Special Guest: Jason Marsh
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For many attorneys, digital marketing is less a driver of revenue than the perceived bane of their existence. They hate it.
I can’t help but think that some of this hate comes from the traditional “we hate what we don’t understand,” but in reality it goes deeper than that. There are, quite frankly, a lot of attorneys who simply don’t like the concept of advertising. Among that group are also attorneys who view advertising in the internet to be almost unclean.
This post is not for them. I have come to accept that I’m not going to convert everybody. For the rest – those who have avoided digital marketing because they just don’t know where to begin, my podcast interview with digital marketing expert Jason Marsh of Marsh8 could be revelatory.
What is Digital Marketing?
First, I need to say that this might have been one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve done, particularly from an editing standpoint. I always put together the outline for my blog post while I edit – a “two birds, one stone” concept. Usually it takes about twice the length of the podcast. This one was much longer, because as I was writing my outline, I was actually amazed at how much Jason covered.
I know, it’s cheesy. Give me a break, I’m tired!
So what do we mean when we talk about “digital marketing”? Well, we’re talking about many of the ways that simply didn’t exist in the proverbial “back then.” Before the advent of internet advertising, your options for advertising were fairly limited: TV, radio, newspaper, Yellow Pages, billboards.
Moreover, those options tended to not be very cheap. And what did you get for your large ad-spend? You had no idea, because your ability to truly measure your investment return was limited. And you were targeting the general public. Not very precise.
Digital marketing is almost the polar opposite of traditional marketing. You get the benefit of focus – both in your ad copy due to the short duration of ad campaigns, and of your audience. More important, the ability to track detailed analytics might finally end the common advertising adage:
“I know that I’m wasting half of my advertising budget, I just don’t know which half!”
Why Do You Advertise?
Before you even consider starting an ad campaign, you need a strategy. Key to a strategy is a goal. Who cares how you plan to get someplace if you’re not sure where you’re going? Also, don’t fall back on some amorphous “make more money” goal. You need to have goals that are measurable.
There are generally two types of digital marketing campaigns that lawyers should know about: Direct Response Marketing and Branding. Each has a unique purpose, and is measured differently.
Direct Response Marketing
The idea here is that you’re trying to get someone to do something specific in order to generate revenue. Call your office, download your eBook, whatever. This type of marketing depends heavily on data to determine its effectiveness.
Your ultimate goal here is a “conversion” – when someone takes a specific action that we consider valuable in moving a prospective client towards signing up. You’ll be tracking clicks, cost-per-click, conversions, clicks-per-conversion. Depending on your goal, such as “get them to call us,” you’ll set up your analytics to figure out the best way to get you there.
When your marketing isn’t necessarily about getting someone to call you immediately, but rather to plant a seed in their mind for when they will need you, you’re probably more interested in branding (of which one of my podcasts covers in depth).
Tracking for brand marketing is much more difficult, and more akin to traditional marketing. However, it can be done. Here, impressions – the number of times your ad is shown to your targeted audience will be key. So will surveys of prospective clients calling your office about how they learned of your law firm.
Jason Marsh’s “Two Buckets” of Digital Marketing
In the podcast, Jason discusses that digital marketing can really be broken down into two primary categories, which he describes as “buckets”: organic and paid.
1) Organic Digital Marketing
This is the stuff you do yourself. Included in this bucket are Content Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, Email Marketing, and much of your Social Media Marketing. The hallmark of Organic Digital Marketing is that you control how your ads get in front of your targeted audience’s eyes.
Your Digital Marketing Content Strategy
In my opinion, your organic digital marketing strategy starts here – create high quality content. For most lawyers and law firms, this is going to mean putting together a website and, most likely, a blog. Your website, while technically a marketing tool itself (and one you may have paid handsomely for), it’s little more than an online billboard without effective promotion.
Search Engine Optimization
One of the most important ways to get your content in front of your target audience is to make sure they can find it when they’re looking for it. That’s where Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO,” is critical. Optimizing for search engines means that someone will find you when they look on Google, Bing, Yahoo, or… who are we kidding? When they look on Google.
There are two primary factors that determine how you rank in a Google search: Relevancy and Authority.
