“The risk to the legal profession in South Africa is exacerbated by our being the second most targeted country in the world with regard to cyber-attacks. In the case of business eMail compromises, the Attorneys Indemnity Insurance Fund (AIIF), [now the Legal Practitioners Indemnity Insurance Fund (LPIIF)] reported in August of 2018 that since the exclusion of cyber liability insurance with effect from the 1st July 2016 they had been notified of over 110 cybercrime related claims with a total value of R70 million” (Anthony Pillay, LSSA)

One of the increasing risks you face as a conveyancer is cyber-crime, and you can expect that trend to continue as online criminals become more and more sophisticated in how they lull you and your clients into accepting their fraudulent emails as genuine.

You are particularly at risk in that the property industry will always remain a favourite target both because of the rich pickings on offer and because of the flurry of (interceptable) electronic communications that these days accompany the transfer process.

This article discusses the recent High Court judgment against a conveyancer who fell victim to a cyber scam and now has to pay out almost R1m in damages to her clients.

And remember…

You have no LPIIF cover!

As the LPIIF reminds everyone in its July 2019 Risk Alert Bulletin: “We wish to draw particular attention to the exclusion of cybercrime (clause 16(o)). Risk management steps must be taken by practitioners within their practices to mitigate cyber risk.”

Read also Anthony Pillay’s article “Cyber liability insurance“.

Two broad categories of scam to beware of

To date the two main categories of scam remain –

  1. Your payments to your clients: You receive a genuine-looking email “from your client” changing their banking details to “my new account”. Your emails to and from your client have been intercepted, and your client’s details cleverly spoofed. If you pay the transfer proceeds into the “new account” the money is gone and you risk not only losing a good client and suffering reputational damage, but also having to cough up a large amount of money by way of damages (see below).
  2. Your clients’ payments to you: Once again emails are intercepted, and this time your clients receive an authentic-looking but entirely fraudulent “we’ve changed our banking details” notification from “your firm”. They fall for it and pay the purchase price, transfer costs etc into the scammer’s account. Expect these emails to carry a very clever simulation of your firm’s branding, details and email address.

Your risk of being sued

Attorney’s profession is an honourable profession which demands complete reliability and integrity from the members thereof” (Extract from the judgment below)

Have a read of the recent Eastern Cape High Court, Port Elizabeth, judgment in the case of Jurgens and Another v Volschenk (4067/18) [2019] ZAECPEHC 41 – available on SAFLII.

  • In a nutshell, a transferring attorney was ordered to pay her client R 967,510-53 in damages, plus interest and costs, for negligence.
  • A scammer had intercepted emails between the attorney’s secretary and the sellers. This was a classic “Category 1” operation, and seemingly a sophisticated one – the scammer persuaded the secretary to accept an emailed “my bank account details have changed” instruction and to pay the proceeds into the scammer’s account. Read the judgment for the full details – both secretary and client were taken in hook, line and sinker.
  • The sellers sued the attorney for damages, the attorney denied any negligence whatsoever, but the Court found that she had indeed failed to carry out her mandate with the “due care, skill and diligence expected of a reasonable attorney and a conveyancer in the circumstances.”
  • Of course the Court reached this conclusion on the particular facts of this matter. There were specific factors present here, said the Court, such that a “diligent, reasonable attorney” would have taken steps to verify the information in the fraudulent emails. Which means that had the facts been different, the sellers might have been unable to prove any failure of duty by the attorney, in which event their claim would have failed.

But why take a risk at all? And of course prevention is always better than cure, so…

Nine steps to protecting your firm, your reputation and your clients

Here are some ideas on how to ensure that you and your clients are protected from these scams and from the inevitable fall out –

  1. Firstly, train your staff on all of this and maintain proper supervision of the whole transfer process. In the High Court case in question, the attorney’s attempt to shift all the blame on to her secretary failed, the Court holding that “When the respondent entrusted the management of the applicants’ affairs to her secretary she had a duty to ensure proper supervision and control in order to safeguard her clients’ money.”
  2. Read last year’s “LSSA Cybercrime advisory” on GhostDigest . Note in particular the recommendation re wording in all your emails and other communications to clients alerting them to the fact that you will never advise them of a change of bank details by way of an email or other electronic communication. Ensure that all your emails have a consistent signature format which includes this notification by default. Let us help you here with our DotNews Email Branding service.
  3. When you take your first Instruction to Register Transfer, make sure that it includes a written, signed and dated instruction to you by your client nominating a bank account for receipt of all payments from your firm.
  4. Lexis Convey users can also take advantage of the AVS functionality (Bank Account Verification Search), which is available in Lexis Convey via its integration with Lexis WinDeed.
  5. Equally of course, your firm should never accept any purported change in your client’s banking details without confirming it direct with the client – in person if possible.
  6. If your electronic communication systems are vulnerable the criminals will exploit them. So keep all your anti-virus, anti-malware and other security software updated, learn all about protecting yourself from malware/spyware/phishing attacks, and generally treat all electronic communications with caution – whether or not they look genuine.
  7. Read “Is That Sender For Real? Three Ways to Verify the Identity of An Email” on FRSecure’s blog. All the tips given there are important, but at the very least use the methods given to find out where the email really comes from. Then check back to see that it matches in every detail the email address you were given at the start of the transfer process.
  8. Be suspicious if anything in an email just feels “not-quite-right” – perhaps only a cell phone number is given, or a free generic email address (like Gmail) is used, or the wording is somehow “off”. If the email makes you even the slightest bit uneasy, err on the side of caution and investigate further.
  9. Last, but certainly not least, make sure that all your clients are aware of the dangers. No matter how many safeguards you may have in place on your side, if your clients are the weak link in the chain that is where the scammers will strike! Repeating this warning regularly (in your LawDotNews monthly newsletter for example) will ensure that it always remains top-of-mind with your clients.  

