Immortalized by Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part II (and ranking 58th on The American Film Institute's list of the top 100 movie quotations) is Michael Corleone's infamous line, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
Keep Your Friends Close . . .
Several years ago, our legal marketing company determined that every law firm has one thing in common: they all have a nemesis. Sometimes this nemesis is a lawyer who used to work with the firm and then broke away to become an impressive competitor. Other relationships may have ended with bitter partner disputes and permanent separation. Many are just local firms which enjoy competitive rivalries against our clients. Whether bitter or friendly, everybody has one.
We made this discovery simply by listening to our clients. During reviews, the “What are they doing?” question would inevitably come up. It became such a popular question that we made profiles of a nemesis part of each client's files. We follow the competing firm's news with Google Alerts. We monitor their rankings. We even download their link portfolios and gleefully absorb all of the data our clients nemesis have to offer.
Nemeses play such an important role in our research that we recently added them to our search engine ranking monitor tool. Now, we can watch and compare their positions with our clients directly. We are always drawn to the keyphrases where they outrank our firms — and in this attraction, we made an incredible discovery:
Your nemesis is spending a lot of resources on meaningless bragging rights.
When one of our clients wants to increase the focus on a particular keyword or keyphrase, it's usually because Nemesis & Associates is ranking above them.
The next step is to look up the keyword. Using Google Webmaster Tools and Google Adwords, we can determine about how many people are plugging in this prized inquiry every month.
Here is an example. Law Firm A and Law Firm B are both located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Law Firm B is enjoying a page one, rank one position for the phrase, “contested wills litigation lawyers in Baton Rouge.” Law Firm A, our client, is ranking below them on the first page, and they want to rise to the top of the search engine results pages (SERP).
After reviewing keyword data, we discover that “contested wills litigation lawyers in Baton Rouge” enjoys very few inquiries per month. We look at how many times our team conducted the search, the number of times our client conducted the search, and then assume that our client's competitor and their search engine marketing team have done the same. The result? Absolutely nobody that needs to contest a will is actually typing in that term. It's just law firms and marketers.
Allocating more resources to that keyword makes as much sense as advertising in a newspaper that only you, your marketing personnel and your competitor reads. Bow out, give your competitor those bragging rights and know that they are wasting their resources on a keyword that will never yield a new client.
And Your Enemies Closer . . .
While most lawyers wouldn't go so far as to call their local competitors “enemies,” the quote does offer some applicable advice. Looking at the efforts of your friends and colleagues might lead to inspiration, but to get really valuable data that will help you compete in your local market, you have to monitor your toughest competitors.
Always watch what they are doing. Review their links, follow their headlines, track their search engine rankings and read customer reviews. Customer reviews provide particularly useful insight into the way a law firm treats their clientele. And some clients may actually share your competitors' competitive advantages, perks and bonuses, which you can then use to sweeten your own offerings.
Your online marketing company should be as familiar with your online competitors as they are with your firm's website. You and your internal marketing team should also keep a close eye on your local nemesis to stay ahead.
However, never assume that an idea is good just because your competitors are doing it. To spy your way to the top, you have to know what your clients are doing right and when they are wasting their resources on bad choices that leave them with bragging rights but no results.