11 Law Firm Marketing Takeaways from the LMA Conference in Las Vegas

LMA conference Las Vegas

I just got back from the Legal Marketing Association annual conference in Las Vegas. Overall I was very impressed with the conference and the speakers. There were some great case studies and practical advice on a number of topics. The people were exceptional and the networking fantastic.

I’m pleased to see that the speakers and people attending appear to be in sync with what I consider best practices of Internet marketing using content marketing, SEO, social media, blogging, public relations, paid search, and analytics.

Keep in mind that I attended primarily marketing talks, but there were other tracks, such as business development and innovation.

LMA Keynote – The Future of Law Firms in the Global Age of More for Less

Harvard Law professor David B. Wilkins shared insight on how firms can compete in today’s competitive global marketplace.

He shared the most important things to consider when hiring a law firm:

  • Results in similar practice areas
  • Reputation
  • Prior relationship
  • Firm size

If results and reputation are the top two things people are thinking about, then law firm websites should reflect this at the top of their pages. Links to verdicts and settlements, news stories, and credibility icons like Super Lawyers should be front and center.

David also said that clients are now more than ever looking for added value in terms of aligning with their business goals and being aggressive in evaluating lawyers on their team. It then makes sense to me that each lawyer must have a personal brand with a great bio, content they are part of creating, and active social media profiles.

Potential clients are demanding more, including more information, so your website and complete online presence needs to be larger than life.

Reputation Management for Law Firms

Double facepalmDon’t let Google embarrass you! Reputation management, which is the art of making the search and social media mentions of you speak in a positive light, should be strongly considered as an active campaign and not left to chance. When you search for your brand name in Google, for example, are there things there that are less than flattering?

Did you know that there is a way to fill up the entire first page of Google or more with things like your website, blog, paid ads, YouTube videos, new stories, images, Pinterest boards, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, JD Supra, AVVO, Justia, Findlaw, lawyers.com, lawyer.com, and Super Lawyers profiles, just to name a few?

 Below is a small snippet of search results related to Stephen Neyman, P.C., whose social profiles, video, and AVVO listing come up for a search on his name:

Reputation management for law firms

Content Marketing for Law Firms

The conference was very pro-content marketing and using content as the base of search and social strategies.

Linda Pepe, Director of Marketing at Mintz Levin, mentioned syndicating her content to Lexology, Mondaq, JD Supra, National Law Review, and others to get a greater boost when sharing original articles and videos. I spoke with the guy at the Lexology booth to see what the pricing was. It appears there are a number of price points, but one option is around $10,000 a year and they will pull content from your site for you and promote it.

Linda used this technique – along with various methods of promoting blog posts and other types of content on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and others – to help get 88,000 average monthly views on her website. VERY impressive.

Arnie Kuenn, President of Vertical Measures, shared an image such as the one below from Google trends that shows how content marketing is booming. The LMA agenda says “Content is king … and in 2012 alone, businesses spent more than $50 billion on custom content development.”

Arnie also noted that, according to HubSpot (disclosure: I am a reseller and huge fan; HubSpot also just wrote a chapter in my soon-to-be-published book Web Marketing on All Cylinders), sites with 101 to 200 pages get 2.5 times more leads than sites with fewer than 50 pages. We’ve seen a lot of law firms throw up a bunch of crap pages to try and capitalize on this, but after Google Panda, don’t forget that you have to focus on quality content as well. He also noted that it takes between 100 and 200 posts before your blog really takes off and drives lots of backlinks and traffic.

Jasmine Trillos-Decarie, Director of Marketing & Business Development at Foley Hoag, and Arnie, in their discussion on How to Win at Search, Social & Content Marketing, both seem to agree that it is critical to figure out what potential customers are worried about. You can research what they are asking as questions on forums and in the search engines, and then develop content around that.

I think it was Adrian Lurssen of JD Supra who said, “Don’t talk about the law, talk about how the law affects the people you serve.” So you need to make your content a story, but more about your potential clients’ stories than your own. He also quoted Henry James, who said something along the lines of “There are two kinds of stories, one where you recognize the characters and one where you identify with them,” to drive the point home further.

Another great tip was to figure out what the attorneys and business development people are already doing via articles, client alerts, presentations, and practice group meetings and leverage those to make website/Internet content.

SEO for Law Firms

Jabez LeBret of Get Noticed Get Found, Inc. gave a great talk on Internet marketing and touched on some of the essential search engine optimization and local optimization strategies. As is common for good SEOs, his stance is that you need regular, fresh content to keep the search engines happy. Given the recent Google Panda and Penguin updates, the quality of the content is more critical than ever. It’s important to optimize, but also not to over-optimize.

