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March 29, 2011

Online Video Now First Stop For Consumers

Video has always been a powerful tool for marketing on the web, and I've posted about its potential for lawyers several times over the past two years. But whereas I'd always viewed video as a tool to personalize a website and help encourage more trusted relationships, now, video is becoming a first stop for consumers seeking information, reports The New York Times. Companies are responding to the demand, and using video to demonstrate products or offer instructions on how to fix electronic parts. One grill company is building demand for its grill and other outside cooking products by posting videos on how to fry turkeys or smoke a beef brisket.

Video's value isn't limited to educating customers about consumer products, though. It's equally useful for professionals, as I learned first hand myself earlier this year, when I was involved in making a decision about a pacemaker for a family member. Because I didn't know much about pacemakers, naturally, I turned to the Internet. I saw lots of complicated diagrams as well as brief articles about the procedure but what I found most useful were a series of videos by a doctor, describing how a pacemaker is installed as well as the risks of surgery.

Many lawyers already have videos posted on YouTube, but many of these videos are what I would consider "vanity pieces," telling about the lawyer rather than providing useful information. So even though video has been around for a while, there's still a wide open field for lawyers willing to create informative videos to help potential clients understand the issues involved in their legal matter.
March 21, 2011

Using Skype for a Marketing Competitive Edge

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Once upon a time, lawyers starting out were encouraged to rent ground-level office space on Main Street or down the block from the courthouse to capture walk-in traffic. These days, that advice isn't as persuasive as lawyers are taking advantage of technology to move out of costly conventional office space and work from home or part-time virtual space. And even those lawyers who still practice in a central location frequently limit walk-in appointments because they're disruptive to workflow and most walk-in prospects aren't prepared to pay.

But just as technology taketh-away the conventional walk-in client, so too it giveth a 21st century version: the Skype-in client. For those unfamiliar, Skype is a platform that supports video-calls and video-conferences, where participants can converse and see each other over the computer or even their phone. Skype's been around for a while, but the quality has continued to improve such that it's ready for prime-time professional use. Law firms are taking notice too - for example, consider this California based firm, The Trust Store which just announced that it will meet with clients online via Skype.

Meeting with clients online through Skype is a great way to give your firm a competitive advantage. For starters, it's a neat use of technology that is bound to stand out. Second - and somewhat surprisingly, Skype is a less-intimidating way to use technology than, for example, requiring a client to log-in to a site and fill out a form. Many otherwise tech-challenged folks (my parents, for example, come to mind) are being introduced to Skype as a way to keep in touch with family members who may be stationed overseas or who've moved to other parts of the country. As a result, they're more comfortable with Skype than they might be with a conventional online portal. Third, Skype adds credibility to the attorney- client relationship and builds trust. Through Skype, clients can see that they are meeting with an actual lawyer. Though of course it's conceivable that a charlatan could hire an actor to pose as a lawyer and collect payments and run, it's far more difficult to set up this type of ruse than, for example, to create an anonymous website. Finally, since most computers have video recording built in, you could (with a client's consent of course) record Skype calls to avoid any future misunderstanding about what's been said.

In addition to holding client meetings on line, lawyers can also use Skype to set up a proverbial "walk-in shingle" on the main street that is the world wide web. As with any walk in arrangement, a client could just come in and wait, first-come, first-served for a turn. Or a lawyer could use some of the online scheduling tools that I discussed here and ask clients to make an appointment. Moreover, Skype can facilitate the kind of after-hours availability that is convenient to clients who work 9-5. Though many lawyers may not want to cut into their weekend to trek to the office to meet clients, through Skype, they can meet at a home office.

If you're going to use Skype, bear in mind that certain best practices apply. For starters (and hopefully obvious to most), you can't show up in your pajamas with a five-o-clock shadow or a greasy pony-tail. Nor should you Skype from an easy-chair in front of the television or a coffee shop. Because clients can see you on Skype, it's important to come across as professionally as you would in an offline, face-to-face meeting.

You may also want to practice a Skype call and have a friend record you on the other end so you can see how you come across over the monitor. As this article on Skype for job interviews notes, Skype hones in on a waist-up shot "so if your eyes are shifting or darting around, people may wonder whether you're not telling the truth or that you are extremely nervous." Likewise, a user might focus on the camera, and may not appear to be making real eye contact. In addition, you may need to use a microphone to ensure high quality sound.

