Let’s face it. In today’s competitive environment, it’s a challenge for even the most qualified attorneys to maintain and grow a successful law practice. In fact, according to the 2016 American Bar Association survey, there are approximately 1.3 million admitted attorneys in the United States. That’s a lot of attorneys!
So, if you are an attorney looking to start your own practice or grow your existing practice, the question that you should be asking yourself is “how can I stand apart from the competition and effectively market myself in the 21st century?”
The short answer is: go where your customers are!
Going Where Your Customers Are
The proposition, going where your customers are, seems obvious enough. The first questions I ask attorneys joining our network is, how do you attract prospective clients today? The response generally comes in two flavors (usually a combination of both): (1) networking events and (2) word of mouth. While the strategy is definitely obvious, at a closer look, it is also obviously inadequate.
While these time tested methods work to some degree, there are a vast number of unknown prospective clients that these attorneys are never getting in front of. And that’s because today’s consumer has changed the way he or she seeks to obtain goods and services. If someone needs a doctor, there is ZocDoc, a car ride, there is Uber and a plumber, there is Thumbtack. In other words, consumers now go online as a first resort to obtain what they are looking for.
The legal consumer is no different. As William Hubbard, former president of the American Bar Association recently put it, “a majority of Americans go online first to learn about their legal problems and resolve them. They look first to online services rather than to a lawyer. So lawyers must adapt if they’re going to continue to be significant players in addressing the needs of ordinary Americans.”
So in a nutshell, if you are an attorney, going where your clients are really means establishing an online presence.
Build a Website (if you don’t already have one)
Chances are that you already have a website, but if you don’t, you should create one. With the technology that is currently available, you do not need to be a developer or hire a third party to build your website. WordPress is a great free tool to create your own website and it even offers various “law” themes if you aren’t creatively inclined. If you are ambitious, you can get a site up and running in a day!
Creating a website has immediate short term benefits because it can help you build instant credibility. Chances are that even if you are being referred a client, that person will want to do their own diligence on you. Having a website that emphasizes your experience and practice strengths gives a potential consumer a degree of comfort that would otherwise be difficult to replicate with a word of mouth referral alone. This is amplified if the website contains social proofs, that is, reviews from previous clients who had a positive experience working with you.
Generate Relevant Content
Assuming you have a website, the next step is to create a blog and produce relevant content. Creating good content over time can provide a very useful means to attract new clients at low acquisition costs.
Since more and more consumers are going online first to get educated about a topic before engaging an attorney, it only makes sense that you become the resource that a potential consumer relies on. When thinking about a content strategy, it is useful to work backwards and with data that is already available to you. The questions that you should ask yourself are:
- what is my target client profile?
- what are the common questions and situations I have been asked about in my practice?
- what are common questions and situations people are searching for in my practice area(s) (even if I specifically haven’t been asked about it)?
Building a robust content strategy focusing on your practice area(s) that addresses the latter two types of questions allows you to engage with potential consumers that already meet your typical client profile as well as your target client profile, except that you are now potentially getting in front of many more consumers without significant marketing costs.
Promoting Valuable Content
Creation is really just the first step. While it’s true that useful content will start to get optimized and picked up by search engines, it takes some time for that to happen organically. In order to best utilize the content you generate in the short term, it is important to promote that content. This could mean building a firm page on LinkedIn and other social media outlets and sharing it with your audience. It could also mean creating an e-mail newsletter.
Indirect Online Channels
You can also take advantage of other online outlets. A good example of this is already successful blogs or online publications. While it may take some legwork, contributing a piece to a blog or publication that already reaches your specific audience allows you to establish yourself as an expert in the space and increases your chances of being called upon when a need arises.
Another example of this is legal directory websites. These websites allow you to get listed (usually for free) so that at least you are searchable. Some even provide user ratings and reviews so there is an added social proof element. A final option is online legal marketplaces which allow attorneys to get in front of prospective clients at the exact time they have an active legal need.
In order to stay relevant in today’s consumer market, attorneys need to adapt. While relying on word of mouth will get you some clients, there is an untapped market searching the web. Look to be the point contact.