Your firm is investing time and money in online marketing, and you rightly expect to work with a team of professionals. If you decide to produce a new website product to better reach potential clients, you expect the process of development to run smoothly. And you want a branding strategy that works.
The worst-case scenario when working with a marketing company is for the process to break down, causing frustration that can hinder everyone's ability to look for positive solutions. The reality is that everyone must be available and ready to answer questions. Marketing, generating leads and selling require personal involvement. You can hire a fantastic team of service providers, but ultimately they will fail without your feedback and personal commitment to the success of the project.
Starting out on track
Establish a good working relationship from the beginning. Poor communication can lead to a downward spiral in which neither party trusts the other — causing conversation to degrade even further. Successful projects require a balance on the part of all involved: attorneys must respect the experience of their design and marketing team, and marketing professionals must respect the knowledge attorneys have of their practice, audience, process and clients. As the product is developed, remember these tips.
1. Ask questions. When questions go unasked, people begin to make assumptions that may not necessarily be true. Take the statement: we want podcasts on the new site. This should trigger a number of questions. Who is producing the podcasts? Is there a third party involved? Should the marketing company be active in the production? Is there a schedule for adding new audio content? Will the audio be hosted or streamed from a separate online service? Is there a need to develop a playlist function or will the podcasts be displayed individually? Everyone should be asking questions; questions are the foundation of good planning.
2. Make no assumptions. Assumptions are simple answers to unasked questions. Everyone is busy, and it is easy to get stuck in a bubble and forget that others involved in the project are not familiar with the tools you use everyday. Try to look at any project as an objective outside observer. Think: if I had never programmed a website before, how could I know what changes are uncomplicated and what require more time and coding? Or: if I did not work at a law firm, what would I want to know about the attorney client relationship or the process of case management?
Working with multiple providers
Multiple service providers may be required to launch a marketing or design product, depending on the complexity of the plans. A project might need custom work that should be performed by a specialist like a photographer or videographer, and all team members must be on the same page.
1. Put third party providers in contact with each other. Your firm's branding must be consistent. Everything must speak with the same voice, from your print ads to your television spots to your website design. If your social marketing team, your web design team and your podcast production company are working within their own confines, your message cannot stay consistent.
Coordination between third parties also helps prevent delays in implementation. Two separate providers can take a project in different directions, creating the avoidable hassle of reconciling the work.
2. Share information about third party technology. Your team should know what third party software needs to be incorporated into your website from the beginning. If, for example, your firm uses a lead management system, programmers will need access to an API (application programming interface) provided by that company in order to connect your contact forms to their system. Write your code once for faster development and error-free implementation.
Coordinating with a design and marketing team
A good designer will take your input and their own research to create distinctive layouts that both reflect your firm’s personality and convert visitors into leads. Designers must listen to and understand their clients, while feeling free to express alternative opinions and at times steer a client toward a new concept.
1. Provide concrete suggestions. Having too much information and having too little can present equally difficult design challenges. You do not need an established vision for your website design or a thoroughly vetted marketing plan; you hired professionals to do these things. But when communicating with your team, try to make definitive statements. Maybe you hate a certain hue of green or like a certain style of illustration. Designers expect criticism, and they expect to have to tweak layouts to fit clients' needs and preferences. However, one of the more discouraging sentences a designer can hear is, “Just try something different.” At this point the process becomes a labor of trying to guess what may or may not work.
If there are any elements you know you want, any you know you do not want or websites and press you have seen that you think could serve as inspiration, share it.
2. Do not copy. Your marketing must be your own. There is a fine line between finding inspiration in a design and taking someone else's ideas. Copying is both unethical and bad branding. Your competition has reasons for making the decisions they have made, and you must have well thought out plans for making unique marketing decisions of your own. Do not encourage your team to copy another firm’s website. Work on finding your own style and voice so that you stand apart from others.
3. Be responsive. Your writing and design teams are speaking for you. They need your approval for publication of finished pieces and programming of new layouts. Without timely responses to questions, your team will not be able to publish new content consistently, increasing the time it takes to reach your goals. A good relationship — one in which your team can anticipate your style and content needs — can only spring from collaborative beginnings.
4. Be proactive. Keep your team informed about new developments at your firm. Writers are always on the lookout for good press release material. If your firm is celebrating a milestone or filing a high profile lawsuit, your team can brainstorm on ways to get the most marketing mileage from the news.
5. Set a content schedule for your own work. Your firm may have the resources to supplement the work of your team with content of your own. Google sees fresh (quality) content as a sign of editorial authority, and frequently updated attorney websites generate more traffic. Create realistic goals for the number of posts you can produce or how much time you can spend interacting on social media.
Smooth product development benefits everyone. Building your firm’s brand and business is a collaborative process; there is not a point in time at which any party can sit back and let things run on autopilot. Remain engaged, provide value and keep bringing in new cases.