Law Firm Marketing: A Comprehensive Guide to Building a Premium Legal Services Brand

Build a premium law firm brand with these expert strategies and tips.

A blog post on law firm marketing

Do you want to compete with the big-name law firm brands?

Would you like to build a premium legal services firm?

If so, you’re in the right place.

Marketing your law firm can be confusing and time-consuming. You’re busy. We understand. That’s why we created this guide for busy, successful attorneys like you who need marketing help.

In this post, you will discover the most effective law firm marketing strategies and tactics used by the nation’s leading attorneys and firms. And if you don’t have time to implement everything, we can help.

Introduction

Attorneys specialize in law, not business promotion. But love it or hate it, marketing is the key to a thriving law practice.

But marketing is complex and can be confusing, especially in the digital realm.

Where do you start? What should you focus on? And how do you avoid wasting money on marketing that doesn’t work?

I’ll answer these questions in this post—and more.

When you finish reading, you will know how to:

  • build a strong brand that enables your firm to be more competitive and attract better clients
  • leverage two premium brand strategies that will transform the way you promote your legal services
  • use professional marketing tactics to improve customer acquisition results

What you learn in this post applies whether you run a large firm or are a sole proprietor. So, I’ll use the terms “attorney” and “law firm” interchangeably in this post.

Before we go any further, it’s essential to understand a few branding and marketing concepts. Knowing these terms will help you get more value from this post.

Law Firm Marketing Terms

Branding: Most people associate a brand with a logo. But branding is a business development process. Brand development extends beyond an organization’s visual identity and includes other components, such as competitive positioning.

The branding process begins at ideation and never ends.

Brand Identity: The visual and experienced characteristics of a business form its brand identity. An identity helps a business connect with the target and enables consumers to compare brands.

Logos, websites, services, and business philosophy are examples of elements that contribute to a brand’s identity. But, ultimately, consumer perception defines a brand’s identity.

Marketing: Marketing is any activity that promotes a brand and its products or services. The purpose of marketing is to generate leads and sales. Also, please note that marketing and advertising are not the same (see “Advertising” below).

Examples of marketing are ads, speaking engagements, and networking.

Digital marketing describes the promotion of legal services through technology, primarily online. Websites, social media, and search engine advertising are examples of digital marketing tactics.

Marketing Messages: A marketing message prompts the target audience to take an action that moves them closer to becoming a client. Advertisements are the most common marketing messages. But web copy, social media posts, and other promotional content also contain marketing messages.

Advertising: Advertising is a targeted marketing message designed to get leads or make sales.

Conversion: A conversion occurs when a prospect responds positively to a marketing message. Here are examples of conversions:

  • a website visitor signs up for your email list
  • someone downloads a free giveaway on social media
  • a prospect comes in for an appointment and becomes a new client

Now, let’s explore your law firm’s brand and how it sets the stage for marketing success.

Law Firm Marketing: Your Brand

Your brand (or brand identity) is not just a logo and color scheme. It’s the perception clients have of your law practice. Prospective clients use brand identities to make comparisons and buying decisions.

You already have a brand, whether you’re aware of it or not. People are getting an impression of you and your firm right now—even as you read this. So if you want to win more clients and compete against the big-name law firms, it’s critical for your brand to reflect expertise, professionalism and to communicate other influential buying factors such as empathy.

I’ll go into more detail on buying factors in a section that follows.

A brand strategy is a plan for developing and promoting a business brand. A brand strategy empowers your firm to take control of its image and how the target audience perceives it. Brands that align with the audience’s preferences build stronger connections and are more competitive.

Now, let’s dive into two brand strategy concepts that will transform your law firm’s marketing.

Figure 1: the purpose of a brand (source: the golden vineyard branding company)
Figure 1: The Purpose of a Brand (Source: The Golden Vineyard Branding Company)

Law Firm Marketing: The Customer Journey

Did you know the process for hiring an attorney is the same one consumers use to make any purchasing decision?

Attorneys who understand the client’s hiring process hold a distinct advantage over competitors. This section will show how to use the customer journey to improve client acquisition results.

What Is the Customer Journey?

