Every lawyer runs their own area of practice. Criminal defense is one of the most complex and ever-changing law practices. Each case is unique and different from the other. Each defendant needs their own attention and level of expertise. That’s why it gets hard to come up with a marketing strategy that fits every persona.
Considering that, it is also impossible to run any business without a marketing strategy. Criminal defense marketing has some basic rules you can follow to build your marketing strategy. In this blog post, I want to talk about the issues with criminal defense marketing and give you some tips and tricks on how to grow your practice in the best way possible.
What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?
Criminal law is the practice area where the defendant is accused of committing a crime. A criminal defense lawyer’s job is to build a strong case in favor of their client to prove their innocence. The three most highly noted features of a successful criminal defense lawyer are tenacity, empathy, and advocacy. Whether the client is guilty or innocent, a criminal defense lawyer has to advise the client of every potential consequence and situation, what to expect, and what they can or cannot achieve. That’s why even in the most unfortunate situations, a criminal defense lawyer must stay honest—every little detail matters. Every single missed or misread line can change everything for the better or worst, and so, the criminal defense lawyer has to have an excellent knowledge of the complex criminal justice system.
Why Is Criminal Defense Marketing Complicated?
Criminal defense lawyers face a hard time when it comes to marketing and finding clients. There are two main factors why criminal defense marketing is complicated: financial limitations and the competitive market. Let’s learn more about these two factors to have a clear idea of how they can and will make a criminal defense lawyer struggle with marketing:
1. Financial Limitations
Hiring a criminal defense lawyer is not cheap. That’s why most clients, unfortunately rather represent themselves in court or use a public defender even though they might know how critical it is to get professional help. The problem with public defenders is that since they usually have a huge load of different cases, they might not be able to give the defendant the personal attention they need. As I mentioned before, defendants usually know the value of having a criminal defense lawyer. Still, the lack of financial resources often results in them choosing not to hire one. This is a damaging decision, and as a criminal defense lawyer, one way to overcome this situation is to convince potential clients. Talk about your experience in the criminal justice system, produce educational content for your website, and bring awareness to the importance of personalized representation. Basically, show them you are worth every penny.
2. Competitive Market
No matter how good of an attorney you are, you might get lost in the competitive market of criminal defense law firms if you fail to raise awareness about your practice. The criminal defense market is a saturated pool of lawyers just like you who are strategizing to increase client intake. What you need to do is to try something that would differentiate you, so you stand out. For example, you can try focusing on specific criminal defense practice areas. Another example is highlighting connections to the local legal community. Do not forget that one of the most beneficial factors is having testimonials. Ask your previous clients to write reviews and share their experience of working with you. Social proof is one of the main reasons a potential client would choose to hire you.
If you manage to overcome these struggles, you will get one step closer to increasing your client intake and growing your practice. Now, to build a solid criminal defense marketing strategy, you need to do a lot more than convince clients to spend their money on you or stand out from the competition. I did a little digging and gathered some really useful tips and tricks to make life much, much easier for you.
8 Tips for Marketing Your Criminal defense Practice
Alright, to market your criminal defense practice, you need to build a bulletproof strategy. In the following sections, you will learn about factors that will result in major improvements and also tiny tips that have a huge impact on how people approach you. So get your notepad ready!
1. Identify your niche and target audience
The very first step in writing a criminal defense marketing strategy is knowing who your potential clients are. Identifying your potential clients will result in ROI (return of investment) and an increase in the number of quality leads and prospects approaching your law firm. To identify your target audience, you have to decide on your practice area. There are different target audiences based on different legal assistance needs. When you are clear on what area you want to focus on, your potential clients will be those with the relevant legal cases. For example, if your specialty is defending clients accused of capital offenses, there is no need to reach clients who need legal assistance with traffic tickets.
Your first step is to identify the case types your law firm usually handles. Your law firm might specialize in just one area of practice or handle a larger range of key areas. Now that you have identified your practice area, the next step is to define your “buyer persona.” use key demographic data like age, gender, social and economic status, employment status, and location to come up with a profile. Based on the buyer persona you just defined, you can find your target audience and find out what channels to use to reach out to them.
2. Design a user-friendly website
After targeting your audience, it’s time to present yourself. Your website is the window shop of your law firm. Design your website according to your personal brand and identity. You want to go for a professionally designed website so invest in the right people to design it for you. You also have to ensure that the website is responsive and user-friendly, basically meaning that it should be easy to navigate through your website.
