By Tiana Hinnant Hardison, Esq

Digital Marketing changes like the speed of light. Well, maybe not that fast exactly, but it can sure feel like it. As if the practice of law isn’t stressful enough, trying to stay up on the latest trends and most recent Google or Facebook analytics, rules, updates, and changes can feel like trying to paint a fast-moving train….

And while PILMMA (Personal Injury Lawyers Marketing and Management Association) strives to push out the latest content, resources, webinars, and such to help law firm owners leverage digital marketing to grow their law firms – there are some powerful evergreen marketing strategies available to ANY law firm owner (any sized practice and with any marketing budget) that will help you achieve market domination and a steady flow of new cases every month. Seriously.

And these strategies don’t require combing every possible digital analytic or spending hours trying to create that perfect social media post that will go viral. And best of all, it doesn’t necessitate spending bank buying tons of leads and praying you can convert them. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not knocking digital online marketing – far from it. But what I am suggesting is that a warrior needs more than one weapon in his arsenal. And let’s face it, the current digital landscape is FLOODED. Which means standing apart from the digital competition is getting tougher – not easier.

Stay with me here because this is potentially GAME CHANGING for you and your law firm. As you gear up for Law Firm Growth in 2022 – your firm has the potential to leverage some powerful Grass Roots Marketing Strategies that can truly change the trajectory of your firm’s growth exponentially. It won’t require tons of money, but it will require a shift in mindset so that you can access the powerhouse potential you already possess within your firm.

What is this “Secret Weapon?” It’s your clients; your past, present and future clients. Before you roll your eyes and think, “Not that Referral stuff again…” I encourage you to stay with me a few more minutes here. The world is changing, and marketing strategies must change with it. That means thinking about old principles in new ways, applying simple truths strategically and leveraging all the tools in your toolbox. And for many law firms this powerful avenue of marketing is their most undervalued and underutilized. It’s just easier to buy more leads or spend more money on SEO. But there’s never been a more important time for Law Firm owners to focus some intentional and strategic thought on referral marketing. Your clients are truly one of the most powerful Marketing Strategies you have. Period.

When most of us think about our clients, one of the first things that come to mind is a mental picture of that client who is being a pain in the proverbial butt. You know, the one you just can’t please – that’s always calling and complaining. (And typically, these are the clients you’ve done the most for or whose case is small enough you regret taking it in the first place). Or maybe you think of the client whose victory was your most hard-fought. Or perhaps you think of those clients you’ve represented who were the most injured by someone else’s negligence.

But whether you have warm fuzzy thoughts when you hear the word “clients,” or the word causes an instantaneous knot in your stomach, the truth is that your CLIENTS have the potential to be your firm’s biggest Marketing weapon. In fact, each and every client has the potential to be a mini marketer for your law firm. This is HUGE because now, more than ever, marketing your law firm isn’t about what you say about yourself – it’s about what others say about you.

Why is this so important NOW? Because in the post-pandemic world we live in your potential clients are more skeptical of ads than ever before. Advertisers are pouring more money than ever into advertisements to reach consumers. Your potential clients – the people you want to reach with your brand, are inundated with ads. Everywhere. All the time.

If you attended PILMMA’s recent Super Summit Legal Marketing Conference in DC this fall, then you had the chance to hear a mind-blowing presentation by Marketing guru and best-selling author Mark Shaffer, expounding on this concept (IF you missed this four-day event; one of the biggest Legal Marketing and Management Conferences in the country, then make sure you check it out this June when PILMMA hosts its 2022 Conference in New Orleans. www.pilmma.org)

As evidence of the social shift away from consumer ad trust, Shaffer noted that MILLIONS of people now have ad blockers on their devices. He’s correct. In 2020 alone, 73 million American internet users had installed some form of ad-blocking software, plugin, or browser on their web-enabled devices. (Statista.com 3/22/21)

And according to recent eMarketer figures, American internet users blocking ads has increased a whopping 71.9% since 2014 and the trend is increasing every year. Even a few years ago, 1 in 4 internet users were blocking advertising on their devices and the trend is going up (Statista Research Dept Jan 14, 2021). And even if you aren’t spending tons on Digital Ads to market your firm, this trend is important for helping you understand consumer behavior.

If you want potential clients to sign with you and not your competition, you need to understand their motivations. According to Shaffer, a surprising two-thirds of our Marketing occurs without us. Effective Marketing isn’t about you telling others about yourself – it’s what others are telling each other about you. And that makes sense, doesn’t it?  

Think about it – When you purchase something on Amazon, what is one of the first things you look at? For most of us, after the basic product description, we look to the customer reviews. We know what the manufacturer says about itself will sound good. But what most of us want to know is, “What is the real deal about this product?” So, we scroll through the reviews, seeing who ranked the product with multiple stars and who gave it a 1-star bust. The good reviews give us confidence. The one stars give us pause and concern.

It’s the same with almost any product or service these days. Even our kids read the product and movie reviews first to see if the new game or movie is any good before making a consumer decision. We all trust what others say about goods or services MORE than what the company says about itself. And we trust the people we know more than the people we don’t know. We typically trust our friends and families more than we trust people we don’t know online or otherwise.