People work through a process to decide which products to purchase or service providers to hire. This process is called the customer journey. The term accurately depicts the path consumers travel as they make buying choices.

Here is an illustration of the customer journey for legal services:

The customer journey law firm marketing
Figure 2: The Customer Journey (Source: The Golden Vineyard Branding Company)

Stages of the Customer Journey Explained

The customer journey consists of stages and takes place consciously and subconsciously. While the thought process varies slightly from one industry to another, the same principles apply to all.

Each customer journey stage represents a prospect’s mindset as they decide which attorney or law firm to hire.

Here’s a summary of the customer journey stages:

Connection: The customer journey begins when the prospect first encounters the attorney or law firm. This first point of contact occurs in various ways, such as through an ad, referral, or website.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. So, you must impact the prospect in this stage. A well-developed, professional brand builds a faster, stronger connection with the target audience.

READ MORE: How to Create a Brand Identity in 7 Simple Steps

Cultivation: The cultivation stage is often the longest. Law firms and attorneys must stay top-of-mind so prospects will think of them first should they need legal services in the future. In this stage, the goal is to build affinity and authority while reducing the trust barrier.

Consideration: Prospective clients in the consideration stage have an intent to hire and are selecting from a pool of two or more law firm brands. Brand differentiation is a primary motivator in this stage because prospects usually gravitate to the firm that has established unique value. As a result, the attorney or law firm with the strongest brand position wins.

Conversion (not shown): Conversion means the client has chosen you or your firm to represent them. Now, you must deliver on the expectations developed in the previous customer journey stages. Client onboarding and service processes are vital in the conversion stage.

How to Use the Customer Journey to Create a Law Firm Marketing Strategy

All prospective clients, including referrals, use the customer journey process to decide which attorney or law firm to employ, but not all are in the same stage.

For example, not everyone you meet will be ready to hire an attorney. Therefore, it’s critical to make a strong first impression on these prospects and stay top-of-mind.

Other potential clients might have an attorney on retainer. Showing these prospects the benefits of switching may persuade them to make a change.

The customer journey allows you to connect with a prospect based on their decision-making process—a much more effective and reliable way to gain new clients.

To demonstrate how the customer journey transforms a client acquisition strategy, let’s examine the typical approach to law firm marketing.

Many law firms and attorneys develop their marketing strategy by asking, “Where would a potential client search for an attorney?”

The typical response to this question is to create a list of places new clients may be found. For example, most people watch television, some are members of professional organizations, and almost everyone uses the Internet. So, most attorneys advertise on television, build a website, and become members of organizations to get new clients.

At first glance, this is a logical starting point. But this broad-brush marketing approach makes finding new clients more difficult.

Here’s why:

1. Most law firms and attorneys look for clients in the same places and advertise using the same tactics. This creates market saturation, making it more challenging for everyone to get new clients.

2. Some of the marketing tactics you use might work, but most won’t. The only way to find out is through trial and error. But trial and error is not the most efficient way to promote your business. It’s also difficult to track the return on investment, which means you’re more apt to waste money on ineffective marketing tactics. For example, billboards are expensive, but tracking the number of new clients you get from them is difficult.

So, rather than trying to figure out where potential clients look for attorneys, it’s best to consider:

“How do clients decide which attorney to hire?”

This question puts you in the client’s shoes. As a result, you can create a law firm marketing strategy that targets the prospective client’s thought process. Thus, instead of using the same marketing tactics every law firm employs, you can attract clients with specific marketing tactics designed for prospects in each customer journey stage.

Most law firms take the same marketing approach using the same tactics. However, a better strategy is to align the marketing message with the client’s frame of mind.

All marketing messages are designed to generate leads and new clients. Therefore, the more specific the marketing message is, the more impact it makes.

Targeted messaging shows clients you understand them because you’re “speaking their language”. Specific messaging connects quicker. Brands that use customized marketing messages are also better at building affinity and trust.

The words you use mean everything in a court of law. The same is true for marketing.

Knowing what to say and how to say it makes all the difference.

Now, let’s see how combining the customer journey with buying factors can influence prospective clients to choose you over a competitor.

