By Tiana H. Hardison, Esq.

For such a time as this….

The last few years have been crazy, haven’t they? 

And law firm owners – like business owners all across the globe, have become forcibly versed in the “Pandemic Pivot.” Never before has the sink-or-swim mentality been more relevant or necessary for law firm viability. For almost two years, it has been “Pivot, or Perish,” in steroid mode.

A few weeks ago, I attended the PILMMA Super Summit in Washington DC. The Summit was originally slated for the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New Orleans. But between Pandemic numbers soaring in Louisiana and the convergence of Hurricane Ida’s fury in a head-on trajectory for the Big Easy – PILMMA pivoted to DC for its yearly Legal Marketing and Management Super Summit. 

Thus, I found myself in the nation’s capital (walking the same streets as the angry mob that had stormed the capital earlier this year – but THAT’s a story beyond the scope of this blog, definitely.) 

Back to the story…Whenever I’m attending a Legal Conference – especially PILMMA’s Super Summit, I can’t help but feel the excitement and expectation in the air. It’s almost palpable. I’ll be honest here – At least for me, there is a special magic when one is surrounded with your “tribe”- a host of like-minded lawyers. There’s the inside jokes and jargon and the shared challenges that are universal to business owners everywhere but with unique twists respective to law firm owners. At the Summit, we’re a club of our own, with each attendee there for the same purpose; to gain the cutting-edged secrets that will enable them to reach their ideal clients, stand out from the masses of other law firms in their markets, and sign MORE CASES.

It’s the shared pursuit of the proverbial goose and golden eggs and I love it. No lie. As I sat at a round table in the back of the ballroom on the first day of the Summit (secretly wishing for New Orleans beignets and Drago oysters) I wondered just what this year’s DC conference would bring. I couldn’t help but look around the room; We were a resilient and determined group – masked and hand-sanitized and ready to hear the latest strategies that would catapult our firms to greater success. 

I grabbed my legal pad and repositioned my mask. Again. (Secretly wondering if anyone would notice if I just took the darn thing off since I was fully vaccinated anyway) Herd morality prevailed, and my mask stayed on. Once the speaker began, I realized that I was in the right seat at the right time and hearing the right message – one that richly resonated and gave me tremendous food for thought and opportunity for application to the world of law firm marketing and management: 

Mark Schaefer, author of such bestselling books as Marketing Rebellion and Cumulative Advantage, laid bare the reality of the post-pandemic world we are now operating in; To paraphrase, Mark stated emphatically that – It’s the end of the world as we know it. Or, in other words: the new normal is now the here-to-stay normal. So, we’d better get used to it, embrace it, and leverage it, when it comes to how we manage and market our businesses.

Mark started by sharing a profound observation about life and business. That the breaks in the fault line create opportunities if we have eyes to see them. The pandemic has been the globe’s historical fault line. It wrought horrific damage around the world, costing many lives – over 700K in the United States alone. It also brought dramatic changes to our way of life in innumerable ways. It changed how and where we worked and played, how we shopped, how we interacted with friends, family, peers, staff, and neighbors.

For law firm owners, it meant a frantic move to Remote operations. And even now – many businesses, including law firms, continue to employ staff who are working remotely or in a hybrid remote status. And for most of us, the pandemic “fault line” also meant a tremendous increase in time spent online. I certainly spent more time online. I bet you did, too. And so did your ideal clients….

Statistics show that once the first phase of the Covid 19 pandemic set in, people spent far more time than ever online and on all social media platforms. They also spent far more time and money – as digital consumers evaluating and purchasing goods and services. According to Pew Research, technology became a lifeline for many during the covid outbreak, with:

  • 90% saying the internet became essential or important to them personally, and
  • 40% saying they used digital technology or the internet in new or different ways compared to before the pandemic began.
  • In a recent survey from global marketing tracking company WARC Data, digital consumer consumption rose by more than 30 % in the last year- and Tik Tok overtook FB in terms of user engagement (with a 38% increase in 2020, according to Statists.)
  • For Gen Z and, to some extent, Millennials- Mobile Gaming is HUGE. These users spend more time there than on social media platforms like FB. 
  • Importantly, Deloitte Digital’s data shows that more than 70%of these users are open to advertising to reduce the costs of games…
  • According to Deloitte Media’s recent research- 55 Percent of Gen Z and 66 % of Millennials now say that ads on social media are influential.
  • And here’s another interesting trend: According to Google, there has been a “surge” of searches related to “Near me”- with a whopping 20,000% increase in “support local business” searches!

According to Schaefer, things will NOT return to normal. In his assessment, the pre-pandemic “normal” is a thing of the past. In fact, he went so far as to say he will NEVER rely on data compiled prior to the pandemic when it comes to evaluating consumer trends and societal norms. I’m not so sure I’d go that far, but I’m sure that the necessity of a robust online presence is more important than ever. The belief that there has been a societal shift to even more time spent online resonates with my own observations of where we’ve arrived, post-pandemic. 

