By SALLY KANE • January 30, 2020•Writers in Residence
It’s no secret that artificial intelligence (AI) is disrupting the legal industry. Lawyers are using AI for research activities, analytics, contract review, e-discovery, litigation forecasting, document automation and a host of other legal tasks.
AI is also transforming legal marketing, automating marketing processes and changing the way lawyers market themselves, capture leads and engage with consumers.
Below are a few exciting ways that artificial intelligence is changing the face of legal marketing.
Chatbots are an intelligent software solution that “chats” with users who visit a website. 80% of businesses plan to deploy chatbots by 2020 and these tools are expected to reduce business costs by eight billion by 2022. As the chatbot industry evolves, chatbots will become a driving force in law firm marketing.
The chatbot takes the best features of the “live agent” solution that many law firms already utilize and applies it to automated software. The bots typically follow a script that engages the visitor through a conversation designed to convert the prospect into a lead. “It looks and feels like a modern chat platform while it collects potential client data in a friendly manner – the same as an automated agent, but you don’t pay per lead as you do on many other services,” says Andrew Olesko, a web director for a legal marketing agency.
As intelligent software solutions evolve, they are helping to automate lead gathering and improve the customer experience. In today’s world, consumers expect businesses to be open around the clock and law firms are no exception. Because the chatbot is available 24/7, it can respond to client inquiries even when the law firm is not open.
In the future, chatbots will become a mainstream client experience investment for law firms. According to Business Insider, “Chatbot architecture and design will evolve to the point that interactive AI will become standard for customer service.” On the marketing side, legal marketers will use chatbots for lead generation, information collection, brand awareness, marketing automation, and social media tools, among other applications. Law firms will also leverage chatbots to perform administrative and client service tasks, provide legal information, answer questions, complete forms, perform client intake, recommend customized content and perform research.
As Siri, Google and Alexa smart speaker users already know, voice search technology is