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    Build Your Law Practice: Market to Millennials

    Could there be a better target market for law firms than a generation of 75 million tech-savvy 30-somethings who are buying cars, starting families, and launching companies? Numbering about a quarter of the U.S. population, millennials will have a spending power projected to reach $1.4 trillion in just four years.

    Laurence Bodine

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    Law firms can no longer afford to overlook marketing to millennial clients, who surpassed baby boomers as the largest living generation last April. Born between 1981 and 1997, millennials are shaping culture wherever they go, sharing their experiences online and viewing your law firm to see if it reflects their values.

    Law firms that can’t keep pace with young people are missing out on a huge market, says Tina Wells, CEO and founder of Buzz Marketing Group. “They definitely have money to spend,” she says.

    Reaching young adults is straightforward – for law firms that can adapt. Forget old-school marketing like print advertising, radio spots, internet pop-up ads, and direct-mail campaigns. Today’s generation loves technology, seeks authenticity, and is looking for fun. Millennials pay attention to blogs, videos, and social media.

    Distinguishing features of this generation include the following:

    • They are digital natives who grew up with the internet always in their lives. They work and play on cell phones. On average, millennials spend 3.2 hours a day on their mobile devices – the equivalent of 22.4 hours – almost one whole day – every week, according to TNS Connected. And because most consumers go online to look for a lawyer, it’s time that law firms paid serious attention to how their website looks on a portable device.

    • They are all over social media, particularly Facebook. According to Social Media Explorer, 66 percent of adults log onto Facebook every day, and 80 percent of consumers use the Facebook smartphone app.

    • They seek happiness over money and love to share the good times. “They’re sharing, liking, pinning, tweeting, snapping, forwarding, and commenting on all of their findings,” says Meaghan Moraes of HubSpot.

    • They are socially conscious and expect law firms to demonstrate corporate responsibility.

    • They are visually oriented and tell stories with pictures more than words. This generation watches how-to videos on YouTube and Vimeo.

    Be Where Today’s Generation Is: Online

    In 2014, research showed that most consumers go online to look for a lawyer. The same year, Hinge marketing reported that 80.8 percent of clients “check out” professional services firms by looking at their websites. This is especially true with today’s tech-savvy potential clients.

    Larry Bodinecom LarryBodineNow gmail Larry Bodine, Seton Hall 1981, is the Senior Legal Marketing Strategist for LawLytics, a web marketing company. He is also the editor of The National Trial Lawyers website.

    What do visitors see on your website? Ho-hum pictures of your office building and boilerplate practice descriptions? Or do they see engaging stories about young clients that they can share?

    “Content marketing, at its core, is a brand acting as a publisher,” says Michael Brenner, author of the blog The Content Formula. “Content marketing is, and will continue to be, a mandatory approach for marketers. To act like a publisher, to leave promotion behind and truly earn your audience’s attention, is going to be critical in today’s complex digital world.”

    If you had a blog but shelved it, start it up again. If you have a blog, update it today. Gilman & Bedegian in Maryland does a brilliant job posting shareable news such as “Hot-air Balloon Pilot Who Crashed Killing 15 Passengers Had History of Drunk Driving” and “Boy Dies While Riding World’s Largest Water Slide.”

    These topics tap into the adventurous nature of 30-somethings and combine it with real-life hazards. This is perfect for a personal injury firm. Wouldn’t you share these on social media?

    Mobile Friendliness

    “There’s no excuse not to have a responsive website that adapts instantly to smaller screens,” writes technology blogger Victoria Blute in Tucson, Ariz. “Your next client will likely find your law firm on their smartphone.” Not only must your website display perfectly on a three-inch screen, it should have big buttons, a click-to-call or click-to-email feature, and simple navigation.

    The mistake that law firms make is to design a desktop website first and dumb it down for a mobile version. The opposite approach is what’s called for: start by designing your website for a mobile device first. Give visitors a “mobile moment” that is unique for cell phones – a picture, a story, or a download designed for the small screen.

