what goals to set, start with the firm’s biggest problems. Knowing the constraints currently facing the business will allow key leaders to determine what is the most important area of focus.
For example, if the phone is ringing but with the wrong kinds of leads, the answer is not to get more phone calls. Instead, goals should align with getting a higher percentage of qualified leads to phone calls with the firm.
Marketing efforts that improve lead quality are the only way to address this business constraint.
Techniques that encourage poor fit prospective clients to “opt-out” before placing a call might be effective for this problem.
For example, personal injury marketing campaigns to align to this goal might focus on things like:
- Naming “ideal” kinds of injuries with substantial enough damages
- Directly calling out dollar amounts of accumulated medical bills
- Targeting specific kinds of high-value accidents the firm has success with, such as crashes caused by drunk drivers
Elements of Effective Personal Injury Marketing
In order to succeed with your personal injury marketing plan, you must continue to collect insights with client research, dial in your positioning, create a formal budget (that evolves over time), document your marketing strategy, and choose the channel and tactics that align with your strategy to achieve your goals.
Continuously Collect Insights via Client Research
The more you know your prospective clients, the better you can communicate with them using the language they understand and use. Continuous qualitative client research is vital. Quantitative research is helpful for telling the bigger story, but qualitative research will help you refine things and resonate with your target audience better.
For qualitative research, let go of the idea that it’s just a survey you send out to past clients. That yields limited results.
Instead, you must invest the time for in-depth one-on-one conversations with your clients or with people who might have become your clients but ultimately chose another law firm.
These conversations are valuable for learning exactly how your clients think and what factors are most important for them when making a decision.
If you’re like most personal injury attorneys, determining what to ask doesn’t come naturally when first starting with qualitative client research. Check out The Mom Test, an excellent book about product marketing that has transferable insights for how to ask better questions as a service provider, too.
If you can, record these conversations and transcribe them afterward because you’ll start to gather common phrases, problems, and other unique insights you can repurpose in your marketing.
Dial in Your Positioning
Most business owners and personal injury lawyers get positioning wrong. According to expert April Dunford, positioning “defines how our offering is the best in the world at providing some value that a well-defined set of customers care a LOT about.”
Positioning fundamentally defines who you compete with, how you compete with them, and explains the market you intend to win.
Positioning also drills down into a set of assumptions that people can make based on how you’ve explained what it is you do. Do this well, and you can share a lot of information from your positioning. Do it poorly, and your clients make a lot of incorrect assumptions about what makes you unique. A muddled message doesn’t convert.
There is no shortage of trendy fill-in-the-blank marketing equations attempting to drill down into clear positioning statements. The truth? Marketing is not mab libs.
Most positioning statements end up too far on either end of the spectrum: they’re filled with so much jargon and too many words, or they’re overly simple and useless.
Here’s the formula almost every business in existence has used to write a generic positioning statement:
- Serving (target market), the (insert firm name here) is (adjectives to describe why the company is different.)
The end result for every statement written with this formula is generic.
Contrast the two examples of personal injury positioning statements below:
- We provide dedicated service to victims who have been seriously hurt in vehicle accidents.
- We provide thoughtful, negotiation-focused representation to car accident victims through access to expert resources.
At first glance, they seem similar enough.
But the first one doesn’t do anything to position the firm. Wouldn’t every PI lawyer say they offer “dedicated service” anyways?
The second statement gets into more detail by explaining that it’s the firm’s resources that get a meaningful result for the client. It also hints that a solution doesn’t always mean a trial, which again distinguishes this firm from competitors.
Establish a Formal Budget
You might have resistance to setting a formal budget because marketing is fluid by its nature. Your marketing budget should have a baseline but can still accommodate growing and contracting as needed.
Use the baseline to structure your marketing goals. Throw out what you know about SMART goals, too. James Clear blew that conventional wisdom apart on goal-setting in his book Atomic Habits.
If setting clear, time-bound goals were all you needed to achieve them, many people wouldn’t give up on their New Year’s resolutions a few weeks into January.
Clear suggests to setting goals but applying more effort to creating the systems necessary to track those outcomes. The goal is simply the result to accomplish, whereas the systems are the processes that massively increase the chance of getting to that goal.
If you wanted to write the great American novel, you shouldn’t leave “Write Novel” as a task on your project management system or calendar every day.
Instead, you’d commit to the system that would support that outcome, such as:
- Hiring a book writing coach for weekly accountability calls
- Creating a scene-by-scene outline before starting to write
- Spending the first 20 minutes of every day writing
The system breaks down that bigger goal into smaller pieces. Goals only set the direction, but systems are key for actual progress.
When crafting this, determine how you’ll measure success: what does winning look like?
Establish a Documented Marketing Strategy
Your business constraints will dictate your marketing strategy. These constraints include:
- Available money for investment
- Awareness of what makes good marketing
Remember, a strategy is a documented long-term plan unlikely to change much in the next few years.
Tactics can be more fluid though. They can (and should) shift based on incoming data and should always be driven by the question, “Does this tactic help me achieve X goal laid out in my marketing strategy?”
Even though a strategy won’t change as often as tactics, it shouldn’t be filed away and ignored.
Continue to revisit it regularly to ensure that your tactics and chosen channels align with that strategy.
