5 Online Marketing Tips for Small Firms
Tips to help small firm owners improve their online marketing.
Darren Kavinoky is a media star with 248,000 Twitter followers, 5,200 Facebook friends, his own YouTube channel, and regular gigs on TV as a legal consultant. Those substantial followings mean he’s also a marketing superstar.
“A law firm is like any other business: There’s a whole other world [outside the legal realm] that needs to be addressed, including marketing,” says Kavinoky, a criminal defense attorney based in Los Angeles with offices throughout California.
Most attorneys don’t have time to create their own media empires. But every attorney can take advantage of online marketing. It’s cheaper and more accessible than traditional advertising for a solo practitioner or small firm, and it’s highly effective. Here are five key steps toward a spiffier Web presence.
SEO on Every Page
Attorneys don’t need a complicated website, but each page should feature a different keyword or phrase that potential clients might search for, says Shara Darden, CEO of Firefly Marketing & PR in Valencia. Known as search engine optimization, or SEO, using words that clients would use—not just legal jargon—will push a website higher in potential clients’ search results. For example, a family lawyer’s site should use paternity instead of uniform parentage and divorce instead of dissolution of marriage.
Focus on providing information, and don’t be a show-off, Darden adds. “You want to make sure your website is clear, clean, and easy for potential clients to [use to] see what you have to offer and why you are the best at what you do.”
Consider Paid Search
The ads that appear above search results or in the right-hand column on a page of results are sometimes called pay-per-click ads; advertisers pay for them only when someone actually clicks on them. Paid search results can work well with good copywriting and a link to a relevant landing page that also has basic information about your firm, according to Rahul Alim, CEO of Custom Creatives, a digital marketing agency based in Agoura Hills. For example, if you’re advertising intellectual property services, make sure that your ad is concise and that it clicks through to a page highlighting related expertise. “Don’t just link to your home page,” Alim says.
Include a strong call to action, such as “Click here for a free consultation.” And remember, a website needs to work just as well for mobile device users as for visitors using a desktop or laptop computer, notes Darden. “More and more people are using their phones for searching and gathering information.”
Google AdWords is the most-used paid search service, with three-quarters of the market; Bing Ads has the rest.
A strong social media presence can position a firm as modern and forward thinking, says Randolph Adler, a partner at Dentons and a member of its venture technology and emerging-growth-companies practice. It should be “a natural extension” of the firm, he says, adding, “The most effective types of exposure are where people see what you’re made of.”
For example, Alim recommends promoting each blog post on social media; don’t expect people to remember to seek out a blog. In fact, a website may actually be the least-important part of a marketing effort, according to Mark Ressa, a divorce lawyer in San Ramon. By taking part in social media conversations and sharing information, he says, “You’re building your brand as an expert. People want to hire experts.”
So which social media platform works best?
People use Facebook primarily to stay in touch with family and friends, says Ressa, a member of the California State Bar’s Social Media Task Force. But if you advertise on Facebook, you can reach people who have already visited your website, a tactic known as retargeting. Because most people do several searches before deciding on an attorney, Alim says, it’s important to keep reminding them about your firm. “With Facebook retargeting, you have the ability to reinforce your brand.”
Similarly, don’t expect opening a Twitter account to lead directly to client engagement; developing a Twitter presence is more of a long-term branding strategy. “Twitter is more about personal engagement than an opportunity for corporate communications,” says Kavinoky. “People are more interested in who a lawyer is as a human being.”
LinkedIn lets members post articles, join groups, and gain endorsements from colleagues and clients. Ressa calls it the “Facebook for business.” But experts say that paying for a premium membership with additional features probably isn’t worthwhile unless you have a specific strategy and the time and assistance to carry it out.
Martindale-Hubbell used to be the big—and expensive—dog of Web-based attorney directories, and it remains geared toward large firms. Relative newcomers such as Lawyer.com (at $99 a month for premium membership) and Avvo (from $49 a month) both are more affordable. Avvo also offers basic listings for free.
“Avvo.com provides an opportunity for smart, entrepreneurial lawyers to compete on a level playing field,” says Peter Krasilovsky, vice president and chief analyst at BIA/Kelsey, a consultancy focused on local marketing.
And be sure to fill in every field and use every character of space you’re allowed in the description boxes when signing up. “[M]ake it as full and detailed as possible,” Alim says. “You only have to do it once.”
Tracking Return on Investment
Remember to measure the returns on your marketing investment and adjust your strategy accordingly. Search engines provide dashboards where you can check an ad’s response rate and its cost per click. Marketing agencies will track all your digital advertising and prepare a consolidated monthly report.
And Kavinoky says it’s important to line up professional help. “Get clear about what you don’t know, and find good partners who have time to do what you can’t,” he says.
A version of this article appears in the October 2015 print issue of California Lawyer as “Online Marketing for Small Firms.”
Susan Kuchinskas covers business, technology, and the business of technology for publications that include Scientific American, Portada, and Telematics Update.