In my experience, teaching legal professionals some basics about web strategy has led to some of my strongest client relationships. However, sometimes explaining web strategies to those that are just getting started, can present serious challenges. In those situations, I have found that working backwards is very helpful.
The End: Clients
Hopefully, most attorneys understand that their law firms are businesses that survive and fail based upon their ability to provide excellent service to their existing clients, as well as, bring in new clients. That is why starting with clients is one of the best ways to begin a conversation about web strategy.
From Clients to Potential Clients
Before your clients were, well, your clients, they were potential clients. Whether they knew someone you had previously represented and were referred to you, or they typed “find local lawyers” into Google, all eventual clients started out as potential clients. Again, this is not a novel proposition. Virtually all legal professionals with whom I speak understand that in order to get more clients, one must first attain more potential clients. However, when we get to understanding the vast variety of ways that legal services consumers turn into potential clients, this is where discussions of web strategy sometimes begin to break down.
From Potential Clients to Legal Services Consumers
Before they were potential clients, your clients were legal services consumers. It seems straightforward enough. However, the ways that legal services consumers look for legal services providers is almost as varied as the individual consumers are themselves. While trying to identify all the different ways that people look for the right legal professionals is truly an effort in futility, in order to advance the web strategy discussion, it’s worth discussing some of the most common.
One of the most common, and most effective ways to convert legal services consumers into potential clients, is the referral. You provide great service to your clients, they tell others, those consumers rely on the trusted recommendations of their families and friends, bringing you new clients. This has, and shall forever continue to be, one of the very best ways acquire new business and build a strong professional reputation. What may surprise some legal professionals is that web strategy can even play a significant role in the referral process. Here’s one example of how:
Carl Client hires Lisa Lawyer to represent him in a drunk driving case. Lisa, being the skilled attorney that she is, obtains what Carl deems is a favorable outcome considering all the circumstances of the case. Several months later, Carl’s buddy, Calvin, who is arrested for robbery, asks Carl about that lawyer who got him off his drunk driving charge. Carl tells Calvin about Lisa, but isn’t sure she handles robbery cases. So, Calvin starts to do some research online about Lisa. What will Calvin find? Maybe he finds her profile and rating on Avvo.com. Perhaps he sees some reviews on Google Places or Yelp. Maybe he comes across her website and/or blog. Or maybe he has a difficult time finding any information about Lisa at all.
Now look, as much as we might hope that all criminal defendants make highly informed hiring decisions, clearly they do not. However, some might. In any event, the point is that even referrals may be persuaded by a lawyer’s online presence, or lack thereof.
And this doesn’t begin to mention all of the other ways that legal services consumers will make hiring decisions based upon what they find online. From those that begin researching specific issues about their injuries, constitutional rights, or financial situations, to those that simply type “find a lawyer” into Google, legal services consumers are influenced about what and who they find online.
From Legal Services Consumers To Internet Users
With any luck, by now I have convinced you that using the Internet to grow your practice can be a good investment. Next, we will start to construct the basics of building a professional online presence. To do that, we must first identify the ways that legal services consumers use the Internet.
For better or for worse, the vast majority of Internet users access the Internet via search engines. For worse, the overwhelming majority of search engine users go to Google (why it is for the worse is a subject for another post). And so, while there are those that access information online in different ways, we will focus on those that use Google.
Developing A Law Firm Web Strategy
And so, we are brought to the end, or beginning as it may be, to identifying the most effective strategies for getting your law firm found online.
The truth is, that the needs, goals, and resources of each law firm are very different. Some firms have very established practices with excellent reputations in their communities. Some will be comprised of freshly licensed lawyers with no reputation at all. Some will be looking to aggressively expand. Others will be looking for new steady sources of businesses. Some firms will have access to vast resources in terms of marketing budgets, in-house marketing personnel, writers, and even web strategists. Others will have very limited marketing budgets if web marketing has been budgeted at all. So before I rattle off some of the web strategy components that I view as essential, recognize that these are merely my suggestions and may not be the most effective marketing means for your specific firm.
Here is a brief list of what I believe to be the most essential pieces of an effective web strategy:
- Content Strategy
- Keyword Strategy
- Competitive Intelligence
- Strategic Opportunity Analysis
- Link Acquisition Strategies
- Content Syndication Strategy
- Strategic Paid Search & Display Advertising
- Online Social Community Participation
- Strategic Local Citation Strategy
- Web Analytics
- Receptionist or Virtual Receptionist
And while each item on this list plays an important role in turning more Internet users into clients for your law firm, the implementation, prioritization, and execution of each of these will play a much larger role in the effectiveness of your web strategy than their mere presence.
Hopefully, this post shed at least a little light on how we get from websites, blogs, and link building to new clients. Admittedly, each link in the chain from strategy to clients could be, and is, the subject of many web pages, websites, and even entire books. If you’re looking for some more reading, head on over to our library of free guides. If you’d like to discuss some of these strategies with a real person, submit a request for one of our free law firm web evaluation services.