2020 Vision: Experts Weigh in on the Future of Law Firm Growth
17–22 minutes to read
There’s no time like the end of the decade to look ahead at the approaching new year and consider the future so close at hand. As the clock strikes midnight on 2019 and we begin 2020, every law firm owner will reflect on the past year and finalize the strategies and intentions they will take with them into the new one.
We are fortunate to have many experienced veterans in the legal industry, who have made it their life’s mission to stay on top of what’s new, what’s next, and what actually works to grow a law firm.
As a New Year’s gift to our ambitious community, we’ve compiled 12 of the leading perspectives on the following question:
What trends, tools, strategies, or approaches do you see making the biggest impact on legal marketing and law firm growth in 2020?
Enjoy the following collection of game changing reflections, and best of luck implementing those that resonate with you and your firm’s goals in 2020!
- Michael Mogill, Crisp Video Group
- Paul Faust, Ringboost
- Chase Williams, Market My Market
- Tom Trush, Write Way Solutions
- Gyi Tsakalakis, AttorneySync
- Chris Massaro, The Search Engine Guys
- Tanner Jones, Consultwebs
- Seth Price, Price Benowitz & BluShark Digital
- Mark Weinstock, MileMark Media
- Cisco Adler, Digital Rain
- Chris O’Brien, Captorra
- Larry Bodine, LawLytics
The strategy that will have the biggest impact on law firm growth in 2020 and beyond is brand.
This means focusing on building a strong and impactful brand not only as a key differentiator and humanizing from a marketing standpoint, but also from a talent acquisition and company culture standpoint. If your law firm has distinctive core values, a clear vision to align organization, and a well-developed brand (and you can effectively communicate all that with a relentless frequency) — you will attract both future clients and future team members that identify with you and your mission on a deeper level.
The days of the short-game are over. It’s time to go long.
This is true especially on social media and in building true connections and “knownness” with your audience. Brand-building is a long-term strategy, and the kinds of relationships you will cultivate by pouring your efforts into your brand will be richer, stronger, and ultimately higher-value than the one-off wins you might be able to scrape together with short-term efforts.
There are many tools and tactics a law firm can leverage to build their brand in 2020 and beyond. But ultimately, the method is not as central as the endgame.
Focus on defining and developing your brand in whichever way is most impactful for your firm at this stage. When you invest in your brand, the longevity you establish will outlast any passing fad or short-term fix.
In 2020, it’s all about brand.
Founder & CEO
Crisp Video Group
The most important thing legal marketers can do in 2020 is work to improve conversion rates. Focus on how you can optimize the calls and leads the firm already receives. There will always be channel refinement, new channels, and marketing innovation to dabble in. But if you aren’t maximizing ROI on the leads you’re already receiving, you’re leaving opportunity on the table and throwing good money after bad.
It’s a fallacy to think that marketing is just about lead generation. Of course, quality leads are important, but without the right people, processes, and messages to handle the leads, campaigns will underperform and good effort will go unrecognized. You’ll never know if a campaign reached its full potential unless every step in the chain is properly managed. The handoff from marketing to intake can be a vulnerable area where things can go off the tracks.
What’s great about prioritizing conversion is that it’s totally in your control. It’s not a digital-marketing-black-box-moving-Google-target.
Here are a few ways you can get started:
- Perform a win/loss analysis. Audit the results of all inbound leads and identify trends. This can inform improvements for the entire top-of-the-funnel process from lead generation to intake.
- Develop proper processes. Especially as firms grow, it’s important to take the knowledge that lives within people’s minds and codify it to create formal procedures. It ensures consistency and scalability.
- Define your voice. Your voice — and, by extension, the voice of your firm — is your only true differentiator. When it comes to the business of helping people, it isn’t just what you say, but how you say it that will truly make a difference. Tone, timing, nuance, messaging — these are all strategic elements of how you communicate.