And here’s the kicker: Like it or not, your current and past clients are already mini marketers for your law firm. If they’ve had a positive experience with your firm, then they will share this with their friends and family when one of them needs a lawyer. Similarly, if they’ve had a bad experience, they will share that, too. And in many instances, a personal recommendation from your client to their friends or family will trump what that prospect may have seen online whether good or bad reviews.

Thus, if you are serious about Law Firm Growth, you want to amass as much social proof as you possibly and realistically can. You want 5-star Google reviews from each and every client and lots of them. Record short videos of your clients at the end of the case explaining how you helped them in a difficult time and push these simple (but credible) videos out on social media platforms. Obtain more professionally recorded testimonial videos to place on your firm’s website. And give your clients short forms to fill out too, asking them to state what they would tell their friends and family about your firm and what they liked most about your firm. You can also turn these written statements into videos with simple software like Lumen 5 to push out on your website and all social media platforms.

When possible, get this powerful social proof at settlement, right there in your office (just make sure the clients don’t use your firm’s internet to do it, or Google will punish you by assuming the legitimate review isn’t legitimate). Put processes in place to ensure that your staff understands how important these reviews are to your firm’s growth and credibility. Make sure they are reaching out to every client at the end of every case. Encourage your staff to reach out to their friends and family to obtain Google reviews from people that know your firm and like you, even if they haven’t yet needed to hire you.

Hold a contest in your firm with prizes for the staff member that obtains the most reviews. At this point, I could launch into a discourse on how to amass as many 5-star online reviews as possible but there’s already plenty of info on the internet about how to do that (Of course- if you need to get up to speed on that topic and other digital marketing strategies, check out PILMMA’s website and free webinars, resources, and articles that focus on helping lawyers leverage digital marketing strategies for Law Firm Growth)

But obtaining online reviews or testimonials is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to maximizing your clients to help you grow your firm. Each and every client you have ever represented and the ones you will represent tomorrow and the next day and the day after that all have the potential to be ongoing mini marketers for your firm. Don’t miss out on this opportunity by getting that initial online review or testimonial and moving on. Don’t drop the ball.

Unfortunately, many lawyers assume that if they obtained a great verdict or settlement for a client, they would always tell their friends and family about the firm for perpetuity. But that’s not always the case. It’s important to continue nurturing and fostering the relationship you have built with each client so that they continue to be your marketers long after the representation has ended, and the online review has been posted. 

To fully leverage the marketing potential of past clients, you need to create a systematized marketing plan that both nurtures and creates top of mind awareness in your past clients’ minds. Here are just a few of the simple but powerful tactics you can use to create top of mind awareness with your past clients:

  • Send out Birthday Cards to all your current and past clients (digital ecards and real ones)
  • Send them additional Greeting Cards throughout the year, especially at holidays other companies typically don’t; like Thanksgiving, Valentines or Veterans Day (so you stand out from the pack)
  • Create a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter – It doesn’t need to be long just a page or two – with interesting or funny articles/jokes, recipes/cartoons, helpful tips, etc.

If you don’t have time to put something like this together you can outsource it pretty economically. You can push this out to them both digitally and/or in hard copy. Create a Client Advisory Board that meets and shares a meal at a local restaurant every quarter. The Board is comprised of some of your favorite and high referring past clients or community influences.

Your objective is to enjoy a meal, fellowship, and to obtain their feedback. You may think this strategy won’t work but it is very effective and the PILMMA lawyers who have implemented it have seen tangible results. PILMMA members receive a step-by-step guide for setting these groups up as part of their membership. (If you want to read more about how to create Systems for Powerful Referral Marketing, then check out PILMMA president Ken Hardison’s book Systematic Marketing. It’s available at www.pilmma.org and gives you a clear and step-by-step guide along with many strategies, including the Client Advisory Board).

The most important take-away from this blog: Your past, current, and future clients can be powerful marketers for your firm if you recognize and leverage the opportunity.

Ken Hardison, the founder, and president of PILMMA puts it this way: “What you say about yourself is good, but what others say about you is GOLDEN.” Ken used these exact strategies to build two highly successful law firms and teaches these strategies to lawyers who join PILMMA all across the country. And here’s another case in point: one of the most successful Social Security attorneys in the Southeast (and also a PILMMA Mastermind Member) started leveraging these simple nurturing strategies, such as sending cards, newsletters, and such to her clients several years ago and has reaped a tremendous ROI. With an 8-figure law firm, most of her current cases come from past client referrals, not TV or digital advertising or even paid leads.

Start TODAY giving excellent client service to your existing clients and nurturing your relationship with past clients to help you Grow Your Law Firm. It’s simple but meaningful and powerful marketing that will resonate with today’s skeptical consumers and help you build a more successful law firm.

If you want to learn more Strategies like those discussed in this blog, check out PILMMA membership and the PILMMA Mastermind groups.

PILMMA helps law firm owners learn and leverage the best and latest Strategies for Law Firm Marketing, Management, and Exponential Growth. www.pilmma.org