Law firms need clear buyer personas to help market themselves and their services, but the most effective marketing efforts will be those that spot relevant changes and adjust accordingly.
The concept of the buyer persona has become a huge element of digital marketing. The concept of an archetypal figure that represents the various characteristics of a target market is invaluable in helping to plan and deliver a marketing campaign.
The elements of producing a persona
A whole range of elements come together to produce a persona, such as:
- Education level
- Geographical location
- Nationality or ethnicity
These are just some of the elements that could make up a persona and the relevance of any of these may depend just what the legal services are and the need that they will address.
Why are buying personas important
Personas are particularly important in digital marketing. While any marketing campaign should seek to appeal to certain kinds of people by connecting with their values, attitudes and common concerns, a digital campaign can go further.
It can target those fitting the persona with more focus than traditional marketing, whether through a well-planned email campaign, content posted on certain websites or campaigns run via the sort of social media those fitting the persona tend to use.
In the latter case, for example, older male professionals could be targeted via LinkedIn, while Instagram would be more appropriate for a younger and predominantly female persona.
How buyer personas can change gradually
So far, so good. But what happens when something happens to change a persona? Social change, major events, new technology and much else besides can have an impact on this.
Consider, for example, the generation known as ‘Millennials’. Compared with young people of similar age 20 years ago, they are:
- Less likely to be homeowners
- More likely to have been in higher education
- More financially indebted (particularly student debt)
- Tend to marry less and later and start families later
- Have more socially liberal attitudes
- More comfortable with technology
All this has implications for marketing. For example, reduced homeownership means Millennials will be a smaller market for conveyancers or family law practitioners, while the greater use of technology means it makes more sense than ever for marketers to aim at online channels to reach them.
How personas can change swiftly
These kinds of generational changes can be a long time in the making. However, sometimes situations can change quite swiftly.
A good example of the latter may be the persona of those who will use immigration services, as a result of Brexit.
What this has done is create some confusion around the margins of residency rights; not so much for EU nationals currently living in Britain, who can apply to remain up until late 2020, but for grey areas such as the status of their dependents. A no-deal scenario may create deeper confusion.
Immigration lawyers might face a number of changes
At the same time, Brexit could be a huge game-changer for immigration policy. Not only will the end of freedom of movement make it harder for many EU nationals to migrate to Britain; but it may also create improved opportunities for some people from elsewhere.
This may particularly be the case if prime minister Boris Johnson’s preferred model – based on the Australian points system – is implemented. This could mean immigration lawyers face a number of changes:
- Dealing with far more with skilled migrants from all over the world
- Dealing less with low-skilled Europeans.
- At the same time, like any piece of legislation, the law may create some grey areas such as marginal decisions over how many points someone gets, so new legal cases could arise.
- If fluency in English is a major factor in earning points, this may reduce the need to provide services in other languages.
Why planning ahead will help keep personas relevant
While Brexit might create all kinds of changes and much uncertainty, at least law firms can be fully aware it is coming.
For many law firms and the marketers who work with them, some important forward planning may be needed, in order to understand how their personas may change in the years ahead.
For instance, another political event that could make a difference is new legislation. If, for instance, new employment law is passed, that might create new rights for a certain category of worker. This would mean an employment law firm might want to target a new persona based on this change in order to secure clients who are affected by it.
Buyer persona research
For more gradual transitions, good research and investigations into trends can help produce data to reshape personas.
The legal sector itself can provide examples of slow change. Traditionally seen as a ‘male’ profession, the gender gap has been gradually eroded and in recent years the growth of female lawyers has reached the point at which the latest Solicitors Regulatory Authority figures (for 2017) revealed 48 per cent of lawyers to be female.
While that particular figure has not changed much since 2014 – and women still hold only around a third of partner positions – the 2017-18 intake on law degree courses in the UK included 68 per cent females.
Therefore, the persona of the ‘average’ lawyer used to be male, but in the future, it will be female.
Why it’s important to filter out irrelevant changes
It is also important for marketers to analyse the data they get from campaigns to help shape and update personas. This may tell them not just what messages or channels or kinds of content proved to be most effective, but who was actually most likely to respond positively to messages, becoming a lead and indeed an eventual customer.
The key point is that in an age of big data, there are more opportunities to gather relevant information about people than ever. While that has sparked some concerns about privacy and how much people should want to be known about them, it can help add detail to a persona.
Just as the advent of social media meant there was a new way of establishing how different people communicated and interacted with others, so new details could be added to personas from a range of sources.
However, it is unwise to add too much detail to a buyer persona. With so much data about, it is possible something of little relevance might be added, which might confuse matters.
It is, therefore, important to ask some key questions about any new information that can change a persona:
- Is the data actually relevant, with a particular characteristic genuinely affecting demand for the service on offer?
- Is the information backed up by other research data?
- Is the change a sudden one that can be linked to a particular development and if it is, will it have a sustained impact?
- Is a change part of a long term trend?
It is by assessing these questions and applying the answers to future campaigns that marketers can see if personas really are changing and doing so in ways that the data might indicate. By further studying the data from these campaigns, it can become clearer what changes are actually significant.
Building buyer personas is not an exact science. Every person is an individual made up of so many different circumstances, experiences, beliefs and attitudes, meaning many people will not fit easily into the description of a buyer persona. This in itself is a good reason not to have too many elements to a persona, as it would be too precise.
Instead, success in targeting a buyer persona is about focusing on the key factors that are most likely to influence consumer demand and buyer decision making. Lots of things will change over time and some things rapidly, but every marketing effort must focus only on those that matter.
How BeUniqueness can help
At BeUniqueness, we can help law firms build buyer personas that closely fit their services and client base. But we know the world does not stand still and we can use data analytics and other information to help keep them up to date.
That way, the services of tomorrow will never be pitched at yesterday’s buyer persona.