- Train your people. What may seem obvious to you because of your entrepreneurial spirit might not come as instinctually to your team. Be clear about how you expect them to behave, their tone, and the messages you want to deliver.
Once you’re confident that you will convert every viable lead, then you can turn your attention back to driving new business through social, out-of-home advertising, website optimization, voice, and so on.
Co-Founder & President
One of the most significant impacts to the legal marketing industry in 2020 will be the increase of knowledge shared via podcasts. Experts in various subject matters are starting to share secrets and tips they otherwise wouldn’t write or blog about.
There are many different styles and formats for podcasts. In my experience, the interview style podcasts keep engagement high while offering multiple angles of expertise. Experts that usually wouldn’t blog or have time to write have a platform through podcasting to share their opinions and daily work. There are podcasts dedicated to hundreds of relevant topics such as SEO, Facebook ads, legal marketing, or growing your firm.
A vast majority of podcasts are free and easily accessible via Spotify, Apple Music, or Google Podcasts. One of my favorite apps to listen to Podcasts on is Overcast. The app allows you to speed up speech and cut out dead time, turning a 30-minute podcast into 20.
Above all, listening to a podcast will not take time away from your current obligations. Podcasts are easy to listen to while working out or commuting to the office.
Market My Market
Growing opportunities for personalization is among the biggest trends we’ll see in legal marketing for 2020. Technology will increasingly allow law firms to tailor marketing experiences to potential prospects’ preferences.
According to a recent report from Infosys, a technology services and consulting firm, 86% of today’s consumers admit that personalization impacts what they purchase. In fact, about 25% say it “significantly influences” their buying decisions.
So what does this mean for you?
Well, the reality is, many of today’s consumers expect a personalized experience before even considering a sales message. So, at the very least, use your outreach to speak to one specific need or problem at a time.
Stay away from just talking about your legal services or listing out your practice areas. All this does is commoditize what you offer. It also eliminates opportunities for you to provide personalized experiences to your potential prospects.
Also, remember that today’s consumers jump around on many channels and use different devices to gather information. No longer do they rely on just one or two resources. As a result, you must spread your messaging across multiple platforms.
For instance, if you use pay-per-click to drive traffic to your website or a landing page, you should definitely remarket to these people on Facebook (which can also get you on Instagram). Even better if you can incorporate outreach on additional channels such as YouTube and, yes, even direct mail.
When your ideal prospects see any outreach from you, it should be the most valuable content they see all day. If it’s not, head back to the drawing board.
Now, more than ever, your marketing must share information that makes prospects feel smarter, supported and more educated about their situation before it’s time to hire you.
Write Way Solutions
Fix Their Experiences!
My prediction: Better experiences will continue to make a bigger impact. Put simply, the lawyers who improve the experiences of their audiences will win the future. This might not be the exciting voice search SEO, AI-fueled automated shiny object prediction folks want, but it’s the one that’s proven to work.
First, find ways to deliver remarkable experiences to your existing clients. How can you be more responsive (Smith.ai)? How can you make things easier for them (Docusign, Calendly, Uber/Lyft)? Create feedback loops with clients to identify where you can improve. Your ability to deliver remarkable experiences to your clients is directly tied to your ability to win your next clients. Consider implementing a client experience engine (I like Gatherup.com). Get your happy clients talking about you online.
Next, if you do absolutely nothing else, spend time on Google My Business (GMB). No matter how someone hears about you, it’s likely they’ll search for information about you on Google. GMB is likely to be their first impression of you and your firm. I expect we’ll see Google continue to invest in GMB in 2020 and beyond. Adding photos and videos of people goes a long way in humanizing your practice. If permissible in your state, you should also consider adding video client testimonials your GMB profile. Regularly publish and engage with Q&A and posts on GMB. Use UTM parameters to track the performance of your posts, as well as, your listings in general (I also like Moz’s STAT Search Analytics and Local Falcon). We’re long on GMB.
