When marketing attorney services, video shows promising results. What started as an internal marketing experiment at my firm six months ago—creating eight short marketing videos—turned into a major firm-wide effort when early feedback showed that videos were one of the most effective forms of online communication. Not only do the videos convey what services and expertise the attorneys can deliver, but they also show how they might deliver those services as well. The “small experiment” has blossomed into a full-scale, video-centric website project with more than 80 videos slated to be launched through the end of the year.
Try before you buy
Early in my career when I marketed and sold software, providing a trial version was an effective way of getting potential customers comfortable with our products and their value. But when I switched to marketing and selling attorney services, that model was not an option. There is no “legal-professional-in-a-box” option available, but our early experiences with online video are bringing us a step closer.
Brand the practitioner, not the firm
One of the most formidable challenges in legal services marketing is differentiating legal services. For example, “Law Firm A” has as good of a reputation as “Law Firm B.” For this reason, clients will often say that they “hire the lawyer and not the law firm.” If this is true, presenting attorneys in the best light possible should be a primary goal of legal services marketing. By capturing attorneys in action, video places the attorney brand before the firm brand.
For years I hired (and fired) attorneys from highly reputable law firms because the services they provided bore only a loose correlation to the reputation of their firms. The level of service I received was as varied as the attorneys delivering those services. As long as firms market their standings, wins, reputation and expertise rather than the ways their individual attorneys approach problems and deliver service, they are missing a critical element in the legal marketing equation.
Benefits of online video
Online video has shown to have many advantages over other media. It highlights the attorney and provides an opportunity to demonstrate his or her persuasive powers. Through the combination of visuals and sound, video delivers ideas and positions with more authority and emotional impact.
Also, complex information can be explained simply. In fact, because effective videos are two to five minutes in length, they force attorneys to explain issues in a simple format that is ultimately more appealing to prospective clients. Finally, distribution is nearly free. Not only are there no incremental costs for distributing video online—you can post it on YouTube for free—but the medium is in such high demand that others will recommend and share it, thereby assisting in its distribution if the quality is there.
The rise of online video
Online video is a much more viable format now than it was a few years ago because of the changes in online user behavior, online technology advances and reduced costs. Here are a few other factors that have contributed to the growth of video:
Popularity. According to a recent Pew Internet study, “Generations 2010,” 66% of Internet traffic was video!
Sociability. If you use Facebook and/or YouTube, you’ve likely seen video emerging as a primary social medium that is regularly viewed, shared and commented on.
Discoverability. Videos are indexed, tagged and fed into the blogosphere and aggregated on websites at an astounding rate, especially when integrated with written summaries of their content.
Accessibility. More people can make reasonable quality videos more inexpensively than ever before.
But, like any medium, video presents many challenges in producing professional results. It isn’t easy to strike the right balance between delivering the production values of professional video and ease of creating of amateur video. Finding a balance that meets the standards of firms that guard their reputations and brand image carefully may be one of the most difficult hurdles in developing a video program at law firms.
Before embarking on developing videos at our firm, we viewed dozens of online professional services and product videos. We saw more mistakes than successes, such as bad sound, bad light, bad quality, overproduced videos, talking heads, unnatural delivery and too long.
Our approach to video is very simple:
- Explore the video versions of every type of communication that we would provide clients and prospects. This approach provides us not only a purpose for each video, but a way of evaluating its effectiveness and identifying benefit.
- Don’t forget that we are developing online video and not feature films. This approach guides our view toward content, length, cost per video, number of videos and distribution.
Each of our videos represents a video version of regular type of firm communication. This approach allows us to understand the video format’s effectiveness in achieving our marketing results. The areas include legal alerts, press releases, educational videos and community involvement videos.
Leaving the “online” in online video
Understanding that video is an online social medium is critical to its marketing success. We have borrowed what we’ve learned from successful blogs.
Publish frequently: Volume matters in gaining followers and viewers. We publish approximately one new video per week, making them available to clients who access our videos through a subscription.
Keep videos short: Like blog entries, shorter is better. Based on our experience, online video is best at 1½ to 3 minutes. We may go up to five minutes for a very technical topic.
Tag and share: Like blog entries, tag content and share it through social networks and use syndicators to push out content.
Account for a short shelf life. Videos have a limited shelf life, so don’t make one that will take too long to produce, otherwise the information will be outdated by the time you release it.
Integrate. Integrate online video into your other forms of marketing. For example, you may find that marketing both through email and video may yield a better result than each of these media alone.
Measure results. Like all online media, you can measure views, referrals and the number of times videos are shared. Monitor this information and learn what works for you.
While our results are far from definitive, the inroads we have made and the potential we see going forward has prompted us to make an ongoing commitment to video. Like any marketing effort, we fully expect to continue experimenting with videos and our approach to promoting them, and monitoring and measuring our results. The ability to continually fine-tune and improve a video marketing program is one of the most exciting aspects of this new medium, and any firm with access to technical know-how, creativity and time can make it work for them.