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FEBRUARY 2014 - Berman
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Law Firm Marketing for the Sandwich Generation

by Sharon Berman

You have likely heard about the "sandwich generation,” those adults who are sandwiched between the responsibilities of raising children and caring for aging parents. When it comes to law firm marketing and business development, there is a sandwich generation of a different sort. This particular sandwiched group is that of seasoned lawyers, many of whom have built successful practices and firms, which continue to thrive. For the most part, these firms were built on a "traditional” marketing platform—networking; articles placed in print publications; speaking engagements; and a first, or even second, iteration of a website. They have a reputation and some marketing momentum. These established firms are caught between a younger cadre of lawyers who enter the firm and clamor for the firm’s lawyers to participate in social media, optimize its website, and be mobile-friendly. On the other side of the spectrum are those senior lawyers who are closing in on retirement or reducing the amount of time they devote to legal work. They know the world is changing but don’t see a need to embrace more recent marketing avenues.

Most members of this sandwich generation have a marketing orientation, but with the proliferation of marketing avenues, they are overwhelmed. Some have dealt with this through denial, believing that the kinds of clients they want to work with will not look for them online. Many others acknowledge that they need to modernize their marketing, but don’t know where to start. They wonder if they really need social media and what it actually is.

The sandwich generation is under pressure, squeezed from both sides and feeling tremendous stress. These pressures can be alleviated, though, through understanding and action. 

If you are finding yourself in this situation, you need to know that you are not alone in feeling inundated by a plethora of emerging marketing avenues. Marketing channels and their derivatives continue to multiply. This can be a blessing in terms of new opportunities and a burden if you’re feeling like you are unable to keep pace. Since none of these newfangled methods shows signs of retreating, you will have to start getting a lay of the land and making some choices.

Keep in mind that the fundamentals of marketing have not changed. Despite the many new marketing methods available, some "old” marketing truths remain. One of the most important of these maxims is that the most effective marketing is a combination of tactics, your marketing mix. That mix—how much emphasis you place on and the investment you make in each tactic, whether it is blogging or direct mail—depends on your objectives. You can and should incorporate new media, but you still have to make some choices based on experience and measurement. The corollary is that you cannot put the same level of effort into everything.  

Understanding the purpose and pieces of the digital marketing world makes it less daunting.  You may not know how to blog or tweet, two common social media activities. Still, you can forge ahead if you know what the purpose of social media is and why you want to incorporate it into your marketing. 

Embracing social media becomes more palatable and makes more sense when you realize that the medium is another marketing distribution channel, a means for you to demonstrate and share your expertise with others through interesting and informative material, learn from them, and exchange ideas. Social media expands the universe of prospective clients and referral sources who know about you while also expanding your network of resources available to help your clients. As you engage in social media, you are educating and informing by providing content, not promoting yourself.

Providing content, also known as content marketing, is a new term for an old concept—that professionals can build their businesses by providing informative and worthwhile information for their markets. This content can include articles, videos, blogs, how-to guides, and many other vehicles. While you may have always done this, the challenge is that today you have to do it "harder,” more consistently and more often, because it’s much more difficult to be heard among such a crowded field of voices competing for attention. From a positive perspective, you now have many more avenues through which to offer content to your audience.

The good news is that you already have a lot of content to work with. Your existing articles and presentations can easily be "repackaged.” Your file drawers and hard drives are full of material that you can repurpose. Also, equally happy news is that through social media, you can reach so many more prospective clients than you ever could before.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, also fits into this mix. When a prospect searches online for your area of expertise, you want your name to come up as close to the top of the results as possible. The world is inexorably moving online, so if you’re a holdout saying that your type of client is not going to search for a lawyer on the Internet, it is time to get over that misconception. Now more than ever, Google searches validate informative, relevant content. Yes, there are some mechanics that support high search engine results, but with each change in algorithms, Google supports results that provide the answer the inquirer seeks. All the more reason, and a very important one, that you need to keep churning out new and/or repurposed worthwhile content.

Because social media, content marketing, and SEO are thoroughly intertwined, it doesn’t make sense to focus only on one of these areas. One impacts and supports the other. 

In general, it takes a village to be effective with these marketing avenues. There are those who enjoy being a one-man marketing band, creating and distributing their own content, posting it on social media, blogging, and figuring out their own website optimization. That works great for some. Other lawyers would rather practice law and respond when leads come in. If you are of the latter mind, you will want to create your own marketing team if one is not available in-house. When building an external team, you can select an expert in each area and play quarterback, or you can choose an outfit that manages the whole spectrum.  

If you depend on a team, whether in-house or external, you must remain involved. Your brainpower, expertise, and experience drive your entire marketing machine. There may be those who are more skilled in the technical aspects of social media, but they will not have your professional expertise and knowledge. Therefore, you must remain engaged and devote attention to this machine, or it will go awry and not generate the results you want.

In terms of law firm marketing, if you feel caught between the "old” and "new” generation, you can stop feeling squeezed and take a breath. Take stock of what you already know and have accomplished, harness the tremendous marketing potential before you, create your team, and move forward with confidence.

Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Corp. Marketing and Public Relations. The website is www.berbay.com. She can be reached at berman@berbay.com.

 

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