As of 2017, the American Bar Association reports that there are 1,335,963 active attorneys in the United States. As the number of attorneys increases year over year and the number of trial hours decreases, law firms are finding it more difficult to land business and remain profitable. The key to overcoming this challenge and pull away from the competition is having a solid legal marketing strategy.
More specifically, an education-based marketing strategy is an ideal way to establish your law firm as an authority in your space, as well as:
- Provide valuable information to your audience
- Generate qualified prospects
- Build rapport with prospects and convert them into leads, and leads into clients
- Increase brand trust
- Boost search engine optimization (SEO)
In this guide, we explain why an education-based legal marketing strategy is essential in today’s legal landscape and how to create one from scratch. By the end of this guide, your law firm will understand how to gain an edge over your competition, showcasing your experience and building a strong online presence in order to increase, and improve the quality of, your caseload.
The State of the Legal Market Since The Great Recession
Why is an education-based marketing strategy so essential? Since the Great Recession, the legal market has been plagued by issues such as:
- Stagnating demand for legal services
- Decreased attorney productivity
- Increased pressure for greater efficiency and higher quality services for the same price
According to Thomson Reuters’ 2017 Report of the State of the Legal Market, demand for law firm services has dropped off since 2009. Additionally, the billable hours worked per lawyer has steadily declined throughout the past decade—down to an average of 122 hours per month in the end of 2016 compared to 134 hours per month in 2007. This costs legal practices an average of $66,672 per attorney per year.
All in all, competition in today’s legal market is fierce. Law firms are under pressure to gain and retain more clients while working with fewer resources. Many struggle to break even or increase profitability year over year.
Why An Education-Based Marketing Strategy Is Ideal For The Current Market
An education-based marketing strategy makes the most of these limited resources. It can ensure that you’re connecting with the right prospects and building trust to convert them into clients.
First, educating your audience builds your reputation as a thought leader in your space (whether it be personal injury law, divorce and family law, criminal defense, etc.), causing prospects to view you as the most knowledgeable and experienced legal practice in their area.
In fact, DemandGen reports that 87% of B2B consumers believe that industry influencer content lends authority to a law firm. This can lead to significantly greater prominence—content marketing leaders experience nearly 8 times as much website traffic as non-leaders, according to Content Marketing Institute.
Second, an education-based marketing strategy helps to convert some of that increased traffic into promising leads for your law firm. Curata claims that 74% of companies report content marketing increases lead generation and improves lead quality.
Third, focusing on producing content that informs your audience facilitates greater brand loyalty and more referrals, thereby leveraging one client into multiple clients with minimal additional marketing spend. The VCU Brandcenter and the VCU School of Business have determined that law firms that focus on educating their audiences can build stronger relationships with potential clients than legal practices that don’t educate their audiences.
Overall, education-based marketing focuses on building long-term relationships with prospects, connecting with them during the information-gathering stage (when they aren’t yet ready to sign a retainer agreement), generating trust, and informing them about the best solution to their specific problem. When they finally are ready to “buy,” your law firm is ideally positioned to snap up their business.
However, this is easier said than done. Legal practices across all specialties often make four common mistakes when it comes to an education-based marketing strategy:
- Not covering the “right” topics that their prospects are interested in and searching for online (nearly 90% of B2B marketing professionals struggle to produce engaging content, according to Forrester)
- Not possessing a documented education-based marketing strategy
- Struggling to produce well-written content that is SEO optimized
- Failing to properly disseminate content to achieve maximum reach and engagement
We provide solutions to these common issues in the following sections. Read on to learn how to create a better education-based marketing framework that generates results.
Solution to Common Problem #1: Not Focusing on the Right Topics
Your niche is probably full of similar content. If you’re a personal injury attorney, for instance, you and your competitors cover the same topics such as car crashes, workplace accidents, and injuries due to negligence.
Many personal injury attorneys then fall into the trap of trying to compete with the larger or prolific law firms on these same topics, which is a waste of money because their content will rarely outrank the material produced by very large or marketing-savvy law firms with a hefty head start. In other cases, these personal injury attorneys identify a way to cover the same topics differently than their competition but they fail to produce engaging material.
The result is the same in both situations: an unsuccessful, wasteful content marketing strategy. The solution? Focusing on educating your audience and beginning with their interests in mind—look at what your prospects and clients are asking and what they need to know. For instance:
- What personal injury terms or queries are they searching for online?