Article first published on LexisDigest

Jack Crook
Jack Crook
Managing Director & LawDotNews Author at DotNews
Jack’s legal qualifications (LLB Lond and LLB Rhod) are supplemented by many years of practical experience in law, in marketing his own firm, and in helping small and medium sized law and accountancy firms to prosper by using simple, low-cost, effective marketing strategies.

Foreword: Some things never change…

This article first appeared in SAICA’s Small and Medium Practices Quarterly Magazine (September 2017 issue) and was republished by Accountancy South Africa in their December 2017 issue.

Although in 2017 it was addressed specifically to accountant firms, it applies equally to legal firms and I hope that both professions in 2019 will find these ideas and principles helpful in increasing your profitability without increasing either your costs or your stress levels!

Tomorrow’s profits are driven by today’s marketing

“You reap what you sow” (Old Adage)

I’m constantly amazed by the number of Small and Medium Practices who tell us that they don’t need to do any marketing because “we have a loyal client base” and/or “we have plenty of work” (sometimes it’s “we’re swamped”). 

That’s a dangerously short-sighted attitude to adopt in an age of ever-accelerating change.  There is increasingly fierce competition for clients, and at the same time new technologies are spawning industry disruptors of every description. Think of the growing number of online service providers offering “from the comfort of your own office” ease of access and reduced price structures.  Think of the inroads AI is predicted to make into professional service fields.  Then imagine how hungry your competitors are going to be when they start losing clients, and how desperate they will be then to replace their losses from your client base.

The reality is that firms that fail to market themselves effectively today will be left behind tomorrow.  Many of them won’t survive; those that do will be less profitable. 

The other side of the coin of course is that you have a great opportunity here.   Market your firm better than your opposition, and you will be running well ahead of the pack. If your firm is evolving, you need to let your clients know about it. Don’t miss out because you didn’t communicate it.

Accountancy firm marketing is no longer a “nice-to-have” – in today’s business environment it’s a necessity.

Marketing needn’t cost you an arm and a leg

The basis of marketing any professional services firm is this – keep telling both your clients and your prospective new clients exactly how they will benefit from their relationship with you.

If you are an independent SMP firm, you don’t need a huge budget for that.  You don’t need in-house marketing departments, or expensive PR firms.  You don’t even need to sacrifice much partner and staff time.

In fact many of the basics of marketing your firm will cost you little or nothing. 

The 6 steps of “Shoestring marketing”

The concept of “marketing on a shoestring” is a tried-and-tested one.  Follow these practical steps to create a simple marketing plan that you can implement –

  • Quickly
  • Easily
  • Inexpensively
  • But to great effect.
Step 1:  Set goals – the foundation of your marketing plan

You will end up going nowhere unless you have a clear idea of where you want to end up. 

Lay a solid foundation for your marketing plan by setting goals – first your personal goals, then goals for your practice.  Ask yourself questions like “Where do I personally want to be in 5 years?”  “And in 10?”  “Where must my practice be by then?”  “How many clients do we want to have?”  “What profit must we be generating?”  “What new challenges must we overcome?”

Every firm will have its own goals, just keep them simple, attainable, clear and detailed (nothing stops you tweaking the details as you move along, but setting fuzzy goals upfront is a recipe for failure). 

Most importantly, record all your goals and track your progress towards them – there’s no better motivator!

Step 2:  Describe in detail your “ideal clients” and the services you will offer them

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” (Peter Drucker)

Create a clear profile of what sort of clients you want to retain, and what sort of new clients you want to acquire.  Who are they and why are they “ideal”?  Are they individuals?  Businesses?  What size businesses? What services will you provide them?  Etc…

Don’t be afraid to do a bit of dreaming here – set your sights high so you give yourself a worthy target.

The more detail you give in your descriptions the better – all of your marketing from here on will be aimed at communicating with this target market.  

Step 3:  Identify potential new sources of work

“In marketing I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss – and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last” (John Romero)    

First concern of course is to retain all your existing quality clients. 

Then prioritise potential new sources of work.  Perhaps something like these (adapt and add to them to suit your firm’s particular needs) –

  • Repeat business from existing clients
  • New business from existing clients
  • Referrals from existing clients to potential new clients (turn your clients into “evangelist marketers” for your services)
  • Referrals from other professionals and business associates
  • New business from the general public
  • And so on……..
Step 4:  Define what your clients want the ultimate outcome of your services to be

This is critical.  You are in business to make money and the only way you can achieve that is to render services to clients who will pay you for them.  You must understand what they need from you and what they want from you.  What problems do they have that you can solve for them?  How can you help them be more successful?

Define the ultimate outcome that will make them happiest.  Only then can you define how they will benefit and how you will achieve those benefits for them.  Which leads us to …

Step 5:  List the benefits your clients will enjoy from your services

What counts to your clients is how your services will help them achieve success, how their lives will be made easier and their businesses more profitable. 

So build your marketing plan around communicating to your target market not just the services you offer, but the benefits they will provide. 

Step 6: How will you attract and retain these ideal clients?

