You Are The Product
Not just your knowledge and advice, but your soft skills and personality. As a lawyer, you are selling yourself. You know yourself better than anyone else. Throughout your life you have been constantly told your strengths and weakness. On a scale of unscrupulous peddlers, I would rank digital marketers slightly above your local crack dealer.
Maybe you are warm and welcoming. Perhaps you are an assertive straight-shooter. Whatever these distinctive traits about you are, you are definitely aware of them and can use your awareness of them to your advantage. You want to market in a way that plays to your strengths both as a lawyer and as a person.
You want your marketing to reflect your office, your brand, and ultimately you want your marketing to reflect you.
You Know Your Clients’ Needs
When a client walks into my office, I can almost always predict the type of questions they will be asking. After eleven year of doing this, I have gotten it down to science. Not only that, the extensive keyword research that I have conducted gives me insight into what people are looking for in a lawyer.
As a lawyer, you are more acutely aware of the problem that you are retained to solve for a client than any marketer can be. Additionally, you are aware of the way clients are looking to you to solve that problem.
Some clients are looking for great communication. Others want to be as uninvolved as possible. Still others want to know that you will keep their matters private and discreet and that it will not leave the four walls of your office. Digital marketing expert is a distinction so accessible that it is meaningless.
The practice of law is not just about the services you deliver, but also about the manner in which you deliver them. Knowing what you know about the specific demographic that you serve gives you the ability to uniquely target them for leads and conversions by showing them that you are attuned to their needs and desired outcomes.
It Is Your Brand And It Should Reflect You
If you are a casual, jeans and no tie law office and attract clients because of this, you want to let the world know your style. Your style; however, is not only reflected in your photography, it is displayed throughout your entire website.
Not only is your style displayed in your website, it is displayed throughout your office with its décor, it is displayed in your attire, it is shown in your culture. Your style is your brand. When you are at the helm of your marketing, you are able to pay attention to all these small design and branding factors. This allows you to present a cohesive and well-coordinated brand.
Some marketers have an image of lawyers based on what they see on television shows that frequently portray us inaccurately. You want your brand to represent you and not some generic big city TV lawyer with a billable hour that is more than your weekly salary.
There are many ways that you can have your personal touch on your website. One way is by writing good copy. If your office is playful and modern, you want that to come across. Maybe you use the term fee or pay instead of retainer.The fact of the matter is that digital marketing is not some secret esoteric knowledge that was revealed to a few mystic SEO gurus thousands of years ago when they climbed mount Google. We lawyers need to stop acting like it is.
Perhaps your office is a team of intellectuals who graduated top of the class at the top law schools (not the University of Windsor). You might be extremely serious and conservative. That should also come across in your website. The best way to ensure that this is done is by being involved and in charge of your marketing.
Your Marketing Company Does Not Know Your Governing Body’s Advertising Rules
Every now and again, I hear of a lawyer that has run afoul of the rules of marketing of their bar. It is rarely deliberate. Often times this is a lawyer that has completely and ignorantly delegated their marketing to a third party.
The lawyer may not know that they are in breach until they receive notice from the law association. Full disclosure – I have been victim of this once. The breach was not particular serious and it was more of a complaint that it was a breach.
I received a call from my local governing body and I was completely unaware that the American company I had hired had created a write-up on Google about me. I only found it by searching on Google as it had not been put on my website. As a lawyer, you are more acutely aware of the problem that you are retained to solve for a client than any marketer can be. Additionally, you are aware of the way clients are looking to you to solve that problem.
The rules of marketing vary from place to place, but they are often comprehensive and sometimes archaic and irrational. In any case, they need to be followed and falling short of them can really land a lawyer in serious trouble.
Along the same lines is the fact that we lawyers are bound by incredibly high ethical standards. Your marketing company is not. Marketers may be willing to do things that you may find unethical, either personally or professionally.
The high level of oversight that we lawyers are subject to leads me to my next point, which is that while we are subject to oversight, digital marketers are not.
Digital Marketing Is Unregulated
There are few professions that require the level of rigorous and continued professional training of law. Think about it, we all know someone who didn’t pass the bar the first time or has gotten in a little (or a lot of) trouble for transgressing the rules of professional conduct. Now think of this. When was the last time a marketing company was disciplined or disbarred for unethical conduct? That is right, never!
What courses or certifications are required before someone can call themselves a digital marketing expert? Again nothing. Anyone that has watched a few YouTube videos and has the confidence to open up shop can easily call themselves a “digital marketing expert.”
This expert can then start sending you unsolicited requests on social media or spamming your inbox with promises to put you on the first page of Google (even though they themselves may not be). A sketchy digital marketer wants nothing more than an ignorant lawyer.
Digital marketing expert is a distinction so accessible that it is meaningless. This point became ever so clear to me when I realized I knew more than many of these experts that I was paying to make me rank on Google. Despite paying 5 different companies thousands of dollars over a few years, the person that ultimately got me to the number one spot on Google was me.
When I got there, I realized one thing. It is not that hard to learn. It was not as hard as law school, it is not as hard as the rule against perpetuities, it is not as hard as writing the Multi-state Bar Exam or addressing a jury.
The greatest trick that marketing companies pull on us is telling us that we should go about billing our hourly rates and leave the heavy lifting to them. They try and tell us that what they do is too complex for simple lawyers like us to understand, thus we should pay them thousands a month. On a scale of unscrupulous peddlers, I would rank digital marketers slightly above your local crack dealer. And you may think that your current marketer is providing you good value, but you can never know if you do not know what good value is.
