The Hidden Benefits Of Legal Websites

Why Have A Website? Published in the Law Society Inside Track Newsletter March 2005 1. What is your intention with your advertising?

35,309,524 of the UK’s 59,889,407 use the internet (Internet World Stats 3/2/05). Between September and October 2004 the percentage share of the market for broadband (ie always on internet connections) increased from 34.4% to 36% (National Statistics). Add to this the UK Governments target of becoming “the best environment in the world to do e-commerce” and it is clear that use of the internet must now form a crucial part of your marketing mix, i.e. how you bring your services to market. The only question is how you make use of the internet, and how heavily you invest your time and money into your website.

Features Of Your Website?

Once you have realised you must have a practice website, the question then is how much information you put onto it and in what format.

Basic Details

Your website will of course cover the fundamental requirements, from detailing the legal services offered by your practice through to your contact details and information on your solicitors. But how much other information should you put on there? This is looked at in two stages based on existing clients and new clients.

Existing Client Contact

Online Database

What is your communication strategy with your clients? If you are a practice which is spending money on acquiring clients directly as opposed to from another business, you must have an online and offline strategy to communicate with these clients. Why? Pareto’s well known sales law says that you will obtain 80% of your business from 20% of your clients. Another proven fact is that it is easier to sell more of your services to existing clients than it is to win new clients. Therefore, if you have taken the trouble to acquire new clients, you throw away all of your investment if you fail to communicate with them regularly and advise them of the other services available from you. The internet and your website allow you the opportunity of communicating with them regularly and at a reasonable price.

Solicitors have regularly struggled to maintain a client database, and more importantly to then communicate with the clients on it. This is now made much easier, as a bespoke database can be created which you can access over the internet. The advantage is that you can allow a marketing agency to communicate with your clients on your behalf, taking away the pressure from you and ensuring regular communications with them. Whether this is by quarterly newsletters, monthly updates or special offers to coincide with events, the important point is to communicate regularly to build some loyalty to your legal brand.

Case Management Software Accessibility

If you have invested in case management software, it is a waste of your investment if you fail then to allow your clients to access this software to see what action you have taken on their claim. Most systems can easily and safely be made available from your website and you can choose what information you allow your clients to view. Already many personal injury cases fall within a fixed costs regime, and it has always been the intention that this regime will be opened up to many other areas of legal services. Therefore it makes sense to allow your clients to check the position of their claim on the internet as opposed to calling your solicitor and taking up more of his or her time. This not only allows the solicitor to concentrate on dealing with other fee earning matters, but has several other added benefits:

Pre-meeting Questionnaires

This is another great method of driving your clients back to your website, and a meeting timesaver. With so many clients now having broadband access, this area of your website should grow and grow. It confirms your practice as innovative and makes the mundane task of form filling a little more enjoyable for the client. In addition, a typed form is a lot easier for the solicitor to read, saving any later misinterpretations. The form can then be saved directly onto your case management system, or printed if working from hard copies.

New Client Contact

Newsletters

The opportunity to register online for your newsletter (by email or in the post) is attractive for creating a prospects database. If a potential client stumbles across your website and likes what they see but does not at that time have a need for legal services, the opportunity to register for an online newsletter might appeal to them. If you then send out several newsletters to them, when they need the services of a solicitor your practice has a much greater chance of being contacted and turning the prospect into a client.

Questions

An interactive question and answer section of a website allows someone to “try before they buy”. This is an extremely effective marketing and sales tool in many different industry sectors. You might already offer free 30 minute interviews; this is an extension of that method. In addition it allows the client to test out your effectiveness in communications. If the client posts a question on the internet, they will expect a prompt response. You should ensure that one person is responsible for ensuring a prompt reply, and that this person is covered when out of the office. Gone are the days when you can expect the prospect to wait a week for a reply. If you do, they will have visited your competitor’s website and allowed them to deal with their query.