So now you know what the goals of your marketing plan are.  You know who your ideal clients are, where you will look for them, what they want from you and how they will benefit from your services.

Time to move now into the heart of your plan – how will you retain your good clients and how will you attract new ones?  Don’t hold back here – get your team together and brainstorm every possible idea you can think of.  Then whittle them down to a manageable list, and prioritise the best ones.   

Below we’ve suggested some possible avenues to help you get started, with practical suggestions on implementation.  Adjust and expand them to your firm’s particular goals and circumstances. 

Project a professional image, online and in the real world

This is all about first impressions.  You only get one chance at it so don’t drop the ball here!

  • Online:  In the Internet Age the tone for most new client interactions is going to be set online.

    Imagine you are a potential new client googling your firm and take a fresh and unbiased look at what he or she will see when they first go onto your website and your Social Media pages. Is their first impression going to be positive?  Do you come across as trustworthy?  Efficient? Reliable? Experienced? Professional? Internet savvy?  If first contact comes via an email, what impression will the speed and quality of your reply convey?

  • Your branding:  Branding incorporates your firm’s name, logo, design scheme and slogan.  It’s a “first impression” conveyer of how you want to be perceived.  Strong branding will enhance recognition, trust and client referral.  Unless you have lots of in-house talent it’s worth calling in the professionals here; amateurish DIY branding has always been false economy and your competitors will thank you for going that route.  Just don’t overpay – good branding is invaluable but unscrupulous marketing firms pick up very quickly when there are easy pickings in the offing.  Get a selection of quotes so you can be sure you get value for every Rand you spend.  
  • Your offices:  Whilst your online presence is more important than ever, it’s still crucial to maintain “first impressions in the real world” – where your office block, parking areas, reception areas and telephone answering protocols should receive special attention.
  • Brainstorm other “first impression” scenarios peculiar to your firm.

Provide excellent service

“It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better” (Jeff Bezos)

It’s all about delivering that “ultimate outcome” we talked about in Step 4 in a way that your clients will remember with positivity.   

The other side of the coin of course is that these days the Internet can be a most unforgiving arena for providers of substandard service.  Just one instance of poor service reported by a single unhappy client can seriously tarnish your online reputation.

Here are some basics to get you started –

  • Avoid creating false expectations.  People tend to hear only what they want to hear, so you cannot be vague here. Explain to your clients clearly –
    • What you will do for them,
    • What the process will be,
    • What the projected timeline to completion is.
  • A very common complaint from clients is lack of communication.  Provide regular meaningful reports on progress. Answer all queries without delay.  And if you run into problems or your timeline projections go for a loop, remember clients will forgive a lot – but only if you keep telling them what’s going on and what you are doing about it.
  • What your clients will remember long after you invoice them for a completed job is how quickly you served their needs, how little inconvenience you caused them, and how painless, friendly and helpful you and your staff were through the process.  Continually improve staff training and motivation with that in mind.
  • How else can your firm project a culture of service excellence?

Targeted marketing – keep in touch with all existing and potential new clients

  • Focus your resources:  Concentrate on communicating with the “target market” you defined in Step 2 above.  You will get far more bang for your buck than with “spray and pray” type marketing.
  • A simple and growing database:  Maintain a database of all your clients, and add to it all potential new clients.  Check whether software you are already using can do this for you.  It’s important to keep this database as simple as possible because the less information in it, the easier it is to keep it updated.  We’ve come across firms with incredibly complicated client databases, and not only are they invariably years out of date but also so full of extraneous information that they are practically unusable.
  • Newsletters:  Set up a system of regular quality communication with your database.  Monthly email newsletters are the gold standard here, which is why the larger firms have been using them as a core marketing tool for decades.  Keep them short and give your readers real value in the form of useful and interesting information.  Newsletters keep you top-of-mind, they build client relationships, they project professionalism, and they potentially can be forwarded all over the Internet.

    A poorly designed or written newsletter is actively damaging to your brand so again it’s worth asking for professional assistance here.  Just choose your service supplier carefully.

  • Newsflashes:  Consider boosting the effectiveness of your monthly newsletter with intermittent “newsflashes” on topics such as Tax Season Deadlines, important new legislation coming into effect, the SVDP Deadline – anything that your clients will appreciate being alerted to.
  • Email Branding:  Every single email sent from your office is potentially a marketing opportunity so make sure all your emails are consistent and project the most professional image of your firm.  Going beyond those basics, various email branding solutions are available (at a range of price levels) that will ensure consistent branding across all your staff, enable you to send recipients targeted marketing banners, and automate the capture of all new email addresses for potential addition to your newsletter mailing list. 

Stay firmly in the “public eye” with the power of the Internet

“If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business” (Bill Gates)

These days, even if a potential new client hears of you through a recommendation, or from a forwarded newsletter, or via a mention in the media, he or she is almost certain to look for you online before even thinking of contacting you.

It is therefore absolutely vital to have a strong, professional presence on the Internet.

It needn’t exhaust your “shoestring” marketing budget –

  • At the very least have a LinkedIn page for you, your partners, your senior staff and the firm itself. It’s pretty easy to get a good result yourself but if you aren’t confident, use a professional to help you. Remember that even if you have a great website, if someone searches an individual from your firm there is a good chance that their LinkedIn profile will be high up in the search results – make sure this first impression is a good one. Include a professional profile photo and tailor your details to reflect client needs and benefits (Steps 4 and 5 above).
  • Possibly also consider Facebook and Twitter (useful for some firms, but certainly not essential for most). 
  • Be sure that your firm is registered with “Google My Business”. This will ensure your business is listed on Google Maps, has a basic profile and displays more prominently when it is searched for on Google.
  • A website used to be a “nice-to-have”, but for most firms it is now essential because you will be googled, and having no website inevitably raises questions about how established and reliable you really are.  If your budget just won’t stretch to it now, it’s perhaps not a train smash to rely as a temporary fix on your LinkedIn presence.  But as soon as you can afford it, invest in a website.  Consider adding a blog page if you are able to post regular quality content to it.