Let me ask you this, who are considered the intellectual heavyweights of society? Is it your shady, predatory digital marketing guru. No – Doctors and you guessed it lawyers! Which brings me to my next point.
If You Are Smart Enough To Pass The Bar You Are Smart Enough To Learn Digital Marketing
Just because you may not know very much about digital marketing does not mean it is difficult. Your ignorance about a topic may very well be artificially inflating the level of complexity that you assign to it in your mind.
The fact of the matter is that digital marketing is not some secret esoteric knowledge that was revealed to a few mystic SEO gurus thousands of years ago when they climbed mount Google. We lawyers need to stop acting like it is.
A sketchy digital marketer wants nothing more than an ignorant lawyer. In this way, the marketer can charge you large sums for small tweaks that happen to make big differences. If you cannot objectively measure what caused your increase in leads, your marketer can take credit for it and bill you for an increase in phone calls that is actually attributable to a news spot you did or your election to a local board. …your brand. No one knows it like you do and no one can express it accurately without your input…
If you are completely ignorant as to the direct effect (if any) that the marketing guru is having on your sales, they may be falsely taking credit for any sort of increase in leads.
Though foreign to what a lot of us learn in law school, basic digital marketing is relatively simple and can be done in a weekend by watching a ton of YouTube videos and reading a few blogs. That is how I learned.
Not only are you smart enough to learn digital marketing, you are also too smart not to. It makes no sense to purchase a product without at least knowing the particulars about it. You also need to be able to verify that the deliverables are being delivered. Even if you are getting a lot of leads and your business is growing as a result of the marketing, you still need to be able to verify that you are getting good value for your dollar and that the services you are paying for are being provided efficiently.
You Will Get Scammed
I have been scammed and you could be too. This is yet another reason why you need to have enough knowledge of the fundamentals to be at the helm of you digital marketing. Let me tell you what you should learn:
WordPress – basic WordPress. Learn how to login to the back end of your website and correct basic things and paste basic blogs. Once you realize this you will know that it makes no sense to pay $50 to your marketing company for a blog post or an address edit. This literally takes about 90 seconds to do, but some companies will bill you for it. I don’t care how much your hourly rate is, it does not equal $50 for 90 seconds of work There is a beginners guide to wordpress here. You can also find a YouTube course here.
SEO – you need to learn basic on page SEO. What is SEO? Search engine Optimization. Basically, SEO is the process making your website appear higher in Google searches. You should Learn how to put in the proper descriptions to your pictures and images so that Google recognizes them. Again, it may sound complex, but this is something that is rather easy to do and there are a lot of SEO plugins that can assist you with this. A YouTube guide can easily give you a crash course in this. Here is another link for SEO.
If you cannot recognize basic SEO, you will not be able to evaluate whether or not companies are optimizing for the search terms that you want. Also, on the realm of SEO, NEVER commit to a long-term contract without a guarantee. Do not pay a monthly fee for a promise that on one unspecified day you will rank on Google.
Once you get to the first spot on Google, it is less likely that you will keep paying for SEO services. Marketing companies know this, thus, there is a massive conflict of interest when you are dealing with them. If they solve your problem, they may lose you as a customer.
PPC (Pay per click marketing) –These are ads, (typically google ads where you pay when people click them). This is probably the area of marketing that I know the very least about. One thing that I do know is that it is imperative that you own and have total control of your Google PPC accounts (or any other account for that matter). If you do not, you could be held hostage by the marketing company that is controlling your campaign when the honeymoon is over.
The second thing that I would advise to avoid is a common PPC scam where you marketer bills you a percentage of what you spend on advertising. So, this is how it works with pay per click marketing. You pay Google and then you pay the person that is managing your account. If you are managing your own account you only pay Google. There are two ways to bill for account management.
One is a percentage of the total spend. So, for example a company can say that they want 25% of the total amount that you pay for both advertising and management. This is commonly referred to as the “total spend”. This means that if you are paying $4000/month, the company will take $1000 of it and only apply $3000 to pay Google. Anytime you want to increase your budget for actual ads, their profit necessarily increases, even if they are not doing any more work. This is because the agreement they have with your makes their fee relative to your purchase from Google.
Again, this incentivizes the company to get you to spend as much as possible so that they make as much as possible. I have seen companies artificially increase the spend by placing ads in areas where lawyers do not practice. Have you ever noticed adds from a law firm in another country popping up where you are? This is usually the result of bad spend management by crappy companies. (Admittedly though, sometimes you have multi-jurisdictional law offices).
Learn the importance of owning all of your digital property. The passwords, access, and administrator privileges should be in your control. Own your hosting, domain name, your website, your photos and all your intellectual property. If you do not own this stuff, as soon as a disagreement occurs between you and your marketing company you will be at their mercy. They can shut you down in a flash and extort you for thousands. Personally, I use WPengine for hosting. It is a little bit more expensive; however, it will provide you with secure, fast service and free SSL certificates.
Tying It All Together
You have intimate knowledge of your practice. You know your profession. You know your clients. You know their needs. You have a view of how you want to present and be perceived. The expression of this knowledge is your brand. No one knows it like you do and no one can express it accurately without your input.
Additionally, ignorance is more expensive than it is blissful. An uninformed consumer is a sitting duck for unscrupulous and predatory marketers and law society regulators. At the very least, you should know the basics of marketing and advertising. If you find that challenging, book a quick consultation and I would love to get you started completely free.