Law firms often overlook marketing as an important investment. Over half (54%) of law firms lack an annual marketing budget. 91% of firms can’t calculate their return on investment from marketing activities. Thus, it’s not surprising that according to the American Bar Association, many law firms in the U.S. report feeling only “moderately confident” when it comes to how well their marketing is performing and more than 50% of firms would spend additional monies on marketing activities.
In addition to simply investing more in their marketing efforts, law firms also need to do a better job keeping up with digital marketing. Many firms, particularly solo lawyers and small firms, are behind in adopting digital marketing tactics.
Yet, to connect with more clients — especially modern consumers — using a broader mix of marketing channels is crucial as they are some of the most scalable and accessible types of marketing for smaller law firms.
57% of potential clients use online search engines and reviews to find their lawyers. Having an understanding of digital marketing is essential to staying competitive.
Wondering where to start or what to do to improve your firm’s marketing? This law firm marketing guide will cover everything you need to know to create an effective marketing strategy for both digital and traditional channels so your law firm can win new clients and increase revenue.
Let’s dive in.
To be successful in legal marketing, you need to have the right tools for the job. Every law firm’s marketing toolkit should include the following:
- Client personas
- Marketing strategy
- Tactical plan to achieve the strategy
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
Stop guessing how to make your law firm’s marketing work. Download this tip sheet for answers to your most pressing legal marketing questions.
Personas help you identify and understand your ideal clients so you can develop an appropriate marketing strategy and be more effective in your tactics. When developing your personas, it’s important to ask the following questions:
Who are your ideal potential clients?
You want to identify which individuals will benefit the most from your legal services. If you are a divorce attorney, for example, your clients will be people who are seeking a divorce from their spouse. But there’s more to the story. Add depth to your personas by identifying the specific demographics or traits of your ideal clients. More than likely you will be seeking clients in a particular location. Perhaps you specialize in representing only women or only men.
What challenges can you help your potential clients solve?
The most important service you can offer clients is one that eliminates their pain points. If someone was in an accident and is now facing large medical bills, compensation to cover medical expenses will be a huge relief for the client. So, as a personal injury law firm, you will want your marketing to speak directly to prospects about how you can attempt to eliminate their medical bills and win compensation for their suffering.
Where do your potential clients consume information?
Different types of clients will use different channels to interact with your law firm, which is why it’s important to understand who your ideal client is. If you are an immigration lawyer in a bustling metro area like New York City and your clients tend to use public transit, a billboard or bus wrap advertisement is a great way to get your firm’s name out there. If you specialize in business law, your clients probably spend a lot of time online, so digital channels will likely be effective.
Set goals and a strategy to achieve them
Your law firm marketing strategy should be based on your over arching business objectives. If one of your business goals is to increase revenue by a certain percentage, break that down into how many new clients you will need and even further into how many calls, forms, and consultations you will need to end up with those new clients.
When you know what your marketing objectives are, you can determine which marketing tactics you’ll employ to achieve them. Every business objective should be broken down into marketing goals, and those marketing goals into tactics where each ladder up to help your law firm realize its overarching business objectives.
Your marketing strategy should also appeal to all stages of the marketing funnel, or buyer journey. Meaning, your strategy and tactics need to appeal to consumers at the top of the funnel or the awareness stage, at the mid-funnel or the consideration stage, and at the bottom of the funnel or the conversion stage.
It may not seem like it, but even law firms have a marketing funnel. In the legal industry, prospective clients at the top of the funnel may be looking for information about different legal topics, prospects toward the middle of the funnel may be comparing certain law firms, and those toward the bottom of the funnel are evaluating whether your firm is the best choice to assist with their needs.
What tactics should you use at each stage of the funnel to communicate with current and potential clients? Here are some ideas:
Stage 1: Awareness
At this stage, your marketing efforts are akin to a brand exercise. You’re just trying to get eyeballs on the brand, become known in your community, and grow brand recognition. Your messaging will be high-level, focusing on circulating your firm’s logo as well as content related to the area of law your firm practices. Search engine optimization (SEO) and organic social media are excellent tactics for generating brand awareness and driving traffic to your firm’s owned channels.
Stage 2: Consideration
At this stage, the objective is to provide reasons for a lead to actually contact you. For that reason, you want to establish thought leadership and authority in your area of practice, build trust and credibility, and speak to potential clients’ pain points. Reviews and client testimonials are one of the most effective and easy ways to build trust and credibility.
Using clear and human language will help prospective clients see your firm as the partner to help alleviate their challenges. This is especially crucial in family law marketing, and similarly emotionally-charged practice areas.
Stage 3: Conversion
At this stage, you’re actively trying to drive consultations that can turn into clients. Throughout the awareness and consideration stage, your messaging has focused on ensuring potential clients are familiar with your firm, and recognize you as an authority in the area of law you practice. At the conversion stage, your objective is to make the ask – prompt users to fill out a form or pick up the phone to set up a consultation or appointment with your firm.