Choose the Channel & Tactics that Complement Your Strategy & Budget
Channels are an entirely separate factor in your marketing efforts but can easily get confused with tactics.
Channels are the places in which you leverage your marketing tactics. Channels include places like LinkedIn, billboards, radio, word of mouth, email, Twitter, Tiktok, and more. These are places where your prospective personal injury practice clients spend time and where you can build your brand awareness using your marketing tactics.
The tactics for your marketing campaign, then, are things like Facebook ads, social media posts, influencer marketing, website content, customer reviews, and search engine optimization. They are how you use a channel to share your message with your target audience.
The channels you choose for marketing are based on consideration of two things: where your customers are and where they consume information, and where you can consistently execute a tactic. That second concept also takes your marketing budget into account.
When choosing channels and tactics, revisit the marketing strategy. What will help you achieve the goals in the strategy? What resources do you have to contribute towards the right mix of channels and tactics?
Don’t waste time committing to a daily TikTok video if you know the lawyer most likely to succeed with short videos won’t have the time, energy, or interest to keep up with creating new content frequently.
The best tactics allow you to achieve multiple things with one effort, leveraging the flywheel effect to stack growth later.
Pro Tip: Look for a tactic in which you can consistently speak to potential clients and collect valuable qualitative feedback from them simultaneously. Then use what you learn to plug back into your marketing as you prepare to stack your efforts.
Accelerating Growth for Your Law Firm
Stacking Growth with Multiple Marketing Channels
As mentioned above, only add in multiple marketing channels once you’ve mastered at least one. Once you’ve nailed one market, with one message, on one channel, it’s time to stack those results.
Remember, what worked well on the first channel doesn’t always immediately translate over with a conversion rate on another one. It can be frustrating to realize you must redevelop and retest tactics for this new channel, but it’s worth it. If you try to force old tactics, you’ll waste time and budget.
Setting Your Law Firm Marketing Budget
Executing a marketing plan well requires a significant investment of time, money, and resources. A team of people is necessary to succeed with a law firm marketing plan.
If you’re like most personal injury attorneys, you start off with a list of all the marketing ideas you have and then consider how many of them could be outsourced. Trying to hire one person to do the job of multiple people is a recipe for disaster, but that’s what often happens when making your first hire a marketing director.
It makes the most sense to start by leaning into freelance and agency talent for early marketing campaigns. This maximizes the budget and provides data that can be used to grow and scale later.
A marketing director is an excellent future hire for your law firm, however, because you need someone internal to help coordinate all the details. This person must be an integrator and coordinator above all else. However, for most law firms making their first serious foray into marketing strategy, you can’t afford both a marketing director’s salary and the side costs of hiring freelancers or agencies for execution.
It’s a big mistake to hire someone who wants to spend too much of their time marketing and not enough time directing the rest of the team. That leads to failed marketing efforts. It can also frustrate others working on your marketing because they aren’t allowed to flex their expertise because the marketing director wants to “do.”
When someone is initially hired as a marketing assistant or associate and then promoted to director, make sure they get the proper training to shift into delegation and strategy mode.
For personal injury attorneys like you, internal staffing costs often exceed outsourcing costs in the long run. Leverage your marketing director to manage the tactics and channels, but rely on help from outsourcing marketing talent to get it all done.
Resource Planning Checklist
Where and how you invest depends on the stage of your firm and the current revenue you need to support holistic digital marketing efforts.
A new law firm with a limited budget might use freelancers and small agencies to deploy marketing tactics. That might include:
- A search engine specialist to make sure your website has basic on-page SEO and that your Google My Business profile has good local SEO
- A copywriter to help draft
- A social media manager to create and publish content on channels like LinkedIn
- A web developer to create a fast and functional website design
- An email marketing expert to craft an automated campaign to capture testimonials
- A pay per click (PPC ads) provider (also called a performance marketer) to run ppc campaigns for more high-quality leads
Most experienced freelancers will charge hourly, per monthly retainer, or a flat fee for a limited scope engagement. Expect to pay at least $50/hour as a starting point.
In some cases, a part-time in-house marketing services assistant can meet budgetary constraints while still accomplishing some basic tasks. This can be used instead of freelancers depending on the person’s skillset or in combination with freelancers. This in-house hire is likely to be slightly more affordable on an hourly basis when compared with freelancers, but this employee will need consistent work over a long period.
Over time, it likely becomes necessary for most personal injury attorneys to invest in a marketing director to help coordinate the execution of those tactics and to review reports on outcomes. Depending on your job description, a good legal marketing director earns around $60,000 in smaller areas and well into the six figures in large metros.
When marketing efforts are successful, that foundation of growth makes room for new investment opportunities with marketing that can improve results. Some examples include:
- An personal injury marketing company that can complete regular monthly work to improve your law firm’s website rankings through a specific SEO strategy. If you go this route, find an agency that specializes in SEO services for law firms. Expect to invest at least $10k+ per month for best results.
- A publicity firm to help spread the word about awards and community efforts, expanding your online presence. Expect to invest at least $2,000 per month.
- A social media agency to help execute paid ad campaigns. Expect to invest at least $2,000 plus ad spend.
- One marketing agency to handle multiple marketing campaigns at once. Price varies based on channels and tactics.
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