A Law Firm Marketing Blog Series: Edition #15
Welcome back to our blog series, in which we talk legal marketing with real law professionals. In this edition, we hear from Jodi O’Hara, law firm marketing consultant and founder of Web Visibility Advisors.
We hope hearing the thoughts and ideas shared by the people in these blog posts, will inspire you to make positive changes to your marketing strategies. We also know that marketing legal services these days is more complex and challenging now than ever before, and hope that some of our readers may identify with some of the marketing struggles presented here, and perhaps be able to offer solutions.
The biggest goal of this blog series is to get the conversation going, so let’s dive in.
Our Marketing Conversation With Jodi O’Hara
In 2015, after 10 years of designing and selling digital marketing solutions for Thomson Reuters, Jodi O’Hara launched a company called Web Visibility Advisors. The group aims to help small and medium sized law firms stop wasting money on overpriced and under-performing online marketing solutions, and provide lawyers with the best unbiased advice for managing their online legal marketing campaigns. We at Answering Legal became aware of O’Hara through her active social presence and highly informative legal marketing blog posts, and are thrilled to feature her in this edition of our “Let’s Talk Legal Marketing” series.
In our below conversation with O’Hara, we discuss: why lawyers shouldn’t take on marketing their firm by themselves, legal marketing trends to keep an eye on in 2019, and the importance of constructing a content strategy for your firm.
Answering Legal: What value can hiring or consulting with a marketing professional bring to a legal practice?
Jodi: It can bring innumerable benefits for law firms. The internet provides an equal opportunity platform for law firm client acquisition, and just as the law is complex, so are the strategies and tactics for acquiring new clients. Also, since digital marketing tools and channels evolve and change rapidly, it’s virtually impossible for an attorney practicing law to learn, and then stay up-to-date on ever-changing best practices.
Search “lawyer marketing”, or go to any legal conference or visit any website catering to the legal marketing industry, and you will be bombarded with enough marketing tactics and strategies to make your head spin. It’s crazy out there. And it’s not like they are necessarily bad tactics or strategies either. Many ideas, if executed well, can yield strong results for firms. The issue is where to begin. What should you avoid doing? What technology should you use? What is mandatory, what’s good enough and what’s too much? It’s hard to know. There are also legal marketing vendors ranging from being outright sleazy to vendors offering truly good solutions. The problem lies in filtering the noise from the real deal.
There are essentially four options:
- Do it yourself
- Defer the decision (do nothing)
- Hire internally
- Hire a marketing professional to guide you
Hiring or consulting with a proven marketing professional saves time, money and the frustration of making wrong decisions and getting into under-performing and over-priced solutions. I discuss this topic in more depth and provide a free whitepaper on my blog at http://bit.ly/2uhfqW0.
AL: You’ve gotten the chance to work with a lot of different firms over the years. What are some of the most common mistakes you’ve seen lawyers making with their online marketing efforts?
Jodi: In my 15 plus years in law firm marketing, the most common mistakes I see lawyers making with their online efforts are threefold:
- Firms have no overall strategy. Decisions are made ad hoc based on vendor relationships. In marketing, as in most things, the sum is greater than the parts. Most firms implement 2-3 tactics without really having a marketing plan.
- There is no tracking and accountability. Attorneys and firms select vendors they like, then don’t manage the execution, performance and metrics to know if the solution is working or not. Due to little to no or haphazard oversight, the “solution” becomes expensive and under-performing.
- Attorneys don’t realize marketing requires ongoing maintenance and attention. Marketing isn’t start it and leave it. Similar to a garden, constant monitoring and attention is vital to get optimum results.
AL: How have Google algorithm updates in recent years changed things for lawyers, when it comes to developing search and website strategies for their firms?
Jodi: There are 500 – 600 Google algorithm updates per year (source Moz). Most updates are minor, however some are huge and fundamentally affect website visibility and search rankings. Attorneys practice law – they don’t constantly monitor search algorithm changes. Therefore, if firms don’t adapt their search strategy when a major update occurs, they fall behind and lose visibility and clients.
AL: What legal marketing trends are you keeping a close eye on in 2019?
Jodi: The trends I am watching include:
Video – Video connects and converts significantly higher than text. Different types of videos to consider include but are not limited to:
- Client or industry interviews
- Client testimonials
- Live stream
- Video ads
- Vertical video for social
- Check out these video marketing statistics by OptinMonster
- Mobile first indexing including adjusting the firm’s search strategy to attract more mobile users (which is just about everybody).
- Voice search – 2 in 5 adults use voice search at least once a day
- Content – Content will always be fundamental because content is what answers people’s questions, concerns and issues. Great content will earn links from other websites as well which increases the credibility and visibility of the firm’s site and search rankings.
- Social Media – Every age group, income & educational levels and location use social media AND they check their social media daily. Where else can a firm get this type exposure and ability to connect and engage with potential and future clients?
- Search result changes – For example featured snippets at the top of the page, carousel search results, local search results (in the map section) and image search.
AL: What offline marketing efforts do you think attorneys should still make time for?
Jodi: Nothing replaces human touch and relationships. Send holiday, birthday and appreciation cards; take clients to lunch or dinner; and accept the call when clients phone the office. Be accessible and transparent so the client understands their case and status.
AL: Why should lawyers take the time to map out an actual strategy for their content, rather than just blog or make videos when they have spare time?
Jodi: A content strategy is crucial for a firm’s marketing. From the Content Marketing Institute, “Think of a content marketing strategy as an outline of your key business and customer needs, plus a detailed plan for how you will use content to address them.”
Content strategy is the development, planning, creation, delivery and management of content created to attract, engage and convert clients. Without strategy, the firm is using a shotgun approach to client development.
Additionally, today’s content and campaigns include multi-channel distribution where content is used on several platforms. A solid content strategy helps establish strong brand identity and increases revenue.
AL: How can lawyers working in fields of law that aren’t very exciting or interesting, go about developing engaging marketing content for their firm?
Jodi: Those attorneys should use the same, but more clever strategies. One person might not think a legal area is interesting, however, if they get in a legal jam and need that type of legal service, quite quickly, the topic will become interesting. Answer potential client needs in a variety of forms on social, with content, video, blogs, infographics and images. Hire a marketing professional for assistance.
AL: What’s your top piece of marketing advice for a lawyer just starting out in 2019?
Jodi: I would advise them to open a niche practice. For example, don’t try to be a personal injury attorney who handles every type injury law. Pick a specialty and focus on it. It’s much easier to stand out with a focused practice than doing everything. Your marketing will be clearer, more visible from a search perspective and the public perception will be that you’re more specialized.
Also, be careful of the vendors you choose and contracts you sign, because the wrong vendor can be expensive and frustrating. Read online reviews. Practicing law today is significantly more complex when including attorney marketing, because it’s more difficult for potential clients to differentiate and appreciate true skill when just looking at a website and other online properties.