Google Suspends My Business Features During COVID-19

Google responded to the COVID-19 outbreak by sending workers home and operating with a limited support team. This temporarily removes certain Google My Business (GMB) features and delays for remaining features are expected.

According to Google, they’re prioritizing “critical health-related businesses and services” to ensure the public has access to important health and safety information amid the evolving COVID-19 situation.

Client Reviews Are Unavailable

New reviews, new review replies, Q&A, and all videos are currently unavailable. Google has given no indication of when these features will return.

While unclear, it’s believed new reviews will be saved and published after Google resumes normal operations. However, with so many reviews getting backlogged, it’s unclear how quickly they will appear.

That being said, now is NOT a good time to ask clients for new reviews. More importantly, asking for a review may not be received well during these difficult times.

Click here to explore our community communication guidelines amid COVID-19.

Log new client information in a reliable place and ask for reviews once Google has made it clear the review process is back to normal.

Business Information

Business information edits are significantly delayed. This includes changes to hours of operation, temporary closures, business descriptions, and attributes.

However, it’s critical that any changes to your operation be reflected in your GBM profile. According to Google, the best way to make these critical edits is via business attributes or posts.

The post functionality, specifically, has been called out by Google as a reliable way to get important information to your clients. Click here for instructions on how to create a post.

Google has also recommended using the COVID-19 post type, which will make the content more noticeable to clients.

Claims, Verifications, New Listings

Claims, verifications and new listings are currently delayed for all non-critical businesses.

Google’s limited support team is manually reviewing new content for health-related businesses and services—it’s unclear how Google plans to prioritize new claims, verifications, and listings for all other businesses.

Frustrated? You’re Not Alone…

If you’re having trouble updating information on GMB, you’re in good company.

Fortunately, there are other ways to get clients the information they need:

  • Add operational changes to your website’s homepage. A pop-up window or top banner will help call attention to important updates.
  • Share operational changes on social media and update business descriptions on these platforms to reflect changes taking place amid COVID-19.
  • Email your client database to help spread the word. Connecting with past clients is also a great way to improve referral business.

While there are certainly challenges your business will face as Google continues to make adjustments, Network Affiliates is here to help.

Connect with our team online or call our office directly at 888-461-1016.

Law Firm Marketing Amid COVID-19

A Message From Your Partners at Network Affiliates

We recognize that with the constantly changing Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, this is an unprecedented time for everyone—it’s also unchartered territory for your business.

As a dedicated partner to you and your law firm, we’re compelled to share our strategic thoughts on navigating the difficult road ahead.

Community Communication Guidance

Make no mistake, COVID-19 will impact every sector and industry. We don’t know what the world will look like following this pandemic, so it’s critical that your business is agile and willing to change with the needs of your community.

Right now, consumers are being bombarded with information on every news station, in their social media feeds and inboxes. It’s important that your communications and messaging emphasize your organization’s integrity without pandering to fear or opportunity.

If you feel compelled to communicate with your audience directly, whether via social media, in an email, or on TV, remember that people need to feel safe right now. You and your firm can help establish that safety by being a community supporter, a source of information, and a trusted brand.

What you say to your community, and how you say it, will impact the community’s perception of your brand well after the crisis is over. Creativity, compassion, and relevancy are important concepts to consider throughout the evolving COVID-19 situation:

  • Creativity—messaging that mimics what competitors are saying is likely to get lost.
  • Compassion—people cope differently with stress and anxiety. Be sensitive to the needs of your community.
  • Relevancy—make sure the right message reaches the right people at the right time.

If you need help communicating the right words to the right people, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our in-house team includes creative and media experts who will ensure your message hits the mark on TV, social media, email, etc.

Let’s talk about intake, too. Intake communication has never been more important. With calls down as much as 80 percent in some markets, the outcome of each call matters more today than it did just a month ago.

Is your intake team anxious or preoccupied? How might these feelings translate on a call? What’s more, your team may be fielding questions they’re not prepared to answer. How are you helping them prepare?

Your intake team represents your brand on every single call. This is a golden opportunity to improve your intake process. Use this time to listen to your intake calls and mentor your intake team.

The people calling your law firm are undoubtedly worried, and the COVID-19 situation only makes matters worse. Be sensitive to the many ways people are coping with stress by preparing your intake team.

How Can Your Law Firm Make A Difference?

Many of our clients are already active in the community, providing college scholarships, free rides home, youth helmet programs, and much more.

Consider assessing how your law firm plans to utilize funds typically set aside for community outreach. Since we don’t know how long the COVID-19 crisis will last or what the lingering implications will be, think critically about what your community needs today; for example:

  • As schools across the country shut down and move to online learning, some kids don’t have access to a computer or the internet at home. Reach out to your local school district and find out if children in your community need help getting geared up for online learning.
  • In addition to teaching students, public schools provide 22 million children with free or reduced-price lunch. There are several organizations responding to this food crisis including Feeding America and No Kid Hungry. Donations to your local foodbank can also help ensure kids in your community don’t go hungry.
  • Healthcare workers, police, and firefighters are working overtime and local restaurants are struggling. Consider buying frontline workers lunch or dinner from a local restaurant that participates in takeout or delivery options.

