Many law firms are concentrating their marketing on existing clients and practically eliminating business development during this period of sheltering in place. Most have cut back but not eliminated their marketing budgets.
“I think small firms should reach out to every single client they want to keep. In times of crisis, people always remember how you make them feel. These lawyers should be reaching out to their clients, and friends and referral sources and reassure them you are there to help them,” said Ward and Smith Director of Marketing and Business Development and former Raleigh Legal Marketing Association (LMA) President Laura Hudson.
“Right now, we are focusing on blog posts and online media content, especially as they pertain to new challenges and issues clients are facing in the midst of COVID-19,” said Raleigh divorce lawyer Heather Williams Forshey. “We also have focused topics on how prospective clients can keep their family law case moving, even during these difficult times.
For many larger civil law firms, spring is traditionally a time for one-to-one networking at industry conferences. Those marketing dollars have been sliced from budgets with the cancellation of those confabs.
In their stead, “Our focus has been on key client contacts, making that a daily task,” said Raven Hicks, Marketing and Business Development Manager at Raleigh-based Teague Campbell and current LMA President.
“Our attorneys are making a list of clients they have connections with and prioritizing them. We are providing them with support and assistance. Our big push has been those normal connections and relationships that aren’t super salesy.”
One marketing director said that attorneys who traditionally like to hide behind their desks and focus on billable hours are now being told to pick up the phone and connect with clients.
“We are doing a lot of content marketing,” said Hudson of 90-lawyer firm Ward and Smith. “Our COVID-19 resource center has over 50 articles. An article on the SBA’s PPP program got over 50,000 hits versus 30,000 hits on the firm’s website each month. Some of the content has generated new clients. We’ve had several people call and say an article helped them with a particular problem.”
The pandemic is creating new or expanded areas of litigation such as worker’s compensation, employment law, and business interruption insurance. Teague has a larger workers’ compensation practice. Hicks said the firm is posting items on its website, e-blasting to clients, and has a COVID-19 resources page directing people to it for updates.
Unlike prior business slowdowns like the Great Recession of 2008 that experienced slow recoveries, this sleep-induced business coma will end quickly, and there will be pent-up demand for business and consumer legal services.
Firms are talking about what marketing will look like Post COVID-19, such as when the courts re-open, tentatively set for June 1.
Consumer-facing firms like bankruptcy and family law are already expecting a surge in new clients. “Our immediate marketing plans are focused on small businesses such as restaurants,” said Raleigh bankruptcy attorney Travis Sasser.
Ward and Smith has ramped up the use of webinars in recent weeks and expects to continue to utilize them. “It’s all going to be about communicating and staying on top of what’s changing for our clients,” said Hicks.