Look Before You Blog - Without a Marketing Strategy, You'll Waste Your Time

Reprinted from:

Published on 3/06

The dramatic rise in popularity of weblogs - blogs, as most of us now know them or blawgs when they're by or about lawyers and the law - represents a new intersection of marketing and technology. According to studies cited by TechnoLawyer, approximately 80,000 new blogs launch every day, including dozens of blawgs. Producing a blog/blawg can be a powerful marketing tool. And it can be a fabulous learning experience. When done right by lawyers, a blog is more than a personal journal, more than an electronic brochure. Blogs create a unique niche by combining personalized observation with facts and insights from the lawyer's area of focus - a living, detailed calling card that represents you to the world.

I say this as a dedicated blogger myself. If you've visited our blog you'll know that we have links to many of the top legal blogs (blawgs) maintained by Matt Homann, Dennis Kennedy, Rick Klau, and a growing number of others. For a look at an even wider blawg universe (in which my blawg is included), TechnoLawyer recently produced a new e-book that covers more than 50 of the top blawgs.

Blogs and Marketing

Everybody agrees that blogs represent a new era in legal marketing, but the glamour of the technology tends to obscure what we're trying to accomplish with them. Ultimately, blogs are a means of face-to-face conversation with a client or prospect when you can't meet them face-to-face. Blogs are informal, conversational, and show that you have something meaningful to say. They epitomize my own definition of marketing. I see it as the process by which we seek to persuade others of the merits of our beliefs.

I think almost everything we do has a marketing element - the way we speak to people, the way we dress, even the way we eat. All of our activities impact others in one way or another. Some of our actions may "turn people off" while other of our actions persuade them to come closer to us and actually interact with us. This definition accepts the proposition that there are negative as well as positive aspects to marketing, depending on the actions of the individual.

Because marketing is so personal, everyone in a law firm - receptionists, secretaries, paralegals, as well as attorneys - has marketing responsibility. More and more, marketing is not a centralized function. It is pushed down, organizationally, to the level of every professional responsible for interacting with the clients/prospects, with some organizational assistance. Customers and clients like to buy from someone with whom they enjoy doing business. The real key to marketing is the creation of one-on-one personal relationships in order to increase business.

Blogs and Marketing Strategy

Blogs are best used in a marketing sense when they support the creation of these relationships. Target your market, be specific in your blog postings, be frequent and your market will learn what your value to them can be and why they need you and your services. Blogs, like all other marketing tools, must be considered in light of your entire marketing strategy for your target market, not isolated by themselves.

This of course presupposes that you have a target market. If marketing is to be a meaningful exercise and not "random acts of golf and lunch," you should create a profile of your ideal client and develop a marketing strategy that focuses on this target, not everyone. You can increase your revenue dramatically by focusing on clients who will give you the work that you want. A client profile should answer these questions:

  • What characteristics describe your ideal client?
  • What is your client's occupation?
  • What are their demographics?
  • Where are they located?
  • How do you know when it's a "fit?"
  • What about financials - monthly fee, annual income, other profit centers?
  • What is your ideal personal client relationship?
  • How do you view your practice - vocation or calling, vision or dream?

Blogs and Marketing Effort

The answers to these questions define whether a blog should be part of your marketing effort. If your target audience is more the consumer type, and typically not so sophisticated that they are searching the web on a regular basis, then blogging is not so meaningful to them and may not be a worthwhile marketing strategy for you. As Harvey Mackay said, "If you want to catch bass, you've got to fish where they are." Speaking to a local civic group may bring you more potential clients than blogging on the worldwide web.

If you do decide to become a blogger, it's important to remember that you shouldn't work for your blog. Making frequent posts and answering dozens, or hundreds, of email comments, can take time. Let's say it's just two hours per workweek. If we assume 50 workweeks per year for ease of calculation, and two hours per week and $200 per hour billable value for an attorney (most are charging more today), the calculation is $20,000 of billable time used to maintain a blog.

This is hugely expensive! The logical way to control the expense is hire someone to manage your blog. The expense is far less than the time spent updating (no matter how easy with TypePad or other blogging tools), which will take you away from other marketing activities or even from your practice. Delegation is a principle by which I live. I want to do those things that only I can do, like coaching, consulting and marketing for more work.

The cumulative effect is what's important in blogging. Posting once in a while is not effective. Blogging may be worthwhile once you know how, but it is certainly not "easy" in the sense that it takes commitment to be consistent and meaningful in the posting. I suspect it's a commitment worth making for many lawyers, but a commitment nevertheless, as are all marketing efforts. If you can't do it yourself and do it right, then have it done for you.

Blogs and Marketing Responsibility

Remember, however, that delegating the work doesn't mean abdicating the responsibility. Lawyers are traditionally governed by the rules of the states in which they were admitted to practice, but the rules of professional conduct governing client development vary greatly from state to state. Blogs (and Web sites) that openly give advice and solicit clients are subject to disciplinary regulation, and some states (Iowa and Florida being two examples) have extended their rules to lawyers and law firms that have no presence in the state other than on the Internet. Suddenly, lawyers seem to be governed by more than one jurisdiction and must be careful in the design and content of their blogs. The first lawsuits over (non-lawyer) blog content have already been filed; the first disciplinary action is probably not far behind.

Blogs and You

Many lawyers and legal marketers believe passionately in the power of blogging. I prefer to think of blogs as another form of marketing communication, one that must be managed just like any communication modality. Use them as a tool, when it makes sense, to expand and enrich your practice.

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