Lawyer marketing is different from any other industry. The factors that you deal with make for a unique ecosystem that requires careful handling, and that demands a different style of marketing.
Why Lawyer Marketing is Unique
Lawyer Marketing is Heavily Regulated
Lawyer marketing falls into the realm of marketing known as “heavily regulated industries”. This category includes industries like financial services, insurance, and healthcare. Marketing within these industries can be a challenge, as all of these industries have clear guidelines and boundaries about what you can and cannot say in your marketing materials.
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Lawyer Marketing Must be Ethical
In addition to any state and local laws that govern attorney marketing, all marketing materials are likely to be overseen by Bar Associations. Marketing material must fit within the ethical guidelines of the local community of attorneys, so all content must be created and edited with an understanding of the community mores and ethics.
Lawyer Marketing Must Inspire Trust
Trust is critical in a lot of professions, but some professionals (like doctors and lawyers) simply don’t get business if they don’t have trust. Attorneys work with people and businesses in times of fear, crisis, and uncertainty. Your client will not call unless they have strong feelings of trust for you, so it’s not enough to have marketing material that’s logical and rational. Your content must trigger those emotions; it has to make people trust you.
Reputation is Everything
Your best clients come from referrals, and attorneys tend to be prominent and highly visible members of their communities. A bad reputation sticks with you. It prevents you from getting new clients and can follow you into court and into negotiations. Your reputation matters, so everything that you publish under your name (including your commercials and marketing content) influences how people perceive you.
The Law is Complicated
I’ve worked as a legal secretary and a paralegal before becoming a marketer, so I’ve had the advantage of working with lawyers but not being one of you. You guys are INCREDIBLY smart! Sometimes you don’t realize that other people take longer to “get it” than you do. When you start explaining some obscure point of law, you don’t always recognize how incredibly complex it truly is for laymen.
Translating “legalese” into regular laymen’s terms is a difficult task. As you know, legal terms are used because they have very specific, narrowly defined meanings. Laymen’s terms tend to be more fluid and less precise. But marketing to the layman means that we have to find words that are accurate but still understandable to the average person. Lawyer marketing is hard because it’s hard to explain those complicated topics to the average Joe.
A Lot of Your Work is Private
This is especially true when you work in a small community or if you work in areas like criminal justice or family law. We know that testimonials and narratives sell. It SELLS when you can show a video of a satisfied customer saying how great you are, but that’s hard to do when your satisfied customer was accused of a horrific crime.
Because you work with highly sensitive, private, confidential information, marketing for lawyers can be a challenge. We have to find ways to explain your background and past successes without infringing on the privacy of any of your past clients.
Marketing 101: AIDA
All marketing exists to help you connect with the clients who need your services. The traditional acronym used to explain the marketing process is AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.Marketing & Sales Cycle by Holly Antle
Attention: The First Step
Attention means that you get the reader or viewer to notice you. Attention requires more than just getting noticed. It needs to be sustained, at least for a little bit. Attention leads to interest, whereas notice disappears in an instant. Many people notice the billboard, but most people don’t actually pay attention to it.
Interest is where the prospect begins to learn more. This is an information-gathering stage. They still haven’t decided on a solution, but they’re now looking for ideas to solve it.
At this point, they’ve formulated a plan to solve their problem that includes you. They want what you’re selling.
This is the moment of truth! They can want it, but that doesn’t mean they’ll actually buy it, call you, or take action. In digital marketing, we refer to the action as a “conversion”. Sometimes the action we’re aiming for is a phone call or a visit to a store, and sometimes it’s as simple as signing up for a webinar or giving us an email address.
Rinse & Repeat
The process is repeated as many times as necessary. A small purchase doesn’t require a long sales cycle. Someone who buys a candy bar at the checkout can go from attention (seeing the candy bar) through to action (buying the candy bar) in under a minute.
A larger purchase might require a long sales cycle where AIDA is repeated several times to build up to the large purchasing decision. For example, if you’re a small business attorney soliciting a new startup, you might first offer them a free ebook about the legal requirements of starting a new business in exchange for their email address (first conversion). Then you might email them valuable content for a couple of weeks and offer them a free consultation about their startup’s legal needs (second conversion). It might only be during that consultation that you actually close them as a client (third conversion).
In any event, the basic process of attracting attention, building interest, inspiring desire, and motivating action undergirds virtually every sale, whether it’s for a candy bar or a business lawyer.
What is and is not Lawyer Marketing?
Anything that brings you new clients is lawyer marketing.
Public relations is a part of your marketing. Television commercials, radio ads, billboards, brochures, referral programs – these are all part of marketing. Social media, websites, blogs, online videos, and other types of online content make up another leg of marketing. Public speaking, giving interviews to reporters about relevant stories, publishing books or other authority pieces – if it makes you look good and gets your name out there, it’s a form of marketing.