Business as usual won’t work right now—not for you, your practice, or your clients. Think about what your law firm planned to do this year in terms of outreach, and ask yourself: is this what my community needs right now?

More importantly, making a difference doesn’t mean a state-wide relief plan. In fact, the biggest difference you can make is how you care for your employees.

For many workers, this may be their first time working from home or adjusting to a virtual office. They may need supplies, hardware, or time to turn a guest room into a productive work space—and a lot of these things cost money. Make sure employees have what they need to do their jobs well at home.

Parents are also facing unique challenges as they juggle child care, home schooling, and round-the-clock family meals. Be flexible with their new schedule and they’ll find unique ways to be productive at home.

Be patient with employees as they make this transition. We don’t know how long social distancing and self-quarantine will be mandated—anticipating for the worst could be the safest bet. If working from home lasts longer than expected, your employees (and your business!) will be prepared.

Sadly, some law firms may face furloughs or employee layoffs, and we know the thought of this keeps you up at night. If you’re worried about taking care of your team, remember that employees can’t collect unemployment benefits unless they’re officially let go. Compelling employees to quit is not recommended, as they will undoubtedly have a difficult time securing new employment during the outbreak.

Doing right by your employees can make all the difference in the world—but if you have the means to do more for your community, think about what would make the biggest impact—this may mean pausing your firm’s annual charity events or programs and returning to them next year.

Digital Spaces Are Exploding

In addition to community outreach, there are alternative ways to reach out to your community. As social lives shift toward digital spaces, there are new opportunities to engage consumers online.

Leverage your brand on digital platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

YouTube, for example, has 2 billion logged-in monthly users and is the second most-preferred platform for watching video on TV screens among those aged 18 to 34. (The only platform that has greater viewership is Netflix and Netflix doesn’t run ads.)

Safety recommendations during COVID-19 may extend social distancing, which means consumers will turn to digital spaces for education, information, and entertainment. Your law firm can meet consumers in these virtual spaces with minimal spending and a large audience footprint.

Facebook is another digital space your law firm should explore right now. Facebook has powerful audience targeting tools that deliver extreme precision with even a modest advertising budget. Plus, Facebook is reporting a surge in usage across the globe due to the ongoing pandemic. 

Use Facebook to test out new practice areas; we’ve seen great success with campaigns focused on nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, large truck accidents, and more.

Facebook advertising doesn’t need to be complicated or even service focused—in fact, a few kind words, an entertaining video, or a charitable announcement can foster community while maintaining brand recognition.

As we suggested in the first section, explore your creativity, be compassionate, and keep it relevant. YouTube and Facebook are great ways to reach out to your community because it’s where your community is right now.  

The Elephant in the Room: Television Advertising

Social distancing and self-quarantine will undoubtedly impact the number of drivers on the road and, subsequently, the number of accident-related calls your office receives. Your biggest competitors, however, (the insurance companies) are ramping up their marketing.

Reports indicate quarantined consumers are using their extra time at home to review insurance policies, and insurance companies are responding by remaining steadfast in their TV advertising.

Now is a critical time to reflect on the creative commercials your law firm is running—if not auto accidents, this may be a good time to showcase other practice areas (e.g., large truck accidents, nursing home neglect/abuse, etc.).

We also encourage you to consider custom messaging that speaks to the COVID-19 situation, specifically. This is a great time to simply offer support to your community by letting them know they can still access quality legal services via phone, email, or virtual meeting.

Many of our clients have already taken advantage of our in-house creative and production capabilities to enhance their TV campaigns with relevant, timely messaging.

From everyone at Network Affiliates, we remain firmly committed to your brand and business as we embark together on the challenges ahead.

Please know that as your strategic media and marketing partner, we will continue to shepherd your investment throughout these trying times.

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay connected.  

Optimize Efficiency to Supercharge a Media Investment

Legal advertisers know that success isn’t always about how much you spend—it’s how effectively you can spend it.

And while media agencies can certainly spend your money, how are you, the attorney, able to ensure you got what you paid for?

Attorneys and law firms can improve the efficacy of a media investment by analyzing the past and improving financial transparency.

If you’re not getting these things from your current agency, what else could you be missing?

The Post-Buy Analysis

Rates have been negotiated with TV stations and sales reps. The inventory has been purchased and the spots have aired or published. Is this the end of your campaign?

Not by a long shot…

To ensure all advertising ran as requested and that you received the rating and impressions you purchased, your agency should provide a comprehensive post-buy analysis.

