Future of law firm websites
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Future of law firm websites

Author: Nitin Rustagi | Categories: Customer Experience, Legal, Customer Engagement, Demand Generation, Marketing Automation, Digital Marketing, Digital Analytics

Digital marketing, social media, and content marketing are not buzz words anymore! They are concepts that are constantly changing and influencing the way people live, think, interact, conduct business and consume. According to a Marketing Sherpa report, webpages, social media, and blogs occupy the top slots for marketing content online.

(Link to Marketing Sherpa report – http://www.marketingsherpa.com/article/chart/channels-peers-produce-content).

Websites have never been as important for marketing as they are today with a globe full of audience, and hence the need for these new-age catalysts such as social media and content marketing to drive prospects to your website. No wonder, they make a perfect platform to market your services, engage the clients, generate demand and serve your customers.

Gone are the days when it was enough to have a website. Today all that matters is how you establish your digital presence.

So, it goes without saying that law firms need to be proactive with their websites to stay abreast with latest trends in digital marketing. A recent study of 500 professional service firms conducted by Hinge Marketing reiterates this point. Almost 50% of the surveyed firms had their websites re-designed last year (refer chart below).

professional service firms

The websites of future are work-in-progress and all the efforts will address the following goals:

  • Drive Client Engagement – Convert a visitor into a returning visitor.
  • Publish and market thought leadership content – Increase brand awareness.
  • Funnel into and support customer’s buying lifecycle.
  • Generate Demand – marketing automation.
  • Build trust – Through education and sharing expertise online.
  • Go Global – Extend the reach to a global audience.

A Simple workflow to Get Started

  1. Online content not only engages the users but also entices the users deeper into the site as immediate next steps. Consulting Firms, professional services providers, like McKinsey, Bain and BoozAllen, to name a few, are already leading the way with not only Thought Leadership content but also making it engaging via online videos, on-demand webinars, and online presentations. Global outlook – Setup a global website catering to specific audiences with specific services and areas of practice based on the locale.
  2. Geographic specific – Build a multi-lingual website; you also have to publish locale specific content to engage the users across the globe and generate demand.
  3. Entice each and every visit to into a returning visit.
  4. Get visible – Use content marketing via Social Media combined with responsive design (mobile). Leverage social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as channels to reach out to the clients/prospects wherever they are: promote and market your Brand!
  5. Channelize prospects – Funnel the users to the site and engage them with the quality content, share your expertise and educate the users – make them want to come back.
  6. Measure – Have checked points on the website at various touch points during the journey of the user while browsing the site to collect information which could be just an email address and industry. Use this information to inform your marketing and demand generation strategy which can ultimately be put to fruition by integrating the website with a marketing automation tool like Eloqua, Marketo or ExactTarget to send out newsletters, event notifications, webinar notifications and Thought leadership publications.

Key Benefits of Digitization

Digitization can never replace personal relationships which are essential in any business but today you need to reach out to the masses and engage your audiences. Nevertheless, digitization has to be adopted by law firms as a first step for demand generation, recruitment, and networking. Only recently the law firms have realized the value of digital presence to define their global brand value. With the current wave of law firms focusing on revamping their websites, below are the key capabilities that will drive user engagement, action, and results, to help you achieve the goals mentioned above.

Digitization

1. User Experience

Today, it is experienced that the user has, that drives engagement, which makes the user come back and talk about it with their peers. Therefore, the goal is to make the use of the website to address visitor needs and surface the relevant content in few clicks or no clicks.

Engage via Customization –

a. Customize the user experience by displaying relevant messaging and imagery. Customize the experience for user segments based on their industry, geography and practice.

  • If a user/prospect from the Energy industry visits your website, display messaging and imagery for the user to relate. This can be achieved via IP recognition.
  • If a user/prospect from Middle-East region visits your website, provide a localized experience with current legal landscape prevalent in that region. Display the attorneys and practice areas of the firm in that region.

d. Deliver the content that relates to the user’s industry and problems along with providing high-touch experience based on the user’s segment. Make navigation easy and intuitive.