SEO Basics Recap:

  • Have a site that Google can index that doesn’t use all flash or frames, etc.
  • Keywords in page title
  • Keywords in headlines
  • Secondary keywords in subheads
  • Keywords in the page text, especially at the top
  • Keywords in bulleted lists
  • Keywords in bold/italic
  • Use related keywords and synonyms
  • Links to the page – not on the page (internal and external) using the keyword being targeted.
  • Social Media activity – though this doesn’t directly impact results yet, other than temporary bumps from things like bursts of Tweets/Shares/+1’s on trending topics (or if you are logged in to Google when you search or when you see the segregated social results in Bing).
  • Optimize for local visibility with quality pages that use location-specific keywords but also get listed with the exact same address in various directories from AVVO to yellow page-type directories. Make sure your Google+ page is complete and updated regularly for the Google local results to work properly.

Social Media for Law Firms

Graham Kahr of Zappos had some great tips on social media, including making it more about the customer’s experience than about your marketing needs. He suggested tools like HootSuite and Radian6. He said that the social media policy at Zappos is just four words: “Do what makes sense.” Essentially he advocates doing the right thing and putting the customer first.

When the room was asked how many of them were using social media, almost everyone raised their hands. So at least in the marketing departments of law firms, social media appears to be ubiquitous. There were numerous stories, however, of attorneys freaking out about saying the wrong thing on social or having a compliance issue because of it. One speaker says that her solution is to do all of the posting for the attorneys on Twitter and blogs so they can vet their content for compliance. Another person said to avoid talking about the substantive stuff, but there is plenty to share that won’t cause an issue. Law firms’ social media marketing is certainly and legitimately one of the more challenging tactics.

Any way you slice it, people now realize you can’t stick your head in the sand and that social media is not going away. Now that it ties to search engine optimization, and given that 75% of people find websites through the search engines, it’s no longer optional for law firms.

Jabez LeBret had one interesting specific piece of advice around LinkedIn and compliance. He said to avoid the expert section on LinkedIn as it is possible that it could be a violation, since as a lawyer, you can’t say that you are an expert.

Social Media as an Influence Booster

As Kevin O’Keefe said in his talk, the “machines” behind the social sites learn about us through our articles and posting activity (and others posting about us), which can help us grow our influence.

I don’t have to be a huge fan of Obama to admit that he clearly won the social media influence race with Romney and that power is persuasive. See the stats below:
Facebook Fans: Obama 30.7 million vs. Romney 8.8 million
Twitter Followers: Obama 21 million vs. Romney 1.3 million
Google+ Fans: Obama 32.2 million vs. Romney 967,000
YouTube subscribers: Obama 1.4 million vs. Romney 42,000

LMA13Moving forward, I personally believe that Google+ Author Rank, and bursts of people talking about you on Twitter and sharing/liking your content, will be essential moving forward not only for social media credibility but as a factor, even if indirectly, in organic search rankings. So make sure, as one of the speakers mentioned, that one of your goals of content and strategy is to become the subject of other people’s conversations.

I thought it was great that in the conference expo hall they had two large monitors with the Twitter stream of the hashtag #LMA13.

Blogging for Law Firms

I was pleased to see just how much talk there was about blogging as it appears that in almost all marketing circles, blogs have become a highly respected part of a comprehensive Internet marketing strategy. While some users joke that nobody is going to read personal injury blog, others had case studies of people deeply engaging with their content and then turning into leads. Some noted that their blogs were largely responsible for their overall website traffic and also helped with back links.

There was a lot of banter back and forth about trying to get attorneys off their butts and doing consistent blogging.

Below are some paraphrased comments about how to get lawyers excited about blogging and content development:

“If you get one attorney to be a rock star blogger and social media user, that will fire the competitive spirits of the other attorneys and help you get a team going.” 

(Andrea Crews, Marketing & Business Development Director, Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC)

“The sooner you can get attorneys to see success and revenue from it, the sooner they will do it for real.” (Adrian Lurssen, Vice President, Strategic Development, JD Supra)

“Show them that their bios are getting more traffic and activity after partaking in content marketing.” (Linda Pepe, Director of Marketing, Mintz Levin)

“Make it easy and not grandiose. Set up listening tools so that the lawyers can listen and get used to what potential customers are concerned with, so lawyers see the real personal need to develop content.”

 (Kevin O’Keefe, CEO, Lexblog, Inc.)

“Make microsites for the attorneys, so they have something more directly for them specifically.”
(Robert Algeri, Partner, Great Jakes Marketing)

“Revenue from marketing is what gets the lawyers excited.” (Peter Winzig, Director of Marketing & Corporate Development, Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., LPA)

Jabez LeBret said that 50% of some of his clients’ traffic comes from blog posts, and I have seen a similar trend. So make sure that blogging is central to your SEO and social sharing strategy.

