Seth Godin asks, Who are your customers:
Answering, "anyone who pays us money," is a cop out.
Almost as bad is describing your customers by demographics. It's only a little interesting to know that they are, on average, 32 year old, white, male, lacrosse fans.
But this is exactly how so many lawyers describe their target audience to us.
Anyone who is injured.
Anyone who has been charged with a crime and can pay us money.
Anyone who is thinking about getting a divorce and can pay us money.
Anyone with serious financial problems who can pay us money.
Which typically leads to a legal marketing strategy that isn't very effective.
They end up targeting keywords that are too general.
They create content that no one cares about, or even worse, is a liability.
Instead, as Godin suggests, we need to understand what makes them tick.
You see, getting hurt isn't what makes your potential injury client tick. However, being afraid of not being able to pay bills due to lost time at work might.
This is why specifically defining your target audience and truly understanding them is where your client development activities must begin.
If you're looking for a process to tackle this in the context of online marketing, check out Laura Lippay's The 8-Step SEO Strategy, Step 1: Define Your Target Audience and Their Needs
And refer back to Godin's questions:
What do they believe?
Who do they trust?
What are they afraid of and who do they love?
What are they seeking?
Who are their friends?
What do they talk about?
Are they more likely to trust a stranger or someone they know? What issues are they facing that are causing them fear? Where are they likely to turn to alleviate this fear? What are they really looking for (often it's not just a cheap lawyer)? What are they saying?
It isn't until you truly understand who your target clients that you can begin to tell your story in a way that is likely to resonate with them and create a real marketing plan that people actually love (or at least like).
Here are a few more resources to help you get started:
The New SEO Process (Quit Being Kanye)
What B2B SEOs Need To Know About Buyer Personas
Create Precise Buyer Personas With SEO Data: A 10-Step Guide
How User Personas Can Improve Your SEO Strategy
As always, should you have any questions about identifying your firm's target audience, feel free to post them in the comments below.