Family lawyers who are willing to adopt new ways of thinking about marketing can grow their practices significantly – even in these most uncertain of times. Experts offer 3 steps to help you gain market share both during and after COVID-19.
By Dan Couvrette, Marketing Expert to Family Lawyers
I’ve spent countless hours over the last two months researching to gain insights into how life and business will unfold as a result of the business closures, social distancing, people working from home, government intervention, stock market swings, etc. Staying up-to-date allows me to recommend the best marketing strategies to our family lawyer clients who look to my company Divorce Marketing Group (DMG) for leading-edge advice. My research shows that family lawyers who are willing to change their mindset and adopt new marketing strategies can grow their practices significantly – both during and after the worst of the pandemic.
Gaining Market Share During & After COVID-19
Forward-Looking Family Lawyers Are Ramping Up Their Marketing Efforts
Based on what I’ve seen so far as a result of COVID-19, there will be consequences for those family lawyers who don’t improve their websites, enhance their Internet footprint, and seriously improve how they connect with their referral sources electronically.
The number of inquiries from family lawyers about our company’s marketing services tripled in March, April, and May from previous months. This indicates that many family lawyers want to get their marketing in better shape than they ever have before. (For more on this new reality, see “COVID: Surge in Divorce and Family Law Firm Marketing”)
For some of you, the thought of growing your business might seem counter-intuitive while you are wondering how loved ones will survive the pandemic – and how clients will pay their bills if they’re unemployed. However, these are the exact reasons why many lawyers are ramping up their marketing efforts. Some see the need to protect their business; others see an opportunity to gain market share (whatever the market size is going to be) by developing a strategy to grow their business now.
I have 40 years of marketing experience, 25 of those years working exclusively with family lawyers through DMG: a full-service marketing agency that owns DivorceMag.com and DivorcedMoms.com as well as Family Lawyer Magazine. I have a great deal of experience with family lawyers and their prospective clients.
Gaining Market Share: Three Steps for Family Lawyers to Take Now
I’ve broken this article into three sections and have included my recommendations as well as those of Allison Williams, an experienced family lawyer and owner of Law Firm Mentor, and Michael Mogill, CEO of Crisp Video Group and author of “The Game Changing Attorney” blog. The three sections are:
1. Develop a Growth, Business, and Marketing Mindset.
2. Significantly Enhance Your Internet Footprint.
3. Connect with Your Referral Sources Like Never Before.
In addition to reading this article, I recommend that you download our Marketing Guide for Family Lawyers, which contains useful information to help you better market your family law firm.
Step 1. Develop a Growth, Business, and Marketing Mindset
At DMG, we’ve been encouraging family lawyers to think more like business owners for 25 years. When our Editorial Director Diana Shepherd and I published the first issue of Divorce Magazine in 1996, very few family lawyers looked at their practice as a business.
Most of them told me they were doing fine through referrals and did not need to market their practices. They didn’t see the need to place advertisements or write for Divorce Magazine. They certainly did not see the need to have websites. As the Internet grew, I urged them to record videos and podcasts, start a firm Facebook page, or send regular eNewsletters to their prospects and referral sources.
Some family lawyers have taken advantage of the enormous changes that have occurred over the last two decades – particularly younger attorneys, who didn’t graduate from law school thinking “marketing” and “advertising” were only for inferior lawyers. Many younger attorneys have taken market share away from more qualified, conservative attorneys.
Progressive family lawyers have taken full advantage of the Internet. They knew that if they had a great website; advertised with the right message in the right places; were active on social media; created content-rich videos, podcasts, and blogs; networked; and stayed in regular contact with their referral sources, then they could take business away from more experienced family lawyers. So that’s what they have been doing over the past 10 to 15 years.
