Happy New Year. Are you “on trend” for 2018?

Marni MacLeod

Making sure your site is Accelerated Mobile Project (AMP)-friendly, improved best practices to secure your online presence (and reputation), adding private client portals and small scale, client-specific marketing to the mix, and making better use of independent third party rankings and reviews all make good sense to me. Not so sure about the Internet of Things and law firms but it’s certainly thought-provoking. One thing I would add is an idea underscored in client-side research conducted by Hinge Marketing as part of its The Visible Firm® Executive Guide project (thanks, Lee Frederickson, and The Hinge team).

When clients were asked what they valued most about working with professionals with recognized expertise, 51.4% identified the opportunity to learn as a top benefit of the engagement. Happy clients = long-term clients = good. Highlighting the willingness of your firm “experts”* to teach a client valuable skills or impart information that can be used proactively in future situations, seems to me to be an excellent way to demonstrate that you are invested in client relationships; it also builds trust. People buy (including services) from people they know, like and TRUST. I think savvy marketers are beginning to realize that the more they make this learning piece visible online to a well-defined audience (hello again client personas), the earlier new clients will begin to trust and invest in the relationship. So, I think you are going to see high performing firms showcasing their knowledge base and shining the spotlight on their visible experts more and more by including robust learning centres and client tools on their websites.

*Reminder that Canadian law societies have rules about calling lawyers “experts” and “specialists,” unless certain conditions are met. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t showcase the expertise of a particular lawyer or practice group. Yes, it feels a bit like semantics, but it’s wise to err on the side of caution when it comes to abiding by the rules of professional conduct.

We’ve learned from private networks like Facebook and one-to-one social tools like Snapchat that granting exclusive access to material can significantly enhance its value. More and more firms are following this trend by building these private client portals where specific audiences — e.g., aerospace executives, restaurant owners or a key firm client — can read their most exclusive material.

In the future, not all online marketing will be done on the public internet. Giving your best clients early or exclusive access to your finest ideas makes a lot of sense. Keep it small, keep it exclusive and only deliver your best work. This is my legal web trend to watch in 2018.

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