Web Strategy Before Getting Online

According to Wikipedia, strategy is:

a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked. How a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: the terms and conditions that it is fought on and whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy, which is part of the four levels of warfare: political goals or grand strategy, strategy, operations, and tactics. Building on the work of many thinkers on the subject, one can define strategy as “a comprehensive way to try to pursue political ends, including the threat or actual use of force, in a dialectic of wills – there have to be at least two sides to a conflict. These sides interact, and thus a Strategy will thus rarely be successful if it shows no adaptability.

A Plan of Action Designed to Achieve a Particular Goal

Before choosing from the many law firm web tactics available, it’s far more important to develop your strategy. This requires two key components, goals and a plan to reach these goals.

Having goals in place is probably the most important part of any strategy. Goals are the metrics by which we measure our efforts. They also play a very important role in shaping our decision-making.

With regard to implementing your law firm’s web strategy, your goals should be your starting point. You should ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish?”, “Why am I doing X?”, and “Is this a goal worth pursuing?”

Defining your goals from the beginning will go a long way to dictating the effectiveness of your overall strategy. Having identified goals will also protect you from some of the most common web strategy pitfalls. For example, many web strategy consultants will try to distract you from establishing proper goals. In fact, many will not set any goals or will sell you on goals of little or no value. Here are some goals that may be a good place to start:

  • Targeted Visitor Traffic – If more and more targeted visitors are coming to your web properties, your strategy is likely working.
  • Visitor Engagement – Perhaps even more important than traffic is engagement. All the traffic in the world is useless from a business perspective if the visitors don’t take some kind of action (i.e. leave a comment, ask a question, fill out a contact form, or call your office).
  • Visibility – Tracking your online visibility is important. However, don’t get caught up on ranking for one or a handful of particular search phrases. You could be number one in Google for several terms for which none of your targeting audience is searching. While search engine rankings are a piece of the puzzle, they do not make up an entire web strategy.
  • New Clients & Relationships – Ultimately, your law firm web strategy should be designed to develop new business. This means that it should bring in new clients. However, don’t get obsessed with how many clients your web presence is developing directly from form fill and phone calls. An effective web presence should also position you as an authority in your particular field. By demonstrating your expertise, you will develop new professional relationships that will lead to referrals and additional business opportunities that you may not have even foreseen.

Once you have identified your goals, the next step is to put a plan in place. How are you going to achieve your goals? How are you going to measure your progress? Is a web strategy even a good investment for you?

Don’t assume that a web strategy is right for you. Too many legal professionals simply have unrealistic expectations about how using the web can help them. They are attracted to guarantees of number one positions in search engines in 48 hours. The truth is that establishing an effective web presence takes a lot of work and a lot of patience. If you aren’t prepared to make a substantial investment of time and/or money into your web presence over a 6-8 month time frame, you’re probably better off sticking with paid advertising.

How Different Engagements Are Linked

You should think of your strategy as a concert. Each tactic that you deploy should work harmoniously with the others. Your website, blog, profiles, and social media should all play off each other to increase your professional reputation. Understanding how these different tactics interact, is a critical component to effective strategy.

The Terms and Conditions That it is Fought on and Whether it Should be Fought at All is a Matter of Strategy

Each legal professional should make an informed decision about how they want to position themselves online. Some may choose to take an entirely different direction than others. Some may choose less tasteful means, while others will focus on only the most professional tactics. And after careful consideration, some should think about whether or not the timing is right for launching a comprehensive web strategy.

Strategy Will Thus Rarely Be Successful if it Shows No Adaptability

The legal web landscape is highly competitive and in a constant state of change. The static law firm websites of the past, simply have no place in today’s interactive, real-time, and social web. Failing to adapt your strategy to keep up in today’s online environment is likely to lead to significant waste in terms of time and money.

So before you go out and spend thousands of dollars on custom websites and flash graphics, spend some time thinking about your goals and how you want to position yourself online.