Q&A: Simon Marmot: “Make your (marketing) story a human one, rather than a corporate one”

[Australasian Law Management Journal,General Management,Marketing & Business Development,Strategy & Leadership,Technology] September 29, 2019

In our Q&A, Simon Marmot, strategy director at design and digital marketing agency Marmot Inc. Marketing, explains why law firms need to consider implementing a digital marketing strategy; the secret to content creation; and how to avoid wasting money on campaigns.

Some law firms seem to be wary of marketing generally, and digital marketing especially. Is that how you see it?

“The bigger firms often have marketing people internally and external people around them to drive strategies, but the small to medium-sized firms are often very slow to act and don’t have much idea about how to start the process. That’s because they usually don’t have a person inside the business with a marketing head who has done it before. In the past, firms could probably get away with listing in Yellow Pages and relying on referrals, but they can’t do that anymore.”

So where do smaller firms start?

“The website is the first and most important thing, and the second part is deciding what to do with the site, how to fill it with great content and create a great user experience. The key is to treat it like a business or a brand. Being good at law is not always enough when it comes to marketing a firm. People make purchasing decisions based on how they feel and on an emotional connection. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, you’ve got to have a brand, you’ve got to stand for something, you’ve got to have a personality, you’ve got to stand out.”

Should online advertising be part of the mix?

“Sure, but some firms think they can just build a website, turn on Google Ads and then tick the marketing box. To do it right, you’ve got to have a branding strategy, web design, advertising, content creation, video, landing pages, email lead nurturing, social media, market analytics and search engine optimisation (SEO) all at once to create a consistent and cohesive lead sales funnel. With marketing, you want to accomplish two things – you’re putting yourself front and centre for potential new clients, and you’re putting yourself front and centre for potential new talent. Law firms are wising up to the fact that they need digital marketing. It’s not too late to get out there, but you can’t do things without a plan. Business and life coach Tony Robbins taught me that if you don’t plan, nothing happens. You’ll be like a ball in a pinball machine and you’ll wonder why you spent money and it didn’t work.”

Many businesses are urged to have a social media presence. Is that true for law firms, too?

“Social media can be a powerful marketing tool for businesses, and they should do it, but in the legal world I wouldn’t make it the absolute priority. Contrary to popular opinion it isn’t something you have to do; it’s something you probably should do. If you do go down the social media path, assess a range of possible platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, and determine their resource and cost-effectiveness. There are other ways to market your services, though. You have to decide what’s the lowest hanging fruit and concentrate on that.”

We hear so much about the popularity of social media, so why might it be different for law firms?

“Like all marketing, it depends what niche you are operating in. If I am on social media, I’m not hanging out for a law firm to reach out to me, even if I’m a potential customer. If, for example, a woman is on Facebook she might want to find out about the latest fashion trends and engage with friends to see photos. She could still be making decisions on legal matters, so it’s not a bad thing to target her, but it’s not the first thing to do. Facebook is a good place for businesses to share content, but there may be other priorities.”

What is the lowest hanging fruit then?

“I still think it is pay-per-click advertising, where you pay a small fee each time one of your ads is clicked on. If you want business leads to grow your business, you should be setting up some paid performance marketing, and that typically starts with Google advertising and retargeting.”

What do you mean by retargeting?

“Well, if you are on the internet and click on the Bunnings website, for instance, you will notice that for the next few weeks you will get ads popping up trying to sell you a chainsaw or some other hardware items. That’s retargeting. Because someone comes to your site you know they are definitely interested in what you have to offer, but then they go away. As a marketing strategy, you can put some code on those net users and follow them around the internet and share your advertising with them at a cheap rate. It’s very targeted because you know they had some interest in your offering.”

Can you give us an example of how a Google Ads campaign works?

“Suppose someone goes to their browser and searches for ‘accident lawyers’. The top three search findings are paid ads, followed by unpaid organic ads relying on SEO, and then some more paid ads at the bottom. People are lazy and they typically don’t always scroll down to the organic searches. A lot of people don’t even know the difference between paid and organic search results. These paid ads work. The trick is that when someone clicks on one of these ads you should be sent to what we call a ‘squeeze’ page; that is, a dedicated landing page which is separate from the company’s main website. You don’t want people going directly to your website because they are then hard to track, and you want to give them a very single-minded message that matches what they saw on the ad. There are three pieces to any successful paid campaign – first, the ad set-up and the copy you use; second, the sales offer, such as a free consultation, or a free e-book; and third, the landing page and the copywriting and design. Getting all three to fit together seamlessly means you have a good chance at a successful campaign.”

