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An integrated marketing strategy is essential for law firms that want to grow. The rapid pace of change in communication technology means that law firms need to have a comprehensive plan that includes a number of different marketing avenues, all of which need to be considered as part of the whole. Here we look at some of the essential elements of an integrated marketing strategy:

Cross-Media Branding

Developing your firm's brand is an essential aspect of marketing, and consistency is key. Your core message should be reflected in every medium you use to communicate with the public, from your business card to your website. A common style and theme should be easily identifiable in every message you convey to potential clients.

Consistent branding accomplishes two interrelated goals. First, for each potential client, the message of the brand is driven home every time it is viewed. Second, it expands the reach of your marketing. Google has recently changed its algorithm to account for brand popularity, so the greater the reach of your brand, the higher your firm's website will appear on a search engine results page. The importance of branding is one aspect of search marketing integration.

Search Marketing Integration

While search engine optimization techniques remain important to moving up in Google's rankings, experts increasingly say that search marketing integration will guide such efforts in the future. While search engine optimization practices include increasing links and keywords to move content higher in search rankings, search marketing integration involves optimizing for people rather than for a search formula, so that the content that is delivered is useful and informative. Internet users are looking for substantial content.

With an integrated strategy, a firm's website, social media presence, press releases, blogs and online videos work together with traditional marketing techniques to create the marketing presence you want for your firm, online and off. With regard to online presence, the firm's website is a hub and a portal. Much of your firm's marketing content will be accessible through the website, and much of the content will be intended to guide potential clients to the website, with the ultimate goal of guiding them through your office doors.

The Firm Website

Increasingly, a potential client's first impression of a law firm will come from perusing its website, and that impression must be one of professionalism and expertise. That can only be accomplished by investing in a comprehensive website that communicates both a memorable and appealing brand, as well as all the information the public needs to know about your firm.

A bare-bones website is not acceptable for a law firm. Potential clients will want to learn everything they can online about your firm. If information is lacking, they may end up learning more about another firm. People considering hiring an attorney are often uncertain about whether or not they need legal representation and what their legal rights are, and they will want to find out as much as possible via online sources. While making it clear that your firm's website is not proffering legal advice, create an online information center where potential clients will spend time learning. That makes it that much more likely that when they are ready to contact an attorney, they will contact you. And make sure that all avenues to contact you are open to them; many people will want to reach out via email before they consider making a phone call.

Content: Blogs, Press Releases, Video and Podcasts

Neither your firm's website nor your marketing efforts should remain static. Your marketing team should continually create new content in different media that tie in current events and/or highlight your firm's recent achievements.

Traditional press releases remain an excellent way to associate your firm's name with your field in the public's mind, and to position your attorneys as experts in your practice area. Whenever your firm's attorneys accept a public speaking engagement or your firm marks a notable achievement, this is a marketing opportunity. Your marketing team should distribute a press release through a wide, yet focused, network such as Law Firm Newswire. Press releases can also consist of your firm's attorneys providing expert commentary on current events in their field. Attorneys should not hesitate to make themselves available to reporters for commentary, as well. No matter the medium in which the content is published, traditional press organizations continue to command more respect than online-only publications, so a mention of an attorney's or firm's name in such media carries more weight.

Your firm's website should also publish regular blogs and articles about news in your practice area. Blogs are shorter pieces of news or opinion that add to your website's content, making it more informative and useful to potential clients. If blogs are timely and interesting, others will link to them, providing more traffic to your website. If blogs are continually updated, this will help improve search engine rankings as well. Writing guest blogs for other websites is another way to spread your firm's name and generate traffic to your website.

A fully integrated marketing plan cannot ignore any medium. Your firm's marketing team can create videos and podcasts that perform a similar function as blogs, but in different media. Not only will some users be looking specifically for a certain type of content, but having content such as a video on a webpage can increase its search engine ranking.

"Quality" must be the watchword for all the content your marketing team produces. Whether web users are searching for information or just browsing, they will tend to ignore low-quality content, including material that is too obviously intended merely for marketing purposes. When users find content that provides them with information they can use, they will feel they have arrived at the right place. Informative content also makes it more likely that other sources will link to your website, increasing web traffic.

Making Connections: Social Media

To maintain the presence you want for your firm, it is important to make connections with potential clients, colleagues and the public. Today, this must include connecting through social media, which are extremely useful networking tools. The goal is not only to spread your firm's message, but also to make mutually beneficial connections with colleagues and professional organizations.

You do not want to miss out on any way that your potential clients may come into contact with you. Your firm should have an active Facebook page that presents your firm in a professional manner. A Twitter account is another way to make connections; tweets can consist of links to new content on your firm's website or interesting news from other sources. Within your firm's guidelines for professionalism, attorneys should be encouraged to participate in other social media and forums such as LinkedIn and Reddit, according to their interest and ability.

Participating in social media is important to reach potential clients who are searching for legal services. Facebook and other services have their own search functions, and you want users to be able to find your firm easily that way, but some of that may depend on the quality of the search engine. At this point, Facebook's Graph search leaves much to be desired. However, a social media presence can increase traffic to your website, even from potential clients who do not use social media. Search engine algorithms now use social media signals as one element in determining page rankings.

Tying in traditional marketing

Although a great deal of our society's communication has moved online, that does not mean that traditional marketing strategies are obsolete. If your firm chooses to advertise, it is essential that such advertisements project the same consistent branding as your online marketing. Advertising should also tie directly into your online presence. If a print, television, radio or outdoor advertisement is how your firm first reaches a potential client, that person's second stop will often be your website. Online advertising can also be beneficial, when it is integrated with a comprehensive marketing strategy. A recent study found that users are more likely to click on your paid ad if your business also has a high organic listing on the search page.

Face-to-face networking will never diminish in importance, especially for attorneys, whose professional reputations are so much a part of determining their success. Part of an integrated marketing plan is for attorneys to position themselves as experts in their field. Such a position is based not only on what they have achieved for clients, but on their participation in speaking engagements and professional organizations. When these activities become the basis of online content, it can contribute to expanding the firm's online reach as well. Attorneys who present themselves as experts can not only reach people through speaking engagements and written work, but can channel their expertise into blogs, videos, podcasts, e-books and online presentations as well.

Conclusion

No part of a firm's marketing plan can stand alone. Key elements such as the firm's website, its social media presence and its participation in traditional marketing avenues must be integrated into a holistic approach that employs consistent branding and a big-picture strategy for success.

About Author

Brendan Conley is a staff contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine and legal content developer for law firms throughout the United States.

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