Professional optimization, blogging, PPC, a newsletter, speaking, and print flyers fill this 5-attorney Illinois firm’s lead pipeline.
About 10 years ago attorney Ryan Bradley fired all the vendors of marketing services for his law firm. Bradley wanted to learn marketing on his own and now handles all of it for Koester & Bradley, a five-lawyer boutique plaintiff civil litigation firm in Champaign, Illinois, about 125 miles southwest of Chicago.
“I spend about 40 percent of my time trying to make the phone ring and the other 60 percent practicing as a lawyer,” said Bradley. In a comment typical of Bradley’s humor, talking about the importance of marketing, he said, “In practicing law 90 percent is getting the business.”
As an undergrad in college he studied marketing before obtaining his law degree, so he had a foundation in marketing and brand building when he began his program of self-education. So well did Bradley school himself in the art and science of marketing that he claims there are no programs, platforms, or marketing companies for lawyers that he’s not familiar with. “But the educational process is ongoing and there’s always more to learn,” he said.
Weebly Website, Hubspot CRM
Like most law firms, at the forefront of Koester and Bradley’s marketing efforts is the firm’s website.
The company’s website was originally designed in 2008 by an outside firm. “Around 2012, I took the website in house and used Weebly to build it,” Bradley said. “Our website is the main source of new client acquisition…along with word-of-mouth, which is always number one,” said Bradley.
A standard list of legal specialties of a personal injury firm posted on the site: Auto and Vehicle Accidents, Wrongful Death, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injuries, Business Litigation and Consulting. Also posted are five special categories of the firm’s practice, i.e., Bad Drugs and Devices, Pradaxa and Xarelto, DePuy Attune Knee, and Pressure Cooker Lawsuits. When prospective clients who Google any of these category keywords looking for lawyers in the Champaign-Urbana area, the Koester & Bradley link will come up, at or near the top of the list.
Testimonials from clients play a big part in Koester & Bradley’s marketing strategy. “We incorporate these on our website home page and also encourage reviews on Google and other sites,” said Bradley.
Weebly’s annual cost for website changes runs about $500. Hosting runs an additional $200 a year.
“I’ve revised the site a number of times and presently use HubSpot, [a developer of marketing software and provider of digital and social media marketing services]for hosting other social media sites, design, and for blogging,” Bradley said. “I handle all of the design and all the copywriting. ”
Hubspot, a Cambridge, Massachusetts firm, costs the firm approximately $6,000 per year, according to Bradley. The fee includes e-mail, social media and CMS services. CMS is short for “content management system,” a computer program that manages content using a database and has various additional marketing applications.
In searching for marketing firms to work with, Bradley did extensive research, checking references and interviewing prospective vendors.
Bradley says the firm also runs several pay per click programs on Google, Bing and Facebook through an outside agency.
The cost of pay per click advertising is comparatively high, since advertisers must pay a fee whenever their ads are clicked, whether or not the “clicker” is converted into a client.
A Seattle marketing firm called Mockingbird analyzes pay per click visitors and SEO keywords in the Koester & Bradley copy. It also analyzes copy of their rivals to determine the efficacy of each site. Bradley changes the firm’s copy if a more effective way of attracting clicks are discovered in the copy of other firms.
“This is done continually,” Bradley said. “SEO efforts are a matter of trial and error. If it doesn’t work, I rewrite it myself. I could go to an agency to change it, but that could cost me maybe $3,000.
The firm’s conversion rate of “clickers” to clients is about 20 percent, according to Bradley. “That’s a high rate,” he said. “But we’re hyper-focused locally, within a fifty mile radius of our office, so there’s not much competition. A similar Chicago firm might have only a 2-5 percent conversion.” The lower rate of conversion in the Chicago area is attributable to the intensely competitive environment, according to Bradley.
Blogging and Newsletter Are Minor Sources
The firm’s blog, which is accessible through its website, runs from 500 to 1,500 words. “I try to put all the good material up front,” Bradley said. “Like a newspaper, nobody’ll probably read the whole thing,” an assumption that reflects his realistic view of the limits of his marketing efforts.
“I try to write one weekly,” Bradley said. “Sometimes more, sometimes less. I’m restructuring it now, and rewriting some of [the material]on the back end.”
Content on the blog includes articles on injury cases, medical malpractice, cyber security and consumer protection.
Referring to the blog, Bradley said, “I soft pedal the solicitation. If someone has a fender bender, they can call their insurance agent. Why [solicit that case]and take a third of the settlement?”
The blog generates only a modest amount of business, according to Bradley.
“I stay away from politics and religion,” said Bradley, referring to blog content. “But I’ve been tempted to write about these subjects because people are interested. They’ll read this whether they agree with you or not.”
Bradley also writes a monthly email newsletter that goes to other lawyers in non-competing areas of practice, including attorneys specializing in wills and estates. Although the newsletter typically generates only three or four clients a year, Bradley says despite the low volume, the cases have higher value.
Social Media Profiles
Koester & Bradley also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Postings on these sites include stories concerning consumer protection, personal injury cases, and other legal-related material.
The firm’s LinkedIn posting provides extensive information about the company and on the various cases they’ve handled over the years. Bradley also has a personal profile on the site.
Additional social media sites are currently under development, including YouTube and Vimeo.
Public speaking is another marketing tool in Bradley’s overall marketing and brand building program.
“I talk to business people, entrepreneurs, real estate people,” Bradley said. “I discuss dispute resolution, how to incorporate, other business-related issues. I contact people who already have an audience and ask if I may be added to their list of speakers.”
These would include business associations, organizations, universities, etc. Bradley also uses a free Chicago speakers bureau that obtains speaking engagements for him. The bureau charges no fees to the audience, nor to the speaker.
Print Flyers and Advertising
While many law firms may no longer use print to promote their services, Bradley says, “Print is not dead, nor is traditional media. I use flyers and brochures and distribute them to non-competitors – transactional and other attorneys, realtors. We sometimes trade brochures.”
Koester and Bradley advertises occasionally in newspapers, but their annual expenditure on print advertising is low. “We will do short runs only when the promotion is in line with our branding or practice areas,” Bradley explained. “We do not run regular [newspaper]ads.”
One recent year Koester and Bradley sponsored a one hour local NPR show from Champaign-Urbana that talked about Illinois political issues. Although the show was created to raise the firm’s profile, Bradley said, “We didn’t get much feedback.” The show ran for one year only.
The firm runs an occasional radio ad for specific practice areas, but not on a regular basis.
Television advertising is not currently part of the company’s advertising program.
An innovative marketing approach that Bradley uses is his registration with HARO, Help A Reporter Out. This is a free service that targets registrants with media requests for experts and or interview subjects in every professional and academic category, including the law.
Many of Bradley’s published quotes, and the articles he’s written for local and national media, came through an HARO request. A profile of Bradley appeared in Super Lawyers magazine, which significantly raised his profile.
Bradley’s advice for lawyers who want to learn marketing and do most of it themselves: “Go one step at a time, start with reading. I read everything I could get my hands on, about strategy, structuring, best practices. Write blogs to begin. Then move on to other methods. And remember, get as many lines and hooks out as possible.”