Law Firm Marketing: Buying Factors

It seems the law firms and attorneys with the largest marketing budgets get the most clients. That’s because they have the resources for constant brand awareness campaigns such as television spots, online ads, and billboard advertising.

But a firm’s marketing budget does not always reflect the quality of its legal services.

Buying factors help you level the competitive playing field. Buying factors are linked to an individual’s preferences and influence their purchasing decisions.

There are five categories of buying factors for service providers. These apply to attorneys and law firms as well.

They are:

  • Expertise
  • Reliability
  • Professionalism
  • Empathy
  • Fees

Clients use several buying factors to determine which attorney or law firm to hire. Therefore, the key to effective law firm marketing is to leverage the right buying factors to your advantage.

It’s also essential to understand how to create buying factors to promote legal services. The process is much different for services and physical products.

To illustrate, I’ll use cars as an example. Car shoppers can assess the quality of an automobile by its physical characteristics. Color, horsepower, options, and fuel efficiency are examples of a car’s tangible attributes.

Car brands focus on promoting specific car attributes that appeal to the target market. For example, people who buy from BMW often have different priorities and resources than consumers who choose Hyundai. Maybe Hyundai’s customers don’t value luxury cars, are conservative with finances, or simply can’t afford a BMW. It doesn’t matter—buying factors are different for each audience.

Physical product attributes are easier to identify and communicate because they’re tangible. But most service provider attributes—including legal services—are intangible. So, it is more difficult for prospective clients to assess the intangible qualities of a service.

I’ll use another example to clarify. It’s challenging to evaluate the quality of two brain surgeons using physical attributes. You must learn more about each to determine which surgeon is best.

To decide, you might ask a few questions regarding each doctor’s experience and expertise to figure out which is most qualified. Getting to know the doctor personally also has a significant impact on the decision.

Still, talking to the surgeon may not be enough to help make a confident choice. So, you may research each one online to look for other indicators that the surgeons are qualified to perform a successful operation.

The same decision-making process applies to law firms and attorneys.

Prospects need indicators that show them you are the most qualified attorney to help them. Buying factors enable you to communicate these indicators.

Fees as Buying Factors

Notice that fees are last on the above list of buying factors. Why?

The price of legal services is not the top priority for most clients—even if they say it is.

How can I make this claim?

Because the price of an item or service is relative to its perceived value. For example, most service providers charge what they think their service is “worth”. So, with this mindset, you would charge $4,000 for “$4,000 worth” of service.

Now, what if the service delivers $10,000 in value, yet the fee is still $4,000?

Though the price is the same, clients are more likely to choose the service with higher perceived value.

But why would anyone charge $4,000 for $10,000 worth of service?

To answer this question, one must release any preconceived ideas about “value”.

Value is subjective. For example, I may value an item, but it’s worthless to you, or vice versa. So, is it not true that each individual defines the actual value of a product or service?

When you create higher perceived value for your legal services, your fees—while completely not irrelevant—become less of a factor in the hiring process.

Here is the key to pricing: People will pay more if you show them why they should.

The actual value of legal services depends on the customer’s perception of them.

Law firms and attorneys with legal services that appear average or ordinary usually face more price resistance than those with higher perceived value. A brand strategy empowers you to build unique perceived value for your legal services. The more unique a professional service provider appears to be, the more difficult they are to replace. This increases brand value—and profitability.

READ MORE: Price Positioning: Could You DOUBLE Your Prices?

Examples of Buying Factors in Law Firm Marketing

You will find examples in this section that show you how to use each buying factor in marketing, advertising, sales, and service to win more clients.

Expertise

As an attorney, you’re paid for your expertise. However, prospects aren’t qualified to evaluate an attorney’s expertise because they don’t know how. So, they need your help.

Telling clients, “You can trust me,” or “I will get you results,” does not influence the client’s hiring decision. Why? Because every attorney makes these same claims, including your competitors. So, your prospects hear the same promises from everyone, which means no one stands out.

Instead, clients want to hire a proven expert. Here are a few ways to build your expertise through marketing:

  • Blog about current laws, cases, and guidelines relevant to your field of law.
  • Become a member of legal organizations that enhance your authority.
  • Provide educational content for clients on your website.
  • Promote trust indicators—such as badges (i.e., Better Business Bureau) and testimonials as much as possible. Place them on your website, social media, and other marketing content.