    Give visitors a “mobile moment” that is unique for cell phones – a picture, a story, or a download designed for the small screen.

    A person visiting your site on a mobile phone probably needs an answer immediately and doesn’t want to be slowed down by your “About Us” or “Firm History” pages. Think about the trigger that prompts potential clients to visit your mobile site, and give them the immediate response they are looking for.

    “No millennials want to read long stuff on a phone. It strains our already overtaxed eyes, it’s cumbersome during a busy commute, and it could instantly turn off a prospective client from your firm,” says Kate Stromberg, a millennial who is marketing director of Network Affiliates in Lakewood, Colo. “Instead, try taking those long-form blogs and in-depth case resource pages and making them easier to chew on via mobile phone.”

    Engaging on Social Media

    Millennial consumers trust social media. I was struck to learn from Thomson Reuters that:

    • 35 percent of consumers look up an attorney on Facebook.

    • 43 percent look on LinkedIn for an attorney.

    • 54 percent would likely hire a lawyer on social media.

    Chances are your law firm has a neglected Facebook page and dormant Twitter account. It’s time to wake up these channels, because millennials spend an average of 2.3 hours per day engaged with social media, according to TNS Connected.

    To grasp how much things have changed online in 2016, it is useful to compare the current number of active users on the social media that most lawyers use (source: Smartinsights.com).

    • Facebook: 1.59 billion (by far the biggest, fastest growing medium). Far more people are engaged with Facebook than with LinkedIn or Twitter; it is the second most used web browser (after Chrome), has the highest percentage of daily users, and has the highest average number of daily sessions;

    • Instagram: 400 million (a Facebook property);

    • Twitter: 320 million (total of users is stagnant);

    • Snapchat: 200 million (growing rapidly and going public);

    • LinkedIn: 100 million (now just a resumé site with little engagement).

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    Corporate Responsibility

    Millennials expect law firms to give back to society. According to some surveys, 75 percent think it’s important that businesses give back to society instead of just making a profit. And millennials want to see lawyers rolling up their shirtsleeves, not just buying a table at a charity event or issuing a press release about supporting pro bono.

    For example, if your lawyers are going to read books to children to help them learn to read, let people know about it from the standpoint of “help us help these kids” rather than showing yourself off being active in a charity – there is a difference.

    Millennials want to feel that a law firm is an extension of their beliefs. “Millennials are attracted to brands linked to social causes but are also sensitive to authenticity. Companies need to be thoughtful and genuine about the causes they support in order to be effective,” says Eden Ames of Marketing Health Services.

    Images Instead of Text

    Nothing tells a story better than a picture, and that’s what millennials want to see. They will be turned off by your list of courtroom victories, but they will be enchanted by firm photos showing your lawyers in casual situations and office events.

    Law firms are beginning to catch on to the effectiveness of infographics, and no firm has done it better than d’Oliveira & Associates of East Providence, R.I., which has more than 100 infographics in its online library about auto accidents, dangerous drugs, and defective medical devices.

    Chances are your law firm has a neglected Facebook page and dormant Twitter account. It’s time to wake up these channels, because millennials spend an average of 2.3 hours per day engaged with social media.

    The advantage of a graphically driven visual aid is that it overcomes the short attention span that many people have when they’re online. Visual aids are also shareable.

    The point is to communicate with people via the method they prefer. There is definitely a place for long-form blog posts and think pieces that will set you off as a thought leader. Millennials also want e-books, white papers, and practical downloads. But don’t overlook getting your message out visually.

    Conclusion

    In the final analysis, the millennial generation is what you would expect from young adults. If you’re a baby boomer, think back to what you were like when you were 30. You wanted a good job, a quiet home, and a happy family. You wanted good advice before signing an employment contract or a complex lease. You wanted sage counsel when settling a dispute or caring for your aging parents.

    The better that you can tune into the needs of today’s generation, the more your law firm will prosper.