A post-buy analysis will help you answer questions like:

  • Did you get the ratings you paid for? If not, who’s following up to get no-charge spots or other value-add bonuses to make up for what was missed?
  • How successful was the reach? Understanding audience behavior and demographic data is essential to future media opportunities.
  • How effective was the buy? Ad rates can fluctuate by quarter. Comparing your agency’s estimated cost and the actual spend can help inform future buys. 

At Network Affiliates, we use post-buy analyses to measure the effectiveness of a schedule’s performance after it runs and to hold stations accountable on behalf of our clients.

If your ad campaigns aren’t getting the attention they deserve, you could be overspending or leaving real money on the table.

Billing Transparency

What does your monthly media invoice look like? Do you get affidavits of performance from every station on the buy? Are the totals listed in gross dollars or net?

Not every agency handles billing the same way. Some agencies report net totals, separating agency fees and commissions. While not necessarily inaccurate, this can lead to confusion.

What’s more, some agencies blind bill their clients, an accounting practice that consolidates campaign purchases into one lump sum, which effectively avoids important details like what creative ran, when it ran, and what the agency is charging compared to the buy.

Do you get to see each commercial itemized on a station invoice? Maybe, maybe not.

Transparent billing is the only way to know that your marketing investment is being managed effectively.

At Network Affiliates, your top sheet invoice includes all your media purchases on a monthly basis. This can include your broadcast TV and cable buys, billboard campaigns, radio buys, etc.

Plus, instead of sending checks to a dozen different stations, our administrators manage the entire billing process seamlessly.

Billing transparency is essential to how we run our business. If your current agency isn’t willing to review their billing procedures with you, ask yourself, why?

To learn more about Network Affiliates or to schedule a free competitive market analysis and/or media audit call 888-461-1016 or fill out this quick contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.

Digital vs. Traditional Marketing: What’s Right for Your Practice?

If traditional marketing has performed well for you in the past, why go digital? Or, if you’re already in the digital space, why spend more money on traditional marketing?

Here’s a quick look at both to help you decide.

Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing (or outbound marketing) has a long history; it’s well-researched, and proven to get a message in front of a large, attentive audience.

Traditional marketing includes virtually all advertising before the internet: TV advertising, direct mail, billboards, print, radio, you name it.

Think of traditional marketing as a large paintbrush: it covers a lot quickly but can lack important detail.

Traditional marketing works. Data shows that television and radio advertising are still top performers. It continues to be a primary source of lead generation for nearly every business in every conceivable industry, and there’s still no better way to build brand recognition.

But in the digital age, can you ignore the efficacy of digital marketing?

Digital Marketing

If traditional marketing is your large brush, digital marketing lets you create fine brush strokes.

Digital marketing can target an audience with near granular precision, taking into account several parameters simultaneously (e.g., age, interest, location, etc.).

Digital marketing includes a range of online approaches: website design, search engine optimization (SEO), written and video content, the list goes on and on.

More importantly, digital marketing allows your practice to nurture relationships with prospective, current, and former patients. And what’s more important than building relationships with the people you serve?

Social media marketing, for example, maximizes the best-known marketing tool: word of mouth. And these days, few things are more trusted than a personal recommendation.

Finally, digital marketing capitalizes on interest, especially, using various tools to drive prospects to your digital doorstep.

However, there are trillions of doors in the digital landscape. But with effective digital marketing, you can be sure the right user gets to the right door at the right time.

Get the Best of Both Worlds

If you’ve already enjoyed success with traditional marketing, don’t abandon what you’re doing for a digital-only plan. Traditional methods work, but you wouldn’t believe how much more effective those efforts can be combined with digital marketing.

And if you’re already in the digital space, why not boost your web traffic and analytics with a TV branding campaign?

Combining traditional with digital guarantees your practice is making the most of its marketing dollars. Working with an experienced legal marketing agency ensures the right combination.

What does your mix look like? Let’s find out! A quick phone call can get the ball rolling today. Call 888-461-1016, or contact Network Affiliates online, and we’ll get in touch with you.

 

Content Creation Tips For Your Website

Content is your website’s workhorse. It can motivate visitors to contact your business or quickly send them to your competition.

Creating “great content” is easier said than done. Everyone, ourselves included, would like every blog post, infographic, or video to be a home run. But that’s not how it works in reality.

Some do well. Some are duds. But we’re a digital marketing company. That’s our job – we make content, analyze, and improve it.

But what if you’ve just started your law firm and don’t have the budget for a company like us? Or maybe you’re a marketer tasked with maintaining an attorney’s blog?

Do you know where to start?

That’s what we’re going to answer. Here are some tips you can use to create content topics for your law firm’s blog.

