The web: let your clients tap into you

A large number of smaller law firms still do not have a website. Margaret Manning reports on how to use this marketing gift horse to the best possible effect

During the recent project to redesign the Law Society’s website, the internet development business Reading Room became aware of how few lawyers actually have a website, or at least a website that they wish to publicise. More than 75 per cent of the law firms listed in the Law Society’s ‘Solicitors Online’ database did not have a related online presence.

With a well-designed website and an integrated
e-marketing strategy, firms will have a demonstrable advantage. So what makes an e-marketing strategy work?

The internet works best as a place for finding information in a proactive manner. Knowledge-rich organisations can use this environment for e-marketing in a myriad of ways. Also, with users actively searching for information, the greatest benefits can be attained by marketing at a niche or granular level. In simple terms, do not market the fact that you are a great law firm and compete with every law firm around; instead, market your unique selling points, whether these are specialist services, vertical markets or a distinct geographic area.

Also, back that up with information published online. Once you have a website, adding information should have a very low marginal cost – certainly much lower than that of printed marketing literature.

This granularity of information can then be used to cross-sell services to existing clients. Many firms find that using a website in conjunction with email newsletters increases client communication, again at significantly lower costs than using posted newsletters. With email newsletters, clients register and specify their areas of interest. Periodic emails are sent automatically which contain the specific requested information. These automatic email marketing systems have an initial capital cost of less than £4,000, which is less than the revenue distribution costs of many printed newsletters and much more potent.

Delivering personalised, niche information through an extranet can be a very effective e-marketing technique. This direct client communication, for which a client has to log in to use it, will be rejected unless there is a perceived benefit to the client.
Alternatively, an organisation can create micro-sites regarding aspects of law which are currently topical and in which the organisation has expertise. In using such micro-sites on a regular basis, users tend to gain trust in the larger organisation and view it as an authoritative body when they actually look to instruct a lawyer.

Niche marketing techniques make a firm’s website easier to market to the search engines. It is easier to attain top 10 rankings for a specific term rather than, say, ‘London law firms’.

Niche and narrowcast, digital marketing is more effective and no more expensive than broadcast marketing. It can take more planning than other forms of marketing, but that planning should pay off many times over.

Margaret Manning is chief executive officer of internet development company Reading Room