    As with all the other marketing channels we have recommended, make sure you aren’t ripped off.   Websites no longer need be as expensive as they once were so shop around for both quality and price.

  • Keep your website, blog and Social Media pages updated with fresh material regularly.  A quick and easy way is to put your client newsletters onto them monthly – a process you can automate with RSS feeds.

Other marketing channels to consider

(These ideas may or may not be right for your firm.  If you aren’t sure, consult a marketing professional who will tailor a marketing plan to suit both your needs and your marketing budget.)

  • Networking:  Whenever you can, network with business, professional, social and charity groups.  Offer new contacts not just your business card but also the gift of your newsletter. You now have permission to expose them regularly to your name, branding and list of services in the most professional way, and your chances of acquiring a new quality client just shot up.
  • Media advertising: Some focused advertising may be worth considering for specific projects.  But as we pointed out above, finely targeted and regular marketing via a newsletter for example is likely to be much more effective on a tight budget.  A better plan if you have the time to do it is to look for free publicity by giving gifts of your time and expertise – write short helpful articles for the local media, for websites and blogs, networking sites etc.  Offer to be guest speaker at business and charity functions, etc. 
  • As a last thought, there are many other marketing channels out there – promotional videos on YouTube, cellphone apps, fancy brochures etc.  Often these channels can be expensive with little real benefit so don’t let a clever sales pitch tie you in to any of them unless you are sure they will work for your particular needs and plans. 

A final thought …

Effective marketing needn’t cost a fortune, and the most expensive thing you can do is to not market your firm at all.

Jack Crook
Jack Crook
Managing Director & LawDotNews Author at DotNews
Jack’s legal qualifications (LLB Lond and LLB Rhod) are supplemented by many years of practical experience in law, in marketing his own firm, and in helping small and medium sized law and accountancy firms to prosper by using simple, low-cost, effective marketing strategies.

Newsletters work – that’s why so many lawyers and accountants use them. Their marketing magic lies in keeping you constantly top-of-mind with your target market in the most professional way possible.

Of course the biggest mistake of all is not having a newsletter in the first place. But if you do have one and it isn’t working for you, check for these mistakes –

1) Using a Dinosaur Format

In the old Dinosaur Days newsletters tended to be print affairs, often in black and white to save cost, and as grey and boring in format as they were in content. In 2018 it costs you nothing to tell your readers that you are a modern, accessible, Internet-savvy firm by emailing your newsletters to them in a bright, contemporary format.

2) Sending your newsletters as attachments

Bad idea – rampant cyber-crime means attachments signal “Danger, Malware!” to most of us. Rather use html to embed your newsletter into the actual email.

3) Disregarding the Rules of Engagement

Content as always is King – you only engage your readers when you give them value by telling them something they want to hear. In every article cover something interesting and useful. Avoid theory and academia – it may fascinate you, but it’s a major turn-off for the average client.

4) Advertising

Of course you want to tell your clients about your full spectrum of services and about how great you are at providing them. But tell them subtly – openly turning your newsletter into one long advert is about the most counter-productive thing you can do. Your newsletter’s design is critical here, and calling in some marketing expertise to help you will pay handsome dividends down the line.

5) Being a windbag

We live in an age of information overload. Short and punchy beats long and long-winded every time.

6) Jargoning

(Is “jargoning” even a word? It’s such a common mistake with professionals that if there isn’t such a word, there should be!) The point is that whilst you are comfortable with your own profession’s obscure jargon and technical terms, to Joe and Mary Client they are confusing and even intimidating. Only use jargon where you have no choice, and then explain what it means clearly and simply as you go along.

7) Frequency – missing the Goldilocks Zone

The whole idea is to get your name and branding in front of your clients regularly. Not too often – a weekly newsletter for example risks annoying everyone. On the other hand you won’t benefit from the “spaced repetition” effect (imprinting your firm into your client’s long-term memory banks) if you go the annual or bi-annual newsletter route. Go rather for the “Goldilocks Zone”. Monthly is ideal for most firms.

8) Falling foul of spam traps and corporate firewalls

There is so much spam and malicious email around these days that even the cleanest of genuine mail sometimes ends up being blocked in error. Minimise that risk by checking for common “trigger” words and phrases, and by using a reputable bulk-mailing service rather than MS Outlook. Prioritise this one – getting blacklisted by one of the BlackList Domains could result in your whole domain and email system being blocked.

9) Making a meal of it

Creating a quality newsletter needn’t be hard, it needn’t take up large swathes of your billable time, and it needn’t be expensive. For all but the largest law firms and accountancy firms, outsourcing your newsletter to a consultancy specialising in professional firm marketing makes more sense than trying to do it yourself. Just make sure that you get a quality product at a reasonable price – we have seen a lot of under-delivery and a lot of over-charging out there!

