Online Marketing: What Can Aussie Law Firms Learn from the Financial Sector?

November 23, 2015 by Sophie Gillfeather

Put Your Content First

Go to Morgan Stanley’s recently re-built website and see what you find. With its full-screen article teaser, social media buttons and timely stories on economic trends, it looks more like The New York Times than an investment bank. The shift is a strategic one. Digital marketing is about more than building a website and creating a Facebook account. You should see it as your primary tool for communicating with your audience. That means creating content that speak to your audience about them and their needs. Now that may be easy for a huge financial firm, but what online marketing strategies can Australia’s law firms walk away with?

Morgan Stanley elegantly presents its knowledge to its audience. Any law firm website can do the same. Sit down with your team and discuss the main issues your clients have. This can be anything from pricing pain points, to difficulty with the emotional trauma of divorce, to certain contractual loopholes ensnaring unwitting investors. Then, you write about them. If they’re not directly to do with your knowledge base then contact an authority on the subject and ask them to write for you. This is how you create a content strategy.

The other thing Morgan Stanley can teach you? No matter how large or complicated your industry, you should always seek simplicity in your web design. Their news content may have centre focus, but their simple top navigation menu ensures I find my way to the additional evergreen content (what they do, who they are, how I can get a job there) when I need it.

Design For Mobile

Do you have a mobile phone? Do you use it for practically everything, from watching videos to doing the shopping? You’re not alone. 90 per cent of smartphone users are online to read or engage with content. We found mobile devices account for 50-70 per cent of sessions on our legal clients’ websites. So if we were failing (like many legal websites do) to have a fully mobile responsive website, we’d be effectively ignoring half of our online audience.

We took a quick online sample of the top eight law firms ranking for “lawyer Sydney.” Only 3 out of 7 ranking law firms had mobile responsive websites. That leaves a lot of room for your legal website to step up and step in.

Building for mobile has two distinct functions. The first is that it assists in the rankings of your website for mobile searches. The second is that when those mobile-search users get to your website they’re greeted with a mobile-friendly experience - not a dystopian touchscreen nightmare.

The Fin-Tech sector kills it when it comes to mobile responsive design. Take a look at peer-to-peer lending platform, Society One. Their website doesn’t just shrink down to fit a mobile screen - it re-optimises what’s of importance to the mobile user! Background images are removed for heightened clarity. Content aligns vertically rather than horizontally. Yet everything functions just as flawlessly as it does on a desktop. Meaning isn't lost because the experience is redesigned for the platform on which it will be consumed.

Communicate Exactly What You Do (Effectively)

The slew of new financial technology software has forced online copywriters to bunk the banter and get down to basics. The aim of the game is to create three-or-less sentences clearly defining the service on offer and how it helps. This strategy is then replicated on almost every page, so there's no confusion about what you’re selling and why the audience needs it.

Take BillGuard for example. The first sentence, “Stay on top of your money, credit and identity,” coupled with a smartphone clearly displaying sample functions of the online app, tells me I’m on the webpage for a money management application. Scroll down the page and every function is broken down into several sentences explaining what the app does. When I click “learn more” under any of these sub-headings, I’m taken to a page of evergreen content. This copy doesn’t have to tell me what the app does, it tells me why the app does it and the solutions the software provides me with – and in a fair bit of detail, too! (Great for the information-hungry consumer, who really needs to know it all before delving in.) Everything is then backed-up with clear pricing plans and testimonials.

Between the dip in consumer confidence post-recession, and the introduction of disruptive technologies, the financial sector has had to up its game. Additionally, the internet has changed the way we seek out services – we don’t just head to the closest dentist, solicitor or optometrist, we research them online prior to making our decision. This means lifting the shroud of secrecy around what you do and how you do it. Fin-Tech puts clarity at it's core. Go take a look at the copy on Society One and then compare it to that on any on the big-three banks. Notice the difference?

You've got to embrace that the law is complicated. As a law firm you should work with your online marketing team to create copy that simplifies the legal process. That doesn’t mean advertising flat rates. (Which are often totally discredited by multiple sub clauses.)It means creating a page describing how you price consultations and representation; what can affect the price; how you ensure customers are consulted prior to possible pricing inflations; and what they can do if they’re having difficulty financing their legal matters.

Get clear about what it is you do. You may assume people understand what a family lawyer does. Don’t. Clarity is better for search engine optimisation and encourages users who get to your website to actually pick up the phone and call you. You can also consider content in multiple language translations or in easy-to-understand English. Our community is diverse. Embrace it.

Acknowledge Digital Equals Growth

The financial products and services marketplace was shocked to its core in 2007. In order to regain consumer trust, firms had to address principles of analysis and discipline head on. But as Leo Mullen, CEO of NavigationArts, wrote: standing out in this crowded field becomes ever more difficult as the volume and intensity of outbound financial services marketing activity increases.

So what did they do? Well, generally speaking, the financial sector acknowledged that consumer behaviours and digital interactivity had changed. Importantly, they also acknowledged that those changes were an active and progressive stream – one swell of a river, not destined to dry-up anytime soon.

In such a competitive and highly driven market, it became necessary for financial service providers to address digital outreach. This included thought leadership through digestible, relevant content, data visualisations for better consumer knowledge and easier access to online tools and content.

Finally, Acknowledging Digital is Your First Obstacle

I'm not saying the financial sector does digital marketing flawlessly. I'm saying they’re eager to learn and try new things. And that’s really at the crux of the issue. Many professional service providers, such as small-to-medium law firms, remain naïve or wilfully ignorant about their online potential. They’re stuck in a brick and mortar mentality, failing to see the expanding online audience.

Permanent internet access first became available in Australia in 1989. That means anyone under the age of 25 has lived their entire lives in the online era. Those between 25 and 40, who have lived at least half of their lives with internet access, are the very same people seeking legal help today. Whether they need contractual advice buying property or legal representation on driving charges, there is a very good chance they’re going online to find the best lawyer in their area.

These are your digital natives. Consciously or not, they’ve been trained in the art of online intuition. From website design to Google reviews, they’re reading every aspect of your digital presence and assessing whether you’re the legal representation for them. Ignore them and you’re ignoring the fastest growing consumer market out there.

Konnect Digital creates online marketing strategies for small-to-medium law firms. Then we implement them. If you want to talk to us about how we can help your legal practice take control of its online presence give us a call.