The first part of our practical guide to e-marketing for the Bar, in the January/February issue, explained how to breathe new life into your website and underlined the importance of regularly updated news content. Suggestions were made for maximising the effectiveness of marketing e-mails, e-zines and bulletins. However, a chambers’ e-marketing should extend far beyond a website and emails about seminars.
This time we cover e-publishing, podcasts, various types of partnerships you can set up, social networking, blogs, text messaging, web awards, banner advertising, pay-per-click and search engine optimisation (SEO).
Seminars are identified by many chambers as their most successful marketing tools, because they provide an excellent opportunity for face to face contact. However, seminars demand significant time and effort for preparation. One way to make the most of this time and effort is to publish material based on the seminar presentations on your website.
Another option is to publish articles in a section of the site dedicated to the relevant specialist topic – so set up the relevant sections accordingly. Most chambers websites just have an “Articles” section but busy visitors are unlikely to take the time to browse through all your material. They are much more likely to find articles in a section on their own specialism.
In addition, consider 3rd party websites such as Sweet & Maxwell’s (with 80,000 users a month) which are free to use (see the article by Asomi Ithia in this issue for more on this). More costly are the legal content “aggregators” including Mondaq, Linex Legal and Lexology which provide online legal information services. (See the article by Scott Vine on this topic in the September/October 2008 issue.)
Podcasts seem an obvious medium for communicating legal updates to busy solicitors or business people. As with e-publishing, they offer a channel for re-using the valuable work devoted to seminar preparation.
Barristers feature on legal podcast sites including CPDcast and InsiteLaw Magazine but it is hard to find individual chambers websites which include them. One set that provided podcasts, and plans to re-start this service, because they found such a positive response, is Oriel Chambers.
Pinsent Masons have weekly 10-minute Outlaw Radio broadcasts about technology law at OUT-Law.com.
Partnership/online links/online directories
How do your choose where to build online links and collaboration? Begin by thinking methodically about where your potential clients might go online to find a specialist, get updates, or liaise with colleagues. Identify relevant membership groups, specialist web-pages, or directories. Then make sure your details and links are included on those sites and that you are regularly contributing.
Emplaw’s site features a new call: “Barristers – ensure Solicitors find you”. If you subscribe, the site will provide online links from mentions in commentary and case summaries to the barristers involved.
Workplace Law Network is another example from this field.
Web 2 and social networking
Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter etc constitute the Web2 online social networking phenomenon but so far, lawyers seem to have focussed on the risks: how much time will staff waste updating their profiles; will staff make inappropriate comment or disclose confidential information as they chat online?
Clifford Chance and Linklaters are amongst law firms which have created corporate pages on Facebook, but most law-firm related groups seem to be populated by trainees or would-be trainees.
Look up Wiggly Wigglers on Facebook to see how one company has used social networking to build up a community and to connect with customers. With some imagination, this approach could surely be applied by barristers chambers to, for example, an area of rapidly-changing law.
Even the Bar Council has blogs; one of the contributors claims 23,000 readers.
Only a few individual barristers have blogs and these tend to provide background and chat rather than legal content. It is unclear how effectively these contribute to practice development. One example is by Jane Lambert, an IP/IT specialist.
Solicitors use SMS texts (which can, of course, be sent from a computer as well as a phone) to remind clients of appointments or to notify them of key milestones in their matters – for example hearing dates, exchange of contracts etc.
Awards can provide recognition and raise your profile The prestigious global WebbyAwards are now in their 13th year but there are many other awards: legal, such as Legal Technology Awards, national, such as the Dell Small Business Excellence Awards, or even local; there are, for example, web awards schemes for Brighton and Hove, Hertfordshire, and Hampshire.
Display advertising, pop-ups etc
Display banners probably appeal to traditional advertisers because they look so similar to advertising in printed newspapers and magazines. But are they effective? A banner is unlikely to prompt more than a small percentage of people seeing the advertisement to click through to visit the advertiser’s site, unless it includes a clear and attractive reason for a direct response. To judge effectiveness, advertisers will need to have systems to log how many people do click through.
Online banners can contribute to brand recognition and can also improve your own site’s Google rating if the advertising is placed on a highly Google ranked page.
One site used by chambers for banner advertising is, of course, Delia Venables’ listing of bar websites.
In Google and elsewhere, advertisers can create advertisements that appear as sponsored links when a user sees the results of a search that includes key words that the advertiser has picked.
20 Essex Street has a sponsored link that appears in search results for “human rights lawyer”; the results do not list any solicitors or barristers in the “natural” results.
Google makes it temptingly easy to set up advertising.You pay each time someone clicks on your link, and so the data on the effectiveness of your campaign requires careful monitoring. For more on this topic, see the article by Susan Hallam in the September/October 2008 issue of this newsletter.
Search engine optimisation
Search engine optimisation (SE0) involves the use of a range of techniques to ensure your site appears near the top of “natural” search results (as opposed to sponsored links). An increasing number of experts offer to help you with this, and chambers are increasingly interested in the potential for SEO. Why is this?
At first sight, SEO might seem to be of less importance to barristers than to solicitors. While solicitors might need clients to be able to locate them through searches for “personal injury lawyer” etc., solicitors would be unlikely to use Google to find a barrister.
But there are four reasons why prominence in topic-related search results might be important:
- Client choice: Informed clients – senior business people, or clients involved in high-profile or leading-edge cases – might want to contribute their own ideas about choice of counsel rather than leave it entirely to their solicitors
- Direct access: In November 2008, the Bar Council ran an Access to the Bar awareness day for would-be users, the media and opinion-formers. This channel may become a more important source of referrals in future.
- Solicitor awareness: Appearance in search results by solicitors for specialist material will help your reputation.
- Specialist markets: If you are active in markets without the traditional dependence on the instructing solicitor in the UK, for example, arbitration services, international work, good search rankings could be vital in attracting clients.
SEO is portrayed as technically complex and has become a growth business, but there is plenty of support for those who want to try for themselves, for example SearchEngineWatch provides many useful articles on this topic and Google Webmasters tells you how to check and enhance your website’s performance in searches.
Only a few years ago the Bar Council felt able to tell the Competition Commission that “Advertising is generally regarded as inconsistent with the whole conception of a professional man”¦”. The Bar has travelled some distance since then, but has much further to go if it is to take full advantage of the power of e-marketing.
Gerald Newman runs LawComms which specialises in marketing communications for lawyers. Gerald formerly practised as a solicitor, launched major communications and online projects for the Law Society, and was Practice Director with Cloisters Chambers in the Temple.