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Using Your Dollars to Reach the Right Audience First

When your firm is budgeting for a marketing campaign, you want to make sure the message will be heard by the right people.

More than most, attorneys know that their niches are hard to explain. They understand that what appeals to one sector of potential clients does not necessarily appeal to another. The main conundrum, then, is how to market to more than one niche (and do a good job of it).

Firstly, and most importantly, avoid assumptions at all costs. You should combine a number of research methods before spending on marketing. Look at past trends and current clients. Knowing that your firm has, for example, done more medical malpractice business in the past year than in any previous year is useful for trend consideration. Your firm should also confirm that your medical negligence niche is still relevant by interviewing current and prospective clients. Trends can change, and you need to determine the interests and needs of your audience before wasting time and money targeting the wrong demographics.

For content to be successful, it must be personalized and speak to a specific person with a specific need at a specific point in his or her journey toward hiring legal counsel.

But firms with a long list of practice areas cannot target every possible customer individually. Too many customer profiles is actually worse than none at all. Firms with a broad base will want to determine which of their services are most used and what clients who are interested in different services may have in common.

Once you select your most important demographics, you'll need to strike the right tone, create attractive content and deliver it when and where it is most likely to be seen.

So, how does a law firm research its audience and then deliver the content that it needs?

Preparation: Epiphany Questions
Marketing managers typically gather specific information before targeting marketing efforts. To decide what to collect, marketing professionals first develop a specific question that will reveal valuable information about a prospective client when answered. Call this first effort an "epiphany question." It needs to be focused sharply in order to bring back a wealth of information.

In most instances, relevant questions relate to services, general lifestyle, products or feelings and habits. Sample questions may include:

  • During what hours does our audience Tweet most often?
  • What days of the week do people prefer to post material to Facebook?
  • What kind of material is our audience reading or sharing the most?
  • What are visitors to competitors' sites reading and sharing?

Research: Interviews
Again, assumptions are your worst enemy. For reliable human data, conduct one-on-one interviews and focus groups, which will allow you to interact with people in different ways. When you give people's thoughts, opinions and observations value and validity through an earnest conversation, you are far more likely to receive honest, useful feedback.
One-on-one communication in particular allows you to clarify specific people’s answers and glean more insight. When you are recruiting interviewees, make it easy for them. If possible, offer an incentive, like a gift card. Suggest times for the interview, but be flexible with scheduling. Make sure the people you are recruiting know that you are interested in them specifically -- not just in anyone who answers your call -- and why.

Try speaking directly with interview participants who have a recent history of engagement with your firm. Current and past clients are an easy place to start. Clients like to feel like they are being heard, and you should be able to learn a lot by simply picking up the phone and calling them to schedule a time for an interview. Be sure to talk to both happy and less satisfied clients. Those whose experiences did not match up with their expectations are valuable resources.

Current and former clients are valuable and close at hand, but strangers to your firm are just as important. You should also interview people from groups that have less frequent (or no) contact with attorneys at your firm. Fortunately, "strangers" can be easy to find. You should already have contact information for prospects who are not yet doing business with your firm. Use that information to send emails with surveys, or call to see if prospective clients are willing to submit to a brief interview.

Research: Focus Groups
You can set up focus groups by asking for participation from your followers on social media sites. If you want the process to be easy to manage, websites like Usertesting.com will find and recruit focus groups and give them tasks to perform on your behalf. Your marketing manager can decide what actions users should perform, and Usertesting will send a detailed report about the focus group's actions.

Research: Analytics
Without calling prospects directly, a marketing manager can analyze your prospects' online behavior and lead generation forms to learn more about what they are doing online.
Competitive intelligence gathering will let you look at what competitors' followers are following and Retweeting. Visit your competitors' social profiles and analyze what their fans are doing and what content they are engaging with. Websites like Quicksprout.com let you find out what your competitors' visitors are sharing. Simply type a URL into its search form, and see what pieces of content a competitor's visitors are commenting on and sharing.

On a similar note, check out what your clients are saying about you by utilizing services like Tweetdeck or Social Sprout. Find out who else your clients follow on Twitter. Habits and patterns reveal the "kind" of person who is linking to your content in the niche you want to promote. Hook into Followerwonk for in-depth Twitter analysis or Google+ insight.

Targeting: Customer Personas
Thorough research, in short, should show patterns and habits. Once you have researched your clients, prospects, competitors and any referrals your colleagues may have given you, analyze all of the data to develop user profiles.

Base customer personas on a variety of actual customers who represent clients in various segments of your audience. These personas can represent demographic and behavioral information. Some marketing managers even name their representative, imaginary clients and provide them with background details.

Most firms will find that they have more than one audience type to which they should market. But too many profiles will cause confusion, so try to limit your personas to four or five.

Through personas, firms can identify who potential clients are, what they care about and how soon they may need legal counsel.

From there, your firm should be able to determine the best kinds of content to create. Focus on reaching the people behind the need -- not the need itself. Your research will build your relevant content plan for you.

Targeting: Website Design
Your website design will need to speak to each of the different types of people who may visit it. The layout should take into consideration what types of conversion paths different users may follow. Larger general practice firms may need to funnel different audiences to different areas of the site to answer their questions and convert them to leads.

Clearly delineate different paths by placing content into sections intended for different people. Make sure each section targets a distinct area of interest or a different stage in the legal process.

On the landing page, for example, a firm may want to display three sections of content. The headlines would address the needs of individuals looking for help with an injury case, of contractors interested in real estate law and of business owners looking for guidance in protecting their new business from liability. This simultaneously shows three very different groups of people that the firm has something to offer them.

Try not to cram too much information into the landing page. Give visitors a clear opportunity to pick their interest and then speak to them directly and offer targeted calls to action from within categorized subpages.

Once a visitor follows the “Real Estate Law” path, the firm could introduce him or her to the attorneys at the firm who practice in that area and give examples of representative cases related to real estate law.

Make sure instructional content associated with each content section answers a specific question. Instead of just collecting “Resources” try something specific, like, “New Client Checklists,” “How to Prepare for Your Consultation” or “Essential Information for Purchasing Commercial Real Estate.”

Targeting: Personal Content Marketing
Once your firm takes the time to get to know all sorts of people, you can reach out to them directly with useful content.
Use a list management service to segment your contacts according to how you want to market to them. Target the timing and content of newsletters and other communication according to audience interests.

For example, an estate planning law firm may need to speak to two very different groups. One may be women in their late fifties to early sixties who are making decisions for themselves and their spouses about retirement. And the other may be children who are interested in securing care for aging parents.

The people in these different niches may tend to read emails at different times of the day. Send different newsletters at different times and track the open rates. Each audience may interact with the design of an email differently. While keeping branding consistent, experiment with placement and size of calls to action and links back to your website. Hone your design and messaging to each group based on the ongoing feedback you receive through email tracking data.

Through focused research, the profiles you develop provide targeted tools to offer people precisely what they need. Then, your content can speak to potential clients in their own language and address the concerns important to them.

About Author

Kerrie Spencer is a staff contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine.

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