Multi-Device/Cross Channel Experience –

a. Go Mobile

With the growing number of mobile devices and people on the move, it has never been so crucial to provide the brand/experience consistency across all the devices irrespective of the channel of consumption.

  • Create “responsive” designs for your digital offerings.
  • Extend your website to channels where users want to access.
  • Give them what they want and where they want.

b. Multi-Lingual Experience –

Drive users to region/country specific sites in local languages for maximum engagement and to establish a connection with the user. This can be easily achieved via IP detection.

c. Contextual Discovery –

Understanding the context is essential to be able to respect user’s time and to provide value to the user. As the users become more engaged and their devices begin to generate richer content, contextual discovery requires websites to continuously respond in real time to an array of variables needs. Few aspects related to contextual discovery are:

  • Contextual Navigation: Contextual navigation enables users to explore vast volumes of information efficiently and intuitively by providing dynamic navigational sub-topics related to their search terms and navigation pattern on the website.
  • Targeted Personalization: Identify context based on navigation patterns, user behavior/interaction/browsing activities which is an indication of interests of the user.

d. Office Maps –

  • Leverage interactive office locations map on the site to showcase the firm’s “Global Presence”.
  • Enable users to locate a local office and display the practice areas served by each location either on hover or click.
  • Provide the contact information of the key attorney(s) for every location. Bring the information to the users.

e. Videos –

  • Give a personal touch by showcasing videos of attorneys speaking about the firms and the services.
  • Create videos for each department/practice to be able to relate to every need of the user and engage them.

2. Search

The importance of search is only growing day-by-day with the increase in the amounts of information being made available on the internet. The user needs to be navigated to the exact results in the least time possible, without frustrating him. To make search most efficient, leverage -

Type-Ahead (Predictive Search) –

Show them the next letter/terms while they are entering the search term. This enables the user to foresee the available content being offered.

a. Facets–

  • Empower the users with options/filters to refine the search results.
  • Integrate customization capabilities to offer the appropriate filters along with common parameters.
  • Use analytics to identify patterns to create the set of effective filters for search terms.

The above features will enable users to reach the appropriate attorneys and articles for the desired practice area.

b. Contextual Search –

  • Understand the users need. When they want specific information, do not distract the users with a wall of content – provide contextual search.
  • If a user is in the bios section of the website, it is natural to assume that they are looking for attorneys to solve their problems. When they conduct a search, the results should be only from the bios section and not the entire website.
  • Instead of making the users sieve through the information, sieve it for them by providing contextual information and search results.

3. Social Media

a. Integration with social media is critical for mass marketing and nurturing prospects/leads. The social media provides a non-intrusive means to extend your online reach within and outside the legal audience segments. From a legal industry perspective:

  • Twitter and LinkedIn are the primary platforms to focus for prospects and clients; however, Facebook should be used to reach out to potential recruits.
  • Websites should integrate with Twitter in real time on the homepage to display news related to the legal news. Integration is easy via readily available plug-ins.

b. There are several tools available in the market that can be integrated with the website to manage the website’s presence on the social platform. These tools can be used for:

  • Social listening – important to devise marketing strategies and focus on need-based services.
  • Managing content – maintain brand consistency and tone and analyze the user behavior.

c. Social media tools ensure that the content on attorneys’ corporate twitter accounts and LinkedIn convey a strong brand/marketing message.

4. Integration with Alumni micro-site

It is important for the legal websites to provide seamless integration with their Alumni micro-site.

  • Use secured single-sign on enabling the audiences to access the company’s digital web properties.
  • Build a network with attorneys and partners who move to different firms and industries.

5. Community and Collaboration:

In the current digital landscape, social communities are more than just a chat room/forum of vocal clients, partners and employees; they enable focused information sharing and audience support cycle. There is a plethora of information in these exchanges that can be leveraged to inform marketing strategies, business development activities and service offerings.

