Archive - December 2010
Earlier in the year, we developed and offered a FREE primer for attorneys about LinkedIn titled "LinkedIn for Lawyers". It was very well-received and even garnered comments such as these:
"The presentation covered the topic well, very succinctly and presented many ideas that I had never considered. As a new solo attorney I am struggling to make connections and advertise in a cost-effective way. This complementary webinar was perfect!"
"Wow, I can't say enough positive things. Mr. Ransom provided so much useful information that I took 4 full pages of notes and still didn't get a chance to write out everything I wanted to! Good thing I can get a copy of the presentation so I don't lose any of the suggestions."
We are big believers in simplifying things like LinkedIn for busy professionals, and focusing less on the tools and more on the strategy, opportunity and results. With a new year almost here, I thought I'd share a few ideas to make LinkedIn more useful to you in 2011:
- Ask yourself, are your potential clients on LinkedIn? If you work with corporate clients, busy professionals, and others in and around the business world, then the answer is a resounding "YES." If the answer is closer to "NO," then you might consider some of the ideas in this post, but may determine your ideal clients are spending their online time on Facebook or Twitter or some other online sites. If you want some help with strategy there, just let us know.
- Make sure your profile on LinkedIn is complete – a professional photo, content that can help you connect and relate to potential clients, and some unique ways to differentiate yourself from other attorneys.
- Connect with others on LinkedIn and help them. Find groups to join and participate in discussions. Answer questions and offer advice (not legal advice). Becoming a resource to others first is the best way to see how LinkedIn works. It will also teach you how to respond at "Internet speed," which is what clients now expect when they interact in places like LinkedIn and other social media sites.
- Think of LinkedIn as a good way to identify people you want to meet, and meet them in person. I describe it as "using online tools to make meeting people offline more efficient." Instead of going to a big networking event and hoping that you'll find a good contact there, you can use the perpetual networking event, LinkedIn, to find highly qualified contacts and you can invite them to coffee, lunch, even an introductory call. It's much more efficient and a better use of your time.
- Create content you can share with people on LinkedIn. What are topics that will be relevant to your best possible clients in 2011? What will they be looking for help with in their organizations and lives? Anticipate what needs and situations will drive people online to look for help and information – more and more that information is found through social media sites like LinkedIn.
RealPractice wishes you and yours a healthy, joy-filled and Happy New Year, and we look forward to connecting with you in 2011!
At RealPractice, we review lots of attorney websites every week and talk to dozens of attorneys about their online marketing and web presence. While we see some good sites, most are not well-optimized to attract new clients. Still other sites may look “pretty,” but the firms paid far too much to have them built, are locked into long-term contracts and the sites may still not be well-designed to get prospective clients to contact the firm.
While it’s tempting to blame attorneys for their websites, as technology providers and marketing consultants we should hold ourselves accountable for the overall state of law firm sites. Up until recently, we simply have not provided good, cost effective solutions.
For solo attorneys and small firms needing a website or looking to improve their existing site, there have really been two main options: “do-it-yourself” or have someone “do-it-for-you.”
“Do-it-for you” websites: It’s hard to find good help
One option for attorneys is to hire a consultant or web design company to build their site. In general, the main problem with this option is that, more often than not, lawyers are being charged far too much and/or are locked into long term contracts. We have seen attorneys pay in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars just to get a website and hope that folks will visit it. Attorneys are often led to believe that the more expensive the site is, the better it is. Inexpensive sites are dismissed by these vendors as being low quality or “cookie cutter.”
For the vast majority of solo and small firm attorneys, paying anything more than about $1,000 for a website is probably too much. Unless the law practice is well-established and spends a large amount of money driving traffic to the site, the firm’s marketing dollars are better spent on online advertising, PR and social media to get potential clients to visit a well-designed, high-converting and cost-effective landing page or mini-site. A simple, clean site often does a better job of getting the firm’s phone to ring than an expensive, flashy or content-heavy one.
|RealPractice Tip: Try searching for your firm’s practice type and city location in Google. How many “organic” results do you see on the visible screen? (i.e. not sponsored ads, not Google Places listings)?|
Some website developers will also try to convince law firms that they need to invest a lot of time and money for the consultant to help them get better search engine optimization (SEO) for their site. Along with the SEO recommendation, they usually also insist that attorneys need to spend many hours per week blogging and building massive amounts of content. However, it really does not take rocket science or many hours to build a nice site with good SEO characteristics. In addition, due to recent changes in Google’s local search results (aka “Google Places”), website SEO matters less and less for attorneys. For searches like "bankruptcy attorney Chicago” or “divorce attorney Los Angeles,” almost the entire visible screen space (as of the time of this post) consists of either sponsored pay-per-click ads or listings from the Google Places directory listings—no organic attorney website results. So any SEO done on a firm’s website itself would have very little (if any) impact on improving the chances of the practice getting included in the results of these searches.
“Do-it-yourself” websites: Who has time?
