Tips for Effective Client Communication
First, you need a program that allows you to send branded e-mails to select subgroups. Most of our clients use Constant Contact or MailChimp. As you can see, the price for MailChimp starts at an affordable “free” for up to 2,000 contacts. Both tools are extremely user friendly. Both have the ability to customize your communications with photography and design flair. Here are a few tips for you on how to manage an e-communications program in a smaller law firm:
- What do you want to say? First, identify a topic that is timely and relevant to one of your key audiences. Select a topic that will be extremely interesting to a smaller group of your contacts. People want to read information they can relate to—that seems to be written just for them or their industry.
- Identify your audiences. Who will benefit most from your content? What action do you want the group to take after reading your update or advisory? Set a goal of communicating more often with smaller groups of contacts.
- Editorial calendar. As you review the audiences you would like to reach, come up with a topical calendar so you can send at least four or five targeted communications each year.
- Graphic design. You may need to hire a graphic designer skilled at developing graphically appealing e-communications. This person can create a basic template that you can modify for each communication you send.
- Use photographs. No one wants to read a text-only communication. Photographs—whether of you or of images related to your subject matter—bring your communication to life and make it visually appealing.
- Firm communication. If you would like to send a more general communication, make sure you feature recent blog posts you have written, links for readers to connect with you on social media, presentations you have (or will) give with registration links, articles you have published, new pages on your website, and other newsworthy topics.
- Track your results. About a week after you distribute your e-communication, go to the analytics page of Constant Contact or MailChimp. Here, you will be able to see how many people opened your e-mail, how many read it, what they found most interesting, and how many people visited your website because of the links you provided.
Invoices: A Key Tool
Believe it or not, your invoices are a very important communication tool. They show clients the value you bring to them. One of the necessary evils you have to do is time tracking. I never met a lawyer who enjoys keeping detailed track of his or her time. But put yourself in your clients’ place. Clients need to know with specificity how the time you spent on their behalf added value to their situation. Here are a few tips on how to make your invoice a powerful communications tool:
- Tell the story. Rather than billing .30 for “draft memo,” let your clients know the topic of the memo, who it was written for, and why it supports your ongoing work with them.
- Record time each day. Don’t leave the office without recording the time you spent that day. I’ve seen lawyers reconstruct their week—or even their month—by going back into their calendar and e-mails to create invoices. “Just do it” every day before you leave the office. If you don’t you will be leaving time—and money—on the table.
- Get your bills out on the first. If you bill monthly, get your previous month’s bills out by the first day of the next month. Billing creates client payments, which creates the cash flow you need to run your practice and your life.
- Accept credit cards. Make it easy for your clients to pay you. Establish a merchant services account with a company such as LawPay. Then, add a link to your website and direct clients there to pay. There will be a 2% – 3% fee, but cash in the door now is better than having a long list of accounts receivable.
- Have a policy to replenish retainers. When a client hires you, collect your retainer and make sure you have permission to replenish the retainer, via an approved credit card, when it reaches a certain amount.
Is Your Website Working for You?
Your website is the best marketing and communications tool you have. I won’t even entertain the thought that anyone reading this article doesn’t have a website. So, what can you do to ensure your website delivers a steady stream of new inquiries and clients? Consider these tips:
- Make sure it’s responsive. A responsive website is one that looks good on every device including mobile phones, iPads, laptops, and big monitors. It also activates the ability to directly engage with features such as clicking a number and calling it or touching a link to get directions.
- Self-audit. If you were a prospective client, would you hire you? Make sure your website is visually appealing and chock full of fresh and original graphics and educational content.
- It’s all in the content. If you want to be found online, you need to have content on your site that includes the keywords and phrases that will get you top rankings on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The more content, the better.
- Blog. Per the idea above, create blogs that showcase your expertise. I think you will like this article I wrote on how to write a great blog post in 30 minutes.