Fast-forward to 2020. Most family lawyers understand that being good at their jobs is not enough to attract and secure clients, but few have developed the right mindset to grow their practices. One side-effect of COVID-19 is that the traditional way of doing business is gone, and things may never return to the way they used to be. COVID has increased the gap between lawyers who have an effective marketing plan and those who don’t. As we become more and more Internet-dependent, refurbishing your online footprint is not optional.
DMG is getting more inquiries than ever before for the works: new websites, website content and SEO, videos, podcasts, e-newsletters, social media marketing, branding, and strategic planning. We’ve also noticed that they are making the decision to move forward with their marketing programs within days of having an initial conversation with us rather than taking months or years to move forward. COVID has given them a real sense of urgency.
As part of my research for this article, I reached out to Michael Mogill, the CEO of Crisp Video Group; like me, he also coaches lawyers to develop a growth mindset. You can watch the entire interview with Michael Mogill here; in the meantime, here are the highlights from that video interview.
Michael Mogill on Business Growth During COVID-19
Dan: You and I believe that there’s an opportunity for the leaders to lead and to take more market share now. What do lawyers need to do to enhance or change their mindset so they’re more growth-oriented?
Michael: If you believe that there are no opportunities for you to be successful in your existing situation then chances are you’re not going to attempt new things, innovate, or be creative, and you will not be as successful compared to looking at every situation as an opportunity. There are definitely reasons to believe there is an opportunity right now because many firms are pulling back, but for the first time in probably decades, you have solo and small firms that have the capability of gaining market share, so long as they’re willing to be creative and innovative and willing to invest.
We’ve found that if a client has specific goals, they’re much more proactive and motivated. What are your thoughts about setting goals?
The first step is to actually have a clear target. Usually, if you put a number on a goal, I find that really helps to have clarity. You could say, we want to bring in X number of new cases, or we want to reach a revenue target, etc. If you make that commitment public then you’ve built in more accountability. Finally, if you’re tracking and reporting it, there’s public accountability and the likelihood of achieving that goal improves exponentially. People who are half-hearted about a goal have far less chance of achieving it.
Tell us about your “Game Changing Attorney” podcasts. What was the goal when you started the podcast, and what subjects do you cover?
It’s about getting into the mindset of market leaders, both legal and outside of the legal field, and learning how they think, how they make decisions. My goal was that by the end of listening to an episode they would at the very least understand the market leader’s point of view, and whether they agreed or not, it would stimulate new ideas and new ways of looking at their business and their life.
What are the four things family lawyers should do right now to grow their business?
First, make a career decision in terms of how you are going to respond: are you going to be a spectator who waits it out to see what happens as the situation develops, or are you going to be proactive, growth-minded, accept the reality of what is, adapt, innovate, and then take action? Second, start with leading yourself before you lead anybody else. Your team will certainly be much more productive and engaged if you yourself are calm, as opposed to someone who’s frantic and panicky. Third, change what you did in the past that is no longer likely to produce results and do something else. We see firms really, really struggling right now, because there was something they did and had fine-tuned over the past 10 or 20 years that worked really well in bringing in new business consistently, then COVID hit, and now whatever they were relying upon is no longer even an option. They need to develop a new capability because the conditions have changed. Fourth, create demand by building trust. Your firm’s brand exists already, whether it’s by default or by design, but if you build trust you will build demand.
Step 2. Significantly Enhance Your Internet Footprint
The use of the Internet for both work and entertainment are up significantly as a result of COVID-19: the reported increase varies from 35% to 75% depending on the source and the habits we’re now all forming will influence how we gather information post-COVID, including information about professionals we’ll need, family lawyers among them.
The Internet will continue to increase in importance because that’s the direction we were already headed and COVID gave us an additional push. Two notable facts:
- www.DivorceMag.com saw a drop in traffic in mid-March when stay-home orders started, but the number of visitors in May is at its highest level in two years.
- Traffic from organic searches from May 1 to 26 increased by 73% vs. the period from March 1 to 26.
