The new phone book’s here, the new phone book’s here…quick someone put it in the recycling bin. Okay, I will go as far as to accept there may be some people who do still find legal services via hard copy phone books. But even then, I will bet you 9 out of 10 of them will check out the lawyer or firm on the web before they pick up the phone. For the most part I think the consensus is that online marketing is where the focus needs to be. So, for those of you interested in what’s going on with law firm websites and digital marketing initiatives take a look at the National’s biennial nationwide survey. In the interests of transparency I freely admit I did participate on the judging panel for this survey (albeit only in a small way). I was, however, very interested to see the comments of the six other judges who each work in slightly different areas than my own. Unlike the three blind men and the elephant we seem to have come to very similar conclusions about what works and what would be great to see in terms of law firm digital marketing.
From my perspective, a key takeaway from Luigi Benetton‘s informative article is nicely summarized in Jordan Furlong‘s quip: “Frankly, clients are more interesting than the law firms themselves.” Here, here Jordan. The client-centric approach is one that often gets lost in the rush to tell the world all about me, me, me and maybe a bit about how wonderful my partners are too. Yes law is a profession but it is also a service industry. The focus should be primarily on those you serve and how you can help them. Of course your clients need to know you are qualified and have some experience with the problems or matters they need addressed. However, you are more likely to strike a chord and create the basis for a relationship with a prospective client if you can make it clear that you have successfully advised and represented clients just like them.
An effective way to build relationships with new clients is to emphasize your shared networks by leveraging your online properties. You only need to stop and think about the usual way people seek legal counsel to see the value in promoting shared networks. First stop for people looking for legal services is almost always their immediate personal networks. The logic is simple. If you are looking for a trusted legal advisor you turn to people you trust (e.g., friends, family, colleagues). The thing to remember is that many of these trusted friends also belong to online communities (LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, the blogosphere, and so on). Consequently, clients can check you out from all sorts of angles to get a sense of who you are and whether you are a good fit. Assuming you like your current client demographic, it will serve you well to think about how to incorporate reference to your understanding of the industry and typical issues for that client group into your various online properties. Your ability to show you “speak the common industry language” and can navigate the relevant legal landscape may indeed be the factor that precipitates a phone call. Finally, your participation in networks and communities catering to a particular client demographic is an indirect credibility check that often carries weight and serves to reinforce any claims to experience and industry knowledge you make on your website.