Reliability

Being reliable means clients can depend on the accuracy of the information you give them, keeping appointments on time, and coming through when they need you most.

Here are some examples of buying factors linked to a law firm’s reliability:

  • A firm or attorney files the proper paperwork well before the deadline and reviews it with the client beforehand.
  • The attorney responds to calls on their mobile phone after hours.
  • The information given to the client is up-to-date, and examples of how it will support the case have been discussed.

You can promote your firm’s reliability by sharing these business practices with your audience through marketing content.

Professionalism

The degree of an attorney’s or law firm’s professionalism is not determined by one element but by many, such as:

  • A process for scheduling, confirming, and conducting appointments
  • You and your staff present yourselves like a winning law team
  • Your office space and website reflect success and authority

Communication is a crucial component of professionalism. Here are questions that help clients assess an attorney’s professionalism:

  • Are explanations of fees, procedures, and expectations clear?
  • Do they provide written documentation, contracts, and updates at the proper times?
  • Do they return calls promptly and discuss all aspects of a case?

Communication is a primary buying factor in every industry. But, unfortunately, one of the most commonly reported criticisms of attorneys is a lack of communication and clarity.

Empathy

Whether your not your clients show it, they are experiencing fear when they come to you. They’re concerned about losing their life savings, businesses, relationships, or health. Sometimes, a client’s life may be at stake.

Attorneys learn to compartmentalize emotion and rely on the facts. Critical thinking pays dividends in the courtroom. However, clients need to see your human side, too.

Emotion is a powerful human motivator. It drives people to kill, steal, and lie. Emotion is also the most powerful buying factor in law firm marketing. Showing people you understand the seriousness of their situation and that you will fight for justice makes a tremendous impact.

Of course, I don’t recommend using empathy to manipulate a client. However, showing genuine compassion is not manipulative. It’s human. Bonding with the client on a relational level is often the deciding factor in the hiring process.

But how can a law firm or attorney build an empathetic connection with a prospective client?

  • Ask probing questions that enable you to understand the depth of a client’s needs.
  • Listen and take notes. Then, be able to recall the information the client gave you without having to ask a second time. This also shows attention to detail.
  • Follow up. So many times, after the case is over, the client-attorney relationship ends. But maintaining contact with them will turn them into raving fans. And these raving fans—also called brand advocates—become long-term clients and a source of referrals.

With your law firm’s marketing strategy in place, you’re ready to put the plan into action.

Law Firm Marketing Tips and Tactics

Every strategy needs an action plan.

In this section, you will learn how to use the most common marketing tactics to generate leads and new clients.

I’ll give you a few professional tips before you begin, followed by an overview of the most popular marketing tactics.

Tips

Think like the client.

The key to successful client acquisition is to put yourself in the client’s shoes. A client-first mindset will help you create a strong link between your services and the client’s needs.

In the section above (“What Is the Customer Journey?”), I revealed three distinct prospect groups. So, each marketing message should align with a prospect’s frame of mind.

Here are some examples:

  • For prospects who aren’t looking for an attorney now, try to add them to your email list. Sending newsletters and updates each week or month keeps you top-of-mind.
  • For prospects researching attorneys, supply educational content that builds trust and authority.
  • When you’re talking with a prospect who is trying to decide between you and a competitor, show them why they should choose you over the competition. Many times, this is as simple as demonstrating how your approach gives them a higher chance of winning.

Start with two or three tactics before taking on others.

Marketing your practice becomes overwhelming when you try to do too much. So, pick two or three tactics you’re comfortable with and master them before moving on to others.

I advise clients to find something they enjoy and turn it into a marketing tactic. If you like to write, write blog posts and e-books. If you would rather speak at events, make frequent appearances. It’s essential to find something you want to do because it will take time to penetrate the noisy marketplace. Consistency is a must for successful marketing, regardless of the industry.

Test all marketing tactics and adjust.

The purpose of marketing is to generate leads and clients. Monitoring website analytics, conversions, and other data will help you determine what is working and what isn’t. Vanity metrics (such as “likes” on social media) may bring an occasional client, but they’re useless without consistent conversions.