Make a plan
Now that you have a marketing strategy, what are you going to do to carry out the strategy? To realize your marketing goals, you need a website, and you’ll need to decide on the channels you’ll use to disseminate your brand’s message.
To determine what channels and tactics will be most effective, the best place to start is by using your personas to understand what channels they’ll most likely be on and what types of legal marketing messaging they will be receptive to based on their unique circumstances.
For legal referral service Lawyer Connection, figuring out which channels were performing and which ones weren’t has been a critical component of their marketing strategy. After several years of fine-tuning their marketing based on insights from call tracking as to what channels and ads are working, they’ve more than doubled their inbound call volume for the attorneys they work with.
Download this guide for answers on what channels to use and whether your marketing plan is effective.
Digital marketing vs. traditional marketing
Traditional marketing focuses on offline activities like billboards, direct mail, and radio or TV ads. Digital marketing, on the other hand, includes online marketing activities like creating a website, using digital ads, SEO, email marketing, and social media.
Most law firms incorporate both digital and traditional marketing into their marketing strategy. For example, a real estate law firm might employ a variety of digital strategies like paid and organic social media, but also use radio, billboards, and bus wraps.
Lead generation refers to using marketing tactics to book more appointments or consults that eventually turn into clients. Lead generation can be done across all stages of the funnel and across all channels, but bottom of funnel activities are where hot leads typically convert.
For the best results with your lead generation efforts, make sure you have a way to track leads and report on your marketing efforts. You will also want to make sure you have a good system for managing leads. If you generate a lot of leads, but don’t manage those leads properly, you’ll end up letting qualified leads, and your hard-earned marketing dollars, get away. Make sure you have a lead management system that helps you track all your leads in one place, so you can easily identify quality leads and respond quickly.
Using call tracking allowed Mockingbird, an agency that focuses solely on the legal market, to show their client that their lead generation efforts were working but also that what wasn’t working — and needed to be fixed — was the law firm's own internal lead management process.
Use your website to generate (the right) leads
Having a website is an absolutely essential marketing asset for every law firm and one of the best lead generation tools in your marketing toolkit. In fact, roughly one in three people specifically turn to attorney websites when looking to hire a lawyer. It’s no surprise then that 51% of law firms say website optimization is their biggest online marketing challenge.
Optimizing your website is important not only to generate more leads but to generate the right leads. You can do this by prioritizing high-value services in your website messaging and being clear about who you help and how.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a marketing tactic that helps law firms get traffic from organic search results in search engines. It’s an important tactic for law firms because if your website is optimized, it will appear in the search engine results when potential clients search for topics related to the challenges you solve, and as a result, potential clients will learn about and become familiar with your law firm.
To be effective online, you need to employ an SEO content strategy that incorporates the types of phrases and concepts your ideal clients are searching for. Not only would a law firm specializing in personal injury want to optimize for “personal injury lawyer” and the city they practice in, but they would also want to optimize content around themes like “what to do after a slip and fall” and similar highly searched phrases.
SEO tools can help you improve your website performance while providing insight into keyword research and analytics. The Google Search Console is the go-to resource for driving traffic to your site. You can also use the Console to test whether your website passes Google’s Mobile Friendly Test, as up to 63% of organic searches in 2021 originated from a mobile device.
With so many tools that can be effective for lawyer SEO, focus on your goals and use the tools that help your firm achieve them with ease. Don’t get distracted by “shiny gold objects,” but rather create processes and stick to the tools that facilitate those processes.
Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) utilizes paid ads to drive traffic to your website. There are a variety of different SEM tactics and platforms that often work well for attorneys, such as pay-per-click (PPC), Google Ads, and the Google Display Network.
The best way to know if your law firm’s SEM/paid search is working is to review your analytics in Google Analytics or your call tracking dashboard. If your campaigns are not translating into calls and form submissions, start by reviewing the messaging and design of your ads and landing pages. Run A/B tests and experiment with different messages, calls-to-actions, and the design of your ads and landing pages.
Using Ad extensions such as a phone number or an additional site link is one simple hack that can help your ads perform better at no additional cost.
To help clients like JC Law improve their paid search performance by more accurately attributing which ads were driving leads, their marketing agency combined call tracking, call recording and customer relationship management (CRM) software. The triple technology play lets them look through calls and contact records to improve their attribution record-keeping and better determine what’s working and what’s not. Since implementing this new system, JC Law has optimized their ad spend such that they’ve decreased ad spending by 20% while maintaining and improving new lead counts.
Watch this live Q&A session and learn how to outsmart your competitors and spend your ad dollars more wisely.
Content marketing is the development of marketing materials that provide value to a prospect, lead, or customer. By creating content that speaks to common issues, current events, challenges, and pain points, your law firm can remain top of mind for past, current and potential clients.
Some effective content marketing strategies for law firms include developing a monthly newsletter and updating your website’s blog on a regular cadence. When you fuel your blog with a solid SEO keyword strategy, you’ll get even more bang for your buck.
To figure out what topics will be most relevant to your audience, gather voice of customer (VoC) data, such as feedback from client interviews, engagement surveys, call recordings, and reviews. Cross-reference those sources with highly-searched queries and use this information to inspire your content themes.
