Building a digital and traditional injury marketing strategy from scratch, dumping thin content, ensuring consistent citations, leveraging social media, developing blogs, and adding live chat.
Jeremy Ash, director of marketing at Guajardo & Marks in Dallas, always had an interest in the law—even though he didn’t have a desire to go to law school. So it’s no surprise that he found himself working as a legal marketer not long after graduating from college.
“I have worked in legal marketing for the majority of my career,” he says. “I can’t say that I ever planned on being a legal marketer, but I’ve had a strong interest in law from a young age, so my career has afforded me the opportunity to use my skills in a field that I respect and have a personal affinity for.”
“I was originally hired as a Marketing Associate on a small team for Rasansky Law Firm here in Dallas,” he says. “Over the course of more than three years I worked my way into the title of Content and Brand Marketing Manager. Our firm had a large online presence and one of my tasks was writing and managing the content for our site and ensuring it not only found the right audience, but also generated qualified leads.
“This is really where I developed my understanding of content strategy and the SEO process,” he says. “I was also the manager of our social media, including video marketing and our firm’s monthly print and email newsletters.”
Having those responsibilities gave Ash a well-rounded education in digital marketing, which helped ready him for his next journey: as Marketing Director at Guajardo & Marks law firm.
“I was presented with the opportunity to build the marketing department at my current firm from the ground up,” he says. “That is where I am today; enjoying the challenges of creating and implementing an entire digital and traditional marketing strategy from the ground up.”
Life on the Job
Even though Ash had previously worked for a law firm, nothing could really prepare him for what it would be like to start from scratch and build up from there.
“My job as the Director of Marketing for Guajardo & Marks is somewhat unique in that they have never had anybody in house,” he says. “Because of this, there are a ton of challenges just simply due to the fact that I have to either undo some of the past missteps that were made by third-party marketers or build it from scratch.”
And on top of building the firm’s marketing mostly from scratch, Ash’s job has a location-based challenge, as well.
“Speaking in general terms, I think the biggest challenge as a legal marketer comes from the fact that it’s highly competitive, especially in Texas,” he says. “Because of legislation and tort reform, there are a lot of cases that personal injury firms can’t afford to take now that they would have jumped on a decade ago. This has decreased the supply of cases available while the demand has continued to rise.”
Another challenge he faces is the saturation of the market when it comes to driving leads to the firm.
“All you have to do is look at the cost-per-click for personal injury leads and you will see how saturated it has become” he says. “This is one of the reasons why I feel it’s so important to drive leads organically and maintain a healthy referral base. Sure you can pay your way to the top of Google, but when keywords are going for more than $100 a click, you better start looking for other ways to capture leads.”
And then there’s dealing with the public’s view of personal injury law and personal injury attorneys.
“Another challenge many of us face is dealing with misinformation and public opinion of what it is that we do,” he says. “I think it’s important to combat the belief that all attorneys are ‘ambulance chasers’ or that civil cases are always some sort of get-rich scheme.”
What’s Working for Ash’s Firm
From the get-go, Ash’s focus has been on one thing: making sure Guajardo & Marks has a strong web presence. This web presence is what allows him to combat many of the challenges he faces in his position.
“I think it’s important to have a strong web presence and that’s why I have spent so much of my time and energy on our new website and establishing our social media channels,” he says. “It’s definitely all a work in progress, but in the past few months we have seen more than 1,000 percent increase in our traffic and a considerable jump in online leads.”
Ash believes that you need to have a website that’s optimized for search traffic and in line with Google regulations.
“Getting rid of thin content and keyword stuffing is a must,” he says. “Ensuring your citations are all consistent across national and local directories is also a must. Leveraging social media to put your content in front of people is a must. These are all techniques that we have had success with.”
A big part of optimizing a website for search engine traffic is content, both creating content and content marketing.
“Much of what we do online starts with content marketing, and more specifically, maintaining our blog,” he says. “It drives traffic, informs users and helps to increase our site’s search engine results. If you aren’t consistently updating your site with fresh, quality content, Google and potential clients won’t have a reason to crawl or visit your site. The majority of our traffic comes from blog posts and those same people later become clients.”
