Recently, it was announced that federal social distancing guidelines would be extended to April 30. While this news was far from surprising given current circumstances, it did serve as a reminder that many of us could be working remotely for an extended period of time. In other words, if you haven’t yet developed a marketing game plan for winning over new clients from your home office, you shouldn’t delay any longer in doing so. This situation isn’t going away anytime soon, and requires all of our cooperation.
During challenging times like these, the best thing we can do is turn to those with experience. For this blog post, that’s exactly what we did. Over the past week, we reached out to some of our expert friends from the legal marketing community, and asked them how lawyers should go about selling their services during this time. We hope you find the below legal marketing tips to be of value.
Should Lawyers Still Be Advertising?
Amy Juers (Edge Legal Marketing): Lawyers should continue advertising, but they need to be extremely attentive to the message that they are delivering. If their ad comes across as tone deaf to what is happening in the world, there is no doubt in my mind that it will have a negative impact.
Rodney Warner (rodneywarner.net): If you’re going to advertise so you’ll be “top of mind” of the potential client, you don’t want to stop. Depending on your type of practice, you may want to advertise more. I think, given the stress of the situation, family lawyers might be getting more contacts and bankruptcy lawyers will have plenty of work. Businesses will want to refinance their debts and perhaps get more loans, so that area of law may be busy. Older and/or disabled people may want to write or update estate planning. If I were doing workers comp, I’d focus on the healthcare industry and first responders, given how many professionals potentially could get seriously ill. There’s no lack of legal impact due to COVID-19. There are plenty of opportunities depending on the type of practice.
Steven Long (Precision Legal Marketing): It’s really practice area dependent. New divorces cannot be filed (right now), but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a retainer and begin to draft complaints or even mediate the case. Estate planning attorneys should experience a boom and should actively seek clients now. Personal injury is a huge question mark. We have heard that many insurance company adjusters aren’t even returning calls. That certainly makes things difficult. Getting checks processed is a whole different matter. But the top line message here is, think about what you can bill for while you can’t file paper with a clerk. (Figure out) what can you and your staff work on, and focus your advertising messaging and dollars around that. People, legal problems are just postponed, not cancelled. It’s a great time to get marketing advice, and brand your firm as a solution, so that when we are able to move forward you become a client’s selection.
Leah Presser (leahpresser.com): Lawyers should focus less on traditional advertising and instead engage more directly with clients and prospects. Talk to them and find out what they need. Exchange genuine back-and-forth dialogue with clients and prospects in virtual meetings, live webinars, and on the phone. Many people are overwhelmed right now and may not be able to sit through a 60-minute webinar. Provide a one-page summation of your webinar’s content so they can still benefit. Post videos on social media AND respond to all comments. Look to provide value through quick tip sheets, checklists, and guides. Build and continually update resource centers with links to helpful information. And continue communicating through digital content such as blog posts and thought-leadership articles. You can dig more deeply into issues and centralize your message through written content, while also allowing people to hear from you when it’s most convenient for them.
Michelle Calcote King (Reputation Ink): Lawyers provide critical guidance that companies need at this time, so they should continue promoting their expertise to those who might need it. Most marketing should be thought leadership-driven. Lawyers should ask: what are the biggest pain points our clients have right now and how can I help them address those problems? Then they should quickly put together communications — whether it’s an article, webinar or social media post — with advice that is clear and concise, without promotional, salesy language. Most lawyers, by definition, are crisis professionals. In the midst of the worst crisis many of us will ever experience in our lifetimes is not the time to disappear (due to a lack of marketing). During a crisis, it’s important for advisors and leaders to be visible. People often take a lack of communication negatively, and they might make assumptions about why they aren’t hearing from their trusted advisors.
What Message Should Lawyers Be Looking To Send Out Right Now To Potential Clients?
Warner: This is a tough time for everyone and we haven’t closed, even though you can’t meet us in person. If you need help, contact us. No matter what, we’re here for you.
King: The message should be that they understand the challenges their clients are facing right now and they have the expertise and experience to help them address them. They should provide real, actionable advice in the form of thought leadership — short guides, checklists, articles, etc. However, every communication must be run through the “so what?” test. Clients are being flooded with coronavirus information right now, so you must add value in everything you send.
