Common Legal Marketing Mistakes Series: Small Law Firms

Marketing for Small Law Firms

Often times lawyers in smaller markets get stuck in rigid thinking that can be detrimental to the future of their practices.

The biggest issue we see? Thinking “small” just because of the size of your market and community.

Instead, consider the big benefits of being in a highly localized community. There are so many exciting and affordable strategies and tactics available to law firms in smaller markets. In fact, there’s great opportunity because you can dominate for reasonable cost.

More assumptions that can inhibit winning new business include ideas such as:

  • Everybody already knows who we are and what we do
  • If clients already came to us, they will always come back
  • Not enough of our clients use the internet or smartphones regularly

If you can relate to these statements – keep reading! We’re here to tell you that even smaller law firms can and should compete like law practices in large urban centers.

Here are four key things you should focus in on:

  • Establishing and Communicating a strong brand message
  • Taking advantage of live sports programming or prime time specials
  • Focusing on local SEO
  • Improving intake practices

Better brand message & strategy

In smaller communities, firms in practice the longest traditionally have gotten the most business because of sheer name recognition or word of mouth. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. One of the easiest ways to make sure you continue to stand out in a small market (or to break into one) is to build a strong brand message. If you can’t or don’t want to compete on experience alone (which we don’t recommend), start to identify or revisit your true differentiators.

Remember, legal marketing and advertising is never about fitting in—even in a small community—it’s about standing out in a memorable way. Once you’ve settled on why people like to do business with your firm and what attributes your lawyers have that the competition doesn’t, you can begin to tailor your messages around these cohesive brand stories, whether in outdoor media, TV, print, digital or even the Yellow Pages.

For example, one effective method may be to start employing testimonials in your creative strategy. Because small markets are close-knit communities where people often rely heavily on word of mouth and trust the recommendations of family and friends, the testimonial approach can convey a strong symbol of trust.

Another tactic to consider in a small-town legal market is leveraging your law firm’s community involvement. In small cities, cohesive suburbs or rural areas, typically there is a very strong sense of community. Taking advantage of local news sponsorship opportunities or getting involved with local charitable organizations are great ways to get exposure, build positive brand association and show commitment that can lead to better reviews and more business.

The upside?  You don’t have to spend like a large-market attorney to stand out. Positioning your law firm’s brand starts with understanding the messages that already exist in your market. Media buyers who work closely with local station representatives, for example, can often obtain key competitive information on your behalf, such as:

  • What are other local law firms already saying in marketing and advertising?
  • Where are they placing their advertising—TV, radio, billboards, internet?
  • Where are there “holes” that you could capitalize on to earn more business?

We can tell you from daily experience with attorneys in every size market in the country that identifying the competitive landscape first, then designing a strategy to combat it is something most legal practices don’t currently engage in.


Reach viewers of live sports programming or prime specials

When it comes to TV commercials during live sports or prime time specials, you’ve got your viewers right where you want them.

And, contrary to popular belief, advertising during programming like Monday Night Football, ESPN College Gameday, MLB, and even the Super Bowl, can be very affordable in smaller markets.

Here are a few ROI-driven benefits to consider when looking into live sports or prime time programming opportunities:

  • The high profile exposure gives law firms a much greater reach – and strong, respected brand association – often leading to better quality cases!
  • In addition to unparalleled reach and a broad demographic of captivated viewers, you are also inserting your firm’s name into conversations between those who already share common, vested interests.
  • Second screen engagement. Sports fanatics and prime time viewers are pretty much guaranteed to be plugged in (via smartphone or tablet) and interacting with social media feeds, fantasy sports apps, live voting polls and more. Think about it: where is your phone or tablet when you’re watching a game?

Bottom line: Small market firms not taking advantage of these opportunities are missing out.

Invest in local SEO

Another effective way for attorneys to gain market share in a small market is to look outside the traditional advertising box. Today digital marketing tactics are taking over, especially in large markets targeting a younger, digitally minded consumer, but increasingly in small, localized markets as well.

So don’t think about marketing in a small municipality as adding more or spending more, but rather as allocating some portion of the budget elsewhere. As more people purchase smartphones and use them for more media consumption, start to think about how you can meet clients’ mobile, on-the-go demands. Consider new digital marketing tactics or try new channels, including digital display advertising, eCRM, and SEO and PPC strategies.

One of the most effective online strategies for small market law-firm marketing is local SEO. We’ve covered this topic in previous posts, but let’s review some of the best tactics for taking advantage of this highly cost-effective marketing approach.

Local SEO is an online search method that gives a “searcher” the most relevant results based on that individual’s current location. With the rise of mobile phone use, local SEO has become increasingly valuable for brick-and-mortar stores as well professional services. Imagine a driver or pedestrian seeing your advertisement and doing a quick internet search for your law firm. One click and this person could be placing a call to your office or filling out a quick contact form to set up an appointment.

You can start taking advantage of local SEO right now to ensure that your attorneys are available to prospective clients wherever they are. A local search marketing campaign is built around creating a variety of business listings online. You simply need to start “claiming” and setting up your law firm’s local listings on the most popular aggregators: Yelp, Google+ Local, Bing Places, Internet Yellow Pages and Yahoo! Local, plus any high-traffic local online directories.

While a comprehensive local SEO campaign will require a digital marketing expert to help you get the most out of this small-market strategy, you can get yourself in a good position before you even allocate marketing dollars toward local SEO. Start by “claiming” any listing of your law firm online, which verifies that you are the owner of a valid business and are authorized to maintain its presence on the web.

In order to do this, you will need a business name or DBA; local phone number that matches your city of location (toll-free, shared and call-tracking numbers won’t work); and a physical street address (no shared addresses or PO boxes) where you can make live contact with clients who want to do business.

Take intake to the next level

The third marketing idea for small market law firms we’ll share is focusing on improving intake. You’ve heard us harp on this before, but for good reason. This is the No. 1 area where lawyers fall short in marketing. It may be because often law firms don’t connect the dots that intake is marketing.

Think of intake as everything you do after the phone rings. If you spend everything on slick advertising but neglect how you treat clients when they do reach out—meaning your advertising is working!—you are shooting yourself in the foot. Don’t overspend on lead generation at the expense of intake.

Again, we’ve talked a lot about intake, but let’s review some of the easiest ways to boost your firm’s efforts in this particular area of marketing.

  1. Dedicate someone trained in intake to ensure you are communicating with clients professionally, consistently and positively.
  2. Empower your intake team with the right tools and technology to qualify clients, track leads, build an effective database and leverage collected information in future marketing.
  3. Always follow up. If you have an intake professional or team, this should be one of their top duties, whether it’s following up on after-hours voice mails within 24 hours, or emailing the database with ongoing communication.
  4. Learn from mistakes by recording your calls. There are some very simple yet sophisticated call-recording programs that can help you review, monitor and learn from your current communication patterns.
  5. Create some cheat sheets. Make sure you’re communicating consistently by employing a few helpful shortcuts: a list of things to avoid during that first-impression session on phone; a one-minute rule—if a caller is left on hold past one minute, a live person must re-acknowledge the waiting caller’s existence or request a number to return the call; and a cheat sheet with your firm’s accurate website URL and other key details.

It’s clear that even law firms in smaller markets can leverage similar marketing tactics as attorneys in large cities. It’s about standing out through strong, strategic messaging, generating calls with smart local SEO and paying attention to your intake process. Let us help you turn calls into cases and increase your bottom line. Call for a free and confidential marketing evaluation today. (888) 461-1016

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