Marketing a law firm was never particularly easy, but there is a growing sense around the place that over the last few years it has gotten even more difficult. Things that worked well are not working as well, and generally the effort required to secure a new client or even generate a lead is becoming substantially more challenging.
But is that perception accurate, or are we confusing different potential causes for the things we are observing?
Working with law firms, here are a few of the comments that are starting to creep into discussion:
- open rates are down on our email newsletter;
- fewer people are clicking our links;
- engagement is down on social;
- ads are costing more and delivering less;
- we're getting fewer signups to our email database;
- time-on-site figures seem to be getting lower;
- webinar and seminar attendance is dropping.
In short: the things that many firms have relied on as their core tactics in executing their marketing strategy are now not delivering the same kinds of results that they were delivering before.
The Natural, but Possibly Wrong, Conclusion
From this, many lawyers will simply declare that people are becoming more cynical, there is “too much noise” out there, and that growing disinterest with materials perceived as “marketing” is going to inevitably impact negatively.
But is that right?
Consider – consumption of legal services is just as high as it always was, if not higher.
Lawyers are still bringing in more work, and people are still building profitable practices every day.
So why would we automatically conclude that “marketing is just harder now”?
Instead, I think we need to do a bit of self-reflection, not on the concept of marketing or the meaning of life – but on our tactics.
Slow to the Party?
Many of the first law firms to develop a website saw a disproportionate return on that investment.
Email newsletters set up and running soon after arrival saw glorious 95% open rates. Almost everyone read almost everything.
The earliest firms to embrace Facebook marketing saw huge numbers in terms of followers and engagement.
Google ads in the early 2000s were extremely cost efficient and very effective.
Here's my point: it's not that marketing itself has fundamentally become harder, it's that the tactics we are relying upon are now nearing maturity, and therefore are very full spaces to operate in. As a result:
- merely existing on the internet guarantees nothing
- email open rates are 30% if you're lucky (and if you can get accurate figures)
- Facebook organic reach is now super-low
- Ads are expensive and less effective.
So where do we go with this?
The Two Options
There are two options to address the perceived issues that law firm marketing faces going in to the future:
- Do it earlier; or
- Do it better.
“Earlier” of course is a relative term. The legal space is notoriously full of slow adopters, so while in marketing land a particular marketing tactic might no longer be viable, for a law firm it could still be a fairly untapped space.
Now don't get me wrong – pioneers tend to be the one who both reap the biggest rewards, but also risk taking the big hits. I'd suggest aiming for things that are fairly well settled as viable, but not yet completely saturated. But if you're still thinking “maybe we should get one of those website thingos” then you've probably waited too long.
“Better” is a challenging one. After all, most of us believe that what we do already is “better”. Generally that's not true though. This isn't because of overall quality necessarily, but more because of impact. As lawyers we view “better” are meaning “more correct and polished”. But in marketing, we view “better” as “creates a feeling of trust and likeability” – which are not just different concepts, but quite often work against each other in practice.
Over to You
So which will it be for you as you plan your upcoming efforts – earlier, or better?