Finding Topics

There’s no “one size fits all” approach to topic generation. You can get ideas from questions your intake specialists have answered, question-based queries you’ve found in Google Search Console or Google Analytics.

You can also scour your site’s form submissions for topic ideas.

Regardless of where ideas come from, there’s no way you can remember all of them. Make a list in either a small notepad or a digital note taker like Google Keep. Jot down the general topic, why you thought it was interesting, and the original source if applicable.

You may not use all of them, and that’s fine. But at the very least, you’ll have some ideas to fall back on when you draw a blank in the future.

Traditional brainstorming works, too. If you have time, get together with other people in your firm to come up with ideas. They’ll bring a different point of views to the table and suggest ideas you may not have thought of.

And if all else fails, there are multiple topic generators available online. This one from Hubspot spits out a few ideas for you.

Generators are helpful, no doubt, but they’re by no means perfect.

Once you have some topic ideas to work with, it’s on to the next step.

Format and Creation

Next: what is the best way to present the information you want to share? Blog post? Podcast? Infographic? Video? Text?

It’s your website. Your content. The format you chose is only limited by time and talent.

Speaking of talent, you’ll need to figure out who’s creating the piece. Perhaps you’ll take it on yourself if you have the time, or you may delegate it to someone in the firm as a collateral duty.

If you don’t have the time or talent, there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing the work to a freelancer or a marketing company.

Cost might be a factor, so shop around to find the best combination of price and quality, but be careful. If you pay five bucks for a blog post, it’s going to read like a five-dollar blog post.

Know Your Audience

When creating content, try to understand the person that’s going to interact with it.

Yes, you can create personas, but that will require more time and resources than you probably have available. And if you’re starting with a new website, a persona will demand a lot of information that you won’t have yet.

Personas work by helping you identify your audience and create content they’ll act on. But personas seem to work better for companies selling a product or service to a specific audience.

But you don’t need personas to understand who your audience is.

As an injury law firm, you know that your audience is:

  • An injured victim or their family member
  • Stressed out about their current situation
  • Looking for help
  • Probably not a lawyer

The best advice is to keep it simple. If you’re writing a service page or blog post like you would a legal brief, you’ll lose a lot of people before delivering your pitch.

Keep your audience’s needs top of mind when writing content for them.

Content Needs a Goal

The content you’re working on needs a purpose. Do you want to generate cases? Do you want to improve interactions on your social properties? Or is it an informative piece, letting site visitors know about important changes in the law?

Your content should have one goal.

By limiting the content’s workload, it’s easier to see if the content was a success or needs adjusting. If it’s successful, you can make an educated guess as to why it was a success and replicate it for the next piece.

If it underperforms, figure out what went wrong and don’t make the same mistake. Or change the current content and see if you get better results. Take notes as you make these adjustments.

There isn’t one “right way” to create a piece of content. Companies like Hubspot and Moz offer helpful tips you can use to get the most out of your effort. But at the end of the day, trial and error work best for a specific audience.

If content generation is new to your law firm, there may be more failures ahead than successes. Don’t give up. It gets easier over time.

Measuring Success

However you define successful content, free tools like Google Analytics, Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, Facebook or Twitter Analytics make it easy to measure.

If your firm has a Facebook page or Twitter account, you won’t have to do anything but login and monitor your posts.

Google Analytics, Search Console, and Bing’s Webmaster Tools need to be set up before you use them. All three are free, but someone will need to add a few snippets of code to the backend of your website.

The goal or purpose you gave to the content will determine what analytics data you review. For example, if you wanted a piece to do well on social media, you’d look at data from Facebook and Twitter.

Google Analytics and Search Console show if people spent a lot of time on the page or converted to leads. And Google’s Search Console and Bing’s Webmaster Tools would give you a rough idea of how the piece is performing in search results.

The data you find should inform the changes you make in new content, and it will ultimately drive your success.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Odds are your content won’t do as well as you’d hoped. That’s fine. Analyzing content gives you a chance to see what worked and what didn’t.

If you think something worked, replicated it on your next piece to see if you were right. Conversely, if you think something specific caused the content’s failure, make that change and see what happens.

Again, there’s no silver bullet to content creation. It’s a never-ending wheel of content ideation, creation, and publication with each piece (hopefully!) performing better than the last.

If you have questions about content marketing, don’t hesitate to call content professionals for help.

At Network Affiliates, we offer a range of content services that’ll work for your audience and budget while supporting a comprehensive media strategy.

Call us today at 888-461-1016, or let us know you’re interested online and we’ll get in touch with you!

Are These Social Networks Worth Your Time?

Snapchat and Instagram are two visual social media platforms with big user bases.

Between 150 and 166 million people use Snapchat every day, while Instagram pulls in numbers north of 500 million.

With so many users, should law firms be marketing on Snapchat and Instagram?