Philosophies of Marketing
For lawyers, there are two primary marketing philosophies that are commonly used, and they each have their pros and cons.
The Selling Philosophy
The selling philosophy of marketing says that customers won’t buy if they aren’t sold to. This is the philosophy behind most forms of interruption marketing. It drives massive ad budgets and helped to inspire much of the consumer excess of the 20th century, but it’s fallen out of favor with Millenials and Gen Z.
The Selling Philosophy still has many adherents among Baby Boomers, but most younger people abhor it. They view it as heavy-handed, “sleazy”, pushy, and annoying. Done well, it’s none of these things, but it’s too often placed in the hands of clumsy, poorly-trained salespeople who care more about their commissions than their customers.
This is the prevailing marketing philosophy for Millenials and Gen Z, and it’s the dominant philosophy for online and digital marketing. With this philosophy, it’s not about broadcasting your ads to the market, but about listening to the market and responding appropriately. The focus of the customer-centric philosophy is to find out what problems your customers have and then give them the solution.
This philosophy lends itself well to marketing techniques like attraction marketing, inbound marketing, and content marketing.
Attraction Marketing (or “Pull Marketing”)
The concept behind attraction marketing is that you market to people without “selling”. In theory, the idea is that if you make yourself available, make yourself likeable, and simply provide enough value, people will WANT to do business with you.
The theory is sound, but it doesn’t always work in practice. It’s a good starting point, but not everyone will take action without a little push in the right direction. Most attraction marketers know this, so they pair it with something like Inbound or Account-Based Marketing to close the sale. Attraction Marketing is a great way to generate leads, but you do have to do something WITH the lead.
This concept, pioneered by HubSpot, is a complete system of marketing that starts with attraction marketing and converts those leads into customers. Inbound marketing relies heavily on content marketing, but it also uses tools like targeted digital advertising, to attract a prospect’s interest. From there, the prospect is encouraged to engage in increasing levels of commitment with the company until they make a purchase.
Inbound marketing is often paired with account-based marketing to close the sale, but this is increasingly automated. It’s a favorite of software and SaaS companies, and it’s a great option for any business that relies heavily on trust and reputation to secure new clients or customers.
This is a technique that has long been used by advertising agencies, concierge law firms, and other businesses that cater to important corporate accounts. Each account is assigned an account manager that serves as a liaison between that customer and the various departments and functions within the agency. In most cases, the account manager is assigned to a “lead” – that is, to a prospect who hasn’t yet made a decision to work with that firm.
In the pre-sale phase, the account manager works with the prospect (or lead) to analyze their needs and devise an initial proposal. The account manager makes it easy for the customer by giving them a single point-of-contact to work with and negotiate with. In most cases, the same account manager will follow the lead after the sale to oversee project deliverables, ensure customer service, and make follow-up sales. Some companies differentiate between a salesperson (who manages sales accounts or lead accounts) and a customer account manager (who works with existing clients), and these are separate, siloed departments.
Content marketing is often viewed as a synonym to Inbound marketing, but it’s actually a separate discipline. Content marketing is the engine that powers Inbound marketing, but it’s used across many different types of marketing.
Marketing content refers to anything that’s created for marketing purposes. The marketing team may also refer to these as marketing “assets”. This can include videos, audio files (e.g., radio ads, podcasts), graphics (e.g., infographics, social media graphics, stock images, charts), and a huge plethora of written content. It may also include interactive content, speeches, and presentations.
While all of this counts as content, not all of it is necessarily part of a content marketing strategy. Content marketing is a way of creating content that supports the overall marketing goals of the company. Rather than creating content willy-nilly, content marketing focuses on creating content that the company actually needs in order to accomplish the goals of whatever marketing system it uses.
If the company is using account-based marketing, the content marketing team might focus on doing a lot of presentations and sales brochures. If the company is using Inbound marketing, the content marketing team will produce a lot of blog posts and lead magnets. In any case, the content marketing plan supports the other types of marketing strategy; it does not supplant or replace them.
Lawyer Marketing: Now and Into the Future
Some things never change. People will always have conflict, so they will always need lawyers. Lawyers help people settle their conflicts in a peaceful and equitable manner, and as long as there are two humans left on this planet, they will continue to need legal advice.
People want a lawyer they can trust with their deepest secrets, their most personal information, and their most private details. This has been the case since the beginning of the legal profession, and clients will continue to demand trust and integrity from their attorneys no matter how far into the future we go.
But some things have changed. The way that lawyers market to clients is different now than it was a hundred years ago, or even twenty years ago. We have new principles, new philosophies, new tools, and new techniques to suit the new generation and new mores that your clients have, so we have to work to meet them where they’re at.
You know your clients. You know your community, and you know what they want and what inspires their trust. Make sure that your marketing reflects who you want to be, no matter what techniques you use.
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