Marketing and Advertising for law firms are maturing which translates to a few themes I think we will see develop further in 2016.

So, what are the trends now?

1. It’s already happened. Mobile is the most popular medium for individuals looking for a lawyer:

From October to December 2015 my clients have seen more than 50% of new enquiries originate from mobile-only advertising and around 40% of all other new enquiries originating from a smartphone. More than 7 out of 10 new enquiries started with a mobile phone.

Embrace this if you have not done so already; the future of all professional services is mobile.

2. Third-Party Review Sites (like Trust Pilot) will become a potential client expectation and the content of those reviews will be a make or break point for firms in the near future:

Unfortunately for most firms this is going to come in hard and fast in 2016 at an individual client level. If you do not have 3rd party reviews you will be at a disadvantage. The problem is, a bigger percentage of negative people leave reviews, and it can make everything look terrible. It is a storm you will have to weather this year I am afraid.

Even if a new potential client finds out about you with a solid word of mouth referral they are still going to research you before enquiring. Your website testimonials will not be enough.

Methods to ensure volume positive reviews will have to be developed. Initial recommendations are to be proactive and have specific points along case progression to garner reviews, do not leave it until the end before asking; rather, do something amazing and get the review then and there.

3. Real Time Communication is not only good, it is a necessity for client satisfaction and maximising client acquisition:

Hand in hand with positive reviews (and new client acquisition) is the trend towards real-time communication and high availability. The vast majority of negative 3rd party reviews come down to poor communication levels.

The era of real-time case management will arrive this year.

Consumers won’t stand for slow comms and being left out of the loop on their cases. Prospective clients expect instant communication. 24/7 call answering, SMS, even instant message and live chat needs to play a role in 2016 client acquisition plans.

Prospective clients expect instant communication.

Prospective clients expect instant communication.

4. No more hunches or gut feelings. Value Tracking and Prospect Intelligence has arrived which means actionable data for increasing campaign efficiency and accurately monitoring ROI:

As marketing and advertising budgets increase outside of the 3% of revenue era, where new business is actually coming from is a necessary management datum and it needs to be actively monitored.

Secondly, with all of the money spent getting newly interested potential clients to various websites and landing pages, prospect analytics and intelligence, although a relatively new tech, has its place for those looking to get the most bang for their buck and provides specifics on remarketing efforts.

This is becoming a mainstay in our product and service offerings – we’re calling it Client Journey Intelligence.

Being able to follow the journeys of newly engaged clients, to accurately measure ROI for all marketing and advertising endeavours, and to lead score and increase enquiries through on-site interaction are just three of the key changes in methodology.

Firms that embrace the new advances in tracking and analytics and make data-driven decisions as a result have the greatest opportunity to leap ahead in 2016.

This also allows for the big outliers that bring in new business to be isolated and strengthened. The right conference, networking event or media interview may end up bringing in a significant percentage of new business for a department or a whole firm – being able to track new business origins takes out the guesswork and allows for suitable planning. It also provides very needed appraisal data for 3rd party marketing providers and in-house team initiatives.

In terms of marketing performance, individual campaign ROI is the KPI for firms, no more wishy-washy brand impression KPIs or un-monetisable statistics.

If you have embraced mobile and getting close to real time 24/7 communications this should be your key takeaway - you can more than double your success rates by collecting and acting upon the right prospect intelligence.

5. “Niching Up.” It’s a thing now.

In previous years microsites have come and gone and come back again. Although not a necessity, they do allow the firm’s main website to remain less unwieldy or department skewed during development and remain a straightforward way to monitor a campaign’s effectiveness and clearly position a firm as experts in specific legal service niches.

There will be more microsites or at least more portals within law firm main websites with much more than a paragraph saying you do a specific legal service and to contact us now.

The consumer wants to know you know your stuff before contacting you and they know that they need specialists for their cases not just a solicitor.

6. Swallowing the cost of best practices for brand, PR, and credibility.

I used to be able to go to a marketing meeting at a firm and shock people. I used to say “Your boring articles about changes in legislation cost you hundreds of times more than they make you.” and get some heads-of-marketing up in arms.

I have never said don’t do these things (no really, I even recommend them for bigger firms) but I have always maintained that they are at best a point of credibility and being “with it”. An anti-repellent of sorts for that initial research into whether or not you are a good fit.

The truth is that branding, reputation and other PR actions that are considered best practices should be looked upon as costs not investments.

Prospective clients arrive somewhere along the sales funnel and these best practices grease the way down – they are not the main source of the work but they do contribute to the eventual engagement of the client.

Anyway, I digress. The point here is that firms seem to really get this now. Just like the cost of staying open through the lunch hour or having out of hours and Saturday opening hours have crept in, firms know they have to stump up for their branding and online PR and that its contributive value does add up to a return.

Big firms are no longer looking for hefty discounts with exclusivity contracts, they know they need different experts for different aspects of marketing, PR, advertising and sales consultancy. This ties in with campaign accountability

In Summary:

  1. Mobile first has arrived in the legal sector; it is clear as day in the numbers.
  2. It is a hard truth, but firms need to embrace third party review sites and pick a platform. Expect the worst and deal with negativity as professionally as possible, better to weather that storm this year than have to do so in later years where more people pay attention to the contents and more people are reviewing.
  3. Communications at all points along sales, engagement and service delivery, need to come closer and closer to real time and 24/7 availability.
  4. Value tracking where ROI is coming from in terms of outreach initiatives and intelligence and analytics at the individual prospect level is the area that can produce the greatest progression in terms of new business acquisition in 2016.
  5. Firms will continue to build on the departmental and niche service level to have a significant increase in overall viability.
  6. There is an understanding that branding and online PR is a cost that has to be shouldered, and it is no longer considered the driving force for new business (because it doesn’t bring new business in, it only helps with engagement)

Years of heuristic data are showing these trends. Take advantage of the insight and move your firm further forward in 2016!