This means that your prospective clients are performing more online searches to find a lawyer, so your Internet footprint is important now – and it will be even more crucial in the future. If prospective clients can find you online, they will judge and choose you – or not – based on your Internet footprint.
Many of you reading this article rely heavily on referrals to provide you with your next case. As a result of COVID, you’ll undergo increased online scrutiny because the Internet is everyone’s lifeline right now. That trend will continue even as social distancing restrictions are lifted – particularly for those who are 50+, have underlying medical conditions, or have loved ones they need to protect from infection.
How Do You Enhance Your Internet Footprint?
What follows is a partial list of what constitutes your Internet Footprint and how each part will be used to determine if you’re the right family lawyer for a prospective client.
A. Your Website
Almost all potential clients will visit your website before contacting you, so I recommend that you ask yourself these four key questions:
i. Does your website look as good as your top 5 competitors’ websites?
If you don’t know what your competitors’ websites look like do a Google search using the name of your city followed by “divorce lawyer” (e.g., “Chicago divorce lawyer”) and check the first five websites you see of competing family law firms. From a strictly visual point of view does your website look better or worse than your competitors? Don’t worry about the content at this point, just make an assessment of your first impression of your competitors’ websites and don’t base your opinion on the quality of your competitors’ legal work because that will give you a biased point of view – something a prospective client won’t have.
If you really have no idea what constitutes a good-looking website, have a look at these websites we designed. They have clean, modern designs, great images, and clear branding and messaging:
ii. Does your website do everything it can to elevate your status and help you stand out from competing family law firms?
Do you have testimonials from your clients that not only say great things about you, but also provide a clear indication of the types of clients you serve?
iii. Does your website answer the basic questions your desired clients would ask?
For example, if you want to attract business owners, you should have information that appeals to them to reinforce the message that you understand their needs and know how to address their concerns.
iv. Does your website have anything current about the pandemic?
B. Create, Develop, Update, and Enhance Your Online Presence
Feel free to do your own research; I’m certain you’ll be convinced that all of these plus others deserve your immediate attention if you want to gain market share:
• Manage Your Online Reputation – Google your name and your firm name. You may be surprised by the incomplete and inaccurate information you’ll find. List all the websites you appear on and then update and enhance them with the same branding, photographs, firm information, and contact information.
• Reviews and ratings – Bad reviews and ratings on Google, AVVO, Yelp, etc., can definitely hurt your chances of getting new clients. Respond to these ratings professionally and generate more positive ratings to balance them out.
• Google My Business Page – Update it and add content and reviews on a regular basis.
• Google Maps – Update your information so you can be found more easily.
• Your Firm’s Facebook Page – There are 2.3 billion active Facebook users, don’t ignore them.
• Your Firm’s LinkedIn Page – There are 230 million active Linkedin Users, don’t ignore them.
• Videos on YouTube – Videos account for 70%–80% of all traffic on the Internet. Put some videos on YouTube and on your website. Use Zoom or another platform if professional videos are not within your budget, but make sure their quality is good. (In case you didn’t know, Google owns YouTube.)
• Podcasts on iTunes/Podbean – Podcasts are easy to produce and once produced they can be multi-purposed to provide valuable information to potential clients, enhance your image, distinguish you from competing family lawyers, and provide you with content you can use in many, many ways and places to promote your practice now and in the future.
Step 3. Connect with Your Referral Sources Like Never Before
The effects of social distancing will last far beyond COVID-19. Of course, everybody looks forward to the day when we’ll be free to come and go as we please, but until then, a large percentage of the population will continue to stay away from large groups of people (e.g., CLE events).
The way a lot of information used to be shared – via one-on-one interactions at work, social gatherings, business meetings, business functions, CLE events, etc. – is no longer an option for some of the population. You will no longer get many of the referrals you would have received as a result of personal interactions, which could have a detrimental effect on your business. So if you try to return to “business as usual,” you will likely find that your referral business will drop during and post-COVID.
