It used to be pretty clear. Buying eBooks from Amazon, songs from iTunes. Picking up second-hand bargains on eBay and hand-made crafts on Etsy.
These are recognisable marketplaces. A seller, a buyer, a platform, a transaction.
Today, the digital marketplace is more than just ecommerce sites and expensive devices.
And it’s democratising law.
Creating a space accessible to everyone.
A space where time-poor working parents can access the legal information they need even when they’re on the go. The elderly and the vulnerable stuck at home these last eighteen months. The disabled people who are coming to rely on online professional services. And those simply seeking the convenience of online legal services.
A space where local law firms suddenly have the power to compete at a national level.
But this is an area where, historically, legal practices have struggled to adapt.
Digital is sometimes seen as too much hassle. Technology is to be tolerated at best; distrusted at worse. Only three years ago, a study from Gartner showed that 81% of legal departments were ‘unprepared for digitisation.’
That’s despite a study by the University of Sheffield showing lawtech ‘enables revolutionary change in practice’.
And the Law Society’s report into technology adoption shows significant barriers in uptake, despite ‘rising awareness in the market that lawtech is important, that the legal market is changing, and that law firms which adopt technology will have a competitive advantage over those that do not.’
You see all these reports, this reticence among legal professionals, and a character sort of builds in your head.
Old, Victorian in his ways, teeth falling out of his head. Probably hunched over his parchment and quill, dismissing the internet because this is how it’s always been done.
Precisely the image the legal sector’s worked so hard to shake off in recent times.
It’s a wild mischaracterisation, of course.
Especially as new starters enter our industry, for whom digital is second nature. It’s largely thanks to young, new recruits that we’re seeing 6% increase in lawtech adoption year-on-year.
Those across the legal sector know the value of the digital marketplace.
We’ve all done our groceries online. Bought that last minute Christmas gift with next-day delivery. Searched reviews of the local accountant or the plumber. So, how does you law firm approach this marketplace?
Because every single legal professional already possesses the key skills needed to succeed in the digital marketplace.
Refining the digital customer experienceLet’s think about what makes a good lawyer. The absolute basics.
A calm, reassuring figure.
That’s an interesting one. Caring. Understanding. This desire to see justice done motivates many to enter the profession.
At the end of the day, you want to support people who need your unique expertise.
That leads us to one of the most critical aspects of the digital marketplace: the customer experience.
You'll know from your own experience, most people don’t really know much about the law. Four in ten people have used legal services in the last two years, but the closest they’ve got to the profession prior is through lawyers in films and TV shows. It’s a confusing, sometimes scary world that requires a good guide.
This is where you come in.
This is the customer experience.
In Microsoft’s Global State of Customer Service, the report revealed that ‘90% of respondents indicated that customer service is important to their choice of and loyalty to a brand.’
In the UK?
When asked if they’d drop a company that delivered a poor experience, 58% of UK consumers said yes.
According to PWC, consumers consistently rank speed, convenience, helpful employees, and friendly service as the most important customer experience factors.
Let’s apply that digitally. What does the digital customer experience look like?
Think of a website you used recently. How easy was it to find what you want, to navigate around the site? If you spoke to an adviser, how would you rate the response time and interaction? Did you use a chat-bot or Facebook Messenger? How easy was it to find the site in the first place, even? Were the opening times on Google correct?
Technology firm SuperOffice recently surveyed over a thousand businesses.
45.9% of them said providing a customer-centric experience was their top priority over the next five years. Higher than any other concern.
Not pricing. Not product. The customer experience.
And they’re doing this for three reasons:
- Cross-selling products
- Improving customer retention
- Improving customer satisfaction
Who can blame them when 86% of customers are prepared to pay more for a better service?
A totally satisfied customer is worth 14 times more revenue than a dissatisfied one and 2.6 times as much as a somewhat satisfied customer.
Think about why word-of-mouth is still the most powerful tool for new client acquisition in the legal sector. Recommendations from friends and family account for around 38% of new business. It’s a major influence.
You can see this play out in largely the same way online and offline.
For example, 57% of people will refuse to recommend a company with a poor mobile website.
Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft. These companies thrive because they’ve refined the customer experience, start to finish, with their intuitive websites and omni-channel touchpoints.