At the other end of the spectrum, some attorneys decide that they want to build their website themselves “for free.” Often they will use the website building tools provided by domain name sellers or web hosting companies. While sites can be built fairly quickly using some of these tools, the templates available are usually not very attractive, are not well-designed for attorneys and are not well-optimized towards getting new clients to contact the firm.
|RealPractice Tip: How many hours would you need to allocate per week to build and manage your firm’s website? Multiply this time by your billing rate to get the true monthly “cost” of managing your site.|
Other website tools, such as WordPress, may offer better-looking template choices, most of the nicer templates are not “free,” costing in hundreds of dollars per template. While these tools offer more flexibility and customization of the design, the templates often have limitations and most attorneys find these tools far too complex and hard to use.
At RealPractice, we’ve seen far too many self-built attorney websites that are started but forever “under construction.” The initial excitement about building one’s own site quickly gives way to frustration and the paralysis of making things “look right.” Additionally, many attorneys do not know the basics of creating sites that get the most clients or that have solid SEO characteristics.
Cost effective, high-performing websites: Finally, some good options
Over the past year, RealPractice has been hard at work in developing solutions to the problems associated with small firm websites. WithMy RealPractice, we are proud to provide a FREE “do-it-yourself” option for attorneys to easily create a nice, clean website in under 15 minutes. These sites will be well-optimized for getting clients and providing good SEO. If the firm wants a domain name, website hosting, or a little help with the site, RealPractice has very affordable ways to get, transfer or host custom domains (i.e. “yourlawfirmname.com” or “yourpracticetypeandlocation.com”). Solos and small firms can watch our video for more information and to get started.
In addition, we will completely “do-it-for-you” starting at only $199 to build a nice, three page website, with good SEO, contact forms, call tracking, landing pages and monthly maintenance for only $79 per month. With more pages, A/B testing, content and monthly updates, firms can get a great site, usually for less than $1,000 set-up and $99-$149 per month for updates and SEO optimization. We can then re-direct the rest of the thousands of dollars small firms would have spent with other providers on marketing the firm’s site to help attract and retain clients. Our integrated website and search engine marketing campaigns are generating a high volume of quality calls and emails each month for our attorney clients.
Before solos and small firms spend thousands of dollars on websites and/or for SEO, they should contact us and we’ll review existing websites and online marketing strategies and suggest alternatives that will maximize marketing dollars to drive the highest number of new clients.
The UK is continuing to provide us in the U.S. a glimpse into the changes ahead for legal services and the practice of law. Our friend @DonnaSeyle pointed us to an article in the Law Society Gazette which surveyed consumers about their interest in legal services from prominent UK consumer brands, such as Tesco.
Interestingly, 1/3 of consumers said that they would be happy to buy legal services from a non-legal brand. That seems like a high number, but it appears to be a vague question. It would sort of be like asking US consumers "would you consider buying ____________ from Costco?" If you are or know a Costco fan, anything may be considered!
The two key numbers that stood out to me:
84% of consumers said service was more important than price when it comes to legal services. Attorneys: service is where you can continue to differentiate yourself from low-priced, mass-market, future legal service providers. But you have to focus on actually providing good service. Good service is not just providing a quality service, but also engaging a potential client from the outset, being responsive throughout the relationship, and communicating effectively with the client.
61% of consumers said they would rather use a local solicitor. Attorneys: the good news is that your clients still want to talk to, meet with and sit face to face with a local attorney. Since most attorneys' clients are from their local markets, you should focus your efforts on highlighting your local expertise in your marketing – another way to differentiate from competition.
While things may not appear to be changing rapidly in US legal service delivery and consumer use of lawyers, it's coming, and we should continue to monitor new models such as some of those coming from markets like the UK. Change will bring opportunity to those who adapt and seize it.
Great blog post today from Larry Bodine.
He cites a recent survey from Greenfield/Belser and The Brand Research Company, and shares executive habits with regard to online search for lawyers and law firms. A few items of note to us:
1. Websites are very important to decision-makers. Having a web presence today is not a nice thing to have, it is a must-have. But don’t be discouraged and think that you have to spend thousands of dollars to have one. Building a website is not like building an office – you should expand and redecorate the site often, with your new experiences, client testimonials and messaging that best resonates with clients. You will not re-paint or change furniture in your office several times a year. You first need a platform to put yourself in front of prospective clients, positively impact them, test different messages and offers, and evolve over time. Once again, this does not need to be a huge time or money commitment, but you must start somewhere and commit to being there.
2. Decision-makers have changed their process. Buyers believe the information they need is online, and it will make them better at making decisions. You will be compared to others, and you need to understand that situation. If you are more helpful, more responsive and understand the buyer better than your competitors, you’ll succeed. Do not back down from the situation – view it as an opportunity to be better. Make sure you have a process to quickly and effectively respond to any inquiries you get, especially from the Internet. Buyers who find you there will test your capabilities and expect “Internet time” responses, which means minutes and not hours or days.
3. Once you are found online, decision-makers will evaluate your “online portfolio.” You not only have to have a website, but you should also have some activity on sites perceived to be relevant to today’s executive – LinkedIn, Twitter, maybe even a blog or online community in a topical area. It may sound daunting, but starting somewhere and committing a few minutes a day or hour or 2 a week is a great start. Attorneys are making these social media sites part of their marketing and networking activities, and the effective ones are building a lot of business through them.