Team profiles, testimonials, blogs, email newsletters and other online content have become core marketing tools for professional services businesses such as law firms — and the best practitioners are reaping the rewards.
In this guide, we explain why content can be a powerful persuader and how to devise a content strategy that delivers real results.
Why content matters
If someone wants to know about your firm, the first thing they’ll do is visit your website. So the content on your site has to work incredibly hard. It has to be compelling, clear, up to date and informative. It must answer all their questions. And ultimately, it must reassure, convince and impress them — so they choose you over your competitors.
The good news is that good quality online content can achieve all this and more. Guides, blogs, newsletters, testimonials — even the about us page — all this content, done well, can convince would-be clients that your firm is the best of the bunch.
In addition, content can work even harder — extending your influence and bringing in new business.
For instance, blogs and other valuable content from your website can be shared on social media — giving you something credible to talk about in social spaces and also driving more traffic to your site.
Google rewards those that post fresh content regularly — so by posting new content regularly, you can improve your search ranking position. You can also reach out to your target audience by sending an email newsletter.
Above all, by publishing useful content and sharing your expertise widely, you can increase your visibility and boost the reputation of your firm as well as the standing of individual lawyers.
Key types of content marketing for law firms
Creating effective personal profiles is the quickest win of all. Here is a key fact: research consistently shows that lawyers are perceived by the public as “intimidating” and “unapproachable”. This explains why personal profiles tend to be by far the most read pages of any law firm’s website. People want to deal with lawyers who are easy to get along with. (In contrast, when choosing between two law firms that offer the same type of legal service, legal expertise tends to be taken for granted.) So first impressions are vitally important. Create personal profiles on your website — with good photos — that portray your team as both approachable and skilled.
Sharing positive feedback from delighted clients is the second quick win. Testimonials provide the evidence that people are looking for when choosing a law firm. These testimonials should demonstrate clients will receive fast, friendly, hassle-free service from your team. Law firms are often criticised for not keeping clients informed, so make sure your testimonials deal with this and other common issues. Gather client feedback and make testimonials a prominent feature across your entire website.
Well-written blogs can grab attention; they entertain as well as inform; importantly, they can further reveal the personality of your firm and its people; and they encourage website visitors to come back time and again. A regular blog also shows that your firm is switched on and engaged in the issues of the day. Most law firms can’t be bothered to write a blog — what impression does that give?
Guides, white papers and books
Sharing your expertise widely can be daunting, but being generous with your knowledge online can pay real dividends. When prospective clients find in-depth advice from you in the form of guides, white papers or even a book, they know they are in the right place. This kind of content positions you as the leading authority in your field.
The great thing about a newsletter is that it gets into people’s inboxes and reminds them of all the help and support that your firm offers. A regular email newsletter can strengthen your relationships with clients and prospects — provided you are sending something of real value. Create compelling content that is genuinely useful and that addresses the needs of your target audience. Also, use the newsletter to flag up your latest blogs and posts on social media.
Videos and podcasts
Video and audio have the power to grab attention and engage visitors. For law firms, short videos can be an effective way to show that you are people that your clients can do business with — providing a personal touch and conveying complex information in an accessible way.
The ten golden rules of content writing
- Use a direct and friendly tone of voice. Put the emphasis on what your clients need and how you can help them. If you use the word “you” frequently, your web copy will engage your audience.
- Write about the subjects that interest your audience by focusing on issues that often come up or responding to new developments.
- Write often — draw up a schedule so that you maintain regular content creation habits.
- Make your words easy to read by breaking them up with sub-headings and bullet points. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short.
- Grab attention by giving your content a compelling heading.
- Keep your writing simple — avoid jargon and acronyms and explain any special words or terms that cannot be avoided.
- Use appealing images — such as photos and illustrations — that will bring your words alive. Publish good photos of staff members to help put faces to names.
- Research the best keywords and phrases to attract visitors to your website and use them on your content and when you build new web pages.
- Share your knowledge and be seen to be helpful on social media, for instance — your generosity will be rewarded over time.
- Measure your content — use Google Analytics to find out which content is most popular on your website. Also use testing tools to analyse response to your email newsletters.
Tomorrow is a special day. The first Donut website, Marketing Donut, was launched on 20 April 2009. It’s our fourth birthday.
Four years ago.
Just think how much our lives have changed. A friend came back from a year’s sabbatical and said “No one speaks to each other in the office any more. They just type messages and emails, even if you are six feet away.”
It’s all Twitter this and Twitter that.
So what has changed in the world of websites, apart from the importance of social media?
In a word, search.
