Wednesday, January 28, 2015

You Really Want Your Law Firm's Web Site Optimized for... What???

We recently encountered a situation that was a textbook example of how strict adherence to SEO guidelines can potentially do more harm than good for a law firm.

The case involved a small multi-practice firm seeking to drive up web traffic for its personal injury business.  The firm’s web provider had done a good job in optimizing the site for PI, splashing all of the keywords and images across any and all of the site’s pages. The firm’s experience in handling PI was highlighted throughout and attorney bios emphasized personal backgrounds in this area of the law. Not surprisingly, traffic to the site increased several-fold. All of this would, under normal circumstances be considered a good thing.

Except that in this case, it was not.

The bulk of the firm’s revenue stemmed from practice areas geared more towards business and government than towards the general public. Its target audience, which often included business decision makers and governmental officials, was far less prone to visiting web sites based on online directory searches than it was to visiting web sites as a means for learning more about the firm as based upon professional referrals. Visitors to the site wanted to ascertain the depth of understanding the firm had in regards to business and governmental matters, the experience its attorneys had in these areas and the range of services the firm might provide.

Yet, when such visitors came to the site, they were besieged by headlines, photos and verbiage that screamed “Personal Injury” – in some cases, even on pages that had nothing to do with that topic. Instead of coming away with the perception that this was a firm with many practice areas, one of which was PI, the net takeaway was that this was, in fact, a personal injury law practice that, yes, “dabbled” in a few other areas as well. In short, the firm lost its opportunity to convey its legal acumen in areas where it was critical that they do. When one considers that personal injury did not represent even the largest of the firm’s revenue segments, it’s not hard to see how detrimental the SEO initiative was to the overall health of the firm.

This is why it is so very, very important to take a holistic approach to the task of business generation.  Things are not always as they seem. In this case, there was a discussion to be had that probably never took place. That discussion would have elicited 3 possible approaches to address this dilemma. First, the firm might have taken a balanced approach and done the best that it could in highlighting all practice areas including PI. Second, it might have determined that personal injury represented the greatest potential revenue stream, all other practice groups be damned. Or third, it might have understood that optimizing for PI might cannibalize its other revenue sources and decided to have two sites, one focusing on the firm at large and the other, dedicated to personal injury and optimized to the hilt.

In deciding on a marketing approach – whatever type of business development tools are being used, it is important to understand how such tools fit into the big picture. Failing to do so only risks having that big picture become not so big.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It’s a New Year. Time to Start “Pondering”

A few years ago, I opened my annual series of blog posts by concentrating on such traditional marketing functions as creating a firm-wide marketing plan, developing an appropriate promotional budget, and determining optimal target markets to pursue.  But every once in a while, I believe it is wise to step away from the “traditional” and indulge in a little creative brainstorming designed to push one’s firm in directions it might previously have not considered. And really, there’s no better time to do this than at the start of a new year.
Without the benefit of research or hard data, without the input of “experts,” colleagues, wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends or even mother-in-laws, it’s a good idea to just ponder the future of the business that we’re in and gaze into the crystal ball as to how law firms will stand out in the future. Some sample questions to consider are noted below:
What is the future of online marketing?
Many have stated that “content is king,” but at some point we must ask, “If everyone is bombarding the world wide web with content for their web sites, their blogs, their social media posts, etc., at what point will we have reached message saturation?  And when that point comes, how will law firms reach out to new prospects and customers?  Will we return to more traditional media? Find new ways of using the internet? Or perhaps find completely new ways of reaching out to our prospects? The answers may not be very clear now, but staying ahead of the curve now is one way of avoiding irrelevancy down the road.
What new practice areas might emerge or even be created?
Years ago, I was surprised to be contacted by a law firm that focuses its practice exclusively on the area of reproductive law. I had never heard of that before, nor had I ever really thought about how law firms might niche themselves so narrowly.
In every industry, and in every part of life actually, there are highly specific areas of knowledge that if leveraged and promoted smartly, can lead to greater levels of profitability. For example, one of our law firm clients focuses a big part of their practice on bullying. Many other firms focus on high technology, but one could drill that down further to emphasize “technology and ethics,” and go further still by becoming the “leaders” in all of the legal issues related to social media.
Who will be the new and/or “hot” cluster target groups?
We’ve had baby boomers, yuppies, Generation Xers and soccer moms. What’s next and what might the current socio-economic landscape suggest for how groups of people might soon be categorized?  The current generation of Facebookers and Snapchatters will soon become our clients, our employers and our colleagues.  How does that bode for how law will be practiced?  What opportunities exist to reach them?
What is the future of interpersonal networking?
How will we schmooze in the future? Is business development still really about face-to-face interactions or are we heading to a world in which our clients and colleagues are people we never see and perhaps may never actually meet?  What effect will this have on the law practice of tomorrow, particularly those B2B practice areas where personal interaction has been such a staple of revenue growth?  Will business still be conducted on the golf course or simply move over to the cyber version of that same golf course. Wherever it is going, if you can be there first, so much the better.
What values will resonate the most?
What will your firm’s calling card be?  Quality? Price? Value? Speed? On-line Accessibility? Changing times demand changing thoughts on such attributes.
Where will your geographic market be?
Everyone else is going global? Do you need to be there as well? Are you positioned to do so? How will you accomplish that?
The list of questions of course could go on and on. And if you were expecting brilliant answers to the above, I am sorry that you’re probably disappointed. The point is however to underscore the value of first generating the questions.  Because it is only through those questions that we can start to stand out from the many others with whom we compete for share-of-mind, clients and revenue. 

If you would like to discuss strategies for marketing your practice in 2015, contact us at (856) 810-0400.