Analytics can get technical, so you may need help interpreting them.

Also, calculate your sales cycle and factor it into your marketing strategy. Of course, many variables affect sales cycles, but you should always track how long it takes to turn a prospect into a client.

A defined sales cycle helps you improve the results you get from marketing tactics. Without a consistent sales cycle, it’s impossible to determine if a marketing tactic is working, needs to be improved, or stopped altogether.

Tactics

Content Marketing

Over four million blog posts are published every day, and five hundred hours of video content are posted on YouTube per minute. In addition, the number of online publications and media channels continues to grow at an astronomical rate.

These facts may cause you to wonder if the world needs another blog post. The answer is no. But the world definitely needs another good blog post.

The key to content marketing is to develop content with a purpose. Craft all content (i.e., blogs, videos, and resources) with a target client in mind and educate the reader while positioning you as an expert.

Here are some content marketing tips:

  • Plan content in advance. Do your research and make each piece count—quality trumps quantity. For example, publishing a fantastic blog post once per month is much better than cranking out mediocre posts each week.
  • Answer questions clients might have about your area of law. Be sure to cite sources.
  • Combine video and blogging—some people like to read, others like to watch. Create content the audience can consume in a variety of ways. For instance, you can write a blog post and share the same content with a quick video.
  • Share law updates (be sure to provide a clear and concise explanation), case studies, and FAQs for specific legal issues. As always, avoid legal jargon.

It’s critical to create content for prospects in each stage of the customer journey. Here are some examples using real estate law:

Connection Stage: A free download that provides insight into real estate laws for home buyers.

Consideration Stage: A series of resources, such as closing document templates and other legal forms for residential homeowners, including a free consultation.

Conversion Stage: A case study showing how you helped a client resolve a real estate suit. The case study reveals your unique approach, demonstrates your attention to detail, and highlights staff support.

READ MORE: How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy That Actually Works

Social Media

Social media audiences are massive. Here are the most popular channels and number of users on each:

  • Facebook: 2.9 billion
  • YouTube: 2.3 billion
  • Instagram: 1.3 billion
  • TikTok: 732 million
  • Pinterest: 459 million
  • Twitter: 396 million
  • LinkedIn: 310 million

The easy access to large audiences makes social media an obvious avenue for business promotion. But many law firms and attorneys are surprised at how difficult it is to reach people on social media. That’s because people rarely log on to social media to conduct business (LinkedIn is the exception).

To be successful with social media, treat engagement on platforms like a conversation in a café. For example, potential clients might go to a café. So, you go to the cafe to get coffee and strike up a conversation with a few people. With any luck, you will walk out with a couple of leads.

But the conversation in the café—and on social media—must be natural. If you go up to someone standing in line for coffee, introduce yourself, and start talking business, they will probably shun you like the plague.

So, for your social media marketing to be effective:

  • Have a plan. Posting random content sends mixed messages and confuses the audience. Instead, pick a theme for each week and create posts related to that theme.
  • Post relevant content and link it to your services. For example, if there is a trending news story, post about it on social and start a conversation. How can you use it to teach the audience an interesting lesson in your area of law?
  • Be human. Avoid industry topics and jargon your audience won’t understand.
  • Know which platforms your clients use. You won’t have success posting on Facebook if your best clients are on LinkedIn.

To keep your legal services brand fresh and engaging, you must use various content themes.

Some examples are:

  • Live events
  • Behind-the-scenes case studies
  • Client testimonials and interviews
  • Industry news
  • Quick legal tips
  • Polls and surveys

Experiment with each.

Start with one or two social platforms and build momentum before moving to another. Over time, you may find your audience responds more on one platform than on any other. In the end, you will be more successful using the one conducive to your business and audience.

SEO

Because of its technical nature, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a frustrating and confusing subject for most businesses. But search engines are better at interpreting the context of content and websites.

This is good news for attorneys who want to use SEO to gain free website traffic. However, while the technical aspects of SEO still matter, the quality of content is critical.