You need to be relevant for your topic. What is your topic? If you don’t know that, then you need to start over. Think about what your prospective clients are searching for when they come online. Are they looking for information about starting a business? Then you need your content to be relevant to that topic.
Some might suggest keyword intensive posts are key. They’re wrong. Or, at the very best, really outdated. Like a reference to Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Write great content that is relevant. Use relevant keywords in key places like your title and your subject headings. However, Google can see if you’re just “stuffing” in keywords, and you won’t like the result.
Thousands of websites are probably “relevant” to your prospective clients, so how does Google rank them? By authority. How do you get authority? Well, the best way is to get other established thinkers in your field, usually called “influencers,” to link to your content.
This takes time, so start with what you know. Create great content. Lawyers are uniquely suited to do this! You know a lot about a specific subject, so write as much as you possibly can about it, in great detail, that can be of actual, substantive help to your prospective clients.
You might not get a ton of links immediately, but if you build it, they will come.
While a lot of people think that email marketing is a little passe, it can play a critical role in your organic digital marketing if done right. Critically, it must be done right!
First, use your own list. Don’t use someone else’s list or buy one online. You should only email to people who want your stuff. Second, don’t send out promotional or spammy stuff. The most successful email marketing moves a potential client along the “Marketing Funnel” one step at a time. Be patient.
As the brilliant marketer Seth Godin describes in his book “Permission Marketing,” when someone gives you their email address, they’re giving you permission to talk to them. When someone gives you that permission, make it worth their time by making it about them and what they need.
Not about you!
2) Paid Digital Marketing
Paid digital marketing, on the other hand, tends to be more like traditional types of marketing. You’re paying to get your ad in front of your prospective clients, hoping they interact or develop more brand awareness.
Types of Paid Digital Marketing
Unlike Organic Digital Marketing, which relies on you reaching out to your prospective clients through a variety of methods, Paid Digital Marketing is essentially using the same method to reach people, but through different channels.
The most prevalent form of paid digital marketing is a Pay-Per-Click (“PPC”) ad campaign. This, as should be painfully obvious, is when you pay every time someone clicks on your ad. Other similar types include Pay-Per-Impression ads, which… yeah, you get it.
One of the most popular paid digital marketing avenues is through Google’s AdWords. You pick one or more relevant keywords or phrases, such as “Boston Personal Injury” or “Houston Divorce Lawyers,” and your ad will be displayed by Google wherever their ads can be found (hint: everywhere). Be advised though, “lawyer” and “attorney” are routinely among the top 10 most expensive keywords to use!
Along with advertising with Google, you can get your ad on relevant websites. Look above the content in this blog and you’ll see a banner ad (I do have to afford to run this blog, after all). The New York Times and many other popular websites feature banner ads for basically every product and service available.
Some of these ads are run through a Google AdWords-like system, and some are run by the individual site (I use Google).
Paid Social Media
Most people think of Social Media as an organic method of advertising, but those days are ending. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, they’re all companies that need to make money. Facebook, especially, has turned to limiting the access you have to your followers’ news feeds considerably. Unless you’re willing to pay.
Fortunately, social media advertising is still incredibly cheap, and tends to make available amazing targeting options and data to track your ads’ effectiveness.
Why is Paid Digital Marketing Important?
As I just discussed, paid digital marketing gives you an incredible opportunity to get your ads in front of your audience in a measurable way. The two main reasons to use paid digital marketing is it can be targeted and measured!
Target Your Audience
You can target a very specific audience with most paid digital marketing. Target your law firm’s local neighborhood. Target an entirely different neighborhood. Target your ad to certain income levels and personal demographics. Target based on purchasing preferences.
The information is out there, use it!
Track Your ROI
However, no ad campaign is worthwhile if you can’t track it. That’s one of the ways that paid digital marketing really shines. Most will give you way more information than you’ll ever need, so I also recommend getting a tutorial in Google Analytics, or a related program.
Find out if people are connecting with your ads by measuring clicks. How many clicks does it take until you get a call? Importantly, when someone calls as a result of your ad, what is the chance that they’ll become a paying client? How does that compare against your other marketing?
With digital marketing, you have the tools to actually answer all these questions.