10) Not giving it enough time to see results

Of course you may be inundated with new instructions after your first newsletter, but it’s much more likely that the benefits of remaining top-of-mind with your clients and prospective clients will take time to manifest. Remember, you are building long-term relationships, so patience is key. Don’t bullet your newsletter just as it is about to produce results.

The fact is that sooner or later a regular, quality newsletter will bear fruit. Just keep a sharp eye open for the common mistakes listed above!

Contact us for more – we are specialists in law firm marketing and in accountancy firm marketing.

Jack Crook
Jack Crook
Managing Director & LawDotNews Author at DotNews
Jack’s legal qualifications (LLB Lond and LLB Rhod) are supplemented by many years of practical experience in law, in marketing his own firm, and in helping small and medium sized law and accountancy firms to prosper by using simple, low-cost, effective marketing strategies.

Newsletter Platform Upgrades

A note to all our clients about how our upgrades will benefit you

We at DotNews are exceptionally proud of both the exceptional quality of our newsletter articles and also of our custom-built platform which we use to send them. It has allowed us to keep our service uniquely cost-effective. At the same time, it minimises the effort on your side to provide your clients with a quality newsletter. Over the years we have constantly upgraded and improved our service offerings. This latest update to our system adds an extra layer of personalisation and functionality at no extra cost.

These updates give the most benefit to ClassicPlus subscribers, but also have benefits for clients still on our Classic Package. Our advice to all of our clients still on the Classic Package is to upgrade. It’s only an extra R150 + VAT per month and the benefits are even greater than before.

So without further ado, let’s get into what exactly these newest updates entail: –

We’re ready for POPI with new opt-out / opt-in notifications

POPI’s final implementation is probably still some way off. Whilst there is still some uncertainty around the exact details of what will be required, we’ve upgraded our system to cope with all the possible requirements well ahead of time.

Depending on how you are growing your database, your firm will either need to notify new newsletter recipients that they have been added to your database (an Opt-out Message) or send them a request to join your mailing list (an Opt-in Message). Our system can now automatically do either as new recipients are loaded, depending on your firm’s policy in this regard. ClassicPlus Clients will have all of these messages branded in a completely bespoke manner in their branding.

We will activate this functionality for you as soon as it is required by POPI, or earlier on request.

Improved “subscribe” and “unsubscribe” functionality

If you already have your “subscribe” button enabled on your newsletter, give it a click! It will take you to a new page which will allow for online subscription. If you are a ClassicPlus client, we can customise this page for you with your firm’s colour scheme and branding. Grow your mailing list by adding this page to your website! Our unsubscribe functionality has been similarly upgraded to allow for more personalisation. It also provides an easy one-click experience for anyone wanting to remove themselves from your mailing list.  If anyone unsubscribes, you will receive a notification so you can if you like follow up with your client.

Add / remove / swap newsletter articles (ClassicPlus clients only)

As always, you’ll be receiving your monthly newsletter articles in your Attorney / Accountant Version a few days before your actual newsletter gets sent out to your recipients. If you are a ClassicPlus client you can now easily shift, add or remove articles as you choose. Just drop us an email with the changes, and we’ll do it for you! ClassicPlus clients are welcome to add one bespoke article of their choice every month – if you require more than that, you might want to consider upgrading to a Custom newsletter package.

New look mobile-friendly “read more” page for articles (ClassicPlus clients only)

ClassicPlus clients with templates containing “Read More” links now have articles on a page customised to their firm’s branding. This page now keeps your firm’s logo at the top of the page, and is completely responsive, looking great on any device.

We’ve added two new customisable templates (ClassicPlus clients only)

Introducing two brand new mobile-friendly newsletter templates! As with all our ClassicPlus newsletter templates, they are fully customisable  with your firm’s colour scheme and branding. There are also ample areas in which you can insert marketing banners to highlight your firm’s key services, events or news. Click on the links to see examples of Template 7 and Template 8.

Tweaks & improvements

We’ve improved upon a few other small things you might notice. For instance the notifications you receive when anyone subscribes or unsubscribes have changed slightly, if you manage your own client list online there have been a few tweaks there and there have been some improvements in the way our system handles non-delivery reports.

Lastly we’d like to thank all our clients for the support you showed us in 2017! Here’s to a an even more successful 2018!

Contact us for more.

Paddy Crook
Paddy Crook
Digital Marketing Manager at DotNews
Paddy completed his BSc at Rhodes University and has specialised in email marketing, social media, ppc, ad-serving and other online marketing mediums. Having returned from working with a UK-based multi-national company where he analysed the effectiveness of online campaigns, Paddy has a broad knowledge of the channels and techniques used within the digital space and how best to apply them to professional practices.

When designing websites for our clients, we at LawDotNews are always looking for convenient, easy to implement marketing solutions that can be used by firms of any size. We find that many firms have no idea of the many such services available for little to no cost. If you are a conveyancer, the GhostConvey Cost Calculator is one such service, and it is 100% free for all GhostConvey clients.

 

Why a Cost Calculator?

A cost calculator is a great tool to promote engagement on your website. It enhances your reputation as a specialist conveyancing firm by providing your clients and prospective clients with a quick and easy rough estimate of what their various costs would be when buying a property. The GhostConvey calculator has three different components – a Transfer Cost Calculator, a Bond Cost Calculator and a Bond Repayment Calculator.

 

Customise it to your needs

Aside from selecting the three components of the calculator, there are a variety of other features you can customise for your firm. You can personalise your calculators with your own logo, colours and font styles, so that the design goes with your website. You can also get the calculator to include in the calculation costs specific to your firm, such as administration fees.

