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Buy a Ferrari, Build a Bridge

February 27th, 2014 / - filed under Digital Marketing

Is it time for a website overhaul? Should you launch a blog? Is LinkedIn working out? Would videos make sense?

These are great questions—and great questions to ask often. But sometimes, forays into the digital universe are a most random act of marketing. An “important” partner wants a blog. The blog is born. A hungry marketer wants to redesign the firm’s website. The firm is flush, so the website gets a makeover. Maybe you get lucky and these marketing investments don’t hurt, but do they really help? Are they the best use of a shrinking pool of resources?

Now there’s a good question. And if you want an answer, Google it.

(Well, not exactly.)

While marketing on the internet highway is tricky and it gets all mucked up with annoying lingo about SEO this and SEO that (more on that in our next post), there’s a simple navigation tool that will aid the journey: Google Analytics, a user-friendly service that provides must-know data about who visits your site, where they come from, how long they stay and what they do during their visit.

It’s nosiness on crack. It’s awesome. Not to mention it’s free. Best of all, by helping firms to make targeted investments, Google Analytics can help control costs and inform tactical decisions that serve broader business development strategies.

Case in Point: A super fabulous firm wants a total website overhaul and is prepared to spend enough to buy a convertible Ferrari with less than 1000 miles on it. The impetus for the overhaul? An Important Partner feels the site looks dated and he wants clients to find the firm snazzy and forward-thinking. Fair enough. So we look at traffic patterns and it turns out the site has incredibly low traffic, almost all of which is from students. So we have an Important Conversation with the Important Partner. How much should we focus on improving the site for its existing users (prospective hires) and how much should we focus on non-existent visitors (prospective clients)? Because having a snazzy site won’t draw visitors. If the goal is to attract clients, we need attractive content. Creating attractive content is its own strategy that has nothing to do with web design.

Sidebar: Hollywood lied: If you build it, they won’t come. Anymore than building a bridge means people will cross it. You need to do more. You need to understand where in the world we need a bridge.

So, with our super fabulous firm, maybe we realize that having killer talent is actually a mission critical strategy. We may forgo a comprehensive redesign and instead build a new career site to take recruiting to the next level. (Maybe buy the Ferrari with all the money saved and let summers drive it.)

Attorney bios are hot. Prospects and adversaries go there. Maybe it’s time to update those in form and substance. What’s more, if bios are yielding high traffic, you’ll want to know how visitors are getting there. Are they using the attorney search function on your website? Are they coming in directly from LinkedIn? Or are visitors linking to a specific attorney’s bio from an online publication? The answer to each of these questions is its own marketing decision. For instance, if visitors are coming from a publication, you invest in more PR, not more web design.

Perhaps most significant, while in the early days marketing investments were gut-check decisions, we now have data to support the value calculus. The ROI of hosting a CLE no longer has to be a mystery. Are seminar attendees poking around your firm’s site? The CLE may not have generated new clients (yet), but you can certainly discover—and then court—your prospects.

The fun doesn’t stop there. You can not only assess brand value efforts, but also use your findings to further enhance the value of those efforts. So you noticed that Company A attended your CLE and is now poking around the section of your firm’s website on your practice area. What do you do? Syndicate. Reinforce the expertise you demonstrated at the CLE by writing a practice area newsletter to post to the website and send out to clients (and maybe Company A if you have contact information). Write a summary of the CLE as a news item for your firm’s homepage. Share the link to this news item with your LinkedIn groups. When Company A next visits your website, it’ll be reassured that you’re the go-to lawyer for their matter. (And maybe next time, after seeing the traffic benefits, you’ll do all of this syndication before your CLE.)

I tease my sister that she lives and dies by restaurant reviews on Yelp. But the fact is, her dollars and (tiny) appetite are consistently well spent. Of course, marketing your practice is a bit more important than finding a good burger joint (maybe). And yet, too often firms are making marketing decisions without using the basic and free tools available to them. If you could start a blog on your website and then track it to see whether people are coming before going all Hollywood with a video production team, why wouldn’t you?

Like Yelp, Google Analytics is merely a tool. To properly leverage the data requires a basic understanding of “SEO,” “unique visitors,” and other buzzwords. It also requires an understanding of which traffic goals make sense: Should the firm try to get as many visitors as possible? Or rather, as many new visitors as possible? Stay tuned—we’ll cover this in our next blog post.

In the meantime, get your tech team to start producing monthly traffic reports that cover the basics in basic English. Let the data guide you. And if you want help setting up a Google Analytics account or understanding how traffic reports are compiled and analyzed, drop us a line.