I’m the kind of guy who likes to approach my job from a 30,000-foot view. In one way, this benefits me because I get a panoramic survey of the industry landscape, which helps me predict trends and make connections between seemingly disparate subjects. On the other hand, it can be a distraction. After all, if you’re 30,000 feet up, you’re going to have your head in the clouds at times.

One topic I have been considering that I don’t believe is too lofty a goal for most law firms is integration – specifically, the integration of marketing, PR and business development – regardless of platform or channel. In other words, we as legal marketers and publicists talk a lot about our tactics as if they exist in independent silos, but the truth is that everything we do has a singular goal: to create opportunities for our clients to retain and increase their business.

What Is Integrated Marketing Communications?

Because all of us – from content marketers to graphic designers to business development coaches to publicists – are attempting to achieve a universal outcome, I think it makes sense that we begin to look at these roles as spokes on a wheel. In this way, each professional offers a unique service, but all services connect at a shared point.

No, this isn’t rocket science, and I'm not saying anything new or earth-shattering, especially for those who are familiar with marketing best practices in other industries, which often are more advanced than in the legal industry. What is new is our ability to use data and new digital platforms to help integrate our various tactics so we can begin developing strategies that don’t speak just to content or PR or business development, but rather speak to the entirety of the sales cycle.

5 Things to Consider with an Integrated Marketing Strategy

The following are some ways you can begin to rethink your law firm marketing, PR and business development efforts to create an integrated approach to developing and retaining business.

1. Content Marketing Can Be Business Development: We talk a lot about the importance of focusing your legal marketing efforts so they speak to the client. This is a great and important start, but we can go a step further. Imagine if you could know exactly in which practice area description a website visitor spent the most time. Now, imagine implementing a pop-up window the next time the user visits your site that encourages her to sign up for your firm’s e-newsletter that specifically covers her practice area of interest. This isn’t science fiction. This technology exists now in the form of marketing automation software, and it’s this type of technology that makes it easier to blend your various marketing channels into a strategic workflow that aligns with your sales process.

2. Social Media is PR + Content: Some marketers might consider social media solely the territory of marketers, but the truth is that social media is a hybrid of public relations and content marketing. Some law firms only use the tool to push out firm-owned content, e.g., blogs, firm news, etc. These firms are using the channel as a content distribution tool, but they are neglecting the PR side. A strategic social media initiative appreciates the PR side of social media and understands the importance of developing post text (known as “snippets”) that not only advertises the linked content but also promotes the firm – particularly if we’re talking about Twitter – by attempting to make connections with key industry and media personalities to further build the digital influence of the firm.

3. Storytelling is Central to Business Development: We talk about storytelling a lot in the context of content. “Your blog needs to tell a story.” “Your case studies are miniature stories.” “Your pro bono work is excellent source material for a story.” All this is true, but it’s also important to note that storytelling is central to business development. Prospects are much more likely to take interest in and retain your sales pitch if you integrate narrative elements into it. Just look at the cultural shelf life of allegories, fables and fairy tales. These serve to sell people on ideas and moralistic principles. We as humans connect more with the meaning of the message “work smarter, not harder” when we relate the fable of the tortoise and the hare. If you’re conducting business development with a prospect, consider incorporating a brief oral case study that illustrates your abilities, your client service, and – most importantly – your sympathy with and understanding of the prospect’s issue.

4. SEO Assists PR: After having talked to many legal marketers about SEO, I sense there is still some confusion about this important tactic. While some law firms are not interested in investing much money into attracting potential clients through organic search (i.e., Google searches), all law firms should be concerned about how search engine results reflect a law firm’s reputation. If you claim to be the number-one construction firm in Florida, yet your firm does not come up in the top three search results for “construction law firm in Florida,” your claim will lack merit. That’s because search engines use very complex algorithms to connect searchers with the best, vetted results for their searches. If a search engine doesn’t think your firm is the best at a particular practice in a particular geography, that should give you a sense of what the marketplace thinks.

5. Everything is Part of the Sales Funnel: Even if the tactic isn’t meant to drive sales directly (e.g., public relations, social media, etc.), it doesn’t mean it is separate from the sales funnel. Every tactic has its place, or multiple places, along the path that a prospect takes to eventually convert into a client. Law firms need to start tracking these paths more closely to really understand the thought process their prospects take when researching, considering and then hiring counsel. Note that not every prospect takes the same path, but important patterns can emerge that will help you create customized sales workflows that appeal to each prospect type.

The more marketers take some time to look at the big picture, the more it will help them succeed in driving and retaining business for their law firms. If you have thoughts on how to strategically integrate your marketing tactics, contact Terry M. Isner at tisner@jaffepr.com