Dan Toombs on Making Your Legal Mark Online

As Walmart Canada enters the legal space with $99 wills and Australian virtual law firm’s like Nest Legal, LegalVision and Hive Legal, lead the online charge in their local market with affordable, fixed-fee services, the global legal profession is in the midst of an unprecedented period of growth and disruption.

It is one of the few remaining industries to be ‘disrupted’ and commoditized by online technologies and lawyers are beginning to understand that a strong online law firm presence is essential to the longevity of their practice.

During a recent livestream ALPMA presentation entitled Positioning Your Practice (part of ALPMA’s popular Leading Your Firm Program), Dan Toombs – law firm marketing expert and director of Fast Firms – discussed the benefits of implementing the four marketing Ps to strengthen online presence and make your firm ‘remarkable’. We caught up with Dan Toombs after the event to find out about the ways you can position your law firm to win business online.

The four Ps: place, price, product and promotion

In the 1960s, American marketing professor Jerome McCarthy, espoused the now well-known theory that four essential ingredients are game changers for positioning your brand:

  1. Place
  2. Price
  3. Product and
  4. Promotion.

According to Toombs, these principles are more relevant than ever and are being disrupted in the legal arena.

Place

With a run of dispersed law firm models having been established in Australia such as Hive Legal, Bespoke Law, Nest Legal and Keystone Lawyers, the concept of physical space is changing. “Lawyers can sit in their home offices and chime in to do work and it allows business owners to get smart about process, advertising and marketing so lawyers can be lawyers.”

A proliferation of online platforms linking consumers to lawyers and an increased interest in outsourcing methodical processes offshore has also led to ongoing disruption, according to Toombs.

Price

As consumers demand more cost certainty at the outset, law firms are beginning to introduce different pricing structures. Many are getting creative with different payment arrangements from fixed fees and retainer agreements to subscription services such as America’s LegalShield and free or ‘low fee’ legal advice.

Product

As predicted by Richard Susskind, author of the highly controversial legal bestseller The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, the commoditisation of legal services is here to stay. Products or processes that can easily be adapted to the online space are enjoying a growing market share.

“Simple wills and enduring powers of attorney have all been commoditized”, notes Toombs. “Slater and Gordon have their own will kit; there are online platforms for simple personal injury matters, and companies like LegalVision are providing forms and precedents online.”

Unique product differentiation is just one way you can position your brand online and set yourself apart from the rest of the market.

Promotion

Google stands out as the number one online search platform and the results of its Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) research shows people’s searches are not one dimensional, which means the quality and frequency with which online content is published is paramount.

“People tend to search widely on the internet for services these days,” says Toombs. “It is a complex tapestry of movements; they don’t necessarily choose your offerings the first time they land on your site. You have to engage them straight away – regular, frequent and compelling content will help you to achieve better rankings and create a narrative which permeates your brand.”

Beyond the Horizon: The blue ocean

As explained in the Harvard Business Review, “Red oceans represent… the known market space… [where] industry boundaries are defined and accepted, and the competitive rules of the game are well understood… Blue oceans… [represent] the unknown market space… In blue oceans, demand is created rather than fought over. There is ample opportunity for growth that is both profitable and rapid.”

Toombs is a fan and advocate of Blue Ocean Strategy, by authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne and explains that most firms stay in the red water doing the bare minimum to stay on top of industry changes, which means they then run the risk of becoming obsolete.

“It is best not to have a myopic view – you can’t just focus on your website and how many Facebook ‘likes’ you have on your business page. You need to think about marketing and promotion but you also need to adopt a blue ocean strategy,” says Toombs.

Top recommendations to improve online presence

So what are Toombs’ top tips for improving your online presence? Does he think firms should think beyond the horizon and adopt a blue ocean strategy?

  1. Be remarkable. Create a different experience for consumers and differentiate yourself from the crowd.
  2. Go offline to get online. Broker relationships with important referrers, such as local financial advisors and reconnect with old customers in your database. It is not just about being online – you still need to foster connection and relationships.
  3. Create compelling content. Create downloadable guides, produce articles, record or video content and hold seminars. Provocative and engaging content will attract more attention and be more useful to potential clients searching online.
  4. Rethink the funnel. Apply an ‘inbound’ marketing methodology by engaging people and leading them ‘down the funnel’ into your website. Create a series of podcasts, videos and guides and then continue being ‘remarkable’ with follow-up emails.

By reviewing your firm’s website, identifying key strategic relationships, re-engaging past clients, creating strong, compelling content and looking beyond the horizon, your firm will be well on its way to being remarkable.

For more insight on how you can help your law firm stand out, take a look at Insight’s Law Firm Marketing articles, guides and conversation.

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