And ok, you’re thinking, yes, of course massive brands have the power to do that. They’ve got billions of dollars and thousands of employees. I’m just a little law firm in Walton-on-the-Naze doing LPAs for local residents. How can I make this relevant to my business?
Place customers at the heart of what you do.
Take those offline expectations and meet them online as well.
Let’s look at one aspect of the customer experience: price transparency.
Price remains one of the big deciding factors for consumers, and successful firms, like Co-Op Legal Services, lean into this. Visit their website. Their pricing is clear. The value is evident.
In the UK Legal Services Consumer Research Report 2021 from IRN Research, ‘83% would be influenced in their choice of law firm by price information on a law firm website, i.e. when choosing between law firms, they would choose the one giving clear price information on their site.’
That’s one change any firm can make today. Not a popular change, granted, but one that delivers clear benefits.
Mindsets across the legal digital marketplaceNow, let’s consider the importance of equipping your team with accurate and relevant data – and the application of another existing skill: the analytical mindset.
One of the most fascinating things about the digital customer experience, if you’re passionate about delivering a stellar level of service, is how powerful that experience can become when using the right data.
Now, we all know the internet is flowing with data. Loads of the stuff. We’re creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of it every year.
Every link clicked, every email address you enter, it’s all tracked – time, location, age, what type of phone you use. The lot. This information, the life-blood of the online environment, is extremely useful when you’re expanding across the digital marketplace.
Because it lets you understand who your audience is, which campaigns are working, where you can make improvements.
And you can start this right away.
Your website already contains tons of data, so begin building off that. If you run email marketing campaigns, grab that data, too.
Look what information can be gleaned, what is it telling you about user behaviour, who your users are, which sites they’re being referred from, how they find you?
You’ll quickly notice that you’re likely getting a lot more success through focused marketing, rather than broad campaigns that are more costly and less efficient than a platform like The Law Superstore, which connects legal professionals with the people who need specific legal services.
Consolidate this with offline data, like call times, to gain a better visibility across the firm – from improving processes to identifying potential clients.
Start to grow those insights throughout the digital marketplace. It helps you and key stakeholders make data-driven decisions and experiment with new ways to find clients.
The beauty of the digital marketplace is you can find data on everything.
Each test, with every dataset, you’re gaining more and more valuable insight into your new and existing clients, potential clients, their behaviour, their needs.
You can ‘listen’ to them and decide how best to service them.
It’s the Thomas Edison effect. Discovering a thousand ways not to make a lightbulb.
In other words, you can take that customer experience you’ve worked so hard to build – and then go one step further, one step better. Not just meeting expectations, but shattering them.
In fact, there’s so much of data out there helping you enhance your online offerings, that the real trick is finding what’s relevant. Analysing data that highlights X or Y, finding the patterns that proves A or B.
Here’s a real-world example.
One of our clients in London was using The Law Superstore – now, that’s a big city, plenty of people needing legal services.
The firm initially spread a very wide net. Trying to catch every fish. Happy to fish for new enquiries from anywhere within that thirty-mile radius.
So, a lot of potential clients, a lot of leads.
But not many conversions.
That’s when the company took a step back. They were able to analyse the data on our platform to identify where converted leads were coming from. They tightened up their radius, and found much more success finding the right people, the ones more likely to want to convert with them rather than those halfway across the city.
Understanding these sorts of insights is very much a key skill for anyone already in the profession.
Placing purpose firstLet’s face it, it’s a crowded sector. As of November 2021, there are 153,413 solicitors practising in England and Wales.
So, for a moment, I want you to think about yourself.
Why did you get into law?
What legal areas fascinate you?
Who are you passionate about helping?
Effectively: what is your purpose?
Purpose is core to your digital marketplace brand. It helps guide users to choose you over competing firms. It shows customers what drives you, and how you can help them. It shows them what makes you you.
Customers tell us time and again just how important it is to make a personal, human connection with their legal adviser.
Let’s consider how big brands put purpose first.
What drives people to people choose Microsoft or Apple?
Well, Microsoft’s brand purpose – it’s mission, if you like – is ‘empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more’.
Apple ‘strives to bring the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals, and consumers around the world.’
