As professional service providers, it shouldn’t come as a shock to lawyers that the revenue your law firm generates starts and stops with you. But it can be tough to know how to market yourself, especially in the digital age.
For many lawyers, online marketing can seem like a mystery. Yet, really, all it involves is a paradigm shift. The internet is just different: new rules and new values. So how do you make your voice heard? How do you make sure potential clients find you? Below, I look at three ways you can make sure that potential clients see the real you — and are inspired to engage your firm.
Your clients are human, and they’re looking for the human in you.
The internet has a way of making us feel detached from each other, despite being “connected”. But with a little effort, you can make a personal connection with your potential clients before they ever call your office or meet you face-to-face. It’s important to connect with your potential clients early on and on a human level — and part of that has to do with developing your voice online.
Using the internet incorrectly can be a disaster for your practice and can accidentally make you think online marketing is a futile effort that won’t bear fruit for your law firm. And that means it’s important to understand what your law firm’s internet presence is and isn’t about. Here are three things that the web isn’t:
• The web is not a soapbox.
• The web is not a billboard.
• The web is not a megaphone designed for monologues.
Writing content is important. It’s also important to remember that content doesn’t exist in a bubble. Web pages, blogs, articles, comments, podcasts, videos — no matter what form your content arrives in, it’s not meant to simply be glanced at. It’s meant to be engaged with. If you don’t engage your audience in a real, meaningful conversation, you might as well buy television ads or a radio spot. Creating discourse gives you a connection with a huge network of your peers, referral sources, and of course, your potential clients.
But that is what’s so extraordinary about the internet. Traditional media like radio, television, phone book ads and billboards were impersonal advertising. And what a shame — none of those marketing methods could possibly reveal your true essence. These were simply an invitation for your potential clients to connect with you.
That’s what makes the internet great: one directly bypasses the invitation stage and gets right down to the relationship.
Be authentic. (Don’t delegate your voice to someone else.)
That brings me to my second point: if we know that traditional media are impersonal, outsourcing is a potential option. But relationships are personal, and that means you’ll want to personally handle your relationships with potential clients. Don’t fall into the trap of outsourcing your voice to someone else. You want your voice heard — your authentic voice. Not the voice of a SEO writer from halfway across the world. Your potential clients need to hear your voice and what you have to say.
The internet is a place to use your authentic voice to build authentic relationships. It’s the best parts of public speaking and peer networking groups, minus the restraints of space, time and the forgetfulness we sometimes experience.
Use your skills and the internet correctly.
You’re paid as a professional based on your education, your experience, and the intangibles that make you who you are. Search engines are aimed at answering your potential client’s questions and giving them what they want. It used to be that blackhat SEO providers could manipulate situations such that major risks and bad practices paid off — but search engines are too smart for that now. As the internet continues to evolve, mature, and learn from human users, search engines are becoming more talented at spotting phonies. So are humans.
Your law firm’s reputation and relationships are only as good as the relationships your attorneys have. Every lawyer can offer something unique that a potential client or referral source can relate to. Don’t hide away your associates and partners who you think don’t have a “voice” or that you don’t consider to be rainmakers. Give them a voice and see what happens.
Online legal marketing is changing, and it’s looking more and more like a conversation. You’ve got the built-in tools you need for a robust conversation — all within the walls of your law firm. Write articles. Get other attorneys in your firm to write articles. Comment. Tweet. Post links to your blog on your Facebook wall. You’ll be surprised at how quickly things can grow.
On the web, you get out what you put in. What you write online today, when carefully constructed and thoughtfully executed — in your own voice — is like a little marketing soldier you send out into the world. It’s one that will produce for you, loyally, for years to come.
Of course, the hardest thing about taking control of your law firm — and your voice — on the web is just getting started. It’s time to jump in and let everyone get to know you.