Schaefer also noted that many younger people; kids, teens, and Gen Z’s – with their innate tech-savviness are helping their older family members navigate the internet. Many end up jumping online, not just for their own interests, but to assist older family members in need of information, goods, or services – and who aren’t necessarily as versed in the various online platforms and forums. (I can humbly vouch to being a Gen X who has called up her Gen Z kid to ask them to help her navigate Instagram)

Schaefer also noted that people are less trusting of what a company says about itself than what others say about them. Thus, consumers now more than ever rely heavily on online reviews. What “others” say or post about a product, service, or experience is far more important or relevant than what the company says about itself. That’s worth repeating: What others say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.  

Think of your own Amazon purchases: What do you do before you hit the purchase button? I suspect you look at the online reviews and probably read several. If you see a one-star review, you may become hesitant. And when you see a large number of positive reviews for the product, you are reassured. I know I am. 

As you may know, while I’m a lawyer and marketing fanatic in my own rite, I’m also married to a marketing guru – Ken Hardison. (FYI: He invented the lawyer’s yellow pages magnet on phone books, for goodness sakes!!) If I’ve heard him say it once, I’ve heard him say it a thousand times: “What you say about yourself is good, but what others say about you is GOLDEN.” Ergo – the power of testimonials, social proof, and referrals….

Although Schaefer didn’t directly translate his post-pandemic Strategy Session observations into the context of law firm marketing – there are some clear take-aways for law firm owners.

Here are just a few: 

****Your Ideal Client is Spending MORE time than ever ONLINE – so BE THERE – and visible on the platforms they use.

  • Make sure your firm’s website is uncluttered, user-friendly, and up to date- with a clear message and call to action. Your message should communicate what’s in it for THEM (your ideal clients) if they hire you, rather than making the site all about you.
  • Make sure your website and all landing pages load quickly and easily and that they are designed for mobile phones since that is the primary vehicle your prospects are using when looking for a lawyer. 
  • SOCIAL PROOF – Your Credibility in today’s world is based on your ONLINE Presence. Grab your GOOGLE My Business and maximize it. Add photos of your office. Make sure you are a 24/7 operation which means hiring a call center or implementing a chatbot for off-hours if necessary.
  • Amass as many 5-star Google Reviews as you can. Remember: Today’s post-pandemic consumer is FAR more interested in what others say about your firm than what you say about yourself. This principle is critical. Period. And don’t just stop with Google. Seek to amass online reviews for any platform your ideal clients use, such as Yelp and LinkedIn, etc. 
  • Social Proof is king, so include written and video testimonials prominently on your website and in social media postings and digital ads. 

Be Intentional. Gather written 

  • Testimonials/reviews from every client you can at settlement. You can give them short evaluation forms and ask them to state why they would recommend your firm to their friends or family. Then include their written testimonials on your website and in social media posts. Create videos of these written testimonials using software like Lumin5 or Canva. 
  • Gather short informal videos from your clients at settlement, too. Today’s clients don’t’ expect professional-looking videos. They prefer real-life – Think Tik Tok rather than a fancy production studio film.
  • Set up systems within your firm to ensure that you are doing EVERYTHING you can to obtain as many testimonials and 5-star GOOGLE reviews as possible. Your staff can easily assist you in making this happen. 

(Just remember that your clients need to use their own cell service when posting Google reviews- rather than your firm’s internet- Otherwise- Google devalues these reviews, regardless of how genuine they might be!) 

  • Turn your staff into Mini marketers. Hold contests in your firm to encourage and reward them for obtaining 5-star reviews from your clients. Encourage them to reach out to their friends, family – Even people who aren’t your clients can post comments and reviews that they love your firm and will hire you in the future whenever they do need a lawyer. 
  • Go where your Ideal clients are. You might be stuck in a Facebook rut, but your ideal clients may be spending their time on Instagram or Tik Tok or an entirely different platform. So, make sure your law firm goes where they are. Put yourself in the mind and shoes of your ideal clients and put your firm’s message out on the platforms they use.
  • Videos on Steroids. YOUTUBE remains the second largest search engine, and consumers are watching more video content than ever, so keep posting videos on YOUTUBE and TikTok- and short videos on Instagram. Don’t forget to leverage appropriate titles that include the key search words that your ideal clients are using.
  • Focus marketing efforts not just on your ideal client’s platforms but also on the platforms that the younger generation is frequenting. If Schaefer is correct- then there’s a real chance that your ideal client’s son or daughter may be the one typing in “lawyer near me” and exploring their parents’ law firm options online. Don’t miss the opportunity to connect with the younger sect by maintaining a presence on the platforms they use. 

We are a world RESHAPED by COVID. Your online presence is more important than ever. So, seize the opportunity you have to leverage your presence online, and across the platforms your ideal clients are using. Post-pandemic marketing creates new opportunities for law firm growth. Start looking for and leveraging these new opportunities today. 

*** PILMMA is committed to helping lawyers grow law firms, leveraging the latest proven strategies. For more information on how you can join PILMMA or be a part of a PILMMA Mastermind group, click here!