Trish Phillips is a self-described marketing and research geek.
She worked in the marketing industry for 30 years, starting as a market research analyst in the media industry before transitioning to a Research Director position. She’s received training from Proctor and Gamble for research methods and management, and has trained staff at 138 individual newspapers on how to access and use available data to improve business operations, increase subscribers, and market to customers.
Now, she manages a law firm, rb LEGAL LLC, where she puts her expertise towards getting legal clients. Not surprisingly, Trish’s law firm has seen huge success using her methods.
We were lucky enough to get some of Trish’s advice. Here’s what she had to say:
Invest in SEO
As part of its law firm marketing efforts, RB Legal has a robust website that has been edited for SEO and is tweaked monthly.
“We switched from a GoDaddy templated website with a few pages and a lot of verbiage,” Trish explained. “We hired a web design company outside of the legal field that has expertise in SEO and social media.”
Beyond that, content on the site is tweaked each month to better rank for various search terms based on data from previous months, or on upcoming events or new blog posts. The search terms the firm tries to rank for also change often—they’re adjusted quarterly based on updated search volume data, although RB Legal consistently focuses on keywords related to its practice areas of estate planning, wills, trusts, business formation, and equine law.
Choose blog post topics based on what your clients want
There are plenty of ways to research blog post topics that might be interesting for potential clients, but one of the best ways to ensure that what you write about will resonate is to talk to your clients.
Trish stressed that all content on RB Legal’s site—blog posts, about pages, and more—focuses on what clients are looking for, not what lawyers think they should know. “If you weren’t an attorney, but you needed one, what information would you want to see, hear, or have?” she said.
“We develop relationships with our clients, and during those conversations, we discuss their questions, feelings and needs for information related to their questions,” Trish said. “When individual clients ask for information, we gauge the appeal for that information among a broader audience.”
In other words, it’s best to get ideas for potential topics directly from your clients, and then do keyword research to make sure lots of other potential clients could be interested in that topic and are searching for it online. (We explain a bit about keyword research in this guide to law firm SEO.)
When gathering topic ideas, it may also be useful to go beyond your own client base by reaching out to your broader network. “We also speak with our referral sources and other peers regarding information that their clients might be lacking,” Trish added.
Spend only what you need to on social media
Companies are spending more and more on social media advertising. There was a 61.5% increase in paid media spend on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Snapchat in Q1 of 2017.
However, Trish says that it’s important to be selective about where you spend, and to focus more on creating quality content.
“At this point, we do not do paid advertising on social media, although we keep the option open for specific events or topics,” she said. “We do, however, do unpaid posts with various social media outlets. Our growth has been organic, we believe, because of the content we provide.”
Send email newsletters with a specific purpose
Email is still one of the most useful marketing tools out there, but Trish stressed that email newsletters sent from law firms must always be sent with one specific goal in mind: Brand awareness.
In my view, monthly newsletters serve a very specific marketing objective—to keep our firm top-of-mind among our client base. The focus of the content should be to not market to the reader, but to give the reader information that enhances their perception of our firm among their family, peers and coworkers. With the right content, it also allows them to offer a solution to their circle of influence. For example, the next time one of your clients hears about a legal issue from a friend or family member, they may say, ‘My attorney just addressed that question recently in their newsletter. Let me send it to you.’
What should go into your email newsletter in order to make it effective? RB Legal doesn’t currently send one out, but they expect to soon, and Trish shared what the firm is planning:
“Our newsletter will include a feature article related to one of our core practice areas, a staff contribution (such as a short bio, advice, or another short article) and a client testimonial,” she said. Testimonials are key, as they signal to potential clients that your current clients are happy with your services.
Avoid long-term marketing contracts
Depending on how large your law firm’s marketing budget is, how much time you have to spend on marketing, and what type of marketing works best for you, it may make sense to hire an expert—such as a web designer or an SEO specialist—rather than adding marketing to your list of duties.
However, if you’re working with an external vendor for your marketing needs, Trish suggested that lawyers avoid signing long-term contracts. “If it’s not working, you’re stuck,” she said. “Because of my background in research and data management, my recommendations to the firm are typically reserved and preferably based on anticipated results based on data. So much of marketing success, however, is based on emotional connection and timing—which cannot be measured in advance. For this reason, signing a long-term contract that is limiting as to message, timing and audience, doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Instead, Trish favors shorter term, flexible contracts. “We’ve tended to lean towards options that let us change if a service or tool is not working out within the time period that we need it to,” she said.
Marketing quick tips
Lastly, here are a few, rapid-fire tips from Trish:
- Invest in online profiles. RB Legal has robust profiles for each attorney on FindLaw, Lawyers.com. Avvo, and its local bar associations. Make sure it’s easy for clients to find you online.
- Post regularly on social media. Trish and her team make sure there are regular posts on RB Legal’s Facebook page, LinkedIn page, and Twitter profiles. The firm also asks staff to share posts on their personal profiles when appropriate.
- Don’t forget about local newspaper advertising. We may live in a digital world, but sometimes, old standards can do the trick, especially if there are yearly rankings that recognize your firm. “We have cut back on this recently, but maintain a presence and have been voted Best Attorney in our city for five years in a row.”
Of course, whatever marketing methods you choose should be based on your location, practice area, marketing budget, and goals for firm growth. If you’re not sure where to begin, trying a few of Trish’s tips may give you a good start!
Want more marketing tips? See what’s worked for other lawyers in our post, 16 Lawyers Share Their Best Law Firm Marketing Tips.
Trish Phillips is the Practice Manager at RB Legal in Golden Valley, Minnesota. While in college, Trish began a career in market research, but she has always had a passion for small business. She consulted with small companies in various industries, including those in the news publishing, software, hospitality, non-profit, animal rescue, and veterinary fields. Her passion at work is applying research data to help small businesses grow.