Divorce lawyers and marketing – do they mix well?
This week I may have lost some potential clients, by telling them things they didn’t want to hear.
And fair enough. We all prefer to work with people who reinforce what we believe, and it’s terribly annoying when someone contradicts us – especially if we’ve just spent a whole load of time and energy working hard on something only to get it dismissed out of hand by someone claiming to know more about marketing than us.
However, lawyers are not generally marketeers. And when it comes to communicating a foreign concept to the general public – such as what is collaborative law and why should divorcing couples consider using the process – then does the skill of dispute resolution really transfer to the world of online communications?
I had been asked to view and then share a marketing resource created by a team of lawyers, but made myself rather unpopular by saying that I would be doing them, and the image of collaborative law that they were promoting, a disservice by sharing this particular resource.
For those of you wishing to promote mediation and collaborative law, please let me share with you some key factors and advice, because we have something in common. We all support greater awareness of the benefits of non-adversarial divorce. I spend most of my time trying to promote mediation and collaborative law, something that is still seen as new and scary by the general public, because I believe I am doing a service to families by trying to open up the opportunities of non-adversarial routes through divorce.
I have no legal training and would never dream of giving legal advice, but I know more than most lawyers about marketing and so I’m going to share the advice I recently gave to a group of lawyers about a marketing product they created for themselves, saying things that must have been hard to hear after all their hard work and commitment in creating that marketing product. And even though it may have cost me a new set of clients because sometimes there is just no nice way of saying “It’s not working”, I wanted to share my advice to them with the profession as a whole in the hope that it will prove useful:
Does anyone else understand what you’re saying?
Remember that your audience don’t know who you are, what you do or why they should even give you the time of day. Be quirky and original if you can – but if the messages you are delivering are confusing or unclear, it will be deeply annoying to your audience. They are already in a state of confusion and grief as it is over their marriage break up so not annoying them is paramount.
Testing your marketing methods:
Always test your marketing materials on people who ARE NOT LAWYERS and who don’t know much about what you do. This can be done online through a very short simple poll, using a test sample – but give them a real incentive to take the time to answer the very few key questions which measure whether they have gained any positive information from the marketing product (whether a written document, video or live event). Also measure what they FEEL about it. Emotional selling points are more powerful than simple facts to encourage people to take action.
Don’t just leave your contact details at the bottom. Clearly incorporate into your blog or video an inviting reason to take the next step – ideally a link to a free download or anything else that they would happily register their details for. Just email address and name – keep it short. Add them to your mailing list and send out a sensibly spaced sequence of follow up emails, with useful further bite-sized information, each focused on a call for action which will probably be “Call me for a no-obligation conversation”.
Measure the results in a useful way – how many people sign up for the download for example. What is the good of a thousand YouTube views if a good % of those people have not REGISTERED and downloaded the pdf, so that you can then send them other useful information as part of your email marketing strategy? Using an email marketing system such as Aweber is worth considering.
Key marketing messages – are they missing?
A well known family law firm is currently advertising on the radio that their firm will put the children first in the divorce process – and they are one of the most adversarial law firms I know. If you want to differentiate Collaborative Law from other forms of divorce, to a marketplace who not only mistrust and actively dislike divorce lawyers as a profession, and who generally have never heard of Collaborative Law, then you need to be extremely clear about what messages you want to convey. And make sure you reinforce them.
Promote the benefits – financial and emotional – reinforced and backed up by links to further information – and really push home three key reasons why people getting divorced should find out more. Make it EASY to find out more – make a clear call for action the focus of your marketing message.
Be sure you know what the key messages are: Don’t think like lawyers. Think like your clients. Where is their pain? What do they need? You may want to tell them that the cost is usually cheaper using collaborative law than adversarial approaches, but they don’t know how expensive an adversarial divorce can be. Your initial message may instead be to focus on LESS STRESS and LESS TIME. Time is precious to people – so that may be a better focus for initial marketing approaches.
The best way I know of getting clear messages to deliver and a strategy on how to do that, is through a marketing workshop, with someone there asking difficult questions and really making you think like your clients. The investment in gathering together in a structured way to clarify key marketing messages, combined with a congruence to the brand ethos, cannot be overestimated.
Client testimonials are not only a great addition to any marketing material, but their perception of the benefits – both BEFORE they begin the process as well as after – will be invaluable in helping form your key marketing messages. Don’t be afraid to talk to your previous clients. They are a goldmine of information.