Five years ago, when we thought we might invest a pile of our precious cash into a set of Donut websites, we consulted a lot of clever people … and we asked them all how they thought online search would evolve. Put simply, they said that Google would gradually find a way to identify genuinely good content.
So we’ve never tried to trick Google. Instead, our focus has been on making it easy for Google to see how brilliant (if I may say so) the Donut content is.
And sure enough Google does seem to love us. It loves Law Donut, Marketing Donut, Start Up Donut, IT Donut and even little Tax Donut … because people use the web to find answers to questions, and we provide those answers.
Monthly traffic doubled year-on-year to 150,000 visits in January and has continued to grow. So all the experts who have contributed content get more exposure, as do our corporate backers such as Sage and Royal Mail. Phew, it worked.
And all the organisations who license the Donut content from us, such as law firms, are happy too. Their clients/members/customers like the content for the same reason as Google — because it is top quality content.
Business, and the world of websites and content marketing, is never predictable. But we can’t help thinking that Google will carry on favouring the best content. I can almost hear the slogan now. The future is ROUND. The future is … DONUT!
As a professional firm, your website is the hub of your marketing strategy — a place where you can set out your stall, demonstrate your expertise and encourage visitors to get in touch and become valued clients.
But how can law firms attract more visitors to their websites? Increasing web traffic starts with understanding your own firm’s unique selling points (USPs) and promoting them as widely as possible. In a highly competitive environment, the biggest challenge for law firms today is standing out.
Here are ten ways to attract more website visitors — so that you can convert browsers into new clients.
1 Get the marketing basics right
Before you do any kind of online traffic-building, you need to make sure your marketing basics are in order. This includes the keywords and phrases that best demonstrate your expertise and highlight your USPs as well as your contact information. These valuable assets are the key to attracting more people to your website — giving them both a reason and a means to get in touch. You can use these vital details on your website (so they show up in search results) — as well as on business cards, in brochures, in directory entries and in person.
2 Improve your website content
Is your web content old and tired? Is it too focused on the past and your firm’s illustrious history? Effective website content must be up-to-date and relevant. Above all it must be client-focused — make sure you are using the word “you” more than “we”. Your website copy must clearly show what you do and why clients should choose you over your competitors. Focus on your specialist areas and spell out how you can help. Include testimonials and cases studies as proof of your credentials. Build a website that is people-focused and develop a compelling tone of voice for your law firm — as a trusted adviser.
3 Get ranked in search results
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is about ensuring search engines like Google feature your website prominently when someone searches for relevant words and phrases. If you haven’t done this already, submit your website to Google and Yahoo to make sure you’re on their radar. You can use Google’s Keywords Tool to find out what words and phrases are used by prospects when they are searching for a law firm like yours. These phrases are often specific in terms of the service required (employment disputes, for instance) as well as locality. So make sure your website copy incorporates all the valuable phrases that could help your website to get found — in headings, page titles and descriptions. For a law firm, it’s well worth having dedicated landing pages for each area of specialism — people browsing online are more likely to find you and once they have, they will feel confident they are in the right place.
4 Take advantage of pay-per-click advertising
Another option is to buy traffic through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. PPC allows you to bid for highly-visible top-ranking positions under keywords of your choice. Costs vary depending on the popularity of the phrase but you can set spending limits so that you keep within budget and specific phrases are often cheaper to bid on. If you use the right search terms, pay-per-click advertising can deliver well-qualified traffic as well as improve your rankings across the board.
5 Create an email newsletter
Email is an excellent way to keep in touch with existing and potential clients and drive traffic to your website. An email newsletter is ideal for law firms that want to keep old clients warm until they are ready to return or to turn prospects into new clients. It’s also a great cross-selling tool — an email newsletter can show clients the full range of services you offer so they come back to you time and again. An effective email newsletter should showcase your expertise and be useful and relevant to recipients. Getting the tone of voice and frequency right is vital, however — don’t bombard your mailing list with thinly disguised sales messages. That will be perceived as spam. And give people plenty of opportunities to sign up to your newsletter in order to build up your database.
6 Write a blog
There are many ways that lawyers can share their expertise in order to raise the profile of their firm and drive traffic to the company website. A blog is a good place to start. It allows your staff to demonstrate their knowledge of important areas of law in an easy-to-read conversational style that readers will appreciate. Guest blogging on other websites allows you to widen your reach and drive traffic back to your website via credits and links.
7 Get up to speed with social networking
Online networking has become an integral part of any professional marketing strategy and your social media profiles are important calling cards for your people. Professional spaces, such as LinkedIn, allow your staff to show off their credentials and give you the chance to drive visitors to your website. It’s worth investigating where your target customer base is active on social media. Facebook may not be right for a law firm but Twitter is fast-becoming an important way for people to share information. Twitter offers law firms the opportunity to build a reputation and develop a large following — and your Tweets can provide valuable links back to your website.