Finally, automate authentically. Implement client relationship management (CRM) tools that seamlessly automate top-of-mind awareness. For example, automate wishing professional contacts happy birthday by email or social networking platforms. Check out what you can do with tools like Mailchimp and Lawmatics. After all, despite all of the new ways technology has enabled us to communicate, I expect effective legal marketing in 2020 will be much like has been for time out of mind: Positioning your reputation for expertise and creating, nurturing, and solidifying professional relationships.
I would like to start with quickly reviewing what we (The Search Engine Guys) believe is the best strategy when it comes to legal marketing right now. As a company, we always pride ourselves on being first, taking risks, and getting our clients ahead of the competition.
We still believe that the best strategy is to aggressively target all platforms and analyze data by geographic area and practice area. (Give each platform at least 6-12 months to give a true analysis of what worked and didn’t.) Crisp is doing a great job using video to reach all platforms. Just because your personal injury campaign is doing great with Google ads, doesn’t mean your JUUL campaign will, and the same goes for different geographic areas.
For 2020 this is what we will be focusing on, and believe will make the biggest impact:
- Frictionless intake & signup. I truly believe that in a few years hiring a lawyer will be as easy as ordering a dog toy on Amazon. We are living in an extremely impatient world, and the companies leading the way are taking advantage of this fact. The last thing someone who was hurt in an accident wants to do is go through an extremely complicated signup process. Yes, there are certain things that have to be reviewed and discussed over the phone, but I believe that can happen after the client is initially signed up and ready for the next step.
- OTT (over the top). This has been a big topic in the personal injury/mass tort advertising space as streaming services like Hulu, Amazon, etc. increase in popularity. Many want to try out this method as an alternative to traditional TV advertising, but do not want to risk the initial minimum investment (which can be up to $50k/month for some). We will now be offering this service to our clients starting 2020 without significant investment and believe that not only can this service have a great ROI, but also supplement your other marketing efforts in a very positive way.
- Local service ads. Keep in mind this is only currently available for immigration and estate lawyers in San Diego and Houston. However, once Google opens this to other cities/practice areas, you need to act before your competition does. As you can see below, this is going to be the first set of lawyers people see when searching in your area, before ads, maps, and organic listings.
- GMB posting. Google My Business (GMB) posts are posts that go directly on your GMB listing that last for 7 days after they are posted. You can post about specials, services, news about your business, etc. We believe posting to this platform should be a priority for business owners for a couple of reasons. To start, this kind of post can increase clicks and engagement to your listing assuming that you are posting content that intrigues the reader. Second, if you are strategic with the posts and use the right keywords in them, then you are directly telling Google on their platform what you want your business to show up in the search results for.So does this help your map rankings? Short answer: no, not directly. However, engagement/click-through-rate metrics on your GMB listing and relevancy are both ranking factors. If you are able to create posts that engage users that are hyper-relevant to your services, this can only help your Maps presence.
President of Sales
The Search Engine Guys
Investing in your brand in 2020 should be a top priority for your overall marketing strategy. People do business with those they know, like, and trust. Prioritize your marketing and advertising strategies by how they will influence hiring confidence when choosing your legal services.
Start by doing a simple Google search of your law firm and see what shows up on page 1 — these results are available to literally every single prospective client who checks you out before calling. Are you proud of what is represented? If not, you have the power to positively influence it. Start with placing a continued focus on growing your 4- and 5-star reviews online. Prioritize your Google My Business listing, Facebook, Avvo, and Yelp Profiles.
To go beyond reviews management, invest in ways to strengthen your brand perception publicly.
- Starting a podcast and sharing your expertise and connections with the world. Invite influencers to join for an episode and leverage their respective following in your market(s).
- Investing in a quality brand video that adequately represents your unique value to the market — and, once produced, market the hell out of it! Often, increased viewership correlates to increased searches for your law firm.
- Producing interactive and creative content on your site, designed for mobile usability. Google rewards content that showcases expertise, authority, and trust. Users also respond positively to quality content.