 

Easy Implementation

The process to get your calculator set up is dead easy. First thing to do is contact your GhostConvey representative and they will send you a simple form to fill in, with your specifications on which calculators you want, your custom colouring and branding and your administration fees. Once you submit the form GhostConvey will send you a piece of code with your personalised calculator, which your web developer can simply copy / paste into the relevant section of your website.

 

This free service from GhostConvey really allows for a hassle-free and cost-effective way to add great value to your website with a Cost Calculator. If you haven’t already spoken with GhostConvey about this service, we highly recommend that you do – don’t miss out on this!

 

Paddy Crook
Paddy Crook
Digital Marketing Manager at DotNews
Paddy completed his BSc at Rhodes University and has specialised in email marketing, social media, ppc, ad-serving and other online marketing mediums. Having returned from working with a UK-based multi-national company where he analysed the effectiveness of online campaigns, Paddy has a broad knowledge of the channels and techniques used within the digital space and how best to apply them to professional practices.

A Pain in the Inbox

Have you ever run an email campaign or sent out a newsletter over the Holidays? If you have, and you sent your emails from your regular email address, you probably found that your Inbox was flooded with automated messages from recipients who were on holiday. Father Christmas just got you a big old bag of automated electronic mail reminding you of how seemingly no-one but you is working. Great.

This problem is actually prevalent any time one sends out to a large database of recipients – not just the out-of-offices, but also automated bounce reports. I had a client ask me recently what the best way to handle this is, that’s why I’m here, writing this blog post.

Not such a great idea: using a “No-Reply” email address

I’m constantly amazed at how many companies use no-reply email addresses. Back in 2011, Campaign Monitor wrote a good post about why no-replies are a bad idea, and it still holds true today. Suffice to say that you need an address that is monitored regularly, has good deliverability and promotes communication with your recipients – a “No-Reply” is specifically asking them not to engage!

Set up a dedicated email address

The best scenario to avoid having your Inbox flooded is to create a dedicated email address specially for handling your email campaign responses. Some suggestions below:-

notifications@company.com
news@company.com
newsdesk@company.com
newsletters@company.com
hello@company.com
marketing@company.com

Once you’ve set up this address separately in your email client (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) you’ll be able to keep your regular business emails entirely separate from this Inbox, which will get all of the auto-responses. Then in your free time you can sift through these emails for genuine responses.

Automation – finding genuine responses should be a cinch

Most email clients will allow you to create a set of rules (a.k.a. “filters” in Gmail) with which you can set parameters whereby incoming mail gets filed under specified folders. The most common of these would be to look for keywords either in the mail itself or from the sender’s email address. It can be super handy if you set parameters for your email client to file all automatic responses under a folder called “auto-responders” i.e. everything that includes content or subject lines like:

“Out of office”
“Out of the office”
Autoreply
no-reply
auto-response
“Delivery Status Notification”
“message status – undeliverable”
“no longer working at”
“unattended mailbox”

And likewise, you could set up keywords that flag important issues that would need your attention like:

“spam”
“unsubscribe”
“POPI”
“unsolicited”

Whilst not perfect, this should filter out most of the automated responses and make your life that much easier when checking up on campaign responses.

Paddy Crook
Paddy Crook
Digital Marketing Manager at DotNews
Paddy completed his BSc at Rhodes University and has specialised in email marketing, social media, ppc, ad-serving and other online marketing mediums. Having returned from working with a UK-based multi-national company where he analysed the effectiveness of online campaigns, Paddy has a broad knowledge of the channels and techniques used within the digital space and how best to apply them to professional practices.

“Content is King” (Bill Gates)

We all know that law firm marketing and accountancy firm marketing are no longer nice-to-haves – remaining top-of-mind with your clients (and potential new clients) has become essential to survive and thrive in today’s highly competitive world.

But how best to achieve that?  Which marketing channels are most important for your law or accountancy firm?  Which give you the most bang for your buck?

We trawled the Internet for research results to help you answer those questions.  This is what we came up with –

 

“Content Marketing” is 2017’s top-rated digital marketing technique

What is content marketing?  It’s neatly defined by Wikipedia as “a form of marketing focused on creating, publishing and distributing content for a targeted audience online”.

In 2017 it’s used by 89% of marketers, of whom 88% identify it as important to their marketing programs, whilst 70% are increasing their content creation from 2016 – ContentMarketingInstitute.

Asked to “select one marketing activity that you think will give your business the biggest incremental uplift in leads and sales in 2017 (or your clients if you work for an agency or as a consultant)”, SmartInsights readers answered –

 

The most popular content delivery channels are …

Quality content is valuable in every marketing channel you have, with the most popular delivery methods being email and Social Media –

Source (Page 31)

 

Why are 93% of marketers using email newsletters to deliver their content?

  1. Lead generation – 89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation – Mailigen
  2. Client acquisition – email is 40x better than Social Media for customer acquisition – McKinsey
  3. High Return on Investment – average returns measured in 2015 were R38 for every R1 spent, with 20% of companies reporting an ROI of over 70:1 – emailmonday
  4. It’s popular with clients – 91% like to receive emails from companies they do business with – MarketingSherpa
  5. It works for small businesses, with Forbes Magazine reporting 10 main reasons why they use it –
    1. To build credulity
    2. To boost sales
    3. To strengthen relationships
    4. To learn what works
    5. To reach people on any device
    6. To look professional
    7. To get immediate results
    8. To generate leads
    9. To promote services
    10. To attract new clients.