Presser: Your messaging should center around solving issues that affect your clients and prospects. Actively exploring today’s challenges with clients and prospects through videos, social media, virtual communications, and useful content will garner much more interest than a traditional Google or TV ad. Create shareable content discussing how the issues that affect your clients may be solved in the future. The key now is to be not just visible, as with traditional advertising, but also highly accessible, which you can only do at scale through some of the ways I’ve mentioned here.
Juers: There is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty happening right now. Messages should be informational and consultative. Firms that are providing unsolicited advice and serving as a resource to their clients will remain as a vital member of a client’s team, budget and strategy moving forward. Make their message specific to each audience or practice area, as a client that is dealing with employment law will need different information than a client negotiating a new government contract to produce essential goods or services. Whatever the message is, it needs to resonate with the audience and the environment.
Long: You should be sending messages of information. Keep your current clients informed about case progress. I advise our clients to OVER communicate with their clients. No matter the practice area, clients will depend upon you for information about their case. Send it often, and send it personally. Also educate the public about what is happening with respect to court closures, local stay at home ordinances, state level stay at home orders and so on. It is also a terrific time to show your firm’s personality. A client in New York is doing a fantastic job by asking their attorneys to write COVID-19 content. In general, send messages of comfort.
What Should Lawyers Avoid Doing During This Time?
Long: Shutting their marketing completely off. If you are a regional PI firm, certainly consider your TV budget. But most legal marketing outlets like Lawyers.com, FIndLaw, Justia and AVVO are providing firms with the ability to modify, pause and even late pay contracts. One in particular is offering a credit. This can be a great way to stay in the hunt for new clients. People now more than ever have time to search online for help. You need to be there to be found. But all in all, this is a great time to get your social marketing house in order. Write great content, and get it out on social. DO NOT stop SEO efforts with your marketing vendor under any circumstances. You should only be evaluating TV and paid search budgets that can be started and stopped quickly, not your long term SEO viability.
Juers: Lawyers should not act like it is business as usual. They should temper their tone, frequency and messaging so that it is respectable to the current environment. With that in mind, they should continue to market and push their brand, but in a cognizant manner. Now is not the time to turn off the marketing faucet.
King: Lawyers should avoid three things: First, it’s never a good idea to appear to be taking advantage of others’ hardship. While there will likely be a flood of litigation following the pandemic, the communications they send should not appear opportunistic, but instead helpful. Second, they must avoid seeming desperate. While your billings may have taken a hit, desperation never sells (can’t believe I have to say that). Instead, audiences should feel as if they are being safely guided by a discerning expert through a challenging issue. Third, they must avoid being tone deaf — in other words, if you are overly cheery, make off-color jokes, or in general seem as if you are not following the news, your marketing efforts will backfire. Great marketing and PR people closely follow news and social media feeds to stay on top of online discussions and can advise clients on the best tone of voice and message to use.
Presser: Avoid positioning lawyers as all-knowing and immutable when no one could possibly know all the answers in unprecedented situations. Even when the answers aren’t clear or definite, though, we trust that lawyers know how to forge a safe path ahead. We need their help to navigate this new environment. So don’t go dark on us now!
Warner: No one knows when we’ll be back to “normal” and not doing any marketing is a bad idea for anyone. You don’t want to start from scratch in the future. Maybe you can emphasize some marketing more than others. If things are slow, get on the phone and in touch with referral sources and reconnect. Nonprofits are getting killed because donations are down. Get some good PR by organizing an online fundraiser. Buy lunch for your local EMT’s or emergency room staff. Get some photos and put them on social media.
Even if you manage to do everything right from a marketing standpoint during this time, there is no guarantee your firm will see its usual amount of new leads. There may be circumstances that are out of your control, so capitalizing on every new lead opportunity that your practice does have is a necessity.
Speed is the name of the game when it comes to lead capturing, as consumers don’t want to wait long to start addressing their legal issues. Being the best lawyer in town means very little during times like these, as often new prospects will end up going with the first law office that answers the phone with a live voice. This is why it is vitally important that your firm is answering phone calls 24/7 and providing all of its incoming callers with a live professional voice to speak with. You’ll also want to have a quality legal intake process in place so that you’re able to get new leads started with your firm as quickly as possible.
For any lawyer that needs help answering their phones during this crisis, Answering Legal is ready to help. Our service is unique, in that we combine 24/7 live phone answering with a receptionist team that has been trained specifically in handling legal phone calls. If you’re interested in learning more about Answering Legal, sign up for a free trial of our service or schedule an appointment to speak with one of our account executives.