I’ve met with thousands of family lawyers over the past 25 years, and when I ask them what percentage of their business comes from referrals, the number ranges from 10% to 99%, with most in the 50%+ range. When I ask what they are doing to nurture and develop their referral sources, most say they send a “Thank-You” email or call to the referral source and that’s it. Now, you must have a referral development program in place; people who are referred to you by a trusted source are more likely to show up for an initial consultation, more likely to hire you, and are more likely to pay their bills than a random contact.
I reached out to Allison Williams, who owns both a successful family law practice in New Jersey and a company called Law Firm Mentor, to talk about increasing referrals. Here are the highlights from that interview; you can watch the entire interview with Allison Williams here.
Allison Williams on Nurturing Referral Sources
Dan: Let’s talk about referrals in the year 2020.
Allison: Today, lawyers who want to create relationships and connect with people as a means of generating referrals need to be very active online, particularly during and post-COVID. There is definitely an art to making powerful connections with people and actually staying in front of them online because there are so many messages online and so many people vying for attention. You really have to cut through that with a genuineness about what your goals are, in terms of creating those relationships.
So where should a family lawyer start? What’s the process?
Everything starts with our mindset, of course. Creating a relationship with somebody is a one-to-one experience. For those of you that think it’s so overwhelming to go out into a room full of people that you don’t know and try to drum up business, this really does not have to be a condition to develop referrals. Now that we are all online, you have a lot more opportunities to create relationships with people from all over the country. A lot of new networking opportunities are springing up that don’t involve the same level of potential stress, time, and financial commitment that they used to. Virtual Happy Hour has become a thing. Some of these groups have a limit in terms of the number of people from any one area of business, i.e. insurance agents, real estate, etc., or a limit on each type of attorney. They may only want to have one custody attorney and maybe one adoption attorney, so you’re not going to get a glut of family law attorneys. You can create your own Happy Hour: all that’s really required is a Zoom account, or GoToMeeting.com or GoToWebinar.com. It’s very easy to set up, it’s inexpensive, and as the group expands, you will connect with people you don’t already know.
What do you recommend to stay connected to your referral sources?
First, put any person that you have had any form of professional contact with into your CRM [Client Relationship Management] software, and sort them based on how you know them and what their area of interest is. So put all Family Lawyers together, put all mental health professionals together, and so forth, and then create an ongoing email contact with them, not a generic type of form letter. On average, 18 to 22% of emails will be opened. Email is a great reminder: even if they see nothing other than your email address it reminds them of you. Second, I would put the Check-In call on your calendar, just to say hi, I’m still here, I still help people with this problem. Third, a lot of family lawyers use social media, so ping them every once in a while, get a funny article, and share it in a group. A lot of us already have groups by our state, and by our practice area; you should stay in those groups – and Facebook groups – as doing so will generate referrals, if you participate. In fact, last year my law firm generated well over six figures just from my associations with people in Facebook groups; e.g., somebody in Texas has a friend that’s moving to New Jersey and he needs a family law attorney.
Get Ready to Gain Market Share During & After COVID-19
All indicators within my reach suggest there is a wave of family law matters coming our way. Even if I am wrong about the increase will be, my recommendation for what to do right now would be the same: family lawyers who are forward-thinking, well-prepared in marketing, and who take action will increase their market share.
Dan Couvrette is a marketing expert for family lawyers and divorce professionals. He is the co-owner and CEO of Family Lawyer Magazine, Divorce Magazine, DivorcedMoms.com, and Divorce Marketing Group, a marketing agency dedicated to promoting family lawyers and divorce professionals. www.DivorceMarketingGroup.com
COVID-19: Surge in Divorce and Family Law Firm Marketing
Our data shows some interesting trends on divorce in March, April, and early May 2020. We also experienced family law firms upping their marketing ante with some urgency during this COVID-19 pandemic.