 

How to meet the content creation challenge

No matter how you plan to use your content, the one absolute essential is that it must promote engagement with your firm.  You can only achieve this with high-quality, professional, useful and interesting articles.  Drop the ball on that one and it will come back to bite you.

The challenge of course is, how do you go about creating great content?  Do you sacrifice billable hours?  Do you burn the midnight oil or spend your weekends researching, writing and polishing article after article?  The reality is that for most smaller law and accountancy firms, creating your own in-house content just doesn’t make commercial sense.

Which is where we come in as your outsource partners.  Since 2005 our trusted, professional articles have been at the very heart of our integrated client connection services for both law firm marketing and accountancy firm marketing.

Contact Us for more.

Jack Crook
Jack Crook
Managing Director & LawDotNews Author at DotNews
Jack’s legal qualifications (LLB Lond and LLB Rhod) are supplemented by many years of practical experience in law, in marketing his own firm, and in helping small and medium sized law and accountancy firms to prosper by using simple, low-cost, effective marketing strategies.

“Marketing!” If you want to stress out Joe Lawyer or Mary Accountant, talk to them about how marketing their services is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s now an absolute necessity.  For some firms it’s a matter of reaching full profit potential – for others it’s a basic requirement for survival.

But the stressor is that there’s a conflict here – how on earth do you get around to actually doing it?

Unless you have someone with the know-how, the enthusiasm and the time to do it in-house, you’ll have to outsource a major part of it.   And we’ve all heard of marketing firms charging well over R20k to create a basic website, or many thousands of Rand every month to run a basic suite of marketing services.  That’s a hard ask for smaller firms with limited marketing budgets.

 

A Simple 3 Point Plan

The good news is that you really needn’t get fancy here.  When firms ask us for advice (we offer a no-obligation “Brand Consultation” – contact us for more) we help you have a good look at your particular circumstances and needs.

And nine times out of ten, we recommend that, if you haven’t already got them, you start off with these three basics –

  1. A newsletter: Regular, quality newsletters have been the core marketing tool for professional firms for decades.  Why?  They combine professionalism and effectiveness to make sure you remain top-of-mind all the time with your target market.  Just make sure that they give value to your readers – useful and interesting information that they can actually use.
  2. A LinkedIn page: In the Internet Age you have to have a strong online presence.  Why?  Most prospective quality new clients, even those from direct referrals, will – before they do anything else – Google you.  And if they can’t find you, what are they to think?  Are you perhaps a new, untried practice?  Trying to hide something?  Perhaps still stuck in the Dinosaur Age?  The cure is easy – a LinkedIn presence.  Don’t “sweat the small stuff” here, just keep it simple, tell the world how competent and experienced you are, and don’t forget to put your profile pic in (it makes you “real”).
  3. A website: This is the only one of the “three basics” that you can – if you really need to – defer for a while.   But don’t delay too long.  And don’t be upsold here – your website needn’t be fancy and it certainly needn’t be expensive.  So long as it projects your professionalism, and so long as it tells visitors quickly and concisely what you do and why they can trust you, it’s doing the job.  While we’re on the topic, avoid these three common mistakes –
    1. Contact details hard to find – bad, bad idea. Have an obvious “Contact Us” link on every page of your website.
    2. Hard to navigate or slow to load – often different facets of the same problem here, and a total put-off for anyone who takes the trouble to find you online.
    3. No profile pics – your mugshot is as essential here as it is on your LinkedIn page. This is cyberspace, full of deception and hyperbole, so make yourself and your team “real” to that prospective new client.

 

How to integrate your marketing strategy

We’ll help you here, but it’s easy.  Your newsletters will link to your website and to all your Social Media pages.  We’ll show you how to use RSS feeds to effortlessly update all your online pages with your monthly newsletter.

We’ll tell you if we think you would benefit from any other marketing ideas (see our Marketing Services Page for the most popular ones) and if so how to tie them in with your overall marketing strategy.

 

The bottom line

Law firm marketing and accountancy firm marketing needn’t be stressful. It needn’t be expensive.  It can be simple, low-effort and highly cost-effective. Contact Us for more.

Jack Crook
Jack Crook
Managing Director & LawDotNews Author at DotNews
Jack’s legal qualifications (LLB Lond and LLB Rhod) are supplemented by many years of practical experience in law, in marketing his own firm, and in helping small and medium sized law and accountancy firms to prosper by using simple, low-cost, effective marketing strategies.

rabbit

“Focus!  If you chase two rabbits, both will escape” (ancient Chinese proverb)

This article is for you if –

  • You own a small accounting or law firm
  • You understand the need to market your services (if you don’t, have a look at “Six reasons to market your firm” on GhostDigest – what we say there applies to accountancy firm marketing as much as it does to law firm marketing)
  • Your problem is that the marketing rabbit just never seems to make it to the top of your priority list. You’re always too busy chasing billable hour rabbits.

Why is it so difficult to focus on marketing?  The root cause I believe is loss aversion – the tendency (deeply ingrained in all of us) to put more effort into avoiding loss than we do into acquiring the same gain.

“If I spend two hours on a marketing plan to acquire new clients” you think to yourself “I lose two billable hours.  I’ll find the time to do marketing later”.  “Later”, of course, never comes.  For most accountants and lawyers, marketing takes them right out of their comfort zone, so it’s something to be tackled in the hazy “never-never land” of the future.