- Strengthening your social following and engagement. Give people in your area a reason to leave Facebook to go to your website or view/watch your content. This also supports trust signals that Google uses to evaluate and rank brands.
All of these strategies will support your brand and strengthen it over time — leading to increased business and loyal clients. Consistency is key. Have a long-term growth mindset, and invest in your brand more than you are investing in direct sales activation efforts. In 2020, don’t neglect the power of a trusted brand!
VP of Business Development
From an SEO perspective, if the trends of 2019 are any indication of 2020, local SEO and Google My Business optimization is where it’s at. Google has come out with a number of substantial updates with regards to building out your Google My Business.
From the suspension frenzy of June 2019 where Google wiped out GMBs at WeWork, Regus, and other executive office addresses to coming out with a whole host of additional ranking factors and new fields, Google is looking more and more towards how consumers engage with your Google My Business to determine if you should be rewarded with visibility on the first page — especially within the Local 3 Pack at the top of page 1.
Here’s a quick rundown of all the items Google enhanced or announced related to Google My Business:
- Ability to “like” businesses
- Ability for Google Local Guides to “endorse” businesses
- New guidelines for reviews and appealing or flagging negative reviews
- Common words filter at the top of the review screen — to give people a quick understanding of words used most frequently in your business’s reviews
- Included new data in GNB Insights (new ranking factors perhaps)
- Photos — how often are they published, how often are they viewed, etc.
- Weekly posts engagement
- Search queries used by consumers where your GMB showed up in the results
- Enhanced the app with new features since its release in November 2018
- Only allows messaging feature through the GMB app
- Added new fields such as:
- service area (zip code, city, or region can be listed)
- date established (giving a slight boost if your business has been established for some time)
If you haven’t been paying attention to your GMB, now is a good time to start. I am pretty confident Google My Business engagement will be controlling the search results much more heavily in 2020.
Things are starting to shake up in the SEO, local, and paid search world more so than they have the past 5 years. Google has been experimenting with and implementing various algorithm changes. Here are some important factors we will keep an eye on for 2020.
- Speed – Google has gone mobile first for most, if not all, websites. This means crawling and indexing of your mobile site is more important than ever. Make sure your mobile site is as fast and user friendly as your desktop site. By now everyone should have a responsive site or be thinking about it.
- Reviews – Reviews just keep growing in importance. They are certainly a ranking factor in local search, and even a significant factor in organic search. Reviews are one of the only forms of user generated content you can get, which Google takes into account. Make sure you keep requesting and promoting reviews, especially those that highlight your core focus.
- Voice – Voice search is becoming bigger and bigger. More people turn to their phones or in-home devices to search via voice. These searches tend to be question-based. Make sure you have FAQs and schema code all relevant information on your website that may trigger a voice search result. You can also submit your business to certain voice query platforms.
- Conversion – As you and many of your competitors upgrade website and design, conversion will become an important differentiator. If you put two professionally designed websites next to each other, chances are the consumer will like something in both. The chance to grab that customer may be in the first 10 seconds, above the fold. Make sure you have conversion in mind for your website.
- Organic Growth – The last factor we see becoming a stronger ranking factor is organic growth. Google will keep getting smarter and look for organic growth of your web property in terms of natural backlinks, visitors, and content. Make sure your content is unique, valuable, and organically laid out. Google will know if you fake any one of these important SEO steps. Make sure your links, traffic, and content are natural.
For paid search (PPC), conversion rate optimization (CRO) has gone from “nice to have” to a necessity. A/B testing and tracking the message on landing pages is a critical element in increasing the number of leads firms will receive.
Along with conversion rate optimization, another PPC trend that will continue to gain importance is hyper-targeted landing pages. Google likes this, and your prospects appreciate the high level of relevance, often resulting in lower click costs and more phone calls to your firm.
Google is also experimenting with image extensions, which have just been launched. Image extensions allow Google to choose images from your landing page and show them as part of your ad. This has been rolled out to a very limited number of accounts as Google tests this new format.
