A Law Firm Marketing Blog Series: Edition #7
Welcome back to our blog series, in which we talk legal marketing with real law professionals. In this edition, Stephan Futeral, the CEO of JustLegal Marketing, serves as our featured guest.
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.
A Marketing Conversation With Stephan Futeral
Over the past few decades, Stephan Futeral has established himself as both a top legal mind and a top marketing mind. He is a practicing attorney and runs his own firm in Charleston, South Carolina, and has been handling the practice’s digital marketing since its birth. Futeral was among the first to realize the promise the internet held for lawyers, as in 1999, he wrote an article for the American Bar Association, encouraging attorneys to make the leap towards online marketing. Since then he has been a marketing consultant and web developer for hundreds of organizations. His agency, JustLegal Marketing, works with lawyers from coast-to-coast in the U.S. and some law firms in Canada.
In our below conversation with Stephan, we discuss common online marketing mistakes, qualities of the best law firm website, and the emergence of mobile search.
Answering Legal: What are some of the most common mistakes you see today’s lawyers making with their online marketing?
Stephan: The most common mistake I see is a haphazard approach to marketing with three main characteristics: (1) poorly defined goals; (2) no plan to measure the effectiveness of various marketing channels; and (3) no means of measuring the return on investment.
The second most common mistake I see is too much focus on the lawyer (or law firm) and not enough focus on your audience’s needs and how the lawyer may solve a potential client’s problems.
The third most common mistake is ignoring your online reputation. By ignoring online reviews, including positive ones, these lawyers are suggesting to consumers that they don’t care about their clients’ experiences. Also, by failing to manage their online reputation, lawyers are missing out on the opportunity to turn existing clients into marketing “advocates” for the lawyer’s services.
AL: Do you believe that most lawyers these days are savvy to the importance of developing a strong online presence for their firm? What would you say to those attorneys who still might be a little resistant?
Stephan: Compared to when I first began advising lawyers regarding legal marketing, attorneys are much more attuned to the need for a digital presence. For those who are still resistant, these lawyer’s need to understand that growing your law firm’s online presence through internet marketing isn’t just another marketing technique–it’s an absolute priority for client conversion. In the age of technology, if you’re not managing your law firm’s website in a way that encourages growth and client engagement, you’re missing out.
AL: What are some legal marketing trends that have caught your interest of late?
Stephan: The majority of consumers research lawyer reviews before deciding which attorney to hire. Additionally, the vast majority of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Therefore, I can’t emphasize enough the need for every lawyer to pay attention to their online reputation and to the need for ongoing online reputation management (ORM) as part of the lawyer’s overall marketing strategy.
AL: What are some qualities of the best law firm websites? How can lawyers keep visitors to their websites from clicking away?
Stephan: Some of the best law firm websites share the following characteristics: 1) responsive, mobile-friendly web design; 2) quick, easy methods to contact the lawyer; 3) personalized photography instead of stock photos; and 4) in-depth substantive pages that provide useful information to potential clients that is explained in an understandable way.
To keep visitors from clicking away, lawyers need a website that loads quickly. There are several studies that show that nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less and potential site visitors will abandon a site that hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds. Additionally, the site needs to be easy to navigate. In my experience, if a site visitor has to make more than one or two clicks to get to the page of information they are looking for, then that visitor is likely to leave the site.
AL: How has the emergence of mobile search impacted the designing of law firm websites?
Stephan: To quote Google, “We do evaluate all content in our index — whether it is desktop or mobile — to determine how mobile-friendly it is. Since 2015, this measure can help mobile-friendly content perform better for those who are searching on mobile. Related, we recently announced that beginning in July 2018, content that is slow-loading may perform less well for both desktop and mobile searchers.” In other words, a law firm website should be designed with a primary emphasis on the mobile experience.
AL: How can lawyers make the most out of their time on social media?
Stephan: Social media marketing on Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media channels only works if you’re being “social.” Aside from the medium, there’s not much difference between being digitally social and social in your everyday affairs. For example, let’s say you decide to join your local Rotary club as a way to connect with others to market your firm and develop referrals. If you sit in a corner and keep to yourself, then you’ll never make connections. Overall, social media is no different that the real life. Introduce yourself, share in others’ online conversations, reply when someone comments online, and generally speaking – be social.