The solution: 4 steps to Focus

  1. First, set your own personal goals
    • Your income goal: Ask yourself “How much do I want my firm to put in my pocket every month?”  Don’t be afraid to go high here – keep it real but motivating!
    • Your lifestyle goals: What sort of work/leisure balance are you after?  How much family time?  What sort of working conditions?  And so on.  Indulge in a bit of day-dreaming here; visualisation is a proven path to achievement.
    • Your personal development goals: What do you want to get out of practicing your profession?  How do you want to grow as a person?  What new competencies would you like to acquire? What reputation are you aiming for?  What will be your legacy?
  2. Next, set your firm’s business goals. Base them on the answers to these questions –
    • “What profit must we achieve for me to reach my personal income goal?”
    • “What is our average profit per new instruction and how can we grow that?”
    • “How many quality new instructions do we need every month to reach that profit goal?”
  3. So now you know exactly how many new instructions you need every month and achieving them becomes your core business goal. Build your marketing plan around that goal.
  4. Most important of all: Chase one rabbit at a time! Set aside time to focus on marketing, and nothing else.  Stay focused and motivated with a daily reminder of your goals and of your plans to achieve them.

© DotNews (adapted from an article which first appeared on GhostDigest)

Jack Crook
Jack Crook
Managing Director & LawDotNews Author at DotNews
Jack’s legal qualifications (LLB Lond and LLB Rhod) are supplemented by many years of practical experience in law, in marketing his own firm, and in helping small and medium sized law and accountancy firms to prosper by using simple, low-cost, effective marketing strategies.

In today’s digital world everyone, no matter your industry, has a small mountain of online accounts that you use. With accounts ranging from email and social media through to your banking and work, often convenience and security are at odds.

Passwords – mistakes to avoid

There are two very common mistakes users make when choosing passwords. The first is having a weak password and the other is using a single password across multiple accounts.

Making sure that your password is strong is essential, as hackers use a wide variety of methods relying upon dictionaries and common characters to brute-force attack passwords (i.e. using computers to try out a huge number of variations of words and characters to try to guess the password by chance). Security experts recommend that your password should be at least 12 characters long and use letters, capitals and punctuation and not rely on any form of word – i.e. “P@ssw0rd” won’t make the grade. My favourite technique in coming up with a secure password that is memorable is to use the first letter of a phrase and swap out the letters with other characters. Thus the phrase “Mary had a little lamb, its fleece as white as snow” becomes “Mh@ll,1f@w@5” – a super-secure, but unique password that is easy to remember.

The other issue I mentioned was that users often have a go-to regular password that is used across multiple accounts. NEVER DO THIS! Why? If you get hacked, it gives the hacker an opportunity to try this “master password” across a wide range of common websites. Using one password across all of your sites puts them all at risk.

Have you been hacked?

Have a look at https://haveibeenpwned.com/. This site is a repository of hacked account details publicly available on the web. Search for your email address – chances are if you’re on LinkedIn you’ll be listed from an attack back in 2012 (the data was only released by hackers in May 2016). Don’t panic if you’re on this list! It’s not entirely clear what data was stolen and the vast majority of the hacked details have not yet been taken advantage of. However, I strongly recommend you change your password if you are listed for any site, so go check it out.

Use a password manager

Password managers have been around for a while now, and they have grown in sophistication and complexity. There are a variety of password managers to choose from such as LastPass, Dashline, KeePass and 1Password. My personal favourite is the market leader, LastPass. With browser extensions, form filling, auto login options and a built in secure password generator; keeping unique, secure passwords for every one of your accounts is a breeze. While LastPass does store your passwords in the Cloud, the methods that it uses are recognised as being incredibly secure and when combined with its two-factor authentication (i.e. requiring your phone to confirm any logins, similar to the one-time PINs used by banking services) makes it just about as secure as you can get. Naturally a service like this is often under attack by hackers, and whilst they seem to have taken every precaution there have been a couple of partially successful attacks on LastPass. No data has ever been lost and so long as you are using two-factor authentication correctly, even if a hacker got your master password for LastPass they would still not be able to access your account. The blogging website Lifehacker addresses this concern in this Q&A post.

Eggs and Baskets

basketofeggs
Now, being the overly paranoid security conscious person I am, I’m thinking about eggs and baskets, and LastPass is a pretty big basket regardless of the very high level of security measures they put in place. Thus my advice is to not rely solely on it to manage all of your accounts. Keep all of your very sensitive accounts such as banking and Google or Apple outside of LastPass and use LastPass to manage everything else. It means you’ll have a few super-secure unique passwords to remember, but if anything (albeit very, very unlikely) were to happen to your LastPass account, your sensitive accounts are still secure.

At the end of the day it is important to bear in mind that nothing is truly ever 100% secure in this age of digital criminals and hackers. The real trick is being as secure as you can be by minimising the risk without compromising convenience, thus allowing your security strategy to be comprehensive across all of your accounts. The methods and software mentioned in this article will keep you far safer than your average Internet user and thus far less likely to be compromised.eggs

Always remember:

“Safety first!”

Paddy Crook
Paddy Crook
Digital Marketing Manager at DotNews
Paddy completed his BSc at Rhodes University and has specialised in email marketing, social media, ppc, ad-serving and other online marketing mediums. Having returned from working with a UK-based multi-national company where he analysed the effectiveness of online campaigns, Paddy has a broad knowledge of the channels and techniques used within the digital space and how best to apply them to professional practices.

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DISCLAIMER

The articles contained herein are for general information only and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.