2021 Marketing Trends: Law Firm Marketing. Matthew Johnson - Head of Marketing by Matthew Johnson, Head of Marketing

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2020 has seen industry of all kinds rocked by COVID pandemic. It has forced companies and their employees into new ways of working and look for more efficient solutions to common business challenges like attracting new clients and retaining existing ones.

Law firms in particular have seen shifts in the way they manage work and meet the changing needs of clients who demand more cost efficient services. 

In this post, we’ll review the key trends affecting the legal industry in 2020 and aim to predict how 2021 might be different. 

We’ll outline the marketing strategies your law firm can put in place to ensure you continue to grow and perform well in the current economic conditions.. 

Globalisation of the legal market.

According to City Business Solutions, UK law firms have already established themselves in Western markets like the US and Europe and predicted that 2020 was likely to see expansion into emerging markets with economic growth potential such as India, South Africa and China.

Technology continues to drive business growth so use 2021 as an opportunity to evaluate whether your tech is still driving the value you need, especially if you plan to grow into new markets, both domestic or international. 

The rise of the “Freelance Solicitor”.

At the end of 2019, the Solicitors Regulation Authority introduced new regulations allowing solicitors to work as freelancers. Solicitors no longer have to register as sole practitioners so can set their own rates and keep them lower than traditional law firms. Your law firm will need to ensure that your rates remain competitive but you can also take advantage of readily available top talent at short notice. 

Data and digital transformation.

Legal firms of all sizes collect data on their clients. This creates an opportunity and a challenge.

The opportunity is that leveraging data can help with making smart business decisions, for example who to market to, how to market to them, how to track them through their time with your firm and how to better service their needs. 

Law firms are increasingly looking to legal tech to boost customer satisfaction and reduce costs. When looking at the 2020 landscape City Business Solutions says “AI and machine learning will continue to play a key role in helping firms hit transformation objectives.

Automation will enhance business processes across all areas, from compliance to research to documentation creation and review”. So investing in great tech like Clio now will pay long term dividends. 

Data analysis

According to a 2018 study conducted by ALM Intelligence and LexisNexis Legal and Professional, only 36% of AMLaw 200 firms used data analytics but in their 2020 study an overwhelming 98% of of those surveyed agreed that it improved their firm’s performance, 

Firms need to know how to analyse the marketing data that they collect and how to put it to best use. That means having robust technology that provides actionable insights whilst remaining legally compliant. 

Changes in the tech landscape affecting law firm marketing.

Data security and GDPR compliance

Brexit and GDPR compliance has placed a greater emphasis on data security and usage.  UK law firms in particular will have to ensure their data usage practices are in line with the current legislation.

This means stringent checks ensuring all data remains secure and – among other things – only used for the purpose it was collected. 

It’s worth noting that adherence to cookie laws mean traffic on your website could decrease in the short term. Site visitors sometimes reject cookies that are useful for marketing and tracking efforts.

The best practice here is to be up front about how cookies are used, have clear opt in/out options and to have a cookie collection policy stated on your website. If your web company isn’t doing this, ask them why. 

Google consent

In addition, Google is changing the way that it manages third party cookies and data privacy. The search engine giant has released a new initiative called Google Consent which aims to allow tracking cookies but bridges the gap between consent and data privacy.

A good digital marketing partner will be staying ahead of these developments and helping you adjust, aiding business continuity.  

Real-time marketing automation

Your practice will need to react quickly to changes in the market. Marketing automation software makes it easier and quicker to profile client types and market to them more successfully, Martech tools such as Hubspot and Maketo enhance the relationship between you and your customers, scale and repeat processes and tasks, help you measure success in a centralised hub and more. 

COVID-19 and employment law.

The pandemic has led to many legal firms needing to give advice on employment law. If your firm offers this service, now is a good time to create a helpful advice hub where employers and employees can view insightful and up to the minute information on their rights and duties during this difficult time. 

A new bread of clientele.

