Top 10 Digital Marketing Must Haves for Law Firms in 2017
The legal industry is experiencing dynamic changes as competition increases from a result of technological advancements and startup disruptors. A lot has changed in the past year thanks to new marketing tools and improved services and savvy law firms and lawyers need to realize the importance of staying up to date on digital marketing to generate new business.
What is legal marketing?
Successful marketing is difficult to do in just about every trade but even more so in the legal industry. It’s important to note that within the legal industry, it was illegal for law firms to market or advertise until 1976 when two bold men challenged the system due to a stressful and failing business. Struggling to attract new clients, John Bates and Van O’Steen published an ad in their local newspaper, stirring not only a controversial topic within the legal community, but also obtaining a lot more new clients. Fast forward to today, law firms of all types rely on marketing and advertising.
Marketing is about connecting with your audience at the right time, at the right place and because people spend twice as much time on the internet today as they did 12 years ago, knowing the top trends of digital marketing is a must for a legal practice to survive.
1) Data Analytics
Unlike the television, radio and newspapers, the internet provides an incremental amount of data law firms can use to understand their audience better. Whether people want to believe it or not, everyone has a digital footprint. Cognitive insights derived from the touch points within these footprints will allow marketers and law firms better understand and predict digital behavior. Relying on analytics to make informed decisions will shift the paradigm from a reactive approach to a proactive approach, focusing heavily on the customer.
2) Paid Social Media
Social media is another tool in which law firms are able to be proactive with their customers through a two-way communication channel. Up until now, law firms and marketers would utilize social media to disperse authentic and curated content for consumers. However, social networks are for-profit businesses and the shift in social media will focus on generating sponsorships and advertisements. In order to increase profitability, these networks are constantly tweaking their algorithms making it more difficult for marketers and law firms to capture more audience without paying. The overall increase in social media content also makes it challenging for lawyers to stand out of the saturated crowd.As a result, paying for social advertising has been an extremely effective tool for law firms and marketers to capture a wider audience. It also provides a better foundation for targeting and re-targeting advertisements to get your customer at the right time, in the right place.
3) Video & Live Streaming
Video has been rising incrementally in social media. In fact, on YouTube alone, a total of one billion hours of videos are being watched every day. To survive the ubiquitous digital world, law firms and marketers must have an effective video content strategy. The most important new trend is “live streaming”. More and more users are demanding in the moment content that gives them access to an event or information that they wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram and Snapchat are platforms law firms and marketers should be investing time in. With the variety of tools out there, it’s not difficult for lawyers to make engaging videos. And because content is still the important aspect, users don’t necessarily care so much about the quality of the video. Live streaming seminars, podcasts, events, and so on are great pieces of content for your customers and prospects.
4) Native Advertising
One of the oldest trends in the books is still a great way to get natural-looking visibility. Put simply, native advertising is essentially paid advertisement but disguised as if it wasn’t. Native advertising takes the same principles as the other ads like PPC and Google SERPS but inserts it into written publications. Media companies such as newspapers, magazines, and television stations have created networks that make it much easier for an advertiser to reach and target their audience.
5) Mobile Advertising
We have all seen the shift in mobile domination over the past years and advertising to “mobile-first” users is critical for law firms and marketers. From 2016 to 2017, time spent per day on mobile has increased by 7 minutes, reaching a total of 3 hours and 15 minutes per day. People are spending more time in apps rather than the web and nearly 75% of US adults will use a smartphone in 2017. Mobile advertising is crucial for law firms and marketers, especially with tools such as geofencing, which uses GPS or RFID technology to create a virtual geographic boundary that sets a response to the mobile device that enters or leaves that particular area. A great example of geofencing is with personal injury lawyers who target those leaving emergency rooms or hospitals.
6) Content Marketing
We’ve all heard “content is king” and it remains true in 2017. “Content marketing” is a form of marketing focused on creating, publishing and distributing content for a targeted audience online and it’s used by 89% of marketers, of whom 88% identify it as crucial for their marketing program. The main distribution platform will be email and LinkedIn, but Twitter, Facebook and YouTube still remain important. There are many reasons email works for small law firms such as:
- Building credibility
- Boost sales
- Strengthen relationships
- Lead generation
- Look professional
- Promote services
- And reaching people on any device
7) Integrated Campaigns
Because it takes about 7 touchpoints to convert a lead into a customer, it’s imperative law firms focus on integrated, specific and measured campaigns. The way integrated marketing works is by focusing on specific “trending topics” as opposed to law firms or practice areas in general. Law firms and marketers start by picking a topic you know your clients and prospects care about and create a plan that incorporates all channels such as web, social, email, etc. It’s not uncommon to develop such campaigns 4-5 times a year. In fact, Deloitte plans on executing nearly 150 campaigns such as these a year.
8) Marketing Automation
Marketing automation refers to software that automates marketing actions that until now, were manually managed by law firms and marketers. Law firms and marketers have to be extremely careful with marketing automation as, if not done properly, can perpetuate bad customer service and ultimately lead to a tarnished brand. Though it’s not impossible, marketing automation is very difficult. The first thing law firms and marketers must do is fuel the top of the funnel and plant seeds that take care of such leads. Then you’ll need to continue nurturing in a customized and tailored way through mechanisms such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. Many platforms such as Amazon rely on tools like this.
There has been a surge of cyber attacks on government entities, corporations, social media sites and even law firms. Data breaches on a law firm can wreak havoc to the reputation and increase liability and although law firms usually do not manage retail-like sites handling transactions, they are far immune from cyber attacks and law firms and marketers must understand how to cybersecurity risks affect marketing, especially with tools such as marketing automation. Law firm marketers must work with web developers to ensure their firms’ websites follow best practices for data security such as purchasing an SSL certificate, avoiding outdated coding, running regular CMS security updates and avoiding any other weaknesses hackers could penetrate.
Technology has shifted the way consumers read. An electronic book makes it easy for law firms and marketers to create, publish and promote their e-books and with Amazon’s seamless way of distributing such books, law firms must take advantage of this. They no longer have to go through the traditional process of relying on publishers.
Successful marketing trends change year after year and it’s important law firms and marketers keep up with such shifts to ensure they are not out-competed.