SEO this, keyword ranking that, content marketing yada, yada, yada. Sound familiar? These are just some of the buzz words surrounding a law firm’s online marketing efforts. While all of these concepts play an important role in your law firm’s online marketing, there is one concept that matters the most – YOUR FIRM’S TARGET AUDIENCE.

Without a clear definition of your target audience, you might as well be throwing all of your marketing efforts against a proverbial wall to see what sticks. This article lays out 4 steps for all you “do-it-yourselfers” to get you on the right track to define your law firm’s target audience.

Step 1. Create a Demographic Profile for Your Law Firm’s Audience

This first step may sound like a “no-brainer,” but the reality is that some law firms either completely miss the mark in defining the demographics for their target audience or their web site’s content isn’t tailored to their audience (which I will cover in a later post). Let’s start with the easy part, determining your audience’s age, gender, and location, by using a real-world example.

Not long ago, I worked with a solo practitioner who wanted to focus on criminal defense work for college students. In this scenario, the lawyer assumed that his demographic profile was:

Assumed Target Audience for Criminal Defense of College Students
Age 18 to 21 years old
Gender Male and Female
Location The city where the college is located

 

This profile missed the mark for one major reason – college students didn’t hire him for criminal defense work because they couldn’t afford him! In reality, his target audience was the PARENTS of the college students. So, his best demographic profile was:

Best Target Audience for Criminal Defense of College Students
Age 40-55
Gender Female because the wife or mother made most of the hiring decisions
Location A combination of the college’s city and several other key locations where the college attracted non-resident students as shown by enrollment statistics

 

Once you have defined the age, gender, and location of your target audience, you can further refine your demographic profile by considering other factors such as occupation, income level, educational level, hobbies and interests, and so on.

Step 2. Determine the Primary Issue or Problem for Your Law Firm’s Target Audience

Like defining your target demographic, determining your audience’s primary issue or problem may seem easy. For example, if you are a drunk driving defense attorney, you might assume that your audience’s primary issue is going to jail or losing their driving privileges. However, with a little more analysis, you might be surprised that you are missing out on opportunities within your market. For example, my company and I helped a lawyer who faced stiff online competition from a large number of other DUI defense attorneys. By redefining his target audience’s primary issue and tailoring his marketing message to that audience, he was able to successfully tap into a large number of potential clients that he had previously missed out on. Specifically, instead of targeting a broad range of issues that arise out of a DUI, we focused on commercial vehicle license holders and drivers (predominately male) whose primary problem was losing their livelihood by losing their license. In other words, by zeroing in on a very specific need of his target audience and refocusing his web site’s primary message, the lawyer saw a significant increase in website traffic and leads to his firm.

Step 3. Relate the Benefit of Your Law Firm’s Services Regarding Your Target Audience’s Problem

Step 3 is about creating website content for your law firm that speaks directly to your target audience and encourages your site’s visitors to contact you. Your content should: (1) draw in your target audience; (2) clearly and concisely demonstrate why they should hire your firm; and (3) give visitors an easy way to contact your firm. Overall, your website’s content should motivate visitors to act by clarifying the benefits of retaining your firm their specific legal issue and by giving visitors the sense that their problems will begin to be solved. In a separate post, I will break down the best practices for accomplishing the goals in Step 3.

Step 4. Discover Where Your Target Audience Gets Their Information Online

If you don’t plan to run any pay-per-click campaigns or targeted ads online, then you can probably skip Step 4 with the exception of considering the social media platforms where visitors may get their information. For example, approximately 28% of all online adults use Pinterest, and Pinterest is dominated by females. Thus, if you are a family lawyer who markets largely to wives going through a divorce, then you should consider engaging on Pinterest to develop your “social proof” and to generate leads.

As for paid advertising, it can be a golden marketing opportunity. Consider this – without any paid ads, your target audience is getting their information from NUMEROUS online resources, and your website is just one lone resource amongst hundreds or thousands of other resources.

For those of you who are “do-it-yourselfers” and you want to take advantage of paid advertising, the easiest way to discover where your audience gets their information is to use Google’s Display Planner. Below is a screenshot of the first dialog box for Display Planner. In this example, I am looking to market to people who made need the services of a divorce lawyer. When typing in “divorce” into the first field below, Google returned “Divorce & Separation” as the proposed interest:

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 9.51.24 AM

After clicking “Get placement ideas,” the Planner then takes you to another screen that shows age and gender demographics and the potential number of total impressions, which in this case is over 10 billion.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 9.52.18 AM

The screen also shows the websites for ad placements, the historical cost per click (CPC) for those ads, and the anticipated weekly impressions for ads. In this scenario, divorcesource.com was the leading website with a CPC of $1.50 to $2.00 and weekly impressions of 50,000 to 100,000.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 9.52.36 AM

Google isn’t the only channel for paid online marketing. For example, you can advertise through Facebook and Twitter. Also, my company, JustLegal, offers a Premium Mobile Advertising service through which we can reach 91% of the entire U.S. population and, by choosing from hundreds of demographic and behavior characteristics, serve up dynamic, interactive ads on tablets and smartphones with pinpoint targeting precision. That being said, Google is a great starting point for most law firms that are handling their digital marketing in-house.

Final Thoughts

Online marketing for lawyers is constantly evolving, the competition is increasing, and law firms need to give careful consideration to properly defining their firm’s target audience. By using the 4 steps I’ve described here, you should be well on your way to ensuring that you are speaking to, and reaching, your potential clients online.