We’re diving into these platforms and explaining how they work, what they do, who uses them, and if they’re worth your firm’s time and money.  Continue reading “Are These Social Networks Worth Your Time?”

Which Marketing Channels Are Worth Your Money?

Foresight is a real thing, and it comes from insight. The more insight you have into a market, the more foresight you acquire into that market’s future.

Law firms that spend a lot of money on marketing want to make sure every dollar counts. After all, as lawyers, you’re not in the marketing game because you’re passionate about marketing—you’re investing because it helps you reach more people and increases your bottom line.

So, which digital marketing efforts will get you the biggest bang for your buck in 2018? We’ve made our predictions below.

1. Digital Marketing Isn’t Just Important, It’s Essential in 2018

For years, marketing agencies like ours faced an uphill battle in one area: convincing the analog world that digital marketing matters. This is true in the legal field, where decision makers are often accustomed to pre-internet traditions.

But the march of time has been on our side. Experts like Jonathan Gabay, one of the world’s leading voices in brand psychology, predicts that 2018 will be the year the old holdouts will give in: digital marketing is effective, and there’s simply too much proof for any firm or company to ignore it anymore. 

2. Bigger Budgets for Digital Marketing

Marketers across the U.S. plan to increase their digital marketing budget in 2018. That means more money allocated for:

Digital marketing budgets have consistently increased year-over-year, and marketing agencies are already confirming that 2018 will be no exception.

3. TV (Still) Reigns Supreme

Important as digital marketing may be, TV advertising will remain the single most powerful and effective means of reaching a potential client or customer base in 2018.

In fact, according to the Nielsen total audience report of Q117, time spent watching TV continues to lead all major media. Americans now consume more than four hours of television every day. Critics and market analysts alike regard the current era as a new “golden age of television.”

In contrast to last decade’s rumblings of an impending decline in TV advertising, the opposite has proven to be true: marketers are getting more out of their TV ads.

4. Creativity Distinguishes Successful Attorney Advertising

As one of the leading attorney TV advertising agencies, Network Affiliates has been pushing law firms toward creative, authentic, and outside-the-box television messaging for years.

No one wants to see a lawyer read a cue card into a cheap digital camera in front of their firm’s biggest bookshelf. It’s a waste of time and money and hurts your brand.

Instead, your firm should focus on film-quality law firm ads with a unique message and a creative spin. New data backs this up. A recent study shows that 75 percent of a TV ad’s impact is determined by how creative it is.

There is a right way and a wrong way to advertise your law firm on television. The difference is defined by dollars earned, not necessarily dollars spent. TV advertising doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective—but it does have to be creative.

5. Siri and Alexa Are Changing Search

Far from novelties or toys, new devices like Siri and Alexa have become access points for your clients. People use voice technology to run Google searches or find local contact information. (“Alexa, find me a personal injury lawyer nearby…”)

Here are a few voice-relevant guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Content must be written with readers and listeners in mind
  • Traditional organic search is still important, but so are other disciplines like local search.

6. Content Must Beat the Competition

As more law firms incorporate digital into their marketing efforts, and as the legal industry increases its spending on TV and digital marketing, you’ll need better content on both fronts to stand out. That means:

  • More creative TV messaging than your competitors
  • A voice that defines your firm’s brand as something identifiably different than your biggest competitors’
  • Better writing — more authoritative, more knowledgeable, more authentic, and more reader-friendly

7. #FakeNews Will Be a Challenge

“Fake News” wasn’t in the vernacular two years ago, but it’s an everyday term now — and is quickly becoming an everyday challenge.

Even as web users are hungry for content, they’ve become deeply skeptical of the content they find online. If they don’t already know your brand, you’ll have to convince them your content is credible, authentic, and reliable.

Hard sales pitches will have a negative impact on your content. Instead, create content that’s helpful, knowledgeable, skillfully crafted, and trustworthy.

8. Google Will Pop the Pop-Up Bubble

Google has already cracked down on intrusive pop-ups. (We explained this game changer in great detail last year.) We expect this trend to continue in 2018, putting pop-ups to an end — or at least the worst kinds of pop-ups.

This is important because a lot of law firms still use pop-ups on their websites. Once upon a time, doing so was even considered a “best practice.” Not anymore.

Here’s the catch: social messaging is projected to become more important in 2018. And while most law firms aren’t actively engaging clients on, say, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, many do use pop-up chat features to make real-time contact with incoming leads.

This is important because web users, especially Millennials, value social messaging. It appeals to two of their top desires: authenticity (they can tell if you’re real by talking to you) and immediate gratification (instant messaging is just that… instant).

Fortunately, there are ways for your law firm to integrate pop-up chat and stay in Google’s good graces. Make sure you’re using those features the right way.

9. Don’t Forget Distribution and Social Media

In the crowded legal space, you can’t simply create a lot of great content and hope people find it.

