By Karl Robe and Cale Guin
There are a myriad of reasons to embrace the power of digital marketing. The most obvious are closely tied to its immediacy, directness and ability to be tracked. In fact, if used properly, digital marketing can be used to help track all of your marketing results, including traditional marketing efforts.
Every day law firms are joining the masses in the rituals of managing social media, collecting user data for email marketing, purchasing Pay Per Click advertising and SEO services, as well as jumping into the latest and greatest thing being buzzed about.
At a glance these efforts seem to be working. Why else would everyone be spending all that time and money? If other law firms are doing it, it seems like you must follow suit or be left behind.
The reality is that most law firms are wasting money and time … and a lot of it. If your firm or its marketing department or vendor is not deeply involved in an overall strategy, the segmented approach most firms are taking is almost a complete waste of time. Seriously, if you do not have a defined strategy stop your social media activities, your email marketing activities, stop your SEO activities and all digital marketing activities that are not cohesively planned out by a thoughtful strategy.
A solid plan will make all of these efforts work together and every instance of effort will positively impact your plan and your business.
Most small firms are do-it-yourselfers. Larger firms hire online marketing professionals to handle their needs. Neither is properly prepared to embark on digital marketing campaigns. Why? Because the digital marketing industry is extraordinarily segmented. There are SEO firms and email marketing firms. There are traditional marketing firms struggling to stay in the digital marketing space with no real concept of how to properly develop or execute a solid strategy.
They all want part of your business but their focus is not on improving your business. Their separate focuses are on increasing traffic to your site, getting better rankings or increasing the number of subscribers, or getting better rates for ad placement or PPC campaigns.
None of those things will necessarily improve your business. Let us say that again — none of those things will necessarily improve your business. When you hear that you fall into one of two camps. One group will not be shocked and will know that no matter how much effort they are throwing at the digital marketing efforts of their company, business has not changed the way they intended.
This group has been disappointed before.
The other group of people will be somewhat surprised by hearing that all of the buzz words and all of the classes and all of the vendors selling services are, for the most part, incapable of systematically improving your business.
They are likely not actively involved or not regularly checking the results of their efforts. Digital marketing service providers will talk results and they will show you results in increased traffic. They will show you more subscribers. They will show you better rankings.
What if all of those efforts result in virtually no improvement of the bottom line? They achieved the results they said they would achieve. You may have even requested more visitors or a bigger social media presence — and they may have achieved those things.
Unfortunately, your phone didn’t ring any more frequently, sales were not impacted and while you can brag about a mythical ranking achievement in Google, your business is no better off than when you started.
How do you change this scenario and begin to build a great plan?
Follow these 5 guidelines:
1. Stop focusing on the technology. You have no idea how technology works or how it can systematically improve your business — except what you have read or heard about from people trying to sell you something or trying to impress you. You are in the legal industry, not the technology or digital marketing industry. Instead, focus on your business objectives. A new website is not a business objective; it is one tool that might be used to improve your firm’s ability to communicate your message.
A certain number of Facebook fans is not a business objective nor is a certain number of subscribers in your email marketing effort.
Your business objectives are things such as:
2. Use these objectives to get what you really want from your vendors. Tell them you are trying to increase sales in a particular area of practice — or any other objective. This alone will help you weed out unqualified service providers. It will also automatically change the direction and the focus of what results you are expecting.
3. Have a plan. Before you seek help from vendors or consult with your marketing team have a plan dedicated to corralling your objectives into a useful guide for vendors to use in order to achieve your objectives of improving your business.
4. Use your objectives as the basis for results. If your objective is to increase sales in a particular area of practice the plan grows from increasing the size of your audience to what do we want them to do when they engage?
5. Plan a transparent way to measure results. How do you know that the increase in sales is specifically based on the digital marketing efforts? A professional digital marketing effort will have several opportunities to measure the results of a given effort. For just one of thousands of examples, if you run a PPC campaign, make sure the landing page is using a track-able phone number so you know that everyone of the calls to that number (transferred to your normal phone system), came as a direct result of a specific digital marketing effort.
At the end of the day digital marketing is one of the most powerful tools for any business. Unfortunately, like any great opportunity, it can be wasted or ruined if it not properly taken advantage of.
Karl Robe, APR, counsels attorneys and executives on communications strategies that support achievement of growth objectives and overcome business challenges. Contact him at Karl James & Co. LLC by emailing [email protected].
Cale Guin serves as chief digital strategist for Karl James & Co.