- What are their most pressing questions after you get them on the phone for an initial consultation?
- What are the most challenging/confusing elements of a typical personal injury case?
- If you were considering pursuing a personal injury claim, what 5 things would you hope that a personal injury attorney would tell you?
Keep in mind that the prospects you’re speaking to with education-based marketing are in the information-gathering stage. They either are learning about their problem (e.g., realizing that they may be injured after a car accident) or are researching solutions to their problem (e.g., collecting information about personal injury claims to see if they should pursue one). Any topics that you tackle should fall under this umbrella.
Let’s say that prospects often come to you asking, “How long after a car accident can I pursue a personal injury claim, and what’s the first step that I need to take?” Search online to see what other law firms have produced on the topic. If they haven’t fully tackled the query, their articles are outdated, or you can simply produce far better content, then you have a perfect opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.
For example: If your biggest competitor answered the question above in a basic 500-word blog article titled “How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Claim,” you can go several steps further and approach the topic from a different direction to provide greater value. A multi-page guide and quiz titled “Why You Should Never Wait to File a Personal Injury Claim” could be a good choice (consider turning it into a lead magnet in order to collect prospects’ email addresses), as well as a video that tells prospects what they need to know about the timeline of a typical personal injury case in just a few minutes.
Alternately, if you don’t stand a chance at ranking for the keyword “personal injury claim timeline,” because large law firms have taken the top spots, then strive for a related keyword phrase instead. “When to file a personal injury claim” or “car accident personal injury claim deadline” could be two promising alternatives.
No matter the medium or keyword focus on your content, just remember that it should always come back to delivering the greatest educational value by addressing a specific question or challenge experienced by your audience. This is not the place to hard sell your law firm’s services.
Solution to Common Problem #2: No Documented Education-Based Marketing Strategy
Once you’ve brainstormed some topics to tackle, you can turn those ideas into a documented marketing strategy. Many attorneys skip this step, but going in without a plan often results in ineffective marketing activities and lackluster results.
An education-based content marketing strategy ensures that you remain on track toward your marketing goals while focusing on serving prospects and clients. Law firms with a documented content strategy are much more likely to be “very effective” or “extremely effective” than those without a formal plan, according to LinkedIn’s Content Marketing Report.
Follow the steps below to create a documented education-based marketing strategy.
Step 1: Understand objectives
Again, the purpose of any educational marketing strategy is to teach potential clients about their law-related problem and possible solutions. The ultimate purpose of having an educational marketing strategy, though, is to attract attention from the right prospects, convert prospects into leads, and turn leads into clients. Don’t lose sight of this when crafting your strategy!
Step 2: Assess resources
How much time and money do you have to devote to content marketing? Will a handful of support staffers and/or attorneys handle strategy, writing, editing, designing, and distribution, or will these duties be spread or rotated among several parties (in which case, do you have a dedicated point person to manage essential processes and deadlines)?
LinkedIn reports that 51% of organizations don’t have enough time or resources to create content—if your law firm falls in that category, consider outsourcing at least a few elements of the content creation process such as writing or design.
Tip: Does your small law firm have no time for marketing? We’ve got the perfect solution.
Step 3: Set goals
After either gathering outside resources or dedicating internal resources, it’s time to create a roadmap for your education-based marketing efforts. What do you hope to accomplish within the next month, 6 months, and year in relation to where you are now?
For instance, if your law firm is generating 10 leads per month and converting one of those leads into a client (10% conversion rate), then a realistic goal may be to generate 20 leads per month with a 12% conversion rate within the next 6 months. Other examples of goals include:
- Increasing website traffic
- Boosting social reach
- Increasing social engagement (comments, likes, shares)
- Improving your ranking on Google search engine results pages (SERPs)
Read more about setting content marketing goals in our data-driven guide here.
Step 4: Create a calendar
One of the keys to success with content marketing is consistency. Creating a content marketing calendar ensures that you’re regularly pushing out new content in order to achieve results. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just be sure that you include both content and distribution (social media posts, for instance) on the calendar.
The James Legal CRM provides intuitive calendaring and appointment setting functionalities for better team communication and collaboration.
Step 5: Attempt and adapt
Implement your calendar and assess the impact month by month. Try not to judge results too quickly—noticeable improvement could take 6 months to a year depending on your starting point, efforts, and quality of content.