Instant Quotes

It is extremely easy to provide instant quotes for some areas of law, particularly conveyancing. However, these instant methods do not give you the opportunity of interacting with the prospect, and can be used by your competitors to carry out their mystery shopping. It is better to have an enquiry form which you then respond to promptly by email or even better, telephone. You will then have a much better chance of converting the prospect into a client.

News and Case Studies

No section of a website should come with a bigger warning than this one. I have seen many websites which scream at me that they have not been updated for several years simply by logging onto their news page and reading the latest news article, from January 2000!

If you are going to spend the several thousand pounds required to obtain a decent website, it is absolutely essential that you commit an ongoing monthly budget to the development of that website. The search engines which drive visitors to your website like to see fresh content on your website. They will rank you higher in the searches made if you are constantly updating the website. In addition, is a client who reads your latest news article which is five years old likely to take their interest in your practice any further? No.

However, if you are able to commit an ongoing budget to your website, and have staff with the time to update your site ( or an external marketing agency to do so), the news page can be extremely informative and an excellent advertising window for you.

Online Legal Services

With the number of online suppliers of legal services growing, there is obviously a great demand for these services. Divorces, wills, conveyancing can all easily be purchased online at the click of a few buttons, with payment being made by credit card. Should your practice be offering these services? Without completing a detailed analysis I cannot answer this in an article, but investigations should be carried out to see if this is a viable option for your practice. If you decide to proceed, online purchases of wills for instance, could be offered at a reduced rate due to the saving of time in not having client meetings, and the forms being completed online. It is often the case that a client who initially wants to purchase an online service will later need more detailed advice which, once they have already used your service, they will purchase from your law firm.

MARKETING YOUR WEBSITE

Once you have established your website, you must then invest further funds to market it. Of course you can drive existing clients and contacts to your website, and even prospects to it by offline advertising, but you must also look at the options of online advertising.

Search Engine Marketing (Search Engine Optimisation)

The search engines will review every website, ranking it in terms of useful content, the number of other websites of interest which you link to and which link back to you, and the use of meta tags. Google, the most used of the search engines with 14.4 million UK users in December 2004 (Nielsen/Net Ratings), will even score your website out of 10. For a business, anything from 4/10 is a reasonable score. The BBC website with hundreds of thousands of pages only scores 9/10.

Although the search engines will find your website, how highly you will be ranked in a search for the term “personal injury solicitor”, for example, is another matter. Search Engine Marketing is a profession in its own right, and if you are serious about attracting visitors to your website you must include search engine marketing and employ a professional search engine marketing company to carry this out.

Pay Per Click Marketing

This is the quickest way of attracting visitors to your website and is in effect online advertising on the search engine pages. You bid for certain search terms to attract visitors to your website. If you make the highest bid, your “advertisement” will appear at the top of the sponsored links section on the first page of the search engine.

If someone likes the description of your business and clicks the advert to view your website, you are then liable to pay the click through charge which can range from 4p per click up to £20 per click. You set this limit so you know exactly how much you will pay for each click and can set a cap anywhere between the 4p and £20 range.

Pay Per Click allows you to choose your search terms, and to decide the maximum amount you will pay for each term, along with the maximum daily budget you wish to commit to the campaign. It is very flexible and can result in your website being located on the first pages of the search engines within 15 minutes of starting your campaign.

CONCLUSION

These days your practice must have a website which should be an integral part of your overall marketing mix. How much content and interactivity has to be considered carefully. You must be realistic about how much time you can spend updating the website, outsourcing this requirement if you know that realistically you will not stay on top of it once your website is live.

You must then market your website using online and offline marketing activities, from pay per click marketing online, to detailing your website address on all offline activities including advertisements and letterheads.

The internet is an extremely powerful marketing tool if used wisely. It allows, for instance, a sole practitioner to compete equally with a multi-national law firm. Either one can appear on the first page of a search engine search result and compete for the business on offer.

Would You Like More Advice Like This?

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