My two cents would be that getting lawyers to answer questions during a podcast interview or doing basic FAQ videos can be easier than getting lawyers to write, and is a great way to add to the mix.

Public Relations for Law Firms

Multiple people mentioned using public relations to spread awareness and also get actual clients. Having other people praise you is so much better than praising yourself. Sandi Sonnenfeld, Kaye Scholer’s Director of PR & Communications, said that three credible media mentions/stories is equal to one solid referral.

Not surprisingly, attendees were aware of the benefits of public relations on generating back links, largely from the spread of the press releases to other news sites where you get featured on a blog with a news story or even interviewed.

Using online PR submission sites like PRWeb.com is a way do regular stories that get shared. These releases that link to your website and have calls to action regularly generate legitimate leads.

Sandi also mentioned Law360, a legal wire service that is worth looking into when you want to reach mostly an audience of other lawyers.

Paid Search for Law Firms

There wasn’t a ton of talk about paid search in the sessions I attended, but some users discussed having success with it and also using Facebook paid advertising. I often find that SEO and social media alone are not enough and that paid ads contribute significantly to a well-rounded campaign.

With that said, if you don’t optimize your site for increased conversion – the paid search campaign may not be profitable.

Mobile Marketing for Law Firms

Several people discussed how critical it is to have a mobile-friendly website because in the next couple of years, more people will view websites via mobile than desktops. More people in 2013 will view emails via mobile than desktops. Several people mentioned that there is a trend of law firms rushing to design their websites, now that mobile gives them that extra push.

Email for Law Firms

There were several discussions on email marketing and some talk about compliance issues. I have seen many of my clients over the years get some of their largest volumes of traffic from email marketing, but you have to be extremely careful about where you get your lists and how you follow up via email. Check out the Can Spam Act Compliance Guide for more info by the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Website Analytics for Law Firms

Analytics is one of those tactics that many people do poorly. They say, “Yeah, I have Google Analytics,” and maybe even glance at some statistics. If tracking a return on investment from Internet marketing is important to you, then you need to step up your game in this area.

Steve Hennigs, Senior Account Executive – Law Firms, Siteimprove, Inc. walked us through some great ways to think about analytics. Steve talked about key performance indicators or KPIs. KPIs are actionable scorecards that keep your strategy on track and help you achieve results.

One of the biggest problems with most people’s analytics strategies, as Steve mentioned, is that they just look at the statistics and don’t have enough clear goals. In Google analytics you can set up various “goal conversions.” You can track the thank you page after someone hits a submit button, an email sign up, a phone call using software like Mongoose Metrics, live chat leads, and even more granular micro conversions, like if someone signs up for a client alert or visits an attorney bio or sends them an email. Once you have all of these things set up, you can do much more with your analytics program.

Steve also mention that while tools like Google Analytics and Adobe Site Catalyst/Omniture are great, they rely on clickstream data and don’t have more personal information directly from the voice of the customer. You can use site surveys (like Qualaroo) where you put a little unobtrusive tab down on the lower right of your website (or if you want to be more aggressive and possibly annoying, via a pop-up window) that will encourage people to answer a few questions such as:

  • Did you use our site in your evaluation process?
  • Did you achieve your goals?
  • What could we have done better?

I want to give a shout out to Steve, since he came up to me and gave me a lead/business card from his booth that he thought was better for me. Again, a great example of how the people at this conference were very open to sharing.

Other options for analytics / software

Other options that I didn’t hear discussed (except for Arnie’s mention of HubSpot reports) were the use of tools like HubSpot that not only give you statistical data but tie into your CRM like Salesforce, to give you attribution tracking. This allows you to see the “touchpoints” from other channels along the path to conversion and give some credit to more than just the last click that drove the sale.

While this is an e-commerce example, it shows how a customer can have many “touches” with your online presence before becoming a lead or sale:

HubSpot

Hubspot Facebook lead acquisition
HubSpot also gives you the ability to do marketing automation. This lets you email people on a scheduled basis, after they fill out a lead form or download a top of the marketing funnel call to action like an e-book.

One thing is for sure, analytics is at the heart of how you increase leads on your website by making it better and increasing engagement. Increasing engagement can also potentially increase your search engine rankings at the same time. The big takeaway is that most law firms will likely need to upgrade their analytics programs and make use of actionable items, not just stats.

Closing Thought

I may not have had the room with the best view, but interestingly, when a cloud passed by, it formed a cross outside my window. Who knows, maybe there’s a patron saint or rabbi of law firm Internet marketing? If so, my vote is split so far between Kevin O’Keefe and Linda Pepe.

Cross of Las Vegas

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with this conference and look forward to coming back next year. I welcome any feedback in the comments below.

Photo credit: darkuncle / Foter.com / CC BY

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