 In a few years, Skype will be fully ripe - and all clients will expect to reach a lawyer by video-phone. Why not carve out your on-line walk-in office space now, because everyone else stakes a claim?
October 29, 2010

Round Up Post: Videos and Podcasts

I've posted about video here a couple of times - and it's only continuing to gain traction. The Beloit Daily News describes how several Pittsburgh law firms are using a variety of multi-media, from video to podcasts, to market to prospects and to educate existing clients.

Similarly, at Legal Practice Pro, Jay Fleischman emphasizes the benefits of podcasting. Importantly, since 2006, podcast penetration has doubled, with 23 percent of Americans now listening as compared to just 11 percent four years ago. Moreover, there are more mechanisms that can deliver podcasts, what with ipods and smartphones, in addition to a computer.

Podcasts can also serve double duty: you can tape a podcast and have it transcribed, and circulate the text as an article for clients and prospects who prefer to learn by reading rather than listening.

Bottom line: marketing today has gone multi-media. Lawyers should think about doing the same.

April 12, 2010

Create a FREE Video for Your Website

If you've always wanted to create a video to market your law practice but were deterred by cost, you're in luck!  Courtesy of Google (as well as marketing guru Larry Bodine, who passed the tip along), you can put together a nifty "search stories video" for your practice that mimics the style of Google's inaugural Super Bowl Ad.  A couple of my colleagues have already taken the service out for a test drive, with outstanding results, depicted below (for my own attempt, visit here):

 

Victor Medina

Robert Kraft

Using Google's search stories video is just one part of the marketing lesson for this post.  Consider this second idea.  Look at how effectively Google is branding itself with these free videos.  Everyone who puts one together and posts it on a site effectively provides another little bit of free advertising to Google (not that they need it!).  Well, what if you could create some type of branded tool that visitors to your website or law firm clients might use and share with others.  For example, if you represent small businesses, you might create an online business plan - users could fill in a form and generate a business plan, with your firm logo displayed on the back page.  Or if you handle adoption cases or estate planning for families with young children, consider creating an online "annual report" for a child, where users could fill out an online form with their children's major accomplishments and generate an attractive mini-report that they could share with relatives.  You could even consider developing an app for a phone that's branded with your law firm that potential clients might use.

Most likely, you probably don't have the tech skills to develop this kind of a generator.  Not to worry.  Turns out that there's enormous demand on sites like Elance for app developers - and you could likely find someone who's relatively inexpensive.  If the costs still seem prohibitive, why not team up with a couple of lawyers in other jurisdictions and share the costs?

Of course, if you don't feel ambitious enough to commission your own online application, Google search stories videos are impressive enough. 

May 14, 2009

Update Round-Up

Here's the latest round-up on some of the topics covered in earlier posts to be sure that you have up-to-the-minute information on the latest and greatest in lawyer marketing:

1.  Add More Value to Videos By Power Using YouTube.

Back in January, I posted on why lawyers should consider making video part of their marketing portfolio.  In addition to the reasons that I described, Travis Campell, the Marketing Professor offers some ideas for building community and online presence through YouTube -- which means that you'll get more bang for the buck out of any videos you produce.  So what benefits does You Tube offer?  For starters, you can get statistics on viewer demographics and feedback on your video through commenters.  Posting video on YouTube can also help drive traffic to your site and enhance your search engine visibility.

2.  Should You Hire An SEO Expert?

My first post for this blog described some do-it-yourself SEO tips.  But if the DIY approach doesn't get you the results that you need, should you consider hiring an expert?  I've posted, more generally, on issues to consider when hiring a marketing consultant and now, lawyer marketing expert Larry Bodine shares advice on hiring an SEO expert.  My favorite tip of the post? 

Type the vendor's own targeted search terms into Google and see how well they do for themselves. Type in "law firm web consultant" or "law firm SEO consultant" or "law web marketing consultant" into Google. If they can't get good rankings for themselves, move on.

3.  Social Media and SEO.

Six months ago, when I posted about do-it-yourself SEO, I didn't focus extensively on social media, largely because its impact on SEO wasn't fully recognized or acknowledged at the time.  That's since shifted, as Duct Tape Marketing writes, noting, "It has become extremely difficult to achieve any measure of success for important keyword phrases without the use of social media."  As a result, any business attempting to optimize a site should add a blog and podcast, participate in Twitter and optimize profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn at the very minimum.
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?