Email marketing is a low-cost tool that can be highly effective for law firms. You can engage potential clients and past clients with an email newsletter that speaks to common issues, current events, challenges, and pain points to keep your firm top of mind.
For example, if you’re a real estate law firm, you may want to use your email newsletter to let prospects and current clients learn more about drafting effective real estate contracts, legal or regulatory changes in the real estate industry, and other tips that can help them limit risk. Once you’ve published a new blog, share it with the members of your audience, or the segment that will find value in it.
Email is also great for building long-term relationships and retargeting clients. If clients have used your firm to create a will, you may want to use email to nurture the relationship. For instance, if you helped clients create their will, you could use email to retarget them by reminding them to update these documents every couple of years, and provide color and context around that with informative, engaging content.
Social media can be a valuable and effective tool in your marketing toolkit, and every law firm should use it to some extent. While there are a lot of different platforms — like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and more — you don’t need to be on all of them. It’s better to choose one or a select few where your ideal clients are most likely to be and establish your social presence by sharing new content, engaging with your audience, and generally trying to be approachable and helpful.
When conducting outreach on social media, your firm can use two types of content: organic or paid. Organic social media is content you post to your social media accounts. The biggest benefit of organic content is that it’s a low-cost way to engage prospects, but it can take a while to gain an audience and be effective.
Paid social includes boosted posts or influencer marketing efforts sponsored by your company. With paid social, you can quickly reach a large audience or new demographic. But the downside is that paid ads can get expensive quickly.
For most law firms, the most effective approach is often a combination of organic and paid.
Download this data-packed report to get the inside scoop on how other law firms like yours are performing with their marketing campaigns.
Measuring your marketing performance
It is vital to measure your marketing performance so that you are spending your marketing dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible. According to Clio’s 2021 Legal Trends Report, growing firms are twice as likely to be using reporting tools as shrinking firms. Analytics like call tracking, Google Analytics, and other marketing software your law firm uses can help you measure performance. Compile quarterly or monthly reports based on your marketing tactics and use these to evaluate what’s delivering a high return on investment (ROI) and what’s not. It truly is a differentiator in a competitive environment.
Part of measuring marketing performance is being able to accurately attribute leads to each marketing channel so you know what ads are most effective and can optimize your marketing strategy for the greatest ROI.
For example, at Whitehardt, a full-service marketing agency for law firms and attorneys, they created pools of tracking numbers, or unique phone numbers that can be assigned to each ad or campaign, for their PPC landing pages and organic search listings. This allowed their clients to accurately match each call with the marketing channel that drove it as well as the associated search keywords.
This type of call tracking data helps law firms understand which ads and channels are best for generating awareness and bringing in their ideal customers. It can also be used to further optimize campaigns and hone their content marketing strategy.
Curious about other legal firms’ marketing performance?
See which channels deliver the highest ROI for 600+ legal marketers.
Market and advertise your legal practice effectively
For your law firm to thrive and grow, you need a steady stream of new clients. Your marketing toolkit — which identifies your ideal clients, includes a solid marketing strategy, and formulates a tactical plan — is what you will use to help potential clients learn about your firm and inspire confidence that you can help solve their challenges.
There are many ways to effectively market your law practice. The marketing strategy and tactics you use will depend on your firm’s capabilities, ideal clients, and your overall business goals.
At the end of the day, the only way to know if you’re marketing effectively is by tracking specific marketing metrics that will help you understand both how individual marketing tactics or campaigns are performing and what the overall ROI is of your marketing strategy. When done right, marketing can build more awareness about your law practice, bring new clients in the door, and help you generate more revenue.
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Law firm marketing glossary
Website analytics: This term is used to discuss the collection, reporting, and analysis of website data that helps you monitor user behavior on a website. Examples of website data you might analyze include bounce rates, unique visitors, user sessions, and page views.
Cost per acquisition (CPA): This marketing metric measures the total cost of getting a customer to complete a specific action, such as hitting click to call after seeing a mobile ad. It is an important metric in evaluating the ROI of your marketing activities, especially SEM.
Call tracking: By assigning a specific phone number to an ad or marketing campaign, you can then use call tracking technology to identify the phone number of inbound calls to your business and attribute the phone call to the specific ad or campaign.
Lead forms: You can use online forms on your website or other digital channels to collect contact information from potential clients or leads. You should make your forms as easy and frictionless to fill out as possible.
Lead response time: The amount of time it takes to respond to a lead is your lead response time. The shorter your lead response time, the greater your likelihood of turning a prospect into a client.
Marketing funnel: A marketing funnel describes a client’s journey with your law firm: from the initial stages when they first learn about your firm (awareness) to the final stage where they purchase your services (conversion). It can also include post-purchase stages such as retention.
Ad extensions: Ad extensions are a feature on Google ads that lets you show additional business information with your ads, such as a phone number, address, a link to your website, or a review rating. Ad extensions can help you get more clicks or calls and make your ads more valuable.