2020 has created an opportunity for law firms to re-evaluate their client acquisition and retention strategy. 2021 will be no different.  According to Ben Trott, Founder and Managing Director at Marketing Lawyers “Long gone are those days where cases walked through the door because of reputation alone.

It’s a bigger, meaner and more competitive legal market out there today. We have millennials, many of whom are not looking for partnership, a new breed of legal clients who want services ‘on demand’ and the high street has largely been replaced with high speed internet.” 

So now is an important time to look at your digital presence.  Ask questions like “is our brand correctly represented on and offline?” Do we need a rebrand? How do our clients find us? Is our messaging right? Do we have the technology in place to deliver on our digital marketing needs? Do we need new tech or marketing partners?

Evaluate your value proposition.

Standing out from the crowd in a large and fragmented market is a very present challenge. Use this time to evaluate your unique selling proposition (or USP) and understand better where you sit against competitors.

Define your value proposition. Ask questions like what services do we sell? What are our values? What is our company’s purpose beyond being profitable? How are we communicating that to our associates and clients? 

In short, the why, how and what you do.  The result should be a unified and replicable service offering that serves clients needs and meets increasingly high expectations. 

Go inbound.

Inbound marketing is an increasingly popular methodology for attracting new clients and helps build long term, meaningful relationships with them.

Key components of successful inbound methods are a solid contact marketing strategy, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and great digital and content marketing output.

Get the Inbound Marketing for Law guide here.

Successful content marketing.

Content marketing is nothing new. PR agencies and digital marketers have been touting the value of great content for decades. In the context of inbound marketing, strategic content creation in the linchpin of its success. 

2020/21 provides a great time to review your content, check that it is still relevant and update it if necessary. It’s also a good time to create and launch a fresh content marketing strategy including careful segmentation and targeting.

Not all clients will be the right fit for your practice. Segmentation will help you target those who you’d most like to do business with. 

Spending time reviewing what you say about yourself both on and offline, and bringing in an expert to help you is a sound investment for 2021 and beyond.

The better and more authoritative your content, the higher you will rank in searches. And the higher your rank in searches, the more likely you are to gain the clients you want (and reassure existing ones). 

Review your service. 

2020/21 provides an excellent opportunity to look at how you service your clients. Journey mapping is key to maximising your acquisition and retention efforts. Ask questions like What is your customer experience like? Do clients get great value from you at every stage of their interactions with you? Does our use of technology help or hinder the process? The better your service the more likely clients will be to recommend you to friends, family, or other businesses. 

Leverage your feedback.

Your existing client base is one of your strongest marketing tools.  Now is a good time to ask for client feedback, even if you handle a potentially sensitive legislative area like family law. Feedback will help you develop your service and should result in some helpful advocacy. 

Don’t be afraid of negative feedback. Sometimes clients are just venting but sometimes they’ll tell you something about your practice that needs to be adjusted.

Common sense dictates that if you keep hearing the same thing over and again, you need to change the way you work. This will all help strengthen your brand and should lead to better acquisition and retention rates.

Humanise your tone of voice.

Legal documents and language by its very nature is hard for the average client to understand. Where possible, look for ways to humanise your content.

Try to find language and tone that clients will be able to read and understand without your input. Make sure new instructions documentation in particular is clear and easy to understand.

The easier your service is to use, the happier the client, and the happier your client, the more chance of repeat business.

Legal marketing for 2021: the review

  • 2020 has seen dramatic shifts in the size and make up of the legal services industry particularly in Western markets. 2021 is likely to see the same trend. 
  • Brexit, the Covid 19 pandemic and a sluggish economy have seen many law firms struggle with client acquisition and retention
  • Wide reaching fragmentation exists creating challenges for all legal firms large and small. 
  • Business is increasingly shifting online and practices that embrace the principles of inbound marketing and segmentation are most likely to succeed in attracting and retaining a new bread of clients
  • Reviewing your service design and making improvements where possible will position you best for success in the short, medium and long term. 
Matthew Johnson - Head of Marketing by Matthew Johnson, Head of Marketing
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