You need multiple mechanisms for distributing your content, and that concept will become even more important as more law firms begin to compete digitally.

We are particularly interested in the way social media is changing the way we used to think about social sharing and distribution. For a long time, social media was a great way to:

(A) engage directly with your client base and community, and
(B) share links to your website’s content.

But increasingly, social media is emerging as a publication platform all its own. Twitter just doubled its character limit, for instance, meaning you can now tweet whole paragraphs at a time. That’s content, and it should be treated like content marketing.

At the same time, the lines between a platform like YouTube and a platform like Snapchat are blurring. Brands are producing original video content for Snapchat — something they’ve already been doing for YouTube.

As a general principle, it is wise to create multiple kinds of content across multiple channels. Social media publishing and distribution will likely make it easier to do that in the coming year.

10. Addressable TV Ads Will Be All the Buzz

On the TV side of things, we expect addressable TV ad spending to account for a bigger part of a media buying strategy.

Addressable advertising means you only show your ad to the relevant part of an audience. For example, if a million people are watching a show on Hulu, but you only need to address the ones in your state, it’s increasingly possible to target those viewers directly.

Consider, for example, that industry-wide, Spectrum (one of the biggest forces in TV broadcasting) projects a 141 percent growth in U.S. addressable TV ad spend from $1.26 billion in 2017 to $3.04 billion by 2019.

11. Your Design Needs an Upgrade

Visual aesthetics are crucial to building an authentic and identifiable brand. Part of your brand’s message needs to be that you’re current and progressive—millennials are especially aware of this as they browse the web.

Web design sends an immediate message to the public as to whether your firm is living in the past or in 2018. No one wants to hire a lawyer who can’t handle new technologies or understand emerging trends.

We know, of course, that you can handle new technologies and trends… but does your web design agree?

Remember: design trends change every year. Is your look due for a refresh?

Money matters in 2018, and with our help, you can spend every marketing dollar with intention, backed by a team of legal marketing experts who specialize in digital & television marketing for attorneys.

It’s the beginning of a new year—are you ready to turn these predictions into action?

Call Network Affiliates at 877-709-0633; or, contact us online and we’ll get in touch with you.

How Current Accident Trends Inform Legal Marketing Strategies

2016 was a bad year for drivers in the United States… the deadliest in nearly a decade.

That news came as something of a surprise when numbers were released earlier this year. After all, for some time now, the expert consensus has been that the roads are getting safer.

Advances in safety technology, urban living trends, increased carpooling, tougher laws on careless driving in some jurisdictions, the advent of self-driving cars — all these things were supposed to drive down the number of collisions and fatalities. And perhaps in the long term, they will. (Indeed, that’s one of the reasons PI lawyers need to think about adapting to a new landscape for long-term survival.)

But technology can be slow to catch the majority. Most people still aren’t driving cars with advanced safety features. Self-driving cars aren’t a practical reality. And while laws can punish negligence, they can’t prevent it… human nature is immutable.

Of course, the biggest factor contributing to motorist deaths in 2016 is one we didn’t see coming ten or twenty years ago: the use of cell phones behind the wheel.

Distracted Driving is the biggest and scariest threat on the roads today. It’s enough to unnerve anyone with a loved one who drives. Its death toll is staggering, and there’s no real indication of hope on the horizon where driver behavior is concerned.

With that in mind, what can we expect from the 2017 traffic accident statistics? Are we in for another tragic uptick in fatalities? And if so, what might that mean for your firm?

We’ll see some of these answers for certain in a few months. The 2016 stats were published in February, so we expect this year’s stats will be released around the same time.

For now, we look at the current trends on the roadway and how they might inform your legal marketing efforts as personal injury attorneys.

What the 2016 Stats Showed

The New York Times pointedly summed up the situation in their February report:

Over the last decade, new cars have gotten electronic stability control systems to prevent skids, rearview cameras to prevent fender benders and more airbags to protect occupants in collisions. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on campaigns to remind the public of the dangers of drunken driving, failing to buckle up and texting while on the go.

Despite all that, more Americans are dying on roads and highways than in years past, and the sudden and sharp increase has alarmed safety advocates.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 40,200 people died in U.S. car accidents during 2016.

That’s a 6 percent rise over 2015. In turn, 2015 had seen a 7 percent  rise over 2014. In other words, we now have two years of consecutive, significant increases in fatalities on the record — a total rise of 13 percent over two years, the largest in more than half a century.

In fact, 2016 marked the first time since 2007 that more than 40,000 people lost their lives in traffic accidents within a single year.

In accounting for the discomforting new numbers, the Times and the NSC point to several factors:

  • An improving economy, which has more people spending more time on the roads
  • Distracted driving (where the primary distraction is the smartphone)
  • A downturn in actual enforcement of seat belt, speeding, and DUI laws
  • Budget cuts in highway patrol departments

“It’s still the same things that are killing drivers,” Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, told the Times, “…belts, booze and speed.”

