Many attorneys do not realize they have access to the digital exhaust potential and current clients have spewed into the world, but every firm that has a standard intake form, maintains a website or posts on social media holds a treasure trove of this information, which is often referred to as “big data.” Big data is a catch-all description of a large data set that can be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends or otherwise hidden information.1
Attorneys who understand what data they possess, and who are not afraid to tap into it, can create, refine and measure the success of their firm’s marketing. There is no better way to stretch your marketing dollars.
Why Marketing Matters
Attorney marketing is still in its infancy. While other industries have been hawking their wares since the dawn of capitalism, lawyers were restricted or prohibited from doing so until the United State Supreme Court’s 1977 ruling in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona.2 Attorney advertising has flourished since then, with some ads even entering the cultural zeitgeist.3 However, attorney advertising is still highly regulated, which makes lawyers hesitant to fully embrace it.
Unfortunately, this abundance of caution means attorneys are not sophisticated advertisers, making us easy targets for marketing companies that promise pie in the sky but leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Negative experiences then reinforce the belief that advertising is somehow beneath respectable firms or simply not worthwhile. While that may have been somewhat true in the past, the rise of digital marketing has changed things. Digital marketing is as much about building a reputation and presence in your community as it is about selling a product.4 The goal is to position yourself so when prospective clients search for a lawyer, they find you and feel you are trustworthy.
In this article I will go over some of the tactics you can use to improve your marketing, and the basic data you can tap into to measure your marketing success. Whether you do all your marketing in-house, or outsource it to others, this article will help you determine if the resources you are devoting to marketing are paying off.
Don’t Settle for Snake Oil
Don’t be taken in by marketing gurus that focus on a print publication’s reach, Facebook “likes” or website traffic without connecting the popularity you can buy through whatever product they are selling to your bottom line. The most important measure of whether your firm’s marketing is working is how many potential clients are contacting you, what percentage of those potential clients are ideal clients, and how all of these potential clients heard about you. Figuring this out is going to take some work.
Even if you aren’t doing any marketing, you should be keeping track of how many potential clients contact you and how each potential client heard about you.5 Digitizing this basic client intake information will allow you to refer back to it and use it to allocate marketing dollars and measure the success of various marketing tactics.
You can take this basic measure to the next level by tracking the number of ideal clients contacting you. Identify your favorite clients, and then try to figure out what they have in common with one another. What services do they need? Are they people or organizations? Is there specific demographic data that they all share? Where do they live? Use this information to create a profile of your ideal client and check a box on your intake form when a potential client fits the ideal client profile.
If your marketing is working well, you should see an increase in the total number of potential clients reaching out to you, and an increase in the percentage of those potential clients who fit your ideal client profile.
Getting more clients and better clients is a good thing, but if you don’t know how you are getting those clients you really have no idea if your marketing is working. The best way to figure out where your clients are coming from is to ask them. During your intake interview, ask potential clients how they heard about you, and keep track of this information.
The ways your potential clients say they heard about you should match up with the time and money you are putting into various marketing tactics. Looking at this data will help you make better marketing decisions and spend your marketing resources more wisely.
Secondary Measures of Success
As mentioned above, a lot of modern marketing is about building your reputation and profile in the community.6 When a potential client searches for an attorney, you want them to find you. While the data you gather from intake forms is the gold standard you should use to judge the effectiveness of your marketing tactics overall, there are other indicators to familiarize yourself with if you want to gauge how well your reputation building campaign is going.
The rest of this article is going to go over some of the basic tools you can use to judge the impact of various digital marketing tools. Websites and social media accounts designated as business accounts all have a back-end or administrative view that you should either become familiar with, or pay your marketing team to summarize for you. All the resources discussed in this article are available for free to any business using the products described; the only cost is the time it takes to dive into them.
Google My Business and Bing Places for Business
Online searches are the number one way potential clients look for an attorney, and Google and Bing are the two largest search engines out there.7 Creating a Google My Business account, and a Bing Places for Business account will help your firm rise in your potential clients’ search results. This is important, because no matter how someone hears about your firm, they are probably going to do an internet search and check you out before giving you a call.
These accounts help internet users find you by providing not only a link to your website, but your phone number, office hours, location and reviews. You can also post about your business just like you do on social media accounts.
Both of these platforms provide businesses with helpful analytics on search traffic. Look at the stats on what day of the week and time of day your clients are searching for you. You should use this as a guide for deciding when to post on social media. Posting at popular times ensures there is something fresh for potential clients to look at. You may also consider adjusting your office hours so you are available when clients need you.
Using Google Analytics on your Website
Over 50% of all websites have a free tool from Google called Google Analytics built into them.8 Your website’s creator probably installed Google Analytics when they were setting up your site. If they didn’t, have them do so now.
In Google Analytics, you can see:
How many people are visiting your website;
The most popular content on your website;
How visitors to your site are finding it; and
What search terms are leading visitors to your website.
There are so many other things you can track, but these are the big ones.
If you aren’t getting contacted by potential clients who found you through your website, you can use this data to help figure out whether your website is not getting found, or whether potential clients are being turned off by your online presence.
It is easy to get distracted by the quest for more followers, but Facebook offers much richer data to examine. Look at your page’s reach to see how many people are seeing your content, and your engagement data to track comments, shares, and clicks that lead to your website.
Comments and shares are like free advertising because Facebook is going to show a post that gets a lot of comments and shares to more and more people. Ideally, some of those people will click through to learn more about the lawyer that posted such interesting content. Clicks to your website from Facebook, or direct messages from potential clients via Facebook are where the rubber meets the road. Remember, you aren’t trying to win a popularity contest, you are trying to get more potential clients to check you out, contact you, and hire you.