Why go through all the trouble for a website, you may ask? Because most people use their phones to access your website, and people accused of criminal charges are usually too anxious to go through complex website designs. That’s why it is important for them to be able to find all the information they need with a couple of clicks on your website.
3. Write relevant content
There are so many different types of content you can create to relate to your clients. Creating informative content that resonates with your experience as a criminal defense lawyer can increase your reputation. Here are some of the best types of materials you can consider:
Practice area pages and FAQs
When writing educational blogs for your website, create practice area pages that give an overview and informational context about your practice area. This allows your clients to have a better understanding of the crime itself, consequences, related laws, and what you, as a criminal defense lawyer, can do. For example, if you practice DUI cases, include a page talking about the act or crime of driving while affected by alcohol or drugs. Then you can also add sub-pages that are more subject-specific, like chemical BAC tests, commercial driver DUI, and Marijuana DUI.
Sub-pages are useful because you can use them to answer frequently asked questions like “What should I do before taking a chemical BAC test?” Note that you have to find questions that people are asking and are relevant to your sub-pages. To do so, use Google and search for FAQs about your practice area. Some FAQs can be potential blog post titles. Take advantage of that and write blog posts about them, but also make sure you have roughly 150 words about FAQs on your practice area pages.
Explain penal codes or ticket codes
Penal codes and ticket types are the type of content that will drive viewers to your website. They are a less competitive type of content, but it is a good idea to include pages on your website where you include specific penal codes and ticket codes. These are great content for searchers, especially when they are facing minor charges like a misdemeanor.
After creating relevant practice area pages that can educate your interested clients, you can focus on blogging. When looking for topics to blog about, use frequently asked questions and write an educational response to them. You can also use keywords related to your practice to come up with blog topics people search about in your practice area. To write search engine optimized (SEO) content, you can hire an SEO specialist. This person will make sure you write about topics that can be visible on search engine result pages or SERP. Being visible on SERP results in a huge increase in organic views, basically meaning more people who have the same concerns that you have answers for in your content can come across your website when they search on Google.
You may have clients approaching you that do not speak English as their first language. Don’t lose the opportunity to present them. Hire bilingual staff and ask them to translate your website’s main pages and create a dedicated section on your website so you can target those demographics and help them.
4. Be active on online directories
An online directory is a website containing a list of websites with the same purpose. There are many legal online directories where law firms are listed, rated, and presented to people who need to find an attorney. One of the most crucial things you have to do is ensure that you are listed on as many online directories as possible. You can choose general online directories or practice area-specific ones to attract new clients.
No matter the type, every business should have a Google My Business account. Yes, that includes you as well. Google My Business is free and is a solid solution for Google to start listing you as a recommended business. Fill your Google My Business profile with as much information as you can about yourself, your criminal defense practice area, and your experience as a lawyer. One useful tip: Use your registered business name and prevent over-using keywords in your business name. This trick is actually very important because you may see your competitors using keyword-stuffed fake firm names, which is not allowed on Google, and their profiles will be flagged. Another useful tip? If you want to appear in local search results, consider extending your office hours more than the usual 9 to 5. Google will mostly show businesses that are still open at the time a user searches for them. One last tip is to decorate your profile with pictures, videos, and posts. That will help you look reliable and increase brand visibility.
After creating and customizing your Google My Business profile, start looking for online directories. List your practice and contact information on online directories. You can also use them to claim your business listing because it is important that you control the information posted about your law firm. Online directories are also a great place to build a reputation and collect customer reviews. Use these popular online directories to list your practice:
5. Build reputation
You have your Google My Business profile. You claimed your business listing on online directories. Now it’s time for social proof. You need to give searchers enough reasons to become your clients. Talking about your experience and your criminal defense practice is great, but social proof is very effective in a client’s decision. Apart from all the information on your website, clients also need to know what your previous clients say about you. I listed three ways to gather social proof below:
An important step in your criminal defense marketing is having positive reviews from your previous clients. Now, no matter how good you are, some clients might not be comfortable with leaving reviews spontaneously. On the other hand, lawyers are also usually too uncomfortable to ask for reviews. Don’t be like that, you are different. Be confident about your practice and ask previous clients kindly to leave you reviews. Tell them how this action on their behalf helps and how much you appreciate them helping you increase awareness about your business.
