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A Step-by-Step Approach to Marketing in the Digital Age

Every time we, as law firm marketers, think we’ve seen it all, we see it again; something new, that is. Today, that something is the promise and complexity of digital marketing, which needs to be figured and woven into your offline, relationship-building marketing plans.  Yes, the marketing chatter these days is all about digital. But what should you do now?

You should organize your efforts into a step-by-step approach. There’s no point in doing Step two unless you’ve completed Step one. Here’s a guide to a purposeful digital strategy.  Nothing radical has been offered in these recommendations, only common sense.

Step one: Define the brand.

You can’t put a roof on a house when there’s no foundation below, yet that’s what most firms try to do as they embrace—or at least experiment with—digital marketing tools. It’s tempting to reach for a little optimization or a handful of Google AdWords just to be able to say “we’re up to date with our marketing strategy.” But why in the world would you send buyers to a site that is essentially no different than any other site in the category?

Bottom line: Web 2.0 and other digital marketing tools might get you found, but not remembered. Even a well-designed site will not distinguish an enterprise when there is no promise of difference. So job one is to define and express that difference… differently. You need to lay the paving stones for moving your firm from bland to brand. Hard, but important work.

Step two: Assume the [brand] position.

Once you understand your brand position, assume it and bring is to life in a truly unique fashion! Put it into action on your website and across all of the organization’s media. Stop deviant behavior wherever it crops up—in brochures, speeches, newsletters, etc. Stay on message. Keep everyone in line. Be vigilant because it’s easy to run a brand off the road.

Clearly your website is the single most important digital marketing tool. And the brand position has to be deployed sitewide, not just under the About Us section. However, most websites are remarkably the same, remarkably uncommunicative. Remember that facts do not deliver the brand and information is not a relationship.

Step three: Master organic search.

It’s not the luck of the draw that some firms leap to the top of a search page, while others are buried on page five… or worse. Relevancy scores—the math behind each of the major search engine’s rankings—can be influenced through deliberate steps. Mastering your natural or organic search rankings is the first critical component between getting lost or getting found on the Internet.

A careful selection of a dozen keywords that best capture what you’re all about woven throughout your website content is a smart step, but it doesn’t end there. Headers and subheads, buried text (behind web images that otherwise aren’t visible to search spiders) and links from other sites to yours all determine whether buyers wind up at your website or your competitors. Yes, it’s complicated, and Google, among others, constantly changes their secretive algorithms to keep it honest when ranking relevant searches to ensure what worked last year won’t work as well next year.

Optimizing organic search is a must in a world where 67 percent of C-level decisionmakers use the Internet as their primary source for business information. Don’t take this lightly.

Step four: Pay it forward with search advertising.

There are myriad of Internet advertising options, and we’ve seen success with a number of them, but our search engine marketing campaigns inevitably include Google AdWords. With 67 percent of the market share, Google owns the search engine market. You can call it a monopoly, but Google delivers—just like Park Place and Boardwalk.

Google’s text-only web ads have a low cost of entry and offer perfect search matches for the various skills, specialties and locations characteristic of a complex organization. Because AdWords can be changed on a dime, your program can capture timely or urgent opportunities. The New York Times declares that “no other form of advertising can offer such certainty as web advertising.”

Google provides tools for do-it-yourself AdWords campaigns.Consider hring an expert in this area. You can burn through your entire month’s budget in a day delivering messages to unqualified buyers. You can waste time and money by scheduling AdWords poorly or not adjusting your words to match your desired results. There is both science and art to selecting, buying through auction, and managing the program to get to the audience you want. More than anything, it’s simply annoying to watch companies waste their money.

Step five: Refine your digital efforts with analytics and report with clarity.

Analytics and AdWord reports are free to Google advertisers. These reports are compiled by geeks for geeks. Without the expertise to evaluate the raw data, it’s almost impossible to know what’s working and what’s not.

Those in the know can parse the analytics and deliver recommendations as to how to adjust your site design and content in order to improve your online performance. Yes, you can jump on market opportunities and switch on a campaign overnight, but without the internal resources to track, analyze and manage your website or your campaign, you’re fumbling in the dark. SEO and SEM specialists use other resources and products to track interested buyers who visit your site. Tracking buyer search patterns on your website allows you to tweak messages, convert leads into sales and measure the results. 

Step six: Work the crowd.

There’s no doubt that social networking needs to be a part of your firm’s digital marketing plans in 2011 and beyond. But we advise you to think of social networking as more of a business development and awareness tool than a branding or differentiation tool. Here’s why.

In our work across the professional services landscape, we hear the following client refrain on a daily basis: “Ours is a relationship business.” Driving home this point, a recent New York Times article and accompanying graphic illustrates the interconnected and small world of Wall Street investment bankers, lawyers, hedge fund managers and private equity firms. It also diagrams the college ties that bind them.

These types of social networks are ageless. But the concept of online social networking is all the current rage—in part, because it’s very big business. It’s interesting and instructive that social networking sites like Facebook were born on campus, not unlike the old school Wall Street dealmaker network. But the new form of online social networking is not just for the next generation of professionals as our research shows.

As one reporter describes it: “Online sites, like LinkedIn, are specifically tailored to facilitate communication and referrals for professional purposes. You submit your contacts, invite friends and colleagues to be part of an inner circle of business or personal associates, then use the system to seek ‘friends of friends’ or business contacts of your associates. Soon, this inner circle of contacts expands as individuals are contacted directly or as introductions are made by ‘mutual friends and associates.’”

Sounds like classic business development to us. See you online.

Step seven: Integrate on and offline efforts.

Much has been written by many about the shift from traditional to online advertising, including us in past articles. However, amid all the understandable new media clatter, an article in Boston Globe caught our eye, “Google uses billboards to attract new clients.”

Their technology reporter wrote about a four-city billboard campaign that promoted Google apps to corporate IT managers. In addition to Boston, the billboards appeared beside major highways in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Google’s own advertising is an ironic and important reminder that old school media, like billboards, are still very much a part of the smart marketer’s mix of tactics. So yes, get on the new media train, but don’t miss an opportunity to get your message seen at a busy commuter rail station or in other traditional places your competitors are abandoning. And be sure that on- and offline efforts are integrated in every way, from ads to collateral to events and more.

©2020 Greenfield/Belser Ltd.National Law Review, Volume I, Number 139

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About this Author

Joe Walsh, Greenfield Belser Ltd, professional services marketer
Principal

Joe is a life-long professional services marketer. Based near Boston, he is a principal and creative director with Greenfield/Belser Ltd., offering clients a wealth of sophisticated brand positioning, market research, creative development and media planning skills.

Before joining Greenfield/Belser in 2002, he was Arthur Andersen’s global creative director—managing an in-house creative team, outside agencies and a $100 million global branding budget. Joe was one of only a handful of firm partners who was not a consulting, accounting or tax professional.  Prior to joining Andersen,...

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