8 Share your expertise
Today’s professional marketing is not about the hard-sell, it’s more about sharing knowledge and building relationships. Sharing your expertise by speaking at and attending events, for instance, is a great way to boost traffic to your website. In addition, a few well-written articles placed on key industry websites can generate traffic. Offer advice and analysis that adds value so that it is widely read and shared and establishes you as an expert. Always include a short bio and a link to the relevant page on your website. The more exposure you get, the more your services will be in demand.
9 Ask others to spread the word
There are lots of ways to get others to help you spread the word about your law firm. This starts with including testimonials from satisfied clients on your website. You can also encourage word-of-mouth by prompting readers to share and pass on the valuable advice on your website, in your blogs and within email newsletters. Another great way to boost traffic to your site is to collaborate with a strategic partner. For law firms, collaborating with other professional service firms, such as accountants or estate agents, can help to spread the word about your services to new audiences.
10 Analyse, test and refine
Use a free web analytics tool such as Google Analytics to find out more about the traffic you are getting from different sources. By testing and refining your SEO and your email marketing based on the results you are getting, you can significantly increase traffic to your website.
||Talk to us about how we can help you with your marketing.
Sponsored by Sage, we conducted our annual small business survey in February on the Donut websites. It makes for fascinating, but somewhat sobering, reading. Business confidence is significantly down this year and that is affecting recruitment, marketing spend and growth plans. You can see the findings and download the press release here.
Those who completed the survey were automatically entered into a draw, with a spanking new iPad Mini available as a prize. The winner was Jackie Beard, owner of Gloucestershire-based florist and flower arranging business Jessabel Flowers. Many thanks to sponsors Sage, as well as Jackie and everyone else who took the time to complete the survey.
We can learn a lot by benchmarking ourselves against the marketing habits of some of the world’s most successful firms. And vice versa. Here are five key lessons to be going on with.
1. Focus (because leader firms are more profitable)
Leader firms are those with a big reputation in profitable client sectors. Their reputation means they are automatically in the running for new work from clients in their target sectors. That work gives good margins. There’s plenty of it. And leader firms can do it better (and at a lower cost) than less focused firms because they’re geared up to. Look for emerging areas, which your existing expertise can take you into. It’s the old maxim about being more likely to hit the bullseye with a rifle than a shotgun.
2. Adapt fast
Every firm has a strategy, whether formal or not — a consensus on the sort of clients it wants, the reputation it needs to develop in order to get them and to differentiate itself, and what it’s going to do about it. But when circumstances change unexpectedly — as they’re always doing — good firms adapt fast. Be alert to developments that affect your clients, reputation or activities, and make sure your people, structure, culture and processes will help you adapt faster and better than competitors when you need to.
3. Get your good people in front of clients
A priority for marketers has always been to get your good people in front of clients at the right time (when the client needs legal help). You used to be limited to face-to-face contact at seminars, networking and hospitality events, but social media sites like blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter allow fee-earners and clients to have conversations all day, every day. Get out there, and get heard among all that online noise. And if you can’t tackle this yourself, get help with your social media strategy.
4. Know how clients choose
There are certain things that affect what a client “feels” when they instruct you — elements that contribute to their experience of your firm. They don’t consciously score you on each but if you get one of them wrong (for that client), it jars, and they’re less likely to come back. Here’s our top eight. Have we missed any?
- Your services.
- Your people (not just fee-earners).
- Your structure.
- Your pricing.
- Your processes (including your use of IT for admin — such as billing — and for client work).
- Your accessibility to clients (physically and electronically, off and online).
- Your promotional activity (not just to clients, but also to the people you’d like to work for you, and referral sources).
- Your “joined-upness” (if a client is dealing with two departments, do they still feel like they’re dealing with one firm? Is your lack of joined-upness costing them time or money?)
5. Trust your marketers
Solicitors would rather be advising clients 100% of the time than dealing with marketing and management issues. It goes straight to your sense of self-worth and you could fill your timesheets every week. To that end, firms employ (and will soon be sharing ownership with) people with marketing and business qualifications and experience, who have proved themselves in other industries and, often, other law firms. Their input could prove to be invaluable.
Talk to us about how we can help you with your marketing or find out more about our products and services for law firms.
What’s in it for small businesses?
Last week our editorial and production teams pulled out all the stops to produce a bucketload of SME-relevant Budget content for our Donut clients. The Budget haul included:
For help with your bespoke content requirements, email Christoff Lewis or call on 0117 904 2224.