“Naturalistic” or just “Naff”
There are times when – particularly with video – that a less polished approach can be a benefit, if it is congruent with coming across as real and approachable. So interviews with ‘real people’ in naturalist environments can be as strong as something set up in a studio – in fact stronger.
However, as someone who used to work in the film and television industry I personally hate the poor quality – particularly sound quality – of many of my own videos. I fully appreciate the cost of high production values, and although I do not believe creating a strong marketing product needs to be prohibitively expensive, I myself am going to be investing in higher quality video production in the future.
Many of my own videos have been ‘grabbed’ because someone has said something important and I’ve literally asked “Please can you say that again. It’s so important I want to share it” and recorded them on my IPhone. This is still worth me doing when I’m sharing real people’s experiences – not creating a sales message. But I am starting to take a separate microphone around with me now to get better sound quality, and will soon be re-recording other videos to improve the quality overall because I want my video material to match the professionalism and high brand perception of my written material.
If I were to create a video to inform people about the benefits of collaborative law, I would be very conscious of the fact that the potential clients realistically are home owners, with pensions, and are accustomed to a high quality of service when they spend money. So a naturalistic, amateurish style of video to promote my key messages would be inappropriate.
This does not mean it has to cost thousands of pounds, nor does it mean that it can’t be creative and quirky – but it is a sensible investment to use video creators who are experienced in lighting, know how to frame the image correctly, have some basic art direction skills in making sure key branding or message reinforcement are present in the background of the shots, so that the finished product inspires confidence. A collaborative lawyer would not dream of presenting at a Resolution Conference with a poorly structured talk and a bunch of post-it notes stuck on the wall. Why would they want to share with potential clients anything that detracted from their professionalism and skill as collaborative lawyers?
A single sharing of an online marketing resource is pointless unless you integrate it with your whole online marketing strategy.
In simple terms:
- Create your own YouTube Channel – it’s free.
- Make sure the YouTube posting includes a call for action and link visible immediately (no need to click ‘show more’ on the YouTube page) and leading to a registration sign up page.
- Make other key resources (also leading to the sign up page) easily available on the video itself, blogs, pdf downloads – all your marketing resources.
- Follow up all contact with potential clients in a consistent way, offering useful information and an invite to make direct contact.
- Make good use of social media to promote your marketing resources, and to encourage your peers on Twitter and Linked In to share them.
- Create articles for your blogs, online magazines and Huffington Post articles which link to your video and written resources.
My advice is that if you want to target a market who will be able to pay for Collaborative Lawyers to support their divorce, then your marketing product needs to be:
- Professionally produced
- Promoting key marketing messages
- Providing an irresistible call for action (for example, a free downloadable pdf on “How Collaborative Law saves you money, stress and protects the interests of the children”)
- Keep it short
Why am I sharing this advice?
Having given several presentations to Collaborative PODS, I am always amazed at how insular the profession is. So many collaborative lawyers seem to think that the general public actually know they exist. They don’t. I would say that only a tiny percentage of the educated and professional people I meet with outside of the legal profession, have ever heard of collaborative law. Having wine and sandwiches and talking about marketing at POD meetings, is not the same as actually getting the message out there.
I have written this blog post partly because I can bring together a professional team to create high quality videos – because I’ve just sourced them in order to create much higher quality videos for my own site. And I can bring some marketing logic to the process so that the video does some real work and provides a return on investment.
But since many collaborative lawyers will struggle to get their firms to invest in promoting what they do (though some are now paying to promote their collaborative lawyers on the Divorce in a Box website directory which is a healthy sign), the real reason I’m sharing this with collaborative lawyers is that I – like them – care very much about keeping families away from adversarial divorce. I work very hard to educate and encourage divorcing families to consider the healthier options available to them, and to guide them to the financial, emotional and psychological support they need to help those non-adversarial routes actually work. I even offer free access to Divorce Lawyers to share the Divorce in a Box resource for free in order to encourage a greater public openness to mediation and collaborative law. I don’t want my hard work to be undermined by poor quality marketing by the very profession I am promoting.
If you are a collaborative lawyer reading this, and if you never use my marketing services to promote collaborative law or mediation, and even if you never speak to me again – please take note of the above advice, and apply it, because ultimately this is about supporting real people though rough times in their lives. I see the way forward is for marketeers and collaborative lawyers to work together, with the same aim – to increase public awareness of the positive benefits of collaborative law.
Doing anything that belittles the image of non-adversarial divorce through mismanaged marketing would be doing all of us, especially those divorcing couples, a disservice.
The ONLY product that promotes STAY-OUT-OF-COURT divorce.