Apple is very much product-focused. Microsoft is user-focused. And your buying decision is absolutely going to be influenced by that. Whether you want it to be or not.
Because everything these companies do – products, services, website style, social media swagger, and events – is themed around that purpose.
So, how do you define your brand? There are six key factors here.
- Unique – it’s all about standing out in a crowded, often similar space.
- Authentic – play on the strengths that separate you from the pack, creating differences that reflects your existing culture and values.
- Demonstrable – always be able to prove the claims you make to establish trust and authority.
- Valuable – focus on adding value to the lives of your customers and what matters to them.
- Consistent – nurture and strengthen your differences by making sure they colour everything from internal processes to external marketing.
- Simple – don’t overcomplicate; you want potential clients to ‘get it’ as quickly as possible.
No law firm has an identical purpose. The experiences of partners, which colour the brand’s purpose, are all so unique. It’s what’s known as your ‘key differentiator’. It’s what makes you stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Here’s where legal experts go wrong.
How many of the following words would you want to be associated with?
All of them, obviously. Just like every other law firm on the planet.
These aren’t differentiators. These don’t tell customers why they should choose you over 123 Legal or Wills R Us or whoever.
They’re the broad fundamentals. Especially for professional services.
Define your purpose first.
Everything – absolutely every aspect of your online presence, the tone of your content, the words you use, the platforms you appear on – flows from the brand purpose.
Who you are as a company.
Who you want to reach.
What you want to achieve.
Which needs you want to meet.
How you want to be perceived.
Your purpose might not always be easy to put it into words, but it’s not a dark mystery only a handful of enlightened digital marketing agencies can conjure up for you.
You know why you get up in the morning, what motivates you to achieve your best. And it’s not just the coffee. That’s a nice little bonus, but… We all have a purpose.
Showcasing your valueNow, let’s look at value. It’s a bit of a buzz word in the digital marketplace, but there’s good reason for that.
A great brand lets you showcase your value in ways you just can’t offline. Not even with an eye-catching A-board and an attractive window display.
Your office is just one space. The digital marketplace is a multi-channel environment where you can continuously reiterate your credentials, your experience, your value. You can do this on your website content, in social media and blog posts, and third-party review sites and comparison sites like The Law Superstore. Whatever it is, wherever it is.
Best-selling author and marketer Neil Patel, discussing the motivating factors behind making a purchase, has identified the five areas that are defined as ‘value’.
- Response – You stand ready to solve a customer’s problem
- Service – You have the experience to solve the problem
- Quality – You can solve that problem well
- Price – You charge a clear, fair rate for doing so
- Time – Achieved on a clear timetable
You probably do all this without even thinking about it. It’s second nature.
But what does it mean putting these into practice? How can they be demonstrated in your output? Well, again, it’s about transferring the offline online.
Start with the customer
If you haven’t already, get your key stakeholders together. Analyse the data. Determine which kind of clients you want to attract, and how to achieve this.
Once you know this, you’ll know what’s important to them, the services they need, the questions they need answering, the fears that keep them awake at night. You can speak their language with total authority.
If you need a push, remember this: 71% of people say they prefer using companies with values aligned to their own.
This is usually where a lot of law firms feel a little wary. They worry about alienating existing customers in the pursuit of new client acquisition.
But, while we all know it can be more expensive to attract rather than retain clients, Byron Sharp, author of How Brands Grow explains, success doesn’t depend on ultra-loyal brand evangelists who wouldn’t use anyone else.
For successful brands, loyalty isn’t about ‘loving’ a product or service, but relying on it when they need it. Whether they’re a die-hard fan or a casual client.
Highlight your expertise
You might focus on the number of years your business has been active; your team’s focus on a specialism; your trophy cabinet.
Shout about it – but always in reference to how that experience helps the customer.
Focus on outcomes
Showcase successes through testimonials and reviews on sites like Google My Business and Trustpilot.
Social proof in the form of testimonials, reviews, brand evangelists, case studies plays on exactly the same psychology that makes word-of-mouth such a powerful tool for acquisition.
Don’t be afraid of reviews.
