At the MASS (Motor Accident Solicitors Society) conference last week, I was asked to introduce the panel on marketing with an overview of the need for a marketing strategy for personal injury lawyers when trying to reach the consumer. And in just 15 minutes!

The key points I covered included:

  • Too often I see firms in desperate straits flailing around trying out every new marketing tool in the hope of generating work. This ad-hoc approach is likely to fail. There needs to be a strategy and a plan. And the thing about strategy is that you have to make choices. Considered choices.
  • It is also important to remember that the essence of marketing is about anticipating customer needs and finding a way to meet those needs profitably. Too often, firms are so busy pushing their existing services that they don’t take time to find out what the customers really, really want and how. Innovation for new services or delivery is often overlooked.
  • There is a simple framework that I use with firms to develop a marketing strategy for personal injury teams and individuals:
  1. Where am I now?
  2. Where do I want to be?
  3. How will I get there?
  4. What do I have to do?

1.    Where am I now?

This bit requires both internal and external analysis. Whilst firms might be rigorous in their internal analysis (volume and value of cases, cost per enquiry or case, fee income and profitability, sources of work, web analytics, sales cycle etc) they may be less familiar with external analysis. This might cover, for instance:

–       What are the trends in motor accidents and claims?

–       How is the motor accident market broken down? What new segments are emerging?

–       What do clients really want from their advisers after an accident?

–       Where do clients go to obtain information about their accidents?

–       Who are the main competitors? What alternatives do consumers have?

–       How is my firm/team perceived in the market? What’s our reputation?

–       Why do our clients come to us? What do clients value about our service? 

2.    Where do I want to be?

Often, firms will only have an idea of how much fee income (and profit) they want to generate over the next year – this isn’t really a business plan or a strategy

  • There needs to be a longer term view of how the PI practice will evolve over time – for example, the introduction of technology and new services
  • There should be consideration of the mix of the size and type of cases and different types of client – as well as the profitability of different types of work. A big impact here will be on how much they are prepared to invest to generate the right sort of cases
  • The pipeline must be analysed – how many web visits convert into how many enquiries and then how many meetings and actual cases

As well as financial aims, firm’s need to consider what they want to achieve in terms of market position and reputation. A key strategy for smaller firms is to develop a niche and create/support the relevant (on-line) community.

As well as providing a mechanism to monitor and measure marketing effectiveness it is much easier to choose the appropriate strategy and tools when you know specifically what you are trying to achieve

3.    How will I get there?

At this stage you are deciding what markets (geographic areas, types of injuries, types of clients, niches etc) you are targeting and through which channels and what type of service (e.g advisory vs. commodity, general vs specialist, on-line support, integrated with other services such as medical, rehabilitation, psychological etc) you are providing.

These are overall decisions about whether you are aiming at a broad, general market or a niche and the method in which you will differentiate your firm – its specialist expertise, neat technology services, particular style of delivery or relationship or related therapeutic support.

Then you can consider your promotional campaign. There are many techniques to choose from – and each has its own strengths and weaknesses, some are cash intensive and others are time intensive:

Traditional PR – Whether community relations (either geographic or based on some other issue such as “those suffering brain damage” or “those who drive for a living”) or media relations and publicity these are effective ways to raise profile and generate interest. It becomes more powerful when combined with some important research for the market to become a sort of thought leadership campaign. Many firms will have programmes designed to reach influences and referrers and provide talks, presentations and seminars. 

Advertising – There is a multitude of options from television and radio advertising to more affordable transport adverts and posters to local newspapers and specialist magazines for specialist groups. There are newer online options using pay per click (PPC) and keywords. Major players have significantly more resources for these approaches though – see an example of the £10m campaign from First4Lawyers

Digital marketing – The starting point is a web site with good content to support good search engine optimisation (SEO) to attract traffic. Many firms are publishing high quality guides and advice as White Papers and booklets. Then there is a wealth of social media techniques – whether blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, Slideshare or Google+. Some firms have invested in developing Apps as a means of capturing leads – although I’m not wholly impressed with what I have seen so far

Personal selling – Some firms have invested in call centre support whilst others provide training to solicitors to help them convert enquiries on the telephone or at meetings into clients.

Some of the things that are occasionally overlooked include:

–       Internal marketing – equipping your own people to promote the firm 

–       Collaboration and joint marketing – with charities and other third parties 

–       Social media – Using blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other tools to build online communities and attract people who are seeking knowledge. Repurposing content by using talks for articles, blogs and social media posts 

–       Video – Increasingly, consumers seek information in alternative formats to text so videos, podcasts and infographics are becoming more important

I produced the mind map to show some of the many choices there are to make…

The other speakers on the panel deserve a mention as they did some cracking talks: 

Matthew Moth, Madano – Talked lots of sense about media relations programmes and working with journalists (Twitter @madano) 

Dez Perry, mmadigital – Argued a strong case for having a responsive, mobile friendly web site, using video content (he showed some great law firm examples – and social media – and measuring everything (Twitter @mmadigitaluk)

Take a look at some of the videos:

Immigration appeals

Cerebral palsy

Industrial disease

Ian Hughes, consumer Discussed cognitive flexibility and the ability of customers to exaggerate their experience/injury. He offered some laws of marketing physics: a) have an overt benefit, b) give a reason to believe (kitchen logic, sample, pedigree, testimonial or guarantee) and c) be dramatically different

MASS Personal injury marketing strategy October 2013