I have been asked multiple times by my clients and industry colleagues if it is appropriate to market yourself and your firm during the coronavirus pandemic. The answer is yes, but only if you do it in a sensitive and appropriate way during these challenging times.
The most important thing you can do right now in these uncertain times is to be more human and be patient. Lead with empathy. Understand that everyone is on edge right now. Let others know that you’re really in this together and you also share their anxieties.
While we haven’t flattened the curve yet, the worst thing you can do is to do nothing right now from a marketing perspective.
You want to be top of mind with your clients and prospects and help them navigate this unprecedented time. They are looking to you to tell them how this pandemic will affect their business and to advise them on the steps they need to take in the short- and long-term to protect their livelihood. The firms that will succeed are those that provide tangible value, show genuine care for their clients and showcase their human side.
This is also a great time to think about all of those things you wish you had the time to do in the daily hustle and bustle of life before the coronavirus and actually do them. There’s no excuse to not update your bio or to master LinkedIn. If you are a marketing professional, I highly recommend organizing virtual training programs for your lawyers and marketing colleagues for team building now and to keep the momentum going on your initiatives.
As a marketer, the most important question you should ask yourself right now is “how can we support our clients and our profession during this time?” Here’s how:
- Deepen your relationships. Be sensitive to client needs and the fact they are stressed right now. Help them as much as you can. Ask them how they are doing in these challenging times—it’s not business as usual. Be patient and kind.
- Understand that your clients may be going through rough financial times as a result of the sudden pause in the economy. Be flexible on fees and payment terms for long-term clients if you can. Offer your expertise on a small matter at no cost or a reduced cost. This will not only help your client’s budget challenges, but also give them an opportunity to see the quality of your work.
- Provide content of value such as client alerts, blog posts, online resources and webinars. Your objective with social media/content is to become a client-centric thought leader so that you are top of mind when your network needs someone like you.
- Get to know your clients on a personal level. You’d be surprised how many lawyers don’t know that much about their clients and this is incredibly important in developing long-term, loyal attorney/client relationships. Right now all you have to do is ask, “How are things going?” Sharing personal information makes people real.
- Set new business development goals for yourself by reflecting and planning ahead: First, look back on your marketing and business development activities over the past year—what went well and what didn’t? What was worthwhile and what didn’t live up to your expectations? Then set actionable, realistic goals to accomplish this year given current market conditions. Remember to be sensitive to the fact that we haven’t yet flattened the curve so there may be things on your to-do list that you have to temporarily put on the back burner.
- Provide value to clients at no cost to them through educational webinars and online CLE programs on relevant topics. Write content and host webinar briefings that speak to their pain points. Find ways to educate them on how the coronavirus affects their business. Being helpful to them helps to position you as a trusted resource and keeps you top of mind.
- Your professional biography is your opportunity to showcase your work, capabilities, areas of expertise and what makes you stand out from your competitors. Bios are among the highest trafficked pages on law firm web sites and they usually come up as the top Google search result for a lawyer’s name (second only to their LinkedIn profile. Having time at home is a great reason to take a fresh look at your bio and bolster it (also update your experience lists).
- Set up Google Alerts and LinkedIn alerts on your clients and prospects to obtain valuable information and give you reasons to reach out to them. These alerts (as well as the notifications section on LinkedIn) can serve as the catalyst to congratulate them on a success or share their article. Such timely touchpoints enable you to stay top of mind with important connections and ask them how they are doing during this tumultuous time. Oh by the way, these alerts are free.
- LinkedIn is the most important social media channel for business development. Now is the time to focus on your LinkedIn profile while you have more free time—also in good times or bad, people are still searching for you online—your profile should always be update to date and each section should be filled out so that you can obtain LinkedIn’s “All-Star” status. Your LinkedIn profile is one of the top Google search results about you. Develop a strong profile that highlights your professional attributes and background. LinkedIn provides great reasons to reach out to those in your network through its job moves and work anniversary notifications.
- Spend time to learn about the companies, businesses and industries of important clients inside and out. What challenges and opportunities are your clients facing? How can you help them with these? Delving into these areas will enable you to better anticipate their needs and be a smarter legal solution provider.
- Your clients really do want to receive client alerts from the law firms they use—they trust you as a content source. Regularly send your contacts value-added content with a personal note about what it means to them. Personalized content pushes like this do lead to new matters and stronger relationships—so don’t underestimate the value of taking the time to do this. Good content is a great lead generation tool.
- Help the community, your employees and your clients during this stressful time. Some ideas include announcing a pro bono initiative for those struggling as a result of the coronavirus, a firmwide donation drive of helpful supplies, purchasing critical items via the many relief marketplaces on the web, identify new needs from individuals and organizations—especially clients who are faltering and offer technology to those who need it. Clients like to do business with firms that care and give back to others, period. It’s just the right thing to do.
- Clients really do want to see that your firm is a good corporate citizen—we increasingly see these questions asked in RFPs, and your social media presence is another important channel where you can reinforce these messages. Right now your posts should not focus on how great you are, but rather what you do for the greater good of the community and your employees. So promote these programs on your social channels during this time.
- Think back to past events and conferences you attended over the past year and write articles on the key takeaways from each event—something must have resonated with you. If you spoke at a conference or gave a CLE presentation, turn the PowerPoint into a written alert or article and vice versa. Let your content work harder and smarter for you. These posts can be finalized now and posted after the curve is flattened
Here are a few things not to do right now:
- Turn off pre-scheduled social media posts, emails and reminders that have nothing to do with the coronavirus.
- Don’t post content that is self-congratulatory or launches a new service/product—hang onto these items for a later date. I’m keeping an Excel spreadsheet and getting these posts ready from a copy and visual standpoint so they’re ready to go at the appropriate time.
- Do not pitch or aggressively market yourself. This is not the time to do the hard sell—or to send your bio or practice materials to a prospect. This is the time to be human and use relationships to attract those who need help. Your firm bio and LinkedIn profile will let your abilities shine without you having to draw attention to them.
The business development and marketing tips I’ve included in this article are for law firms of any size.
Right now, it’s not enough to just be a great lawyer, you need to show empathy, poise and kindness. You never know who can turn out to be a client, referral or future employer, so be helpful and kind to everyone, especially now.
Stefanie Marrone helps law firms effectively tell their stories and find their unique voices. Over the last 18 years, she has worked with some of the most prominent and innovative law firms in the world, developing and executing global revenue generating business development and communications strategies, including media relations, branding, and multi-channel content marketing and social media campaigns. She is very passionate about using social media for lead generation and brand building. She has a diverse range of experience in both Big Law and mid-size/small-law firms. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her latest writing on JD Supra as well as her blog The Social Media Butterfly.