It’s a bit of a worry for a lot of people in the legal sector. But people today just expect to see them – whether we like it or not. A lack of reviews, or even grossly inflated scores, are generally regarded with suspicion.
And no-one’s brand purpose should be ‘instilling suspicion in potential clients’.
87% of buying decisions start with online research. So, reviews are part developing that customer experience across the digital marketplace.
Going beyond the office and onlineUsers expect to see companies with a wide online presence. It builds trust, sparks a connection, humanises your firm.
People find everything else they need online – why not their lawyer?
Well, as it turns out, they’re starting to.
59% of UK consumers would be willing to use a lawyer from anywhere in the country. Up from 46% in 2019.
Some of you might’ve noticed what’s happened between then and now.
The pandemic. Let’s not dwell too long on Covid – we’re probably all tired of it – but it’s had an undeniable effect on how clients find and engage all professional services.
The digital marketplace is a blessing for those law firms that have suffered under lockdowns.
And it’s the area where your firm can best make an impact against rivals.
Did you know, 80% of all local searches resulted in a new client?
Yet, in a survey of the top fifty UK law firms, it was reported that ‘on the whole, the sector misses the opportunities offered by organic search and has been slow to adopt “SEO” best practice.’
So, search engine optimisation (SEO) is absolutely a space you need to dominate.
This means making sure your website – responsive to desktop, phones, and tablets – is being ranked for the keywords and phrases users are searching on Google and Bing.
Next, make sure your company information is up-to-date on Google My Business and Bing, as well as your social networks.
These are the two absolute basics every law firm should put in place.
This is what helps you get in front of your clients, whether they’re local or national.
Then, if you’re keen to really expand across the digital marketplace, you’ll want to then include a regularly updated social media accounts as part of your strategy. Facebook should be a major focus for anyone dealing with private clients. LinkedIn for those offering legal advice to businesses.
Create useful blogs. Write guides and advice. Put your expertise on the page.
Engage in email marketing, which remains incredibly effective. 59% said emails influences their decision to use a company.
Now, that sounds a lot of work.
So, as you start developing your marketing channels, that’s the point where you want to look for quick wins that increase your online presence without breaking the bank. Without worrying that you don’t have the smartest or snazziest website in the world.
This is where The Law Superstore really helps raise the online profiles of law firms big and small. Connecting them with people with a genuine need for legal advice. Creating new, risk-free opportunities for legal lead generation.
Finding the online right spacesDespite all this, you don’t want to be everywhere.
Because your ideal client isn’t everywhere.
This is another mistake a lot of companies, not just law firms, all companies make.
It wastes a lot of unnecessary time and money to be everywhere, to be all things to all people. All of which could be better spent nurturing more clients in fewer places.
It’s all about context.
None of that minimum-term contract or never-ending subscription fees. Just engaged clients actively searching for legal experts.
Even more usefully, by appearing on platforms like ours, you’re strengthening your web presence. Increasing your chance to be found by people using search engines, instead of relying on SEO alone.
It’s complementing your other digital marketing efforts, bolstering them if, say, you haven’t got the greatest website in the world – those things are expensive, right? – but understand the need to be in the digital marketplace.
And in what’s being dubbed a ‘watershed moment for digital comparison sites’ like The Law Superstore, the IRN Research shows ‘the percentage using consumer review and comparison sites in 2021 reached double figures (10%) from 6% in 2020 and just 4% in 2019.’
That’s a clear and growing trend.
An opportunity you’ll want to take advantage of before your competitors. Because people find everything else online, right? So why wouldn’t they look for their lawyer that way too?
The ultimate digital skillThere’s one key skill that, actually, might just be the most important for thriving in the digital marketplace.
Something you all possess.
Something the industry is positively famous for.
After all, what are lawyers if not great communicators?
You’ve made clients the centre of an unforgettable experience.
You’ve analysed the data to keep you on the right track.
You’ve used that information to craft a unique brand.
With a value proposition targeting clients in the right places at the right time.
Now, get ready to tell the world.
Or, at least, tell your ideal client – whether they’re three-hundred miles away or just up the road.
That’s the amazing potential of a consistent, authentic, interconnected digital marketplace.
Explore more about the online trends defining the industry in our free 30-page eBook, Decoding the legal sector: Digital trends 2022.