Easy, Fun, and (Mostly) Free Tools for Your DIY Legal Marketing Program
In our work for lawyers and law firms, we rely on a host of online tools to keep projects organized, automate our social media posts and newsletters, and just generally make life easier and more productive.
If you’re looking to juice up your online presence, 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.
Before we start, a quick disclaimer: we mention several products and companies by name in this blog post. We don’t receive any compensation or consideration for mentioning them, however. We just like them and have found them useful to our own marketing efforts.
OK, so this one isn’t as fun as some of the others, but an Excel spreadsheet (or whatever spreadsheet format you prefer) is our first stop in Marketing Land. We use them to keep track of blog topics, due dates, newsletter content, social media posts, and analytics of all kinds.
You don’t have to be a spreadsheet wizard to use them. I speak, at best, conversational spreadsheet, and find myself using them multiple times a day.
Email Service Providers (ESPs)
MailChimp and Campaign Monitor are our preferred ESPs, but there are many others out there, including Emma, Constant Contact and Robly, each of which has 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 go out automatically to new subscribers, with general information about your firm and practice areas, links to previous blog posts, and whatever else you want to convey to a new 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 but you don’t want to have to tend to it every day, 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 tell you which posts had the most likes, clicks, etc., and how many new followers you’ve earned.
We’re partial to Buffer, but there’s also Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and MeetEdgar, among others. Most of those offer a free version, but even if you opt for the paid plans, you’re still talking about $10-$20/month.
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, but other popular project management tools include Asana, Basecamp, and Monday. There are loads of them, to be honest.
Trello 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 your plate.
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.
Some of our favorites are Unsplash, Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Pixabay and Canva. Great photos are available at these sites for anywhere from $0 to $12+ per photo. But we are almost always able to find great photos for $5 or less each.
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 one of the most expensive tools we use, 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 $1 stock photos. She was right, of course, but it’s 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 incorporate your firm’s logo and tagline.
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 to it.
These are just a few of the many tools that are readily available for free or at very little cost. If the number of options appear daunting, start out 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear about them.
Amy Boardman Hunt is the president of Muse Communications LLC, which provides content marketing and public relations to the legal profession. She began her career in legal journalism and has worked in legal marketing and public relations since 1997. She can be reached at email@example.com.