Tech Fallout: Could Smartphones Put Growth On Hold At Your Practice?
It didn’t take long for mobile phones to transition from something you just talk on to becoming a mini-computer that slips into your pocket.
But smartphone technology is also the genesis for new businesses — think Uber — that may force a detour for attorneys.
In fact, the wheels are already rolling in that direction.
During the recent Mass Torts Made Perfect conference in Las Vegas, presenter Dustin Ruge noted: In the past five months, attorneys are seeing a decline in their DUI cases in cities where ridesharing is rapidly growing.
Yes, a decline in cases ... already.
And there is more technology coming down the pike that could alter business as you know it:
- Volvo promises death-proof cars by 2020.
- Citing the price of car ownership as “a burden that is costing the average American $9,000 every year,” John Zimmer, CEO of Lyft, predicts that by 2025 car ownership in U.S. cities will “all but end.”
- Then there is the federal Road to Zero Coalition and its target goal of ending fatalities on the nation's roads within 30 years.
So the question is: Will the marriage of smartphones and technology put your future growth on hold?
At MTMP, organizer Mike Papantonio of Levin Papantonio emphasized on multiple occasions the importance of "sustainability" for legal practices.
That theme was echoed by attorneys Annesley DeGaris (DeGaris & Rogers) and Alex Shunnarah (Law Offices of Alex Shunnarah), who rounded up their talk "The Future of Mass Torts Marketing" saying, “It’s great to have legal skills, but if you don’t have anything to work on, they’re not going to do you any good.”
Smartphones: A Blessing and a Curse
Smartphones are altering your future, but at the same time they are putting opportunity in the palm of your hand, if you take advantage of mobile marketing. As multiple presenters at MTMP noted, advertising channels are in flux. Print adveristing is in decline, if not dead. And traditional TV is on the decline as viewers shift to online sources, such as Netflix, for their video enjoyment.
Guess where those eyeballs are glued: Mobile devices.
For starters, we spend more time on mobile devices than TV, as the chart below shows.
And when you calculate which specfic online platform eyeballs are glued to, mobile devices capture most of the attention. As the chart below shows, mobile now represents 65 percent of digital media time and desktop is becoming a "secondary touch point."
Here at Einstein Law, we are seeing similar shifts to mobile on the legal websites we manage. We track millions of website interactions and our analytics show that most visits for our clients now come from mobile devices, both smartphones and tablets.
But even though technology is changing consumer behavior, there is one truism that hasn't changed: If you want to get your message in front of prospective clients, you need to be where they are. And, based on the charts above, your audience is on the move. If they've gone mobile, shouldn't you?
At MTMP, Ruge noted that there is a $22 billion marketing gap between the amount of time we spend on mobile devices and the marketing dollars spent on that channel. This gap is your window of opportunity … as long as you can figure out just where to stake your claim.
Digital Marketing for Lawyers
Attorneys were early adopters of online strategies as the internet grew. Pay per click (PPC) advertising in search became their go-to option. Unfortunately, that obsession has come at a cost.
Legal keywords are among the most expensive terms on the internet and, if used unwisely, can quickly tank return on investment.
When lawyers take PPC to mobile the stakes get higher. That's because on the smaller mobile screen, bidding is concentrated on the top two PPC slots, the only ones with reliable visibility on a smartphone.
But there are other options and, thankfully, you won't necessarily need deep pockets to take advantage of them. One is social media advertising, a variant of PPC ads in search.
Social media is an ideal channel for spreading your message because it is one of the most popular activities online and has high user engagement rates. In 2016, social media had a 59 percent penetration rate in North America. Ruge said that experts predict that over the next three years fully two-thirds of us will be active on both mobile phones and social media, opening the curtains to a very large audience of prospective clients.
But there’s a catch. Before jumping in, you need to understand the differences between social media and PPC advertising.
PPC excels at attracting prospective clients with an immediate need. These are the people searching Google for an attorney after a DUI or car accident.
In contrast, social media marketing is a tactic for the long haul. Social media advertising is about building trust and credibility to enhance your brand. The goal is to prove your value by providing informative and knowledgeable information so you are remembered as a trusted advisor when the need arises.
Social Media Advertising 101
- Native Advertising — Mobile advertising is “native” advertising that unobtrusively slips into Facebook and Instagram feeds, making them more palatable. That’s in contrast to disruptive TV advertising, where commercials kick off a Pavlovian response to raid the kitchen or otherwise tune out.
- Size Matters — Mobile devices are small, so you need to plan accordingly. On small screens, people tend to watch, not read. This trend is so prevalent that experts predict that 85% of all Internet traffic will be video, not text based, in the future.
- Pick Your Audience — Social media advertising allows you to target your preferred audience using a fine sieve. With Facebook you can filter for service radius, age, gender, income, likes, behaviors and much more. In addition, you can create a Custom Audience using your database and contact lists or “look alike” audiences: People similar to your customers.
- Understand The Social Media Audience — Make sure your message matches the medium. Much like attending a block party, social media is about being social. Take the time to say hello, offer congratulations, and provide thoughtful "conversation." Let people see who you are through your actions, thoughts, and deeds. This isn't the time to be that guy who is always passing out promotional flyers.
Unlike PPC ads, which pull in prospective clients with an immediate need, ads on social media are more about building trust and credibility in your practice before they even need help. It's about building your reputation.
Even in a world of tech, people still buy from people. With a succesful social media strategy, you become that familiar face in the crowd that people turn to in time of need.
However, before you dive into online advertising, including mobile, it’s important to align your strategy with your goals to avoid disappointment.
- Do you want that person who needs an attorney right now? Then search PPC, though expensive, may be the right option. Just be sure you are using a savvy strategist so your PPC doesn't turn into a money pit. And take the time to vet your PPC provider.
- Are you looking to the future by building a reputation in your community or region? Then social media, which is typically less expensive than PPC, can build trust and keep you top of mind.
- A third option is covering all the bases by using both PPC and social media advertising to establish a broad base for both short- and long-term gains.
A Word of Caution
Harlan Schillinger, a 38-year legal marketing veteran, offered sage advice during a one-on-one chat at MTMP. He notes that many law firms have the same hangups when it comes to capitalizing on change in the world of digital marketing.
"Many lawyers feel that they are the smartest person in the room. Lawyers feel that they have control. But they don't know what they don't know," he said.
Lawyers also need to recognize that they are not just lawyers, he said, they are also entreprenuers and need to act accordingly. Schillinger's "10 Ways to Compete in Today's Legal Marketing Landscape" drives home the point that lawyers must also be marketers.
The combination of smartphones and technology may be forcing a detour for lawyers mapping out their future growth. But smartphones also open the door to opportunity by letting you put your message right in the hands of prospective clients when you use mobile marketing.
But to take advantage of change, you need to keep pace. Are you?
It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change. — Charles Darwin