Page speed is still a vital component of online success. Prepare to spend more time ensuring your pages load blazingly fast. Conversion rates drop significantly with every second that it takes a page to load — especially on mobile. One second is a good benchmark for page load time. Anything longer than that tries the patience of the user, resulting in higher bounce rates and lower conversions.
Many law firms are becoming more sophisticated and knowledgeable about digital marketing and paid search. As an agency like Digital Rain, there is no room for sugarcoating the numbers or glazing over tests that don’t work. Regardless of experience level, no one can win every single time. Clients appreciate full transparency, which includes the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Understanding the Importance of Every Call
After six years of preaching to firms that they are losing 30% of their potential cases at intake, they are finally listening — and more importantly, reacting. As a market we are realizing that success is secured or squandered at intake. This holds true whether you have an in-house intake team or you are outsourcing your intake. As a result, we are seeing a tremendous emphasis being placed on intake technology such as Captorra for your in-house team or firms are looking to outsource their intake responsibilities to companies like Intake Conversion Experts (ICE).
Firms who have not already invested in an intake platform like Captorra are losing market share to hungry, nimble firms who are using technology to get more than their share of cases. These systems provide results! And these results are not just more signed cases. They eliminate intakes slipping through the cracks by integrating calls, chats, and web leads directly into the system, and also provide multiple communication channels to best suit the client including phone, email, and texting options including eSign and detailed marketing analytics. Most importantly, they provide a first class experience for your client.
If you don’t have an internal intake team or if you understand that you could use a helping hand, firms are adopting legal-focused call centers to best represent them when they can’t represent themselves. In addition to providing legal knowledge, qualification, and live transfer options, some call center such as ICE offer the ability to retain cases on your behalf if the case meets your criteria.
Ideally, whether the call is being answered by your staff or an outsourced call center, if the caller meets your case criteria and can eSign on the first call, we all want that case to be SIGNED. What is stopping you?
Novel Marketing Techniques
Beef up your website to get new clients. 80.8% of clients “check out” potential professional services firms by looking at their websites (Hinge). Your website should have at least of 200 pages of content.
- Have solid FAQ pages. Think about the questions that your potential clients ask you when you’re sitting across the desk from them. These are the same kinds of questions that they’re typing into Google. So, if you’re answering those questions on a FAQ page, you’re giving yourself an advantage with search engines.
- Showcase clients you serve. If your clients are businesses, add a link to “Industries Served” on your website. If your clients are consumers, describe the situations that you help them with.
- Highlight case histories. Client success stories prove that you have actually won cases and closed deals. A case history can be as short as a paragraph describing the client, the problem involved, the dollar amount at stake, and the result you achieved.
For more ideas, see “7 Habits of Effective Online Marketers.”
The more you blog, the more clients you will get. Aim to write once a week. Fully 72% bloggers who wrote weekly acquired a new customer through their blog. (HubSpot). For more, see “9 Best Practices for Blogging that Gets You New Business.”
Blogging is very effective: 57% of marketers say they’ve gained clients specifically through blogging. Law firms that blog get 97% more links to their websites. Businesses that blog get 434% more pages indexed in Google.
I’ve written the LawMarketing Blog for more than 10 years, attracting more than 1 million visits over time. I know it is working because attorneys from all over the country phone me out of the blue to ask for advice on marketing their firms.
Business Development Advisor
How will you play a bigger game in 2020 and beyond?
With this wealth of knowledge at your fingertips and all of 2020 ahead of you, we hope you take the opportunity to reflect, strategize, and welcome the new year with a refreshed commitment to grow your law firm.
Whether you implement new marketing strategies, invest in new tools for your law firm, or take steps to align your team and empower your staff to help take your organization to the next level, being a game changing attorney means you are ambitious enough to pursue transformational growth.
We challenge you to take the expert considerations in this article to heart, and do the thing most law firm owners don’t have the courage to do — take action.