Your Clients Need to Know

In terms of your digital content, one of the best community services you can provide your current and future clients is informing them about current traffic fatality trends and providing meaningful, worthwhile perspective on the situation.

The benefits of blogging about traffic accidents, statistics, and trends are myriad:

  • Generating top-of-mind awareness for your firm
  • Creating a forum for you to demonstrate your authority on the subject matter, building trust among your readership
  • Creating high-quality content for search engines to crawl, thus boosting your SEO and making your firm easier to find online
  • Connects you with your community (when blogging about local stories or news)
  • Empowers your clients to keep themselves and their families safe by becoming aware of the current dangers

Talk to Our Experts About Your Digital Content Marketing

The 2017 traffic accident statistics are just a few months away. If they’re relevant to your practice areas, your firm would be wise to cover them on your website, in your social media, and across other digital platforms. Traffic stats are just one of many hot topics you can blog about to build your brand and increase client awareness.

We can help. The legal marketing experts at Network Affiliates have more than 35 years of experience in using television and digital platforms to help law firms grow.

Want more ideas for creating content that will connect you with future clients? Give us a call at 877.709.0633 or simply contact us online. We’d love to chat.

How to Be Where Future Clients Already Are

You simply cannot create demand for your legal services. And, on the flip side, because of ethics rules in most states, you can’t directly solicit clients even where demand already exists.

The demand is out there, though. Plenty of people in your area need legal representation and advice. But for the most part, they have to be the ones to find you.

The process by which they (A) come into need for legal representation, (B) search for such representation, and (C) hire a lawyer is what we call The Client Journey.

If you want to be a part of that journey, then your firm needs to be visible at every step along the way. After all, people want to find a good lawyer, but they’ll only invest so much effort in the hunt.

The law firms they see during commercial breaks on the day they’re injured, or on the billboard overlooking their accident, or on the very first page of Google results — those are the firms they’re most likely to consider and hire.

In other words, you need to be where your prospective clients are — at each stage and step along the way. So where are they? The Client Journey is your map, and it should guide your attorney advertising strategy.

The Client Journey is evolving all the time. Today’s journey looks different than it did ten years ago. Technology forges new paths for accident victims and other prospective clients.

 

 

Below, we walk through The Client Journey as it looks today, and we consider what it means for the law firm looking to compete in a crowded legal advertising space.

Before They’re Ever Injured – Top of the Funnel

Consider a hypothetical in which 27-year-old Annie is severely injured on December 1st by someone texting while driving in your town, where she’s grown up. Annie has never needed a lawyer before, nor has she ever given them much thought. But she’s been hearing the names of local law firms her whole life.

She’s caught their ads on TV, heard them on the radio, and seen their logo on banners at community events (as recently as November!). Now that she needs a lawyer, those handful of firms are the first ones that spring to mind. Next, she’ll head to the internet to search for them and give one a call.

Annie’s story perfectly illustrates the first step of The Client Journey: life before injury. Even there, before she becomes an accident victim or a prospective client, you need to speak to her (and people like her).

In the advertising world, this is what we call the top of mind awareness. It’s broad familiarity of your brand across multiple platforms and throughout the community.

Top-of-funnel touchpoints include:

  • Law firm television commercials
  • Digital marketing
  • Radio spots
  • Billboards
  • Outdoor signage in visible areas
  • Event sponsorships
  • Community involvement
  • Coverage in local news
  • Publishing blogs and/or editorials on topics of local interest

The goal is to create content that engages people at whichever step of their journey they happen to be on. Here, at the first step, the best content will engage even those who aren’t yet injured and don’t currently need a lawyer.

The Next Step: “I Need a Lawyer, But Which One?” – Middle of the Funnel

This is the middle of the funnel, or the evaluation phase. You have two goals here. First, you need to be among the law firms selected for evaluation. Second, you need to survive the process of elimination.

A well-timed television ad remains the single most powerful and effective way to grab a prospective client’s attention. The modern trend is for an accident victim to see an impressive law firm TV commercial shortly after their accident, to then search for the law firm online, and finally to make contact if they like what they find online.

Of course, many people will simply run a Google search for attorneys in their area, using a variety of potential keywords, which is why you have to be easy to find online.

The overwhelming majority of search users will never click past Page One, so you are automatically out of the evaluation phase unless your digital marketing and SEO strategy is firing on all cylinders.

Sealing the Deal

Having evaluated a handful of law firms, the prospective client now moves to the bottom of the funnel, which you might think of as the moment of truth.