Ask colleagues to leave reviews
Criminal defense is a sensitive practice area. As I mentioned before, some clients might not be comfortable with talking about how you helped them out of an accusation. You can ask people in your community and your colleagues to leave positive reviews. They don’t necessarily need to be someone you defended. Instead, they can talk about your good characteristics, like your reliability, your experiences, your expertise, and your education. Basically, you need them to write about their knowledge of you and how great it is to work with you.
Respond to negative reviews
Okay, let me tell you something. If you ever see a business with zero negative reviews, I assure you that the reviews are fake. That’s not what we are doing here. Don’t be afraid of negative reviews at all. Having a few negative reviews from time to time is not the end of your career. It shows that you are running an organic and honest law firm. You can use negative reviews to your benefit. Respond to every negative review and use legal information to show that your law firm did everything they could for the client.
6. Go on social media
Apart from SEO and search engines, social media platforms are a great funnel to find more clients. You have to have a social presence on platforms your buyer persona is active on. Social media presence can also help strengthen your brand identity. You can also use social media to share your values and mission. On social media channels, people can relate to you on a personal level, so use this opportunity to show them the life of a criminal defense lawyer.
You don’t need to use every single social media platform. I mean, who would look for a lawyer on TikTok? Each platform serves a certain purpose. For example, Instagram is a photo-based platform. Facebook is a great platform to connect and interact with people. LinkedIn is a business must-have, especially if you are looking to hire employees. I did a little research and found out that the best platforms for lawyers to be active on are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
7. Use client intake software
A client intake software is a solution to manage all your leads, client intake processes, forms and documents, CRM, and every sort of communication with your clients. These are just some of the features client intake tools offer. Why do you need client intake software? You can use them to automate every manual and repetitive step of your client intake process. RunSensible is a great client intake solution. All you need to do is integrate your information and watch the tool take care of everything for you.
8. Start advertising
An honest mistake in criminal defense marketing or in marketing, in general, is that people jump to advertising as soon as they have a product or service to offer. Advertising is important, but you have to build a solid and reliable brand to advertise. That’s why advertising is the last step of a criminal defense marketing strategy.
As I mentioned before, you want to increase your website’s visibility on SERP. SEO is not the only way you can increase visibility. You can use Google Ads. If you have noticed before, when you search for something, you see two or three ads related to your search before your search results. Google has increased the number of paid ads on the first search results page. That means that if you advertise on Google, there is a very high chance of clients finding your ads from organic searches. There are different types of Google Ads. for a criminal defense lawyer, the best types are Google’s Local Service Ads (LSAs) and our good old pay-per-click (PPC) ads. LSAs help you reach out to clients in your local community. PPC is an old but effective advertising method where you only pay when a searcher clicks on your website.
You can also use social media advertising to raise awareness about your law firm. Run advertising campaigns with Facebook ads and also advertise on Twitter so users who fit your buyer persona can find you. The key to running a successful social media advertising campaign that would result in ROI is the advertising content. Any visual content like pictures or videos you want to use for advertising has to be professionally created. So, invest in good photographers, videographers, and graphic designers that can truly create content in line with your brand identity.
As for the subject of your campaigns, promotional campaigns run best on social media platforms. If you wish to offer a discount or a referral program, ensure your advertisements revolve around that.
Another way you can advertise your criminal defense practice is by sponsorship. For example, you can increase engagement with your local community by sponsoring a local team. Anything that would show your name and logo in an act of kindness and goodwill will increase awareness of your brand values and result in clients remembering your reliability when they need legal assistance with a criminal defense case.
To Sum It Up
Entering a market like the criminal defense law is challenging. That’s why criminal defense marketing is so complex. The market is very competitive, and defendants can’t usually afford a lawyer. If you offer a good presentation of your law firm and practice, you can convince clients to hire you. Create your brand identity, raise awareness about your law firm, and collect as much social proof as you can, and you’re good to go!
What are the best online directories?
The top online directories for lawyers are;
What is an effective way to respond to negative reviews on your criminal defense law firm?
There’s no single response template to use to respond to all negative reviews but use the suggestions below:
- Respond quickly and politely, thanking the reviewer for their feedback.
- Address any issues brought up in the review.
- Do not attack or respond defensively to the reviewer.
- Offer a solution if possible.
How can I use videos for criminal defense marketing?
Create short videos that answer FAQs about criminal defense cases and areas and also your law firm. You don’t have to go above and beyond to create a video. Most clients prefer to watch infographic and straightforward videos.