Digital marketing is any online channel used to market a good or service. In today’s world, digitally mature companies with a strategy are eight times more likely to gain market share[1]. This is apparent in the meteoric rise in the number of marketing hires of the past five years, and the requirement of more than half of those hires that they have some sort of digital experience[2]. However, 45% of companies surveyed in a Smart Insights poll admitted they don’t have a digital marketing strategy[3]. These figures aren’t specific to legal marketing, but they portend an even wider divide for legal marketers and their trusted service partners.

In November 2018, the Legal Marketing Association, in connection with Good2BSocial, issued a survey of legal marketing professionals to discover trends and best practices in law firms’ use of digital marketing[4]. The heart of the issue, the survey shows, is that while legal marketers see the value in digital, their firms and firm leadership are not jumping on the bandwagon just yet. Which, let’s be honest, is antithetical to the stated goals of these firms to expand client relationships and grow bottom-line revenue.

We all talk about market saturation, competition, and differentiation. But how do your in-house legal marketing teams, solo marketers, or whoever is leading your firm’s marketing efforts, create a solid foundation upon which to achieve success? The answer is simple: don’t be the first to be second – lead the digital wave in law firms and adopt strategies and methods already well-honed in other industries. The following is a nine-step process to develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive digital marketing strategy at your firm.

Determine what you want to accomplish.

First things first, think about what you want to achieve with your digital marketing efforts. Are you looking to:

  • build brand recognition?
  • enhance thought leadership?
  • generate leads?
  • get more engagements?
  • expand relationships with current clients?
  • distinguish your firm from its competitors?

Any and all of these goals is worthwhile, but in reality, you can’t do it all at once. Especially if you want to build a strategy that will last. Pick the top one or two goals and use them as a proof of concept for your digital efforts. In a little bit we’ll evaluate which avenues to use depending on your goal(s) and demographics.

Develop and implement specific guidelines to achieve your goals.

While your firm may want or expect to see immediate results, the truth about your digital marketing efforts is that it will take a minimum of 6-12 months to gain traction, and upwards of two years before you can see and measure results. Because of this, goals should be set, and expectations should be managed by focusing on long-term outcomes and not quick wins.

Your goals must be S.M.A.R.T. Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely.

  • Specific goals uncover the who / what / when / where / why
  • Measurable goals are ones where you identify milestones toward achieving success and key performance indicators and other benchmarks for evaluation.
  • Attainable and Realistic goals are not so lofty that you have no chance. At first, you want to set a goal that could be considered a “gimme,” and over time reach further to stretch beyond you firm’s comfort zone.
  • Finally, goals must be Set a timeframe for achieving your goal and stick to it. If you can’t accomplish what you set out to do in that time, reconsider the scope of your goal or the amount of time it would require to do right.

Define your desired audience.

Digital channels offer the ability to attract and engage with specific groups of people. Through content and online conversations, you can better understand what your audience likes, dislikes, and their opinions (for better or for worse!) In turn, this information will help you to better deliver services and content geared toward your target audience. Take stock of your desired prospective clients’:

  • demographics such as age, location, etc.;
  • positions or jobs they hold;
  • company size;
  • company industry; and
  • the problems that could potentially keep them up at night.

As you flesh out the definitions that encapsulate various groups in your target audience, you will identify prospect personas that can help you further target your message via the appropriate medium.

Identify digital marketing tactics to reach that audience at the right time.

Not all approaches are created equal for each persona. Another part of defining your target personas is to understand their behavior.

Do they research online before buying?

If so, focus efforts on search engine optimization (SEO) and consider investing in a search engine marketing (SEM)/pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to drive users to your website.

Do they spend time on social media?

Each of the main social platforms offers some version of sponsored content or advertising. Like Google’s PPC advertising structure, you can define your advertising budget and see how your advertising spend does by bidding on the value you’re willing to spend by cost-per-click or number of impressions.

Do they want to watch videos or read articles?

Consumption of video content has grown exponentially over the past decade and is one of, if not the, leading content delivery method for quick, “snack-sized” bites of content to inform and engage. Videos are a great way to reinforce your brand message, educate your audience about a specific topic quickly, and reach new audiences.

That being said, videos aren’t actually for everyone. Or for every message. They are tool in your toolbox. Not the tool. Blog articles, white papers and some long-form content are still valuable, especially when they can be broken up into smaller chunks to help create more opportunities for prospects to engage with them. Understanding how to balance content types is critical.

