January 2009 Archives

January 25, 2009

Why Lawyers Should Consider Incorporating Video Into Their Online Marketing Strategy

You know the old maxim, a picture is worth 1,000 words? These days, online video may well be worth 1,000 site visits.

According to a recent article from the International Herald Tribune, Internet users are increasingly turning to video-rich sites like YouTube to locate information rather than conventional, text-based search engines like Yahoo! or Google.  As a result, consumption of online video has soared, with 146 million Americans watching video online, twice as many as 20 months ago.  More importantly, searches on YouTube edged out those on Yahoo!, and the site now ranks as the number 2 search engine behind Google.  

These trends show that lawyers who rely on the Internet to market a practice should consider incorporating video into their online marketing strategy.  However, video carries with it plenty of other advantages besides SEO.  A video gives clients a peek at your demeanor and personality, and establishes that you're a real person.  At a time when recent scandals like the Madoff Ponzi scheme have shattered public confidence in professionals, video can help re-build trust. 

Still, despite the obvious benefits of video, for some lawyers who are just now creating an online presence, the thought of including video is likely overwhelming.  Other lawyers may feel discouraged, figuring that once again, the same deep-pocketed firms that dominate Yellow Pages and television advertising will have the resources to implement video marketing and once again gain an overwhelming advantage.

The good news is that even if you're on a limited budget, you can still experience the benefits of video.  Though a professional videographer may be outside your price range, you can generate a reasonably good quality video on a home video camera.  With good lighting and an external microphone, the sound and image quality will suffice.  Some lawyers, such as video guru Gerry Oginski, use Mac-based tools to edit their videos, though most PCs also support video editing applications.  If you need editing assistance, check out local colleges with media programs or websites like e-lance where you may be able to find economically priced editors.

So what should you say on your video?  That's entirely up to you.  Some lawyers use video as an opportunity to simply introduce themselves and their firm to site visitors.  Other lawyers try to make videos more educational -- for example, by offering explanations on how a case is filed or why a client might need legal representation.   Practice what you'll say a few times, but avoid teleprompters or notes.  Ultimately, aim for sounding as you would if you were meeting your viewers in person.  

Exploring online video sooner rather than later will give you a first-mover advantage and enable you to distinguish yourself from other lawyers, most of whom have not yet adopted video.  Why not get started now?     
January 14, 2009

Marketing Through Speaking Engagements

Virtually every guide on marketing a law firm recommends speaking engagements as an effective way to generate clients. Unfortunately, there's usually not much detail provided on how to secure a speaking engagement -- particularly if you're a newer or less experienced lawyer -- how to select an appropriate venue, how to choose a topic, or how to get the word out about your talk.  So that's the focus of this week's post: How to make the most of speaking engagements to market your practice.

Before I get to the how-tos of speaking engagements, I'll spend a little time discussing the marketing benefits of speaking engagements.  First and most importantly, speaking engagements give you a chance to personally interact with prospective clients without having them feel pressured to retain you, as they might at an initial consultation.  Personal interaction also lets clients can get a sense of your demeanor and personality, factors that are often relevant to their decisions.  Second, speaking engagements are efficient, because they give you a chance to make contact with multiple prospects all at once.  Third, speaking carries a public-spirited component -- it's a way to market and educate the public at the same time.  Fourth, speaking engagements give you an opportunity to reach out to existing clients and reconnect by inviting them to hear your presentation.  Finally, when you speak, many will perceive you as an expert and thus, speaking events can enhance your reputation and elevate your visibility within your markets.

So how can you find speaking opportunities and make them pay off?  Below are some tips.

1.   Identifying your target audience

Before organizing a speaking engagement, decide what types of clients you want to target.  If you're interested in representing high-worth estate clients, giving a talk at a CLE to other lawyers isn't likely to have much impact, since most lawyers aren't likely to refer lucrative cases to you.  Likewise, speaking at a public library in a lower-income area won't generate the leads that you're seeking either.  Consider the audience you want to attract, and pick your speaking venues accordingly.

2.  Finding a place to speak

Don't wait to be invited to speak, or you might find yourself waiting indefinitely.  Instead, take a proactive approach and identify opportunities.  Once you've decided which audience you want to target, do some research on where these groups congregate.  One colleague of mine handles legal research and writing on a contract basis, so she actively targets busy lawyers, focusing her speaking activities on bar associations.  Other attorneys who I know who handle IP or corporate matters send speaking proposals to trade associations. 

But formal, established groups aren't your only venue.  There are multiple, less casual groups  that share similar interests -- from high tech to women's or grandparents' issues to finance -- which often publicize their events in mothers' magazines, local papers, or online at Meet Up.  These groups are often desperate for speakers and would welcome an inquiry.

