In the latter half of the 20th century, attorneys only had to place an ad in the newspaper or hang out the proverbial shingle to attract more than enough clients to sustain a successful practice. In 1979, for example, there were only about 450,000 attorneys in the United States and plenty of work to be evenly spread among them. However, by 2011, the attorney population had tripled to about 1.3 million and exceeds 1.34 million today — the highest number of lawyers per capita in the world. So today’s attorneys face a relatively new challenge: how to stand out and win clients in the world’s most competitive law landscape.
Like other businesses, attorneys must consider which marketing and promotion methods make sense for their practice and determine the right combination of efforts that will be effective and affordable. Here are a few of today’s best options for law firms and individual attorneys alike.
What do most people do these days when they are looking for, well, anything? They turn to a search engine like Google, of course. So it should come as no surprise that creating ads on search engines is one of the most popular marketing tactics for attorneys. That popularity creates a challenge, though. So many attorneys are advertising through paid search engine ads (the words “attorney” and “lawyer” are the two most expensive terms on search engines) that showing up on the first page of search results can easily cost a firm hundreds of thousands of dollars a year? However, expert ad management can cut costs and ensure that your ads appear only for your target client. Because online advertising is time-consuming and best practices change on a daily basis, outsourcing this work to an agency specializing in online marketing for law firms is highly recommended.
Although high-tech advertising is a must, some old-school tactics — like word of mouth — are still very effective. However, in today’s saturated climate, you can’t just sit back and assume that you’re being referred; you have to take action. Sure, your satisfied clients will probably recommend you to family and friends if asked, but it never hurts to remind them that you’d appreciate their referrals. Strategically studying your network of friends, family members, golf buddies, fellow church members, and your professional LinkedIn network for potential contacts or personal introductions can lead to highly successful referral relationships. The American Bar Association also recommends that you refer clients with legal needs outside your area of expertise to other law firms in the hopes that they will return the favor.
Just as businesses have branding strategies, many professionals are creating personal brands to differentiate themselves from competitors and become more recognized in the community. Lots of lawyers are creating distinctive slogans or trade names that are catchy and easy to remember. Eric Derleth, for example, a criminal and personal injury attorney in Alaska, has branded himself as “The Trial Guy.” You also need a short, memorable tagline and phone number, and — don’t laugh — consider putting these to music. You want to be the very first person someone thinks of when they need your particular expertise, and if your repetitive slogan is already floating around in their head, the better your chances of being selected.
Content marketing is a low-cost alternative to online advertising, although the best marketing strategies include both tactics. By creating content such as blogs, articles, white papers, case studies, and website text that educates and informs readers, you accomplish multiple goals. First, you establish yourself as a trusted expert on your respective subject or specialty by demonstrating your knowledge. Second, your content — and thus your name and website — will be recognized by search engines as credible and reliable and will appear higher in organic (non-paid) search rankings. For example, if you write regular blogs about the many aspects of personal injury cases, including statistics, real-life perspectives, and up-to-date trends, your blog posts will be displayed as a high-ranking, reliable resource when someone types in “personal injury lawyer.” Although your or your firm’s name should be associated with every piece of content that is created on your behalf, outsourcing content creation can save you lots of time.