In a recent discussion in a lawyer marketing LinkedIn Group that I moderate, an attorney posed the question of whether Martindale-Hubbell’s fees are worth it. The question drew responses from legal marketers including folks from FindLaw, Yodle, and even LexisNexis and Martindale.com. Unfortunately, many of the responses didn’t really get into the nuts and bolts of whether a program like the one laid out by Martindale would be likely to generate a return on investment for this attorney. And while the specific results of any program will vary greatly from one firm to another, I thought I would give my opinion on some of the strategies being offered up.
In the interests of disclosure, I have not worked with a firm that has subscribed to the specific program at issue. On the other hand, I have worked with firms that have used LexisNexis, Martindale.com, and Lawyers.com with greatly varying degrees of success and failure. My opinions are based on my experiences with these types of services generally and should not be construed as an endorsement or warning about this specific program.
Online Visibility, Credibility, and Personality
The first three bullet-points of the program stress:
VISIBILITY -If consumers cannot find you , they will not be able to hire you
CREDIBILITY – Consumers use research to find and validate attorneys before they will hire you
PERSONALITY – The more consumers learn and see about you, the more likely they are to hire you
Visibility is a critical component to effective web strategy. However, we need to be careful about what we mean by visibility. Visibility only matters if it’s visibility to people that may become new clients or can help you further develop your professional presence and reputation.
Being visible to audiences that aren’t looking for you or aren’t interested in what you’re publishing or offering won’t lead to very efficient return on investments. For example, if you’re a criminal attorney, listed in a legal directory that gets excellent visibility to audiences looking for bankruptcy information, your visibility within that directory is largely worthless.
Likewise, even if the directory has excellent visibility to your target audiences, if your visibility within the directory is poor (i.e. people need to search deep within the directory to find you), it’s unlikely that you’ll see a return on your investment.
You’ll want to ask specific questions of any web marketing service about how they plan to increase your visibility to your target audiences. What will they do? How will they do it? What kind of visibility goals and metrics will be in place to track success?
Credibility is also key to marketing yourself as a legal professional. Whether someone is researching legal issues that they are facing, or specifically checking out your credentials, how well you are able to demonstrate your credibility may make the difference between whether they contact you or look for another referral. However, demonstrating your credibility through a profile listing can be quite challenging. You’ll want to inquire about how you will be able to demonstrate your credibility. How will they help you demonstrate your credibility? If it’s a profile-based program, what are the features of the profile that will help you demonstrate credibility?
Personality is another difficult component to convey online. Especially through a profile. Let’s face it, not all of your prospective clients will respond the same to different personalities. Therefore, your best bet is to be yourself. Identify what aspects of your personality you have to resonate best with your clients and try to express those traits online. Again, demonstrating personality through an online profile is very challenging. Ask your web marketer how their product or service will help you develop and demonstrate your personality.
Some Specific Components
The program also lists some specific features. I’m not going to tackle each of these specifically, but will consider some of the features more generally.
Practice Information & Attorney Bios – Letting your audiences know who you are, what you do, and why they should consider hiring you to help them with their legal matter is critical to any marketing initiative. Instead of creating resume, create attorney bios that speak to your audiences.
Publishing Content – Content is still king and publishing and syndicating your web content on authoritative sites will help you get in front of larger audiences online. This is especially effective when the site you are publishing on is relevant and authoritative on legal matters, or better yet, your specific practice area(s).
Links – One of the major advantages of certain online profiles are your ability to link to additional profiles, as well as, your website and blog. This not only provides access to your audiences to more reading about you, these links can also increase your websites’ visibility within organic and local search engine results.
Reviews & Ratings – Peer and client reviews, ratings, and testimonials go a long way in demonstrating your credibility online. Of course, you need to make sure that any reviews and ratings that you publish online comply with your state’s rules of professional responsibility.
Deciding whether any marketing program is “worth it” can be a very complicated analysis. Marketing and advertising are only “worth it” if they generate some kind of return. That return may be new revenue, new professional relationships, or some form of professional reputation enhancement.
The key to determine whether something is worth it is to have a purpose, specific goals, and means by which you can measure whether or not you are achieving your stated purpose and goals.
In my experience, results can vary greatly from one program to another, as well as, one firm to another depending on a firm’s specific purposes and goals. In the end, the only way to know whether or not something works is to try it. However, it’s critical that you are measuring your marketing and holding it accountable for reaching your target goals. And if it’s not demonstrating its value to you, try something else.
What do you think? Is it worth it?