So alongside the release of our new eBook, I’ll be releasing bits and pieces of that eBook right here in the blog. Remember, just go here to download the full eBook (just scroll to the bottom).
But Online Marketing DOESN’T Work!
Some lawyers believe there are no benefits to marketing yourself online. They may say things like “that isn’t how I’ve historically gotten clients” or “those clients are the lowest hanging fruit – looking for a deal online” or “law is a profession, not a mere business and should not be marketed as one in a tacky manner on the internet”.
Admittedly, these lawyers are right (to a certain degree). It is only a relatively new phenomenon that people are getting connected – for example, through Dynamic Legal Forms – to lawyers through the internet. And certainly, there will be a lot of desperate people with little or no money who access the internet looking for help; unfortunately, these people cannot help lawyers pay their bills (but lawyers may still take on their cases for other reasons). And finally, the simple reality is that the people with money who can afford lawyers are not necessarily from my generation (FYI: I’m 27 years old). We are pretty much the opposite: we have come out of post-secondary school with huge debts and are looking for jobs. We likely only need a lawyer to help us buy a house, fight a traffic ticket, or in those rare occasions where we get injured on the job or are unjustly terminated. What twenty-something year old can afford to pay, for example, $338 per hour for the average solo or small firm Toronto lawyer (This was the weighted average hourly rate from a study conducted by Dynamic Legal Forms earlier this year. That report, entitled Is Time Running Out on the Billable Hour? and which entailed interviewing 500 Toronto lawyers about their legal fees over a 3 month period, can be downloaded for FREE here)?
These things being said, the key thing to keep in mind is that, one day very soon, MY GENERATION WILL BE the dominant purchasers of legal services. Some of us will become managers, directors, and officers of our present or future employers and entrusted to deal with outside counsel. Some of us will have our own businesses and we will need legal assistance everywhere we turn. We will accumulate wealth and have more disposable income. Finally, when we retire, we will need legal services to manage our wealth. The bottom line is that we will need lawyers and legal service providers to protect our rights and promote our interests. And, since we’ve been so used to looking online for information and services for everything else, we will naturally do so to find a lawyer or legal solution.
My generation – a tech savvy and wired generation – is comfortable with searching for deals online. We have no loyalties to established service providers when it comes to getting a deal. I, for example, take my Blackberry Bold 9000 with me to BestBuy whenever I have to buy something. While I’m waiting in line at the checkout, I shop around for deals on the Blackberry’s internet browser. When I find the same product being sold cheaper at www.Staples.ca, I show the customer service representative. They match and then beat the price I show them. I save money and all it took was a few minutes while waiting in line. The bottom line is that my generation relies extensively on technology and the internet for communication, entertainment, networking, researching, and doing work. We are comfortable using e-mail, search engines (e.g. www.Google.ca, www.Yahoo.ca), instant chat interfaces (e.g. Yahoo! Messenger, MSN), personal posting and social networks (e.g. www.YouTube.com, www.FaceBook.com, www.Twitter.com), rating and feedback websites (e.g. www.eBay.ca, www.amazon.ca, www.imdb.com, www.Tripadvisor.com, www.Gigpark.com), and blogs and wikis. Whether you are prepared for us or not, we are the next generation of clients.
Why Do I need to be Online NOW?
There are four major reasons for having an online presence NOW. First, your prospective clients are conducting searches online NOW. Marketing research from April 2004 revealed that “[a]pproximately 85 percent of the Canadian Internet population conducted at least one search at the top engines each month…Canadian residents conducted approximately 575 million searches at major engines, or 40 searches per search engine user” (Comscore, Press Release, May 13, 2004 “Canadians Are More Active Online Searchers Than Their U.S. Counterparts, According to comScore Networks”). These figures have no doubt increased since then. Here are some statistics related to lawyers:
- The number of searches on Google.ca in June 2009 for “Calgary lawyer”: 3,600
- The number of searches on Google.ca in June 2009 for “Canada attorney”: 8,100
- The number of searches on Google.ca in June 2009 for “Vancouver lawyer”: 12,100
- The number of searches on Google.ca in June 2009 for “Ontario lawyer”: 27,100
- The number of searches on Google.ca in June 2009 for “Toronto lawyer”: 33,100
Second, if you’re not online NOW, your competitors will be. The internet is the new battleground for professional services. Third, you need a web presence NOW because search engines like Google and Yahoo favour older websites tremendously and reward them with higher rankings. They say so themselves. So if you ever want your website to be found by prospective clients using search engines, the sooner you build your web presence, the better! Fourth, having an internet presence NOW adds a measure of brand name protection: if a disgruntled individual decides to launch an online smear campaign about you or your practice (which I have personally heard stories about), you will not be able to effectively manage such adverse publicity unless your web presence is established. Don’t leave yourself open for attack!
What are the Benefits of Being Online?
Importantly, when people are searching online for legal services, they are doing so because they are looking to PURCHASE services. They are near the final stages of becoming a client and simply need to be converted. Internet surfers are also doing research about purchasing decisions. For lawyers, this means they are looking to review your firm’s online presence before retaining you for an offline transaction. Being online allows you to attract your target market in a cost-effective and convenient manner. The cost of putting up a professionally looking website with all the bells and whistles is only a few thousand dollars these days. You can even add a blog, a Facebook group, and a twitter account for next to nothing. When you go to sleep, your website doesn’t. You can showcase your expertise to countless prospective clients around the world 24/7. You can build a brand (an asset which can ultimately be sold) through your web presence. You can make yourself into THE GURU on a legal topic that the media comes to for advice. You can make connections with others doing the same thing and learn how to outperform your competitors. Will it take time? Yes. A good product requires time and effort to be invested initially. But remember: garbage in equals garbage out. So if you create a high-quality and professional website, then that already speaks volumes about your value proposition to prospective clients: high quality and professional services.
But What About Traditional Marketing?
Admittedly, traditional off-line methods of marketing your law practice have their place and space in the marketing communications mix. These methods include having a solid reputation for doing good work and getting good results, publishing and mailing out newsletters and articles, paying for ads in newspapers and the Yellow Pages, giving presentations and attending networking events, and being part of various industry associations. But when it comes to distributing your message across a broad spectrum in the most cost-effective and convenient manner, there is no substitute for being online. KEEP THIS IN MIND: my generation DOES NOT read or attend presentations by guest lecturers (we watch online videos and listen to podcasts), DOES NOT attend networking events with our peers (we use social media websites), DOES NOT read newspapers (we read blogs and RSS feeds), and DOES NOT use the Yellow Pages (we use search engines).
What is the Reality of Online Legal Marketing?
Unfortunately, lawyers’ online presence is lacking. Earlier this year, Dynamic Legal Forms researched the web presence of 1,000 solo and small firm Toronto lawyers and found that, while 98% could be found online and 78% had websites, 48% of those websites had no substantive content in any form (e.g. articles, cases, commentary) and only 2% had blogs. So while lawyers’ names and contact information are easy to find on the internet if you’re looking for them, prospective clients searching for legal services will never find these lawyers because the latter offer little or no meaningful content to draw them in (which search engines use to rank pages).