With the economy on wobbly legs, many lawyers are looking to refresh their business development efforts on a shoestring budget. If you’re embarking on a DIY legal marketing program, the tools listed here can help.
We use them daily, sometimes many times a day, to keep projects organized, automate our social media posts and newsletters, and generally make our lives easier and more productive.
These tools can help save time and create a clean, professional look in all your marketing efforts. And best of all, they’re all free or very inexpensive, meaning you can easily fit them into your marketing budget.
Need help turning your legal marketing to-do list into reality? We can help with that! Muse Communications was named one of Dallas’ best legal public relations firms by the readers of Texas Lawyer (although we represent clients all over Texas). Just drop us a line.
Email Service Providers (ESPs)
MailChimp and Campaign Monitor are our preferred ESPs, but there are many others out there, each with their own rabid fan base. We use our email accounts several times a week on behalf of ourselves and our clients. If you want to send professional-looking emails, most ESPs offer a wealth of great looking templates, or you can build your own from the ground up.
ESPs also provide analytics, including who opened your emails, who clicked on them, and which newsletter items they clicked on. And because you want to grow your email list, ESPs also offer forms and other tools to make it easy for new subscribers to join your list.
You can also create “welcome” emails that new subscribers receive automatically with general information about your firm and practice areas, including links to previous blog posts and whatever else you want to convey to a prospective client (such as a link to your “contact us” page).
ESPs also offer easy segmenting tools, meaning you can categorize your email lists to target subscribers by geography based on whether they opened or clicked on your previous emails, job title, or whatever criteria you want.
MailChimp offers a free subscription for up to 2,000 email addresses (although you can get additional services if you pay a small monthly fee). Campaign Monitor doesn’t have a free plan, but they’re still quite affordable, with plans starting at about $10/month. Most other ESPs offer free or very low-cost plans.
Social Media Management
If you want to keep a steady supply of content posted to your firm’s social media channels without daily maintenance, get a social media management tool. They allow you to schedule content for your various social media channels, add graphics (including GIFs and video), and re-post content, all with just a few clicks.
They also provide analytics that show which posts had the most likes, clicks, etc., and how many new followers you’ve earned.
If you’re juggling a lot of projects (and who isn’t?), a project management tool can help ensure that you aren’t dropping any balls. We typically use Trello, which allows users to create project boards, and then lists within boards, and cards within lists. So, we have a board devoted our various marketing projects, and a list for each client, and then each card on the list keeps track of different projects. You can add due dates and checklists, upload documents and photos, and tag team members on your project updates.
Like any project management tool, Trello is only as good as its upkeep, so you have to use and update it for it to do its job. But we have found that it’s a great way to monitor and manage everything that’s on our plate.
Other popular project management tools include Basecamp and Monday. I’m intrigued by, but haven’t yet used, Milanote, which allows you to write notes and to-do lists, upload images and files, and save ideas you find on the web. It seems to be more geared to creative professionals, but for lawyers with a design streak, it could be a good fit.
As much as we love words, we must confess that a great image does more to grab a reader’s attention than even the best-written prose. Because we never want to use a photo without the proper authorization, we use a variety of sources to find affordable, licensed imagery.
Our favorite source is Canva, which is also our graphic design platform (see below). We have their pro subscription, about $120/year, and it comes with access to loads of images. Even at the free level, though, you can still purchase their photos for a small fee. Other photo sources are Unsplash, Shutterstock, Dreamstime, iStock and Pixabay, which have beautiful photography for anywhere from $0 to $12+ per photo.
When I started my company, Snagit was one of my first purchases. It’s the easiest, most robust screen capture program I’ve ever used, and I use it multiple times a day. Once you can capture an image from your computer screen, edit it, and add text to it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
It’s about $50 for a single license, but you will have to pry Snagit from my cold, dead hands.
If you haven’t already discovered Canva, first off, you’re welcome. Second, I apologize for the hours and hours you will now spend there because you just won’t be able to help yourself.
I initially started using Canva because a colleague said it’s a great place for inexpensive stock photos. She was right, of course. But Canva is also a great place to produce perfectly sized graphics for social media, your blog, your newsletter, and just about anything else you can think of (including Playbill ads for your daughter’s school and flyers for your neighborhood barbecue, hypothetically).
You can also use Canva to make a GIF, those catchy graphics with short videos in them. A GIF doesn’t need to be annoying (as many are). A GIF can be a simple but eye-catching ad for your firm that incorporates your firm’s logo and tagline (as we did in this tweet).
You can access most of Canva’s wonderfulness on their free plan, but the pro plan gives you enough bells and whistles that you might want to treat yourself.
Pocket is a great app for saving articles you want to read but maybe don’t have time to read now. It’s great for research projects, hobbies, shopping, and, I’m sure, a million other things. We have a recurring feature called “Stuff We’re Reading” that shares articles geared to helping lawyers market their services and generally do their jobs better. When one of us finds an article that might be “Stuff” fodder, we save it to Pocket and tag it “Muse blog” for when it’s time to publish that column.
There’s a free level, but we have the premium membership (about $30/year) because the tagging feature is more robust.
These are just a few of the many readily available tools available for free or at minimal cost. If the number of options appears daunting, start by using one or two rather than trying to implement everything at once.
If you have any indispensable tech tools, drop me a line at email@example.com. I’d love to hear about them.
Amy Boardman Hunt is all about helping lawyers find their voice and showcase their expertise. When she’s not doing that, she’s trying to find great hiking spots in Dallas. If you know of any – or you need a legal marketing muse – drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.