Do they want information delivered to their email inbox for organization and viewing at their convenience?

Of course, there are prospects who will want content curated for them. A digest of the week’s top content around their area of focus; a quarterly newsletter aggregating the key themes and takeaways.

Whatever the case may be, none of these stands alone. Your strategy will require balancing content types and mediums and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Define KPIs and metrics to measure success

Defining KPIs is critical to monitoring the success (or failure) of your digital marketing activities. Most important is achieving consensus between your marketing and leadership teams when defining and measuring KPI’s. Start with a few of the important fundamentals:

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR) – This measure tells you how much impact a piece of digital content had on your prospects. Every click means a visit to your site, the central pillar of your digital marketing strategy. Calculate CTR by dividing the total number of clicks on a piece of content by the total number of impressions.
  • Cost Per Click (CPC) – This measure is critical to understanding the return on investment of your digital advertising spend. CPC is the amount you are charged for your digital advertising each time your online ad is clicked, whether for a PPC campaign, or social media sponsored content.
  • Conversion Rate – Simply put, the conversion rate is the number of leads generated by your digital marketing efforts that became customers/clients. Divide the number of prospects generated by the number of clients you obtained.
  • Return on Investment (ROI) – This metric scares the bejeezus out of many legal marketers and for good reason. As many will be quick to point out, ROI is very difficult to determine in any professional services industry, as a number of activities can play a part in client acquisition. By measuring ROI, we know whether or not our efforts were profitable. So, in essence, it is incumbent upon us to find a way to measure ROI, or we will never stop fighting the uphill climb to achieving equitable footing and a solid place at the strategy table. This is the formula to calculate ROI: (revenue – cost) / cost.

Incorporate automation and personalization.

Now that you know the personas of the targets you are trying to reach, tailor content and outreach so it feels unique and specific to each individual, rather than a mass mailing or broad sweeping campaign. A few quick tips:

  • E-marketing should include personalized subject lines.
  • Don’t send everything you write to everyone on your list. Tailor the audience to the message and vice versa.
  • If investing in a sponsored content campaign on social, be sure to narrow your audience. Bigger is definitely not always better.
  • Create specific content for each medium. Things that go on LinkedIn don’t always make sense for Instagram.
  • Once you’ve got the digital marketing thing down, think about personalizing the journey through your firm’s website. It’s certainly different than e-commerce or product marketing but investigate options to tailor the experience to user groups based on the data and information you are able to collect.

Create content that hits all the high notes.

The content you create has to strike the right tone, express an understanding of your audience, and deliver value. It can take time to get into a rhythm where creating content that achieves all of these things becomes instinctive rather than challenging. But it’s “that simple.” Tone. Understanding. Value.

Prioritize and plan.

First, figure out where you want to start. This may be an informed decision, or it could very well be a shot in the dark. In either case, just start somewhere. You’ll go back and judge whether or not it was the right place to start, but you won’t learn anything if you don’t try.

Next, develop a timeline and build consensus around it. Everyone involved in your firm’s digital marketing decision must be on board with the timeline, and honestly, how long it is going to take to make headway. The only thing you are guaranteed is that you won’t see results overnight.

Last, Create a budget (and stick to it…for real). This is not something you can just throw money at without understanding what it’s going to cost you. Do some competitive intelligence research and figure out what firms of your size may or may not be spending on their digital efforts. Luckily, a lot can be accomplished on a pretty lean budget. With the knowledge of what your firm will tolerate to get started, devise a budget and stick to it!

Evaluate results and do it better next time.

No strategy is going to hit a home run the first time. And if it does, let me know how you did that! You will constantly need to evaluate outcomes. And on that point – keep focused on outcomes, not output. The number of twitter followers you have can’t actually deliver on any of your potential goals. You have to focus on the value derived from your efforts. If, for every 10 blog posts you write, you get one new client engagement, evaluate the subject matter of the blogs and determine what about that content piqued your prospects’ interest. Don’t just start churning out 10 blog posts a week. It’s not a numbers game in that way – it’s about delivering value and insight.

[1]https://www.business2community.com/digital-marketing/7-steps-building-comprehensive-digital-marketing-strategy-infographic-01743648

[2] According to a survey of 300 marketers conducted by McKinley Marketing Partners.

[3]https://www.smartinsights.com/digital-marketing-strategy/

[4]https://good2bsocial.com/2018-law-firm-digital-marketing-survey/