Finally, you don't have to limit yourself to any kind of group at all.  You could try to organize your own event that you could put on at a local coffee shop, bookstore, or library.  If you serve a remote or high tech audience, you could consider an online seminar or webinar.  The one disadvantage to sponsoring your own speaking engagement is that you'll have to spread the word on your own instead of relying on another group to advertise the event.

3.  Choosing a topic

Try to identify timely or provocative topics that will attract your prospects' attention and make them want to attend.  For example, instead of offering a talk entitled, "The Basics of Estate Planning," why not propose the topic "Estate Planning: Can You Do It Yourself -- Without a Lawyer?"  This title injects some controversy -- to use a lawyer or not -- and gives you a chance to educate an audience about the importance of a lawyer for certain estate planning matters.  Other timely topics -- at least right now -- include foreclosure, consumer credit, divorce and alternatives (since the economy is causing stress on marriages, but also making divorce too expensive), and trend talks about the new presidential administration (e.g., "How the Obama Administration's Employment (or immigration or antitrust) Initiatives Can Impact Your Business and How You Must Plan for Them").

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January 5, 2009

Should You Hire A Marketing Expert?

Free information on marketing a law practice abounds on the Internet. Just visiting the law marketing blogs listed in the sidebar here could provide you with several weeks' worth of material on marketing a practice. And if you tire of blogs and online materials, there's a wealth of marketing books for lawyers and non-lawyers (next week, I'll list some of my favorites).  Still, let's say that despite these free materials, you feel that you still need help to ramp up your marketing efforts.  Should you hire a marketing consultant or pay for a high end marketing package?  While I can't make the decision for you, below are several considerations that you should take into account in evaluating what types of marketing products and services to pay for.

Cost.  Marketing consultants can be costly, ranging in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars.  Some consultants also produce marketing packages or tool kits, or may offer ongoing group coaching or master mind sessions.

Most marketing consultants will tell you that it takes money to make money.  Even so, that doesn't mean that you should mortgage your house to pay for marketing services.  If you spend more than you can afford, you'll add additional stress to your marketing efforts.  So instead, keep cost in mind when choosing a consultant or marketing package.  See if a consultant offers a group rate so that you can share the costs with other attorneys.  In addition, ask whether a product or a service is available on a trial basis or comes with a money-back guarantee.  Many times, selecting an appropriate service or product is a matter of trial and error, so it's important to have a way to get your money back if you don't receive any value from a program. 

Which product or consultant should you use?  With so many marketing programs and consultants available (just do a Google search if you don't believe me!), how can you choose?  Consider the following questions:
  • Is the consultant an attorney or former attorney?  My own personal preference is to choose a marketing consultant who is either a practicing attorney or who formerly practiced.  A close second is a consultant with considerable experience working with attorneys.  Why is working with a lawyer so important?  As many of us know, most bars heavily regulate lawyer advertising, imposing all sorts of rules ranging from the breed of dog that can be used on a law firm logo to  the legality of using client testimonials at a website to a lawyer's ability to join a business networking group.  To be sure, lawyer marketing consultants may not be familiar with ethics issues in all 50 states, but at a minimum, they'll be sensitive to them.  By contrast, a marketer with no background in the law or with lawyers could recommend a marketing campaign that revolves around an ethically prohibited practice.
  • Does the marketer have experience in your specific practice area?  Some marketing concepts -- such as the importance of follow-through or using a diverse portfolio of marketing techniques -- apply across the board, no matter the practice area.  But the effectiveness of other marketing practices may depend on a given field.  For example, networking with moms at the PTA or local mothers' groups may be effective for a probate practice, but it's hardly an effective way to lure a securities client.  Try to discern what type of experience a potential marketer has in assisting people in your practice area or, at least, a similar practice area.
  • What kinds of materials does the consultant or attorney make available as a trial?  Most marketers recognize that lawyers must feel comfortable with the marketer's style and approach to create a productive working relationship.  So these days, most marketers will make a reasonably substantial sample product -- such as a free tele-seminar or a recording or an e-book to download -- available at no cost.  Many marketers will also provide a free initial consultation.  This information can help you determine whether you would like to work with a particular marketer.
  • How effective is the marketer at marketing his or her own services?  Is your marketer effective at promoting his or her own services?  Does he or she have a professional-looking and substance-packed website or blog?  Or is the marketer's site sloppy, full of misspellings and lacking in any substance?  Point is, if marketers can't market themselves, how can they market you?
  • Can you contact personal references?  Will a consultant give you access to previous clients?  A personal reference from a former client will give an objective third-party evaluation of the marketer's skills. 
Avoiding red flags.  Sadly, there are all too many opportunistic gurus who see an opportunity to prey on desperate attorneys who are struggling in hard times.  Here are a few red flags to avoid:

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