- Integrate social media. Your website should be the gateway to everything you do, including social media. Add direct links to all your social media sites.
- Add video. Visitors prefer seeing you and drawing their opinions on whether or not they want to meet with you. There is a strong preference toward viewing videos versus reading the same information in written form. One of our clients in New Jersey, Micklin Law Group, does a wonderful job by creating a video consultation room.
- Have an awesome biography. When we review analytics reports for our clients, we see more than 80 percent of visitors going to biography pages. Your biography must be a mini-website of you and your accomplishments.
- Google Analytics. Make sure your website developer has added the Google Analytics coding to each page. Then, on a monthly basis, review the analytic reports to gather important user information so you can continue to make your website even more relevant to visitors.
- Search engine optimization (SEO). There are two types of SEO. The first is incorporated when you write content and develop your website. Our firm uses a WordPress plugin called Yost to SEO the sites we build. The second type of SEO is the type that experts do for you on an ongoing basis. Both are critical to being found.
- Consider live chat. We work with Ngage Live Chat to add this feature discreetly to some of the law firm websites we develop. Live chat is available 24/7 and provides people surfing around at 2:00 a.m. to actually engage with your firm.
What Does SEO Mean for Law Firms?
SEO for lawyers starts with content. There are some myths and realities related to SEO. A topic cannot be “SEO’d” if there is not strong content related to the topic already on the website. The biggest mistake lawyers make with their websites is thinking their website is done. Finished. Complete. A good website will never be done. Rather, it will be a work in progress that is continuously updated with new content, blog posts, links to articles, videos, and a commitment to keep your website fresh and current. A few things to consider:
- Keyword and key phrase research. What words or phrase will prospective clients use to find you online? These keywords should tie directly to the services you offer. For example, we have a plaintiff’s employment law firm as a client. One key phrase we want to be known for is “attorney for physicians.” We created content around this audience, and, as a result, the firm is the top organic (not paid) result on Google in Minneapolis. Also, pay specific attention to Google Analytics and review how visitors found your website, your top landing pages, and your top overall pages. Once you know the key words and phrases you want to be found under, create content and blog posts that use these phrases.
- Research your keywords. Do Google searches for your key words to see which of your competitors also use your keywords. See if you can refine your keywords to more directly reflect your niche areas of practice—like the example above. Another method is to use a keyword planner.
- Google My Business. Make sure your business information comes up on the right side of Google results. Many firms add photographs and other related information on the firm including how to contact the firm and hours of operation. You need to claim your Google business page in order to solicit Google reviews. It’s easy—you can start the process here.
- Google, Facebook, and Avvo reviews. If you don’t already, actively solicit your satisfied clients to write reviews on their experiences with you. I recommend you start with Google reviews. Client reviews on Google will almost immediately boost your SEO rankings. Facebook and Avvo reviews are also important. The more reviews the better! Here is a link that walks you through the process of creating a link directly to where clients can review you.
- Responsiveness matters. It’s hard to believe that any law firm website today would not be responsive. You can see if your website is responsive by viewing it from different devices. Your website is responsive if, when you view it on your phone, all the functionality is there, but it has been automatically optimized for a smaller screen size. Static, non-responsive websites do not catch the interest of Google, Yahoo, and Bing. You will also know your site is responsive if, when looking at your website on a phone or iPad, you can actually click on the telephone number and call the firm.
- Keep the content flowing. Remember that your website is a work in progress—continue adding new content at least once per week. By adding videos or pre-recorded webinars to your website, you are also increasing the chances of your firm being found by those who need a lawyer like you!
Targeted communications can be very a powerful marketing tool to ensure the messages that differentiate you are actually being accessed by your targeted audiences. Successful communications require a multi-pronged approach, as well as a strong commitment on your part to make the strategies above a priority in your practice. Following these tips will ensure that the clients and referral sources you are seeking have the highest probability of finding you in the sea of other lawyers with similar practices.