Ash isn’t big on having a set editorial calendar for his firm’s blog, but he does make sure every piece of content serves a marketing purpose.
“I wouldn’t say I adhere to a set-in-stone editorial calendar, but I do have a content strategy that I formulate and work off of each month,” he says. “This is born out of keyword research, analytics and identifying opportunities to improve or expand. Recent trending news and shifts in focus also influence our monthly strategy, as well.”
And since he stays current on the happenings of Google and its algorithms, he’s got a plan in place to take advantage of the fact that Google loves in-depth content.
“One thing I am currently focused on is taking advantage of Google’s ‘in-depth’ article search,” he says. “This is for longer, more authoritative articles rather than more frequent, shorter blog posts. Think 2,000-plus-word articles that really dig deeper into specific subjects. I really believe it’s going to be an important shift in focus for small businesses that leverage content marketing.”
When it comes to driving leads to the firm, Guajardo & Marks have recently started using a Live Chat feature on its website. Ash says they use it to help “make the contact process easier on potential clients.”
“While some people are comfortable with picking up a phone and discussing their situation with us, others would rather take a less direct approach. It gives potential clients another option. They can speak with a live chat operator without the pressure that might come from a phone call. They give us an overview of their situation and we can then enter into the conversation with a clearer picture of their situation and the reason they contacted us.”
Live Chat has been effective for the firm, thanks in part to Ash’s previous experience with websites that utilized a Live Chat feature.
“I have absolutely found it to be effective, but it also has to be handled correctly,” he says. “It’s important to have control of the scripts the operators use and the ability to really dial in the types of cases you are ultimately charged for. That is one of the reasons why I have been impressed with our provider, nGage. They are extremely flexible and we never have to pay for a chat that isn’t a true lead. They also use a live transfer system, so if it’s during business hours and it looks like it could be a valid case, the chat operator will transfer them directly to our firm to get additional information.
“While we haven’t had the service live for very long, I have already seen success with it,” he says. “Like anything else, it’s something that I will monitor daily and make tweaks when needed.”
Tools of the Trade
Ash’s focus—his firm’s website—is the driving force behind the tools that he uses to do his job.
“I have several tools and software that I use on a daily basis, but I don’t necessarily think they are anything groundbreaking,” he says. “Because one of my main focuses at the moment is getting our online presence in order, I definitely use Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools daily. In addition, I use Moz Pro and Moz Local to help track our citations and our rankings for specific keywords. I have tried a few different tools for keyword research, but have found myself using Google Keyword Planner tool more than anything.”
To stay up-to-date, Ash follows several popular marketing blogs.
“Recognizing that anything online is a moving target, I try to set aside some time every day to check out a few different industry blogs,” he says. “Moz and Search Engine Land are always helpful, and I have found some pretty interesting insights on the different marketing and SEO subreddits.”
Final Words of Advice from Ash
When it comes to marketing a law firm—or any business for that matter—it all starts by getting specific.
“Everything starts with a clearly defined marketing plan,” he says. “There are so many moving parts to the marketing of a law firm, or any business, for that matter, that without a strategy, you can find yourself spinning your wheels and wasting time and money. And without a plan, or set goals, how can you ever truly know what is working or not?
“Research is important,” he says. “Put in the time to define what it is you are hoping to achieve. Find out if it’s possible. Jump into analytics and find out where your leads are coming from and what people are looking for. If you build your marketing strategy from thin air, then you may find, down the road, you have planned for failure.”
And finally, he recommends steering clear of third-party marketing firms, if you can.
“I would also caution against hiring third party firms or so-called ‘gurus,’” he says. “I certainly know that they aren’t all bad, but I have seen attorney after attorney with horror stories about throwing money at these companies only to learn a year later that they had no way of living up to the hype. Anytime you have somebody promising you they can generate X amount of leads or get your site to the top for X keyword, I would run the other way. More often than not, they are banking on the fact that, as an attorney, you are more than likely too busy to truly analyze what it is they are doing. The old adage rings true: ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’”