Why is it so important to give internet users a free offer? Why not just pitch them a business proposition straight up?

“Think about when you introduce yourself to someone at a party. If you go straight into sales mode they’re not likely to buy something from you immediately. You can have a conversation with them, though, and you start to tell them about yourself and take them on a journey. In a business sense with inbound content marketing, you can give them some great content and later, if they are ready to purchase something, then hopefully they’ll think of you. In a legal context, perhaps you are an intellectual property lawyer, so you could give potential clients a free checklist of ways to protect their IP. That becomes a business lead magnet. You get them to sign up for an email newsletter in return for the IP. You have to give them something worth reading and then you can start to build the relationship. You need to produce content regularly, and you take them on a journey.”

What is the basic process for developing digital marketing content?

“When creating content, I always advise clients to imagine filling three buckets. The first bucket should contain material that ‘entertains and inspires’ recipients, such as messages from prominent lawyers or people of influence. People are overloaded with information and naturally want to push dull advertising messages away. So ensure that your content – whether it is an infographic, written content or a video – is interesting and not too much of a sales pitch. This is where you are building your authority, and feel free to have a little fun. The second bucket should ‘educate and add value’. Lawyers, for example, could send out weekly market updates in their specialty area. Finally, the third bucket can contain sales information about the firm, including testimonials, case studies, product advice or details about possible offers. You can talk about yourself and the firm here – perhaps you had a great outcome in a court case, or won some industry awards. So pay-per click ads are a crucial starting point, then you can populate content that you have created in your three buckets on blogs, social and through email newsletters and campaigns. That’s digital marketing 101.”
How can you tell if tools such as email marketing campaigns are working?

“Well, for example, you can try what we call A/B split testing with two different email subject lines being sent to a small portion of the client distribution list – and then see which one gets the best open, click and conversion rates. Then you send the most popular campaign to the rest of the list. It’s important to let the data inform your business decisions.”

Many law firms pride themselves on delivering good service as their point of differentiation. Does that resonate as a marketing strategy?

“Well, if they talk about service, they need to be clear about what that means. Do clients get a bespoke coffee and a croissant every time they attend the office? That’s service, and some of the big firms are doing this. Or does service mean you say what you do, and you do what you say? It’s all about positioning, but you need clarity. You can’t just say you offer good service – that’s lazy. Just talking about price and quality can be lazy, too. What about trying something different, such as saying you firm is proactive. That sends out a positive message. With marketing you’ve either got to say how you’re different, or you have to tell a better story.”

Your agency is big on getting clients to engage in storytelling. Why?

“I believe you need a story you can hang your hat on. What is it that makes the partners get out of bed and go to work? You should have an elevator pitch that describes your point of differentiation. But make your story a human one, rather than a corporate one. The more human it is, the more likely it is that clients will connect with you.”

Can you tell me about the growing popularity of video marketing and how law firms can respond to this trend?

“Law firm partners need to understand that YouTube is now the world’s second-biggest search engine after Google, and YouTube prioritises video content with its search results. People are lazy and they process video content much faster than written text. Research from a group called Statista shows that 88 per cent of Australian internet users watch online video content on any device. So why not tell your story through video? A short video on your firm, such as a case study, will probably be more effective than a 30-page e-book. People don’t have time to read the e-book. However, video content needs to tie in with your overall marketing strategy and business goals and align with elements such as blogs, email campaigns and any social media plans.”

What else should firms be doing to create leads?

“Of course, referrals are still important. In that respect, having testimonials and case studies on your website is important. In marketing speak, we talk about having ‘social proof’ of your credentials. Case studies tell a positive story about a firm and act as social proof.”

What are some of the pitfalls of digital marketing of which law firms should be aware?

“Spending money on the wrong marketing channel in the wrong order can be a risk. However, not doing anything and just burying your head in the sand with marketing is the biggest mistake. The other thing that I see happen quite often is that a firm will come up with a marketing strategy and leave it sitting on the shelf for a long time. Then staff members leave the firm, momentum is lost and money is thrown away. Eventually the firm has to start the process all over again with a new team – and a new budget.”

Simon Marmot is founder of digital marketing agency Marmot Inc Marketing. With an executive career spanning more than 30 years, he is a former account director for Saatchi & Saatchi across Sydney, London and Vietnam, before he embarked on a series of executive marketing director roles for Mamamia, Time and Who magazines, Bell Direct, Global Forex Trading and CUDO.