The thought of putting a baseball field in the middle of nowhere and having fans come, like in the movie Field of Dreams, is like it used to be with websites. Everyone was rushing to put their “brochure” online in the form of an informational law firm website on the internet. Fear of not having a site was palpable. New businesses popped up overnight and got rich creating sites for business owners who did not have the time or skills to do the work themselves.

It seems that with every new technology there is a groundswell of excitement—a feeling that we must do something because every other business is doing it. A few years ago, your competitors created a law firm website so you had to have one; now they have videos in their sites, they all have a blog, actively use social media and most do paid campaigns on Google or Facebook, so of course to stay competitive, you feel you must do it too. Just simply having an “online presence” or starting a blog is definitely not enough. Just because you create a pretty website with videos and good content or having a blog does not mean that clients will come to it. Potential clients must be able to find or get to your site and it must provide value once they get there.  You must pull them to your site and keep them there.  All the while competing with other firms like yours that handle the same practice areas yours does, but you have to make sure that a potential client knows right away who you are and why your firm is different, so they will hire you over your competitors.

Technology has changed, making it easier to have an effective internet and digital presence. Many tools (some of them free) exist to measure and analyze results. And new advertising channels exist that have, in many cases, reduced the overall cost of marketing your firm. Today’s websites offer online chat features, intake forms and capture prospect’s information to be used for future marketing—these platforms are tools.  And, it is most important to understand that they are VERY important tools, but they aren’t “sources”.  They don’t “cause” or propel a potential client to call you.  They are pieces of the connection chain.  I’m sure you already understand this, but let me make it perfectly clear.  A potential client (has been injured in a serious car accident) has a friend who was your former client.  The former client gives the potential client your firm’s name.  The potential client then goes to the internet and “Googles” your firm name directly, your firm listing comes up (hopefully along with your Facebook listing and many other listings for your firm).  The potential client clicks on your listing and it takes him to your website where he meanders through your site and eventually clicks on your “click to chat” feature and is connected to your office and ultimately to you or one of your attorneys.  The “source” is not your “click to chat” feature.  The “source” is not your website.  The “source” is not even “Google”.  The “source” is the former client.  Keep this in mind as we keep talking.

But it’s not just the technology that has changed; the entire customer interaction has changed, too. What used to be a “push” format—a one sided message to the prospect—has, based on consumer demand, turned into a two-way conversation, a “pull” format. This more interactive process has taken the most successful websites (and ultimately law firms) from static, seldom updated pages, to robust platforms that are constantly changing to provide value to customers and prospects and allow that conversation to take place (click to chat, contact forms, video, social media, blogs, vlogs, webinars, podcasts and the list goes on and on). This new reality is frequently referred to as Web 2.0 and really, it’s not all that new!

The internet is a tool and should be looked upon as an ongoing investment to promote and showcase your firm and capture leads. A recent Pew research study stated that 91% of people research products on the internet. Indeed, through common usage, “Google” (the most commonly used search engine) has become a verb—talk about great branding!  Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-per-Click (PPC) advertising and social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) are all tools that when used effectively can drive prospects to your site. But, these tools require frequent attention (Facebook at least posting once per day and Twitter at least 10-15 times a day to be effective) and updates. Back-end marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) help round out the web tool arsenal to ignite results.  And, you still need to do many pieces of “traditional” marketing in order to reach the top end of your target demographic.  Many of them only use the internet for limited purposes.  So, you can’t forget them when you’re budgeting and measuring your marketing dollars.  And, you definitely can’t forget about them when you’re thinking about your client experience.

You’re probably wondering why I, who usually talk only about “client experience” am talking about technology, marketing and lead sources.  Well, the answer is because, as usual, it’s all linked together.  In order to “stay in the game” (and if you want to be at the top of the game you really have to focus on this), you really need to be doing all of the latest campaigns and using all of the latest technology to communicate the finely developed brand messages we discussed last month.  Those messages have to be synergized over all of your marketing mediums and they have to be specifically tailored and targeted to the audience you are trying to communicate them to. Here is where it all comes full circle.  Remember earlier when we were discussing “sources”?  Well, the source is the most important thing we must look at when we’re looking at tracking and measuring leads and cases.  All of the marketing campaigns in the world can’t truly create a “loyal client”.  You and your firm do that by living your brand and creating a “WOW” client experience.  So, you want that “source” to be “client referral” more and more.  You want the means of connecting to be the technology you have invested in.

The next most important thing to do in the whole firm development process is – track and measure.  If you’re not doing this and doing it well, then you may as well not do any of the first several steps at all.  Because, this is where all of those efforts will tell you if you’re doing it right and what you need to change.  It will also allow you to determine so many other important things about the growth and development of your firm.  The least of which is how you are doing at improving your client experience and what else you can do to take it to the next level.

So back to the question I started with, if you build it, will they come? Yes—as long as you remember that while the technology has changed (and has improved), the basics of firm development have stayed the same: build your brand to uniquely represent who you are and why you are different, be consistent, stay on-message and use the available digital marketing tools to deliver relevant, valuable and vibrant content to current clients, your colleagues and potential clients and create a loyal client base by living your brand and creating a “WOW” client experience that your clients will never forget!