You can have thousands of followers, but if Facebook is not showing your posts to them as they scroll through their feeds, it doesn’t do you any good. Why isn’t Facebook showing your posts to all of your followers? Its algorithms have determined people are not interested in the sort of posts you are making. This is why checking in on your engagement rates is critical. Making your posts helpful, interesting, or entertaining is important if you want viewers to take the time to share your posts with others, click through to your website to learn more, or contact you.
Building a reputation as a trustworthy person who is knowledgeable about a particular subject is critical if referrals are important to your business, or your ideal clients are organizations. LinkedIn is the best online platform to help you build this sort of reputation. Consistently posting about certain topics, and commenting when other people post about such topics will help send a message to the LinkedIn community about you or your firm’s priorities.
On your personal page, monitor how many people are viewing your profile and your posts, but also look at the list of people LinkedIn says “people also viewed.” The people-also-viewed list can indicate where you are showing up in search results and who your competitors and peers are.
Your company page has data on views and clicks for every post made. Try to increase or at least maintain your click rate because that is a proxy for how valuable the content is. If the contact doesn’t have value, it is not going to do much to improve your reputation.
Twitter is a difficult platform to do well on as a business. You should have an account so a bad actor doesn’t claim your firm’s name, but it will almost certainly be more productive to have individual members of your firm using the platform.
Twitter is a very social social media network, so you can’t just shout into the void and expect marketing magic to happen. Look for opportunities to comment on topics that are important to your firm. The best place to start is by figuring out if there are any industry-specific hashtags or reporters that everyone in your niche engages with.
Since you are working on reputation building, your success on Twitter is probably best measured offline. If someone says to you in real life that they saw your Tweets on a topic, you are doing well. The number of direct messages you receive from people who want to speak to you privately, or offline is also an indication that you are doing well on Twitter.
Not a lot of firms are on Instagram, but that is changing. It is a very business or organization friendly platform, with users who enjoy positive, inspirational or behind-the-scenes content. This makes it a great venue for reputation building. Its geo-tagging and searching abilities make it a valuable resource if your reputation building efforts are concentrated in a particular town.
Until you reach 10,000 followers, you cannot host more than one link on your profile, which makes it difficult to drive traffic to your website. This means that unlike other social media sites, Instagram success is really all about engagement. Followers, likes, and comments are the best way to measure if your content is resonating. You should also consider it a success if someone you are speaking with face to face indicates they saw your Instagram posts.
No matter what platform you are on, you should define your reason for opening an account, and find a way to measure what value you are getting out of it.
Preventing a bad actor from squatting on your firm’s name.
Improving internet search rankings.
Showing the firm’s logo and other branding to a broader audience.
Improving the firm’s reputation in a particular community.
Driving potential clients to the firm’s website.
Helping potential clients contact you.
People who mention a particular platform during their intake interview.
Improved internet search rankings.
Website traffic from the platform.
Engagement on the platform.
Increased followers, friends, connections, etc.
It is critical to have a reason for being on a particular platform and a way to measure the value you are getting out of being there. If you aren’t being intentional about your online marketing, you might as well not be doing any.
Most marketing efforts will not result in meteoric growth. Instead, it will be incremental growth that is sustained over time. The emphasis on reputation building over sales in the service industry practically ensures this. In order to stay motivated, and track even small progress, it is important to do some benchmarking.9
Use the information you pull from your intake form and various online platforms as the foundation of a new data set. Look at your progress year over year. Track publicly available data about your closest competitors. Compare similar posts on different platforms, and different but similar posts on the same platform. It is only through testing and refinement that you will discover the best tactics for attracting the attention of your ideal clients, and getting them as clients.
Dig In and Get Results
Digital marketing is going mainstream. Soon every firm will be doing it. Those that do it well will be those that focus on attracting and retaining their ideal candidates, and develop a strategy for doing so.
Almost any marketing tactic can be tracked, counted, and analyzed, but if you don’t have an end goal in mind, the data means nothing. Being intentional about your marketing and then using the digital exhaust and the data you collect during intake interviews to create and measure your marketing efforts will ensure that you are spending your firm’s resources wisely.
1. Maxwell Wessel, You Don’t Need Big Data—You Need the Right Data, Harvard Business Review (2017), hbr.org/2016/11/you-dont-needbig-data-you-need-the-right-data.
2. Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350.
3. Joe Patrice, The Texas Law Hawk Talks Marketing, Above the Law (2016), abovethelaw.com/2016/ 09/the-texas-law-hawk-talksmarketing.
4. Douglas Holt, Branding in the Age of Social Media, Harvard Business Review (2016), hbr.org/2016/03/ branding-in-the-age-of-social-media.
5. 9 Law Firm Client Intake Best Practices, Lawyerist (2019), lawyerist.com/ blog/law-firm-client-intake.
6. Think about community in the broader sense of the world. This could mean in your practice area, or in a specific demographic, not just in a geographic area.
7. The 2019 Legal Trends Report, Clio, clio.com/resources/legal-trends/ 2019-report.
8. Usage statistics and market share of Google Analytics for websites, W3Techs, w3techs.com/technologies/details/ta-googleanalytics
9. Best Practices for Benchmarking, HBS Working Knowledge (2003), hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/best-practices-for-benchmarking.
This article was originally published in the June 2020 issue of New Jersey Lawyer, a publication of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and is reprinted with permission.