Everyone needs marketing. How you market your business can change from industry to industry and city to city, but nobody can afford to neglect it entirely. Too many law firms, however, are doing just that – or worse, they’re marketing themselves ineffectively. And why should they? Referrals have driven business since time immemorial, and nobody out there thinks lawyering is an especially unsuccessful enterprise. But referrals can only grow your business so much, and they limit your reach to a small social circle.
But bad marketing is worse than no marketing: it can damage your reputation – and hurt your brand. Here's how.
Ego ads puff up the business, but don’t offer any value proposition for the client; it’s advertising that’s about you, rather than for your audience. The focus is all wrong. This isn’t Election Day, and no one is interested in seeing a full-page advertisement of your face just because you were promoted or made partner. While those things are certainly worth celebrating, you should keep the festivities where they belong: the law firm.
Instead, why not write a news release for your website or update your professional profiles? There are professional ways of promoting yourself. Don’t cheapen your success.
Many law firms also make the mistake of spending big bucks on costly brochures. More often than not, this is a completely unnecessary practice, as most people would prefer to do a Google search for a firm and get their information directly off a website or LinkedIn page. While expensive one-sheeters may look pretty and make you feel good about how official your business is, online marketing is both more effective and less expensive.
Inconsistent Social Media Practices
While we’re on the topic of online marketing, social media can also be an extremely effective tool for promoting any business – if used appropriately.
Law firms generally don’t use Facebook well, sporadically posting content that’s either far too insular, or worse, isn’t even relevant to the firm. Law firms, and any business for that matter, should make sure they have something useful to say before posting it on social media, and that takes a dedicated, strategically-planned social media campaign. If you don’t go in with a goal, and the resources needed to achieve it, you can’t use social media successfully.
And law firms don’t tend to leverage social media the same way they do newsletters. Social media has the potential to reach a profoundly larger group of potential clients – and much more regularly than a quarterly newsletter. But firms need to post consistently if they expect positive results.
Leveraging the power of social media by consistently posting relevant and useful information, and posting consistently will help law firms develop a consistent brand identity and put them on a path to marketing success.
Only Talking About Yourself
The “egotistical lawyer” stereotype has been around for, well, probably as long as lawyers have been around. And while it’s grossly unfair to stereotype any group of people, stereotypes are often grounded in some facet of truth, regardless of how outlandish they may be. And the last thing you want to do is play into them.
Lawyers are often stereotyped as egotistical because they generally spend a lot of time talking…about themselves. This does not bode well when it comes to marketing. People don’t want to be talked at, they want to be talked to.
For instance, the inbound methodology practices what is called “the cocktail rule,” because it’s great for cocktail parties as much as it is for marketing. This 80/20 rule states that 80% of your content should be interesting and helpful, and 20% can be more promotional. The whole idea is to have a conversation where you’re engaging with people and providing something useful – not one where you’re just trying to sell them something.
Advertorials are slimy. They’re tricks – advertisements disguised as editorial content, trying to fool people into reading without realizing they’re being sold to. They can seem tempting; why wouldn’t you want to get press that establishes your industry leadership and informs people that you’re good at your job and ready to help them?
But advertorials are tainted. Any coverage that you’re paying for is content readers won’t trust. At best it will leave a bad taste in their mouth – and at worst? At worst they’ll think they’re being lied to, and that you’re the stereotypically shady ambulance chaser. Advertorials don’t constitute earned media, and they do nothing but reduce your credibility. They are best left, like carrion, for vultures.
Playing it Safe and Doing What You’ve Always Done
Times change, and your business needs to change with it. Relying on old, ineffective marketing methods because they’re comfortable and safe isn’t going to help your business progress. Mass mailing holiday cards that no one reads, buying tables at a charity events that no one uses, sponsoring costly annual parties that don’t attract new business – these “time-honored” marketing strategies ignore the realities of the market today, and ignore the most powerful tool you have: your web presence.
Good marketing involves the ability to adapt your methods to changing trends, not just doing what you’ve always done because it’s comfortable. If you’re hungry for new clients, you shouldn’t just wait for them to come to you. It’s time to go hunting.