To grow organic traffic with SEO:

  • Keep it simple—use relevant keyword terms people search for online to create content topics. For example, what words clients would use to describe a legal problem or how they might ask you a question? Use their language in your post. Again, avoid legal jargon.
  • Run pay-per-click ads if you can afford them. While costs can add up, paid advertising is becoming essential in the crowded search engine world.
  • Researching search terms via web browsers enables you to create content people are looking for instead of guessing what they might like.

One way to discover content topics is to pull up your web browser (i.e., Google Chrome) and begin typing in a search phrase. As you type, the browser will make suggestions. This happens because the suggested phrases are actual search terms people have entered into the browser.

Here’s an example:

Search terms that provide topics for law firm marketing content.
Figure 3: Google search results for “how do lawyers…” reveal potential content topics.

I typed in “how do lawyers…” in this screenshot, and the search bar filled in the rest (shown in blue highlighted or bold text). These suggestions from the web browser are phrases people have entered into the search bar.

So, using this list, you might write a blog post on “How Do Lawyers Bill Hours”. Providing clarity around invoicing will accomplish a few marketing goals:

  1. Explaining the billing process offers transparency.
  2. It reduces resistance to fees.
  3. The post would position you as a trusted resource because readers would likely share the content with others.

Also, notice that Internet users are more likely to use “lawyer” instead of “attorney”.

Search engines want trustworthy online brands. A few years ago, Google issued the EAT (Expertise, Authority, and Trust) update to prioritize websites that focus on becoming a reliable online resource.

Websites

Your website is the most powerful communication tool you have. So, your website should build brand authority and align with your target audience’s preferences.

Unfortunately, most websites are nothing more than a brochure for the firm. But brochure-style websites are no more effective than flyers on windshields. To create a branded website that generates more engagement from your audience, you must build it to convert.

Here are some website design tips:

  • Hire a designer with brand strategy or marketing management experience. It isn’t necessary to find a designer that specializes in websites for law services. It’s more important to find someone who understands how to communicate the right buying factors through the website’s design.
  • Build a site that aligns with your target audience’s preferences. Think about what information people want when they arrive at your site. For example, many law firm websites tout the firm’s expertise and make generic benefit claims. While establishing expertise and benefit claims is necessary, you must also communicate a true value proposition.
  • Create a “conversion path” by providing visitors with free resources and other valuable content. Ask for an email list in exchange for free resources. Over time, you will build a list of potential clients. Then, stay in touch with subscribers using monthly or weekly emails.
  • Develop content that personalizes you. For example, provide legal tips with videos. The videos give visitors a feel for who you are before they meet you.
  • Include testimonials and references on your website, as well as certifications and accreditations. These are trust indicators that reinforce legitimacy in the visitor’s mind.

Email List

Almost every business wants to collect email addresses, and for a good reason. An email list continues to be an effective way to cultivate new clients.

Here are some email marketing tips to help you build a list of potential clients:

  • Send updates to your email subscribers routinely—at least once per month—to keep momentum and build brand familiarity.
  • Updates should be relevant and valuable. So, to keep the ideas fresh, it’s best to plan content and give yourself plenty of time to create it. Remember, quality trumps quantity.
  • Extend offers for free consultations in each email. Of course, people won’t always take you up on the offer, but this lets them know you will be available when they’re ready.
  • Avoid sending too many emails. Given the number of marketing emails clients receive, fewer may make more impact.

Other Law Firm Marketing Tips

Here are a few other comments on business development tactics:

  • Use client satisfaction and information-gathering surveys to stay current on client needs and interests. This will help you improve your service. It’s also a valuable resource for future content.
  • Develop a consistent sales process for your staff. The client’s experience should be consistent from the first connection to “case closed”.
  • Define conversions for every marketing tactic—such as networking events, websites, social media posts. Decide what action you want the prospective client to take in advance. With goals, every marketing tactic will be more efficient.

Conclusion

If you have questions about anything in this post or need help marketing your law firm, contact me personally at chris@goldenvineyardbranding.com.

I would also like to extend an invitation for a free consultation to show you how we can help you build a premium legal services brand. Click this link to schedule a call.

Until next time,

Chris

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Chris Fulmer

Director, The Golden Vineyard Branding Company
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