Solution to Common Problem #3: Producing Content That Isn’t SEO-Optimized
We’ve discussed establishing a framework for your law firm’s education-based marketing strategy. Now let’s cover what actually goes into a well-written piece of content that can attract website traffic, engage your audience, and lead to conversions.
The most engaging content contains five important factors:
- Audience relevance
- Engaging and compelling storytelling
- A call to action
- Effectively delivered message
- Search engine optimization (SEO) elements
While the first four elements are most self-explanatory and have been at least touched on in the material above, the final factor—SEO—presents more of challenge to most attorneys.
If you are new to SEO, it is best to reach out to an experienced attorney marketing company for assistance. At James Attorney Marketing, we specialize in helping law firms of all sizes—particularly small, medium, and boutique firms—jumpstart their legal marketing and SEO efforts in order to improve their online reputation, generate more traffic, and increase their caseload.
We helped Phoenix criminal defense attorney Howard Snader go from 18-25 prospect inquiry calls per month to more than 200 calls per month in less than 12 months after:
- Implementing the James Legal CRM with its specialty-specific library of content (including pamphlets, books, and automated email drip campaigns)
- Producing a direct mail campaign
- Improving Mr. Snader’s website including improving optimization and content
- Adding live chat to his website
The James Legal CRM comes loaded with specialty-specific attorney marketing content like this bankruptcy guide.
Another client, personal injury attorney Loren Etengoff, increased his caseload from 62 to 141 cases year-over-year after utilizing the James Online Reputation Management (ORM) tool and working with us to produce keyword-optimized content. The James ORM tool automates review-gathering and “parks” negative reviews so you build a library of positive online reviews that not only improve your reputation, but also help to rank your law firm higher with search engines like Google.
BONUS: We’re offering free educational content for 4 legal specialties: bankruptcy, criminal, family, or personal injury law. Download complimentary prospect content now!
As demonstrated by the results experienced by Mr. Snader and Mr. Etengoff, there are multiple ways to improve your law firm’s SEO using online content. If you don’t have the know-how to make it happen, be sure to reach out to a resource like James Attorney Marketing for assistance.
Find out how you measure up to the competition—schedule a free marketing audit! You’ll receive customized suggestions for improvement as well as money-saving strategies.
Solution to Common Problem #4: Failing to Disseminate Content for Greater Reach and Engagement
Content distribution is just as important as content development. Without a plan to spread your content, it doesn’t matter how well-written each piece is—no one will read it. Therefore, if your law firm isn’t already active on email marketing and social media, it’s time to join the pack. An email newsletter is a great way to spread word about new educational blog articles, as well as educational drip email campaigns like the ones included in the James Legal CRM.
Regarding social media: You don’t have to be on every platform—just ones where you will actually reach your audience. This may mean LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube, for instance. Why YouTube? 55% of people thoroughly consume video content, according to HubSpot, and Animoto reports that 4 times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a topic than read about it.
Social media marketing will not automatically make your content marketing efforts more successful—you must develop an audience of the right followers who will engage with your education-based content and increase its reach. For more information about building a social media presence to better reach prospects and promote your content, read:
- 30-Minute-A-Day Social Media Marketing for Busy Attorneys
- The Simple Way to Add Video to Your Attorney Marketing Arsenal
Tip: Don’t forget to leverage your attorney team and support staff to grow your legal practice’s network! A significant number of law firms fail to take advantage of what are essentially their greatest promoters. If team members don’t know what to post on social media, simply phrase the post for them ahead of time and charge them with copying and pasting.
In addition to utilizing social media, email, and your team members to distribute content, try online networks and PR strategies. Reach out to organizations cited in your researched material and ask them to share your content if they think their audience would find it valuable.
Also, join conversations on platforms that cater to your audience. For instance, a divorce and family law attorney may want to join online communities that focus on parenting—an ideal place to engage in relevant conversations and then share appropriate blog articles and e-books.
Overall, the more you put into building communities of prospects and helping them solve their problems while asking nothing in return, the greater the reward.
No time to create great education-based marketing content? Try the James Legal CRM, which includes:
- A specialty-specific content library
- A 100-page educational book for prospects, which comes branded with your logo
- Automated drip email campaigns
- Intuitive reporting dashboards
- One-click call tracking and monitoring
- And more
Learn more about the James Legal CRM today!