Few advantages of community and collaboration offerings via the website are:

  • Acceleration of both internal and external collaboration and innovation
  • Connecting departments/practices and consolidation of information silos
  • Locating talent and expertise in and out of network
  • Monitoring communications and resurfacing corporate knowledge
  • Integration of new hires into the organization faster – on boarding
  • Scalability to handle thousands of employees and alumni network
  • Providing both business and social groups within the organization

However, there is one key consideration for this capability– organization readiness. This necessitates organizations to moderate forums and communities since Law firms cannot be liable to information available on such platforms. The effort in moderating with firm’s interest in mind will definitely pay off in the long run.

6. Demand Generation (Market your Content)

Due to digitization, it has become much easier for the law firms to attract the right talent, to entice the prospects and to nurture the leads which in turn generates demand.

  • Share the right amount of information with the user to catch his attention and to procure his contact information in return.
  • Broadcasting Thought Leadership content.

Few ways to market your thought leadership content:

a. Website

  • Use your website as the primary source to generate leads.
  • Use impactful content, videos, images, case studies and educate the users.
  • Give them information, newsletters, case studies, reports, etc. to get their contact information in return.

b. Newsletters

This is a primary tool for the thought leaders in the law firm – convenient, effective and global reach. The newsletters can also be effectively used for event marketing

  • Provide a way to capture email addresses along with interests and combine this with a current contact list of clients, recruits and prospects.
  • Create a pool of thought leaders internally and start sending the monthly newsletters to the users who have subscribed.

c. Events and Insights

Hosting online events is an effective tool to attract potential clients and re-ensure the current clients with thought leadership content.

  • Display upcoming events being hosted by the firm along with associated attorney profiles.
  • Flaunt your expertise.

Once the event is over archive it to create a knowledge bank by providing the events as an on-demand feature along with the associated articles, attorney profiles and maybe even a blog for the users to interact with the attorney.

d. Biographies

In a study conducted by the Wicker Park Group, 90% of general counsel state that the attorney bios are the most important part of the law firm’s website. Attorney bios pages generate around 50% of the website traffic.

  • Leverage attorney bios to create highly effective, focused and personal bios.
  • Influence the visitors to connect and potentially be your new clients.

e. Blogs -

This is an effective tool to publish thoughts and develop ideas which can later become articles for your website.

  • Gather feedback on your thinking via comments which can provide insight to optimize search, create new articles and maybe even evaluate your service offerings.

f. Webinars

As the users are short of time, so are the attorneys and this is where webinars come into the picture – an effective way to replace the events with a low cost, convenient and mass reach marketing tool. The marketing efforts are limited to any geography and can be made available as an educational resource for the prospects after the live webinar.

g. Social Media

This is the most efficient means to reach out to a mass audience. It can be used to engage them and promote website content.

h. SEO

With a well-defined SEO strategy in place, you can funnel the users from search engines to your website, blogs, careers site and alumni site. Most users leverage the search engines to find a solution to their problems.

7. Analytics

This capability finally completes the loop of key benefits of digitization. It is imperative to measure the reach and effectiveness of your newsletters, the path and source of the user to the website, the navigational behavior of the users, and the effectiveness of search functionality along with the key search terms.

Website analytics provides a 360 degree view, which can be used to:

  • Evaluate the content usage –which content is most useful to which user segment.
  • Improve content – for most effective consumption and engagement.
  • Improve search – and gain visibility.
  • Improve the user experience and site structure.

In a nutshell

Although the change is slow, there is a steady growth in the way law firms are adapting themselves to the digital era. With attorneys becoming specialized for specific markets, it becomes imperative for law firms to leverage their talent and enable them to grow productively for the company’s well-being. With online communication enabling personal web-based communication secure and legal, companies should leverage on a powerful and perfect mix of digital marketing, content marketing, and social media to gain a firm foothold in their niche segments.