Here’s where they make contact with your firm. That can happen in any number of ways:

  • Calling your office
  • Coming by your office in person
  • Sending you an email
  • Using the contact form on your website
  • Chatting with a representative of your firm using your site’s online chat box
  • Sending you a text message (if you have a “text to contact” feature on your site, which you should)
  • Very rarely, by sending a letter in the mail

Perhaps surprisingly, given digital trends, studies show that most clients ultimately make a phone call before hiring a lawyer. That call may come after other kinds of contact (chat, email, text, etc.), but it’s extremely important that your firm be prepared to covert the client over the phone.

We’ve written extensively about the many ways law firms struggle with client intake and conversion. Don’t neglect this step. It’s a crucial part of The Client Journey, and if the client feels inadequately nurtured — because they were put on hold for too long, didn’t get a call back, didn’t have their questions answered, were treated rudely, didn’t feel like the firm really cared, etc. — they will go back to their evaluation phase and contact one of your competitors instead.

Tip: even if the case isn’t right for your firm, you can still capitalize on contacts at the bottom of the funnel by referring them to other firms.

Let Us Help You Make The Client Journey Work for You

Strategic marketing at each step of The Client Journey is a practical and effective way of competing against the other law firms in your area. The most successful firms engage the public at every stage.

Network Affiliates can help you do the same. We are a team of legal marketing experts with more than 35 years of experience in this field. We specialize in cost-effective marketing for attorneys, from television to digital and beyond. To learn more, call 877.709.0633 or contact us online.

 

How Giving Back Benefits The Community and Your Business

Plugging into your community and giving back can yield real, demonstrable business growth — the kind that puts you ahead of your competitors. And it’s something you can do without huge monetary investments.

In fact, it is the honest conviction with which you take part and give back — not how many dollars you donate — that makes the difference here.

Today, we look at how a humanized brand cuts through the law firm mold and speaks directly to the potential client trying to choose between your firm and another.

Lawyers Have an Image Problem. Community Involvement Can Fix That.

Nobody loves a lawyer until they need one. You’ve heard that before.

The stigma isn’t your fault. You inherited it from generations long ago. Nevertheless, people expect you to counter it. In other words, to overcome inherent skepticism and distrust among your prospective clients, you need to proactively demonstrate that you and your firm aren’t like “all the rest.”

Getting involved in your community is one of the best ways you can do that. But here’s the thing: your community engagement must be authentic.

The goal is for people to see that your community activity comes from the heart. The best way for them to see that? Do things that actually come from your heart!

Talk with the partners and leaders in your firm and ask yourselves: what does our local community really need, what matters to us, what’s an area we would really feel passionate about being a part of?

This Matters a Lot to Millennials

Millennials show a strong preference for companies and service providers that model Community Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR refers to all the ways your business participates in initiatives that benefit society.

They aren’t just paying lip service to the idea, either. Studies show that Millennials put their money where their mouths are, supporting businesses that seem to have a conscience and a heart.

As we illustrated last month, Millennials are becoming the single most powerful part of the population. Their preferences matter a lot, and they prefer businesses that truly seem to care.

Additional Benefits of CSR

Making your law firm a responsible and active steward of its community has other benefits too, including:

  • Setting you apart from other firms (the legal services market has been one of the slowest to adopt CSR, so you have an opportunity to stand out!)
  • Top-of-mind awareness for your lawyers
  • Many employees (especially Millennials and those with many employment options) prefer to work for firms that take care of their community
  • Tax write-offs
  • Each time you get involved with another organization, they’re likely to link to your website on theirs (this is great for SEO)
  • Picking up mentions in local news (or even national headlines)
  • A greater sense of purpose and satisfaction for the attorneys working in the firm
  • Lawyers often struggle with what to tweet about, but community activity is great fodder for social media!
  • When you work with outside organizations, those people are more likely to refer others to your firm

How Your Law Firm Can Implement Corporate Social Responsibility

There are many ways to integrate your law firm within your community and model authenticity. A few ideas might include:

  • Volunteering with local organizations
  • Weighing in on issues of local importance in editorials
  • Providing pro bono services for people in need
  • Emphasizing work-life balance in your employment policies
  • Making charitable donations (but don’t think that writing a few checks every year will impress anyone on its own!)
  • Blogging about your activities and writing from the heart about why they matter to you
  • Simply being present at community functions

Often, the best ideas for community involvement will spring organically from the people and problems in your city, county, or state. Take the time to schedule a meeting with your staff and brainstorm creative ways to get involved.

In all these things, remember that authenticity is key.

Let Network Affiliates Help You Humanize Your Law Firm’s Brand

A lot of this is human nature. People naturally respond to honesty, compassion, and commitment. The more your firm looks and behaves like a caring person rather than a profit-driven organization, the more the public will be naturally drawn to your brand.

Network Affiliates is a team of legal marketing experts with more than 35 years of expertise in law firm branding. Let us help you humanize your brand in a way that pays off. To learn more, call 877.709.0633 or simply contact us online.