Over the years, a significant amount of my practice has been representing seniors in one way or another, usually with employment or housing-related issues. In a “real-time” law practice, seniors are not a particularly difficult client base to reach. My experience taught me that seniors were more likely to contact a local lawyer referral service, for example, than they were to simply pick up the Yellow Pages and dial for a random attorney.
They relied heavily on word of mouth referrals, too. That might include a colleague who drafted their will, for example, or it might be a friend or family member. Senior centers were usually a good place for an attorney to market to older clients.
Both those are “old school” marketing methods. Can you reach senior clients as easily through online efforts? A recent study by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) suggests that seniors are extremely active online, that the majority of seniors do their shopping online, find answers to health questions online, and even bank online. The chart below shows a breakdown of “technology ownership by generation” from the CTAM study.
The results of this study were widely reported in e-marketing articles like this one from eMarketer.
I don’t know about you, but when I saw the results from this study, I was skeptical. So, I dug a little bit deeper to find out how this study was conducted. As it turns out, the results came from “online interviews” conducted from June 3, 2009 to June 14, 2009.
While the number of interview participants is a significant sampling, the results are, in my opinion, flawed because they are based on interviews conducted online. Because the results are based on online interviews, one can reasonably conclude that the results skew high because the researchers targeted an already-tech-savvy group.
The survey was also unclear about whether the interviews sampled geographically diverse participants. Anecdotally, it seems to me that seniors in rural areas are less likely to have online activities than those living in more urban areas.
Why am I writing about this? The reason is because one of the greatest challenges to operating a successful, virtual law practice is how to effectively market the practice. If you are trying to reach a client base that is already less likely to consume services online, then you face an especially difficult challenge.
To reach seniors, you may find yourself having to maintain, or even re-learn, “old school” marketing methods. Maybe you would have more success writing an article for a local, neighborhood newspaper, or even airing a radio spot on an appropriate radio station. Maybe offering to teach a class at a local senior center would be a way to get your name out there.
And, don’t forget that many law schools and legal aid programs offer elder law clinics. While you may have to provide some services pro bono, you can make excellent contacts to generate word-of-mouth referrals.
Any of these approaches would be reasonable and would still allow you to maintain a virtual law practice.
If you are looking for reading material on marketing, one book that I read, which I found helpful, is a book entitled The Publicity Handbook by David R. Yale. The book is published by McGraw Hill and I am sure you can find it at a local bookstore or through an online service such as Amazon.com. The book was recommended to me by a business student at a local university who was taking a marketing course in which this book was one of the texts.
The American Bar Association also offers a book entitled The Lawyers’ Guide to Marketing Your Practice which you can find here. I have this book on my shelves as well, and it well worth obtaining it.
In sum, be careful what you read about the results of e-marketing surveys like the CTAM survey particularly if you are reaching out to certain types of clients. The foundations of these studies may and are being debated.