At a dinner conversation on a trip wholly unrelated to legal marketing or the Internet, the wife of a BigLaw partner whose son was also a BigLaw partner prompted me to identify three things law firms and lawyers should do on the Internet.
I had been talking in generalities about digital marketing and she wanted specifics. It was a great question and, wanting to appear brilliant, I stumbled out a response. My answer was brief and, in reflection, on target. But I felt the good question deserved a response more thorough than the quick witted one I shouted over the mealtime din. This is what I answered – the longer version:
One: Claim and Manage Profiles
This seemingly innocent task seems to be fraught with fear, misunderstanding and ignorance. In fact it is strategic, protective and opportunistic. Few firms or lawyers do this effectively. The participation tasks are assigned to administrative people and the “marketing department.” It is far more than populating one’s LinkedIn profile with the same undifferentiated bio that appears on the website. Content from profiles are increasingly becoming re-purposed as the web grows increasingly social and apps and sites become interconnected.
Two: Create Content
Successful professional service providers must create content to be effective marketers. Lawyers perceive marketing as sales and sales as dirty. Nothing replaces the business development value of one personally networking in places where clients reside such as causes, country clubs, the symphony and skyboxes. But publishing authoritative content can often be the deal breaker for selecting one lawyer or firm over another. My data is anecdotal but it has grown steadily over the entire time I’ve been serving this industry. An entire industry has grown up around content marketing and there is a good reason for that. It works.
Lawyers, of course, are busily yolked into billable hour requirements. Many are reluctant to share the knowledge they believe they should sell. Publishing in a regulated industry is a challenge. And the layers of review and approval can make it difficult if not impossible to produce timely content. I get it. That’s why cutting through all these obstacles and consistently producing informative non-promotional content makes the successful ones stand out.
Three: Publish Effective Websites
Websites provide a powerful opportunity to really make or blow the firm’s brand. Firms spend 100 of thousands of dollars on their websites. Yet in an annually conducted study of the AmLaw 100 “10 Foundational Website Best Practices”, 75% of firms were rated fair or poor. It is astonishing that they can’t get it right.
Why is this? First, the lawyers get in the way of the marketers. They believe themselves to be experts on design. Their lawyer-staffed web committees can only agree on the color blue. They want to be the same as [fill in the blank] law firm. Moreover, they have a strong tendency to listen to marketers who are also lawyers**. Better they should be talking to marketers whose clients resemble the law firm client and not themselves. Unless all they want to hear is an echo, which seems to be the case.
Did I get this right? If not, what three things top your list?
** There are some excellent marketers who are also lawyers. But being a lawyer is not a prerequisite for offering good legal marketing advice.