being found on the internetQuality new clients being the lifeblood of any law firm aiming to remain profitable in today’s highly-competitive environment, ask yourself these 3 vital questions now –

Question 1: “How will potential new clients looking for legal services find us?”

Have a look at “Internet is now the Most Popular Way to Find and Research a Lawyer, Says FindLaw Survey” on the Thomson Reuters site. 1,000 Americans took part in a survey last year to determine how people go about finding a lawyer when they need one, and the findings as compared with those of a similar survey in 2005 are graphically illustrated in these pie charts –

find an attorney survey 2014 thomson reuters

The significant (over 500 percent!) growth in the number of potential clients searching for professional firms online compared with 2005 is surely mirrored in South Africa, certainly amongst the 24.9 million South Africans who are active Internet users (see “What Do SA’s 24.9 Mil Internet Users Spend Most Of Their Time Doing Online?” on the htxt.africa site).

Let’s look in more detail at what you should be asking yourself about the top two findings.

Question 2: “How can we increase our online visibility?”
Online visibility is essential for 2 reasons –

  • As we saw above, 38% of new clients will look for you with nothing more than an Internet search.
  • A large percentage of the other 62%, although they may initially find you via a referral or other means, will still want to check you out you online before even contacting you.

Attention spans in the Information Age being short, make sure that you can be both found and researched quickly and easily.

Increasing online visibility is in itself a vast topic, and the Internet is awash with advice on how to achieve it. But let’s keep it short and simple. In a nutshell, no matter how restricted your marketing budget may be, ensure that at the very least you have these three basics in place –

  1. Your own website, preferably on your own domain name. Your website needn’t be fancy or expensive, but it must project your professionalism. Ideally, keep it effortlessly updated with monthly newsletters via RSS feeds.
  2. A LinkedIn presence for both your firm and all partners/directors and professionals. Keeping it updated with new content (such as your client newsletters) is a nice extra but less important here – it is your profile that clients and prospective clients most need to see.
  3. A client newsletter. Not only is it your key to referral marketing (see “How can we increase referrals?” below), but used correctly, and integrated with your website and LinkedIn profiles as above, it will greatly increase your online visibility by driving traffic to your website and by increasing your online presence generally.

Consider also listing your firm with a range of online law firm directories such as those at www.attorneys4law.co.za, www.property24.com/attorneys and www.attorneys.co.za. They can be an effective and relatively inexpensive way to promote your services online.

Question 3: “How can we increase referrals?”
Not only do almost a third of new clients come from “friend or relative” referrals, but such referrals are innately powerful because of the trust factor. Your potential new client is being told by someone they already trust that you, too, can be trusted.
So it makes sense to do everything you can to ensure that a range of referral sources thinks to recommend you to anyone looking for legal advice or services, and you can greatly increase your chances of this happening by prioritising as follows –

  • Brainstorm your best referral sources: Existing clients of course can and should be great ambassadors for your firm. But you will also have other referral sources – get your team together to identify them. Depending on the nature of your practice, perhaps other firms of attorneys, or networking groups, or online discussion groups. The more the merrier.
  • Build great relationships: It’s common sense that quick, friendly and professional service is the basic essential here, particularly with your clients themselves. But go a step further – don’t just do the work for them; go out of your way to build long-term relationships by ensuring that their client experience, from first contact to fond farewell, is a positive one.
  • Make sure you are remembered: So now your high service levels have made you memorable, but memories fade. Make it impossible for clients and others to forget you by maintaining regular, quality communication; monthly client newsletters are ideal for this. Use them to stay top-of-mind with all your clients and other referral sources, but make sure that everyone sees your newsletters as a free gift of valuable information, not as marketing. Maximise your newsletter’s effectiveness by highlighting your full range of services, and check that it is mobile friendly and easily forwarded.
  • Build your referral lists: Add every new client to your mailing list and look actively for new referral sources. Remember to ask permission before adding anyone to your list. For example, instead of just swopping business cards at your next cocktail party or networking function, offer prospects your “free monthly legal updates” – expect a high acceptance rate. Once again, the more the merrier!

The bottom line

Following the simple guidelines above will greatly increase your chances of potential new clients both finding you and bringing their work to you rather than to your competition.

Contributed by:
Jack Crook, Director at DotNews, who is well known to law firms as the author of LawDotNews. Jack’s legal qualifications (LLB Lond and LLB Rhod) are supplemented by many years of practical experience in law, in marketing his own firm, and in helping other small and medium sized professional firms to prosper by using simple, low-cost, effective marketing strategies. Contact DotNews on 086 110 5904 (or email info@dotnews.co.za) for more on client newsletters, websites, Social Media pages, email services, or anything other marketing services you may require.

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