This article originally appeared in DRI’s The Voice.
We’ve all heard the age-old adage: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” There’s a lot of truth behind this quote: it can be difficult to know where you should invest your marketing dollars. Should you invest in media relations? Social media? SEO? Videos? Email newsletters? Webinars? Speaking at events? There’s a lot you can do, but what’s going to make the most impact?
When working with clients facing this question, I often advise them to pick an industry (or two or three, depending on the firm’s size and budget) and focus their marketing efforts there. Here’s why:
1) The internet has changed how businesses find and select law firms
From a marketer’s perspective, law firms are challenging. And it’s not the lawyers (I like lawyers): It’s the way firms are structured. Pre-internet, clients chose firms based solely on geography and personal relationships. They met attorneys at local Chamber luncheons and Rotary events, went to church with them or sent their kids to the same school. Thus, law firms became generalist shops serving a wide range of clients with varying needs.
Today, however, geography and personal relationships aren’t enough. The internet has forever changed relationship-building.
Clients are now reading email alerts, social media posts, bylined articles and blog posts from a variety of law firms, including those who don’t attend the same Chamber or Rotary meetings. If those alerts or articles speak directly to the client’s industry and demonstrate in-depth knowledge of its nuances, the client is likely to choose the attorney from that firm — who they might not have any personal connection to — over the one they met at a charity function.
2) On the internet, it’s difficult to differentiate a generalist law firm
Differentiation has become critical in today’s internet-driven market. We now have the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, which makes decision-making more complex. Our brains can only process so much information — that’s why simpler, personalized (i.e., it speaks directly to a particular person’s needs) messaging cuts through the clutter. Advanced legal skills and client service are table stakes. Clients are now willing to shop around, one case at a time, until they find a firm and a litigator who meets their precise needs.
3) Everyone thinks their industry is unique
While you may think you can quickly get up to speed on a client’s industry, they likely think differently. Your client is reading industry-specific publications, going to industry conferences and discussing industry trends and issues (using industry jargon) with industry colleagues. They are steeped in their industry’s world.
If a law firm speaks the same language, addresses the same issues, knows the same people, goes to the same conferences, and publishes in those industry magazines, their chances of standing out from a generalist firm skyrocket.
4) Practice broadly, market specifically
Am I advocating a wholesale change of your firm’s structure? No. Instead, I’m suggesting that you continue to practice broadly, but narrow your marketing focus. Look at your existing and past case load. I’m guessing that you’ll find one or two industries where you have significant experience. Or there’s an emerging industry that you’ve identified as a growth area. Here’s what an industry-focused marketing strategy could look like:
- A monthly email newsletter with one or two articles on a particular industry’s needs, sent only to clients in that industry
- A series of webinars focused on industry-specific topics
- A media relations campaign focused on industry trade publications
- Speaking engagements at industry-focused conferences and events, positioning the speaker’s expertise in that industry
- An industry group page on the firm’s website, with a curated collection of resources
- An annual industry event, sponsored and hosted by your firm, dedicated to current and potential clients in that sector
- An annual research report, focused on industry-specific risks
Once you achieve some success with one industry, you can expand to another. You’ll know what tactics work the best for your firm’s resources and skill sets and can replicate that to another industry. And, you’ll achieve more bang for your buck rather than a scattershot marketing approach with one or two marketing “touches” in any given industry per year.