On 27th February 2017, the Singapore government announced the Tech Start for Law programme, a new S$2.8m scheme aimed at encouraging Singapore law firms, especially boutique practices to adopt technology solutions in digital marketing, practice management and online research.
This first-of-its-kind initiative for the industry is an indication that Singapore law firms and lawyers must adopt digital marketing solutions in this disruptive age of technology.
Rise of digital marketing in the legal industry
The legal industry in Singapore has been a late adopter in digital marketing vis-à-vis other developed markets in the region. This is quickly changing as increased competition and technological advancements have placed pressure on Singapore law firms and lawyers to find new ways to increase brand awareness and differentiation with potential clients, while protecting and adding value to their existing client base.
Getting started: Understanding how potential clients find and assess lawyers
While relationships (e.g. personal contact, friends, family, referrals, word-of-mouth) made for over 30% of all acquired work for lawyers compared to over 15% via online searches, clients, especially younger and well-heeled professionals are increasingly making more comparisons online and can quickly conduct their own online research on you and your firm. Hence, it is imperative that lawyers and law firms leverage on this trend by having first, an online presence that clearly defines you and your firm’s identity and value proposition.
For lawyers, apart from a well presented profile on your law firm’s website, you should have a professional profile on business networking sites like LinkedIn and regional legal directories like the AsiaLawNetwork, as these platforms are increasingly used by professionals. Some of these platforms even offer services to connect potential clients with lawyers on a confidential basis (e.g. AsiaLawNetwork’s Quick Consult).
It goes without saying that this should not be a one-off exercise. As you work on new and significant matters (e.g. landmark deals, work for a new and major client), you should update your profile to reflect your expanded range or depth of experience. And where clients contact you via these online platforms, you should be prompt in responding to queries.
Next step: Engaging new and existing clients with content
One effective way is the use of online content to share insights on the changes in regulations, landmark decisions or new industry developments. This helps establish you and your firm as experts to both potential and existing clients.
I will share two common and effective ways to do so:
1. Publishing – reach out to a wide pool of clients
It is key to make sure that you get great readership for your content. If done well, search engines like Google will push your article to the top of the list when people search for the topic that you are covering. That means the benefits remain long after you have published the article.
Here are 2 tips on publishing:
- Leverage publications with reach to your target audience – Publishing with external sites increase your content outreach. If you are looking to only target lawyers and in-house counsel, specialist platforms like Law Gazette and LexisNexis will work well. For a more general outreach to both lawyers and non-lawyers, platforms like AsiaLawNetwork.com, Singapore Business Review or the local business press are good options. All of these will have a readership base beyond the contacts you know. Some platforms can also help amplify the content via their digital media channels; essentially conducting a digital marketing campaign for you.
- End with a call to action – Some readers will want to get in touch with you. Put links to your profile or website to make it easy for them to get in touch with you.
2. Emails – keeping you top-of-mind with existing clients
A study by LexisNexis has shown that the cost of winning a new client is 10 times greater than the cost of retaining an existing customer and the chances of selling to a new customer are between 5 and 20%, while the probability of selling to an existing customer is between 60% and 70%.
It is thus important to remain at the top of your clients’ mind, so that they are more likely to instruct you again or refer new clients to you. While email marketing is one of the oldest forms of digital marketing, it remains very powerful and cost-effective when used correctly. You can use emails to keep your firm top-of-mind to existing customers.
Below are six basic tips to ensure your emails are well received by clients:
- Have a powerful title – Use clear, actionable words which connect with your audience to explain what the email is about. For instance, “Understand how the new Personal Data Protection Act will affect your business” is more powerful than “A legal discussion on the Personal Data Protection Act”.
- Be relevant and useful – Send your clients tailored content. For instance, clients in the e-commerce industry which deal with client information may want to know the latest changes in Personal Data Protection Act, but they may be less concerned about changes to the Town Council Act.
- Avoid legalese as far as possible – While we cannot avoid it totally (it is the law after all), it is important to put yourself in the shoes of your clients and make it readable for them. One quick way to test if the content is readable is to get a non-law trained professional to comment on it.
- Make it beautiful – Suitable and moderate use of relevant images and branding can attract clients to read the content. At the same time, make it easy for clients to read the content by using subheadings and white space appropriately.
- Know that sometimes less is more – Spacing out the time between each email campaign is important as it shows that you respect your client’s time and personal space. A rule of thumb I adopt is to send clients no more than one email alert per week.
- Always do a test email – It can be unprofessional to mass-recall an email or have to mass-send another. Send a test email to a small and/or internal group of contacts (not clients), check that everything is ok, then proceed to send it to the larger group.
By adopting these basic practices, clients will appreciate you for keeping them up-to-date in a professional and unobtrusive manner.
This is not intended to be a comprehensive discussion on why and how lawyers should adopt digital marketing solutions but a first step to how you can adopt digital marketing solutions and reap the benefits from it. All lawyers can do this, regardless of the firm size, experience and target market.
Roy Ang is passionate about marketing and business development in the legal sector, and was part of the pioneering batch of officers in the Ministry of Law and EDB’s Legal & IP Programme Office. He currently heads up the regional marketing and business development function at Withers KhattarWong – a formal law alliance between Withers LLP and KhattarWong LLP.
You might also want to check out AsiaLawNetwork’s contribution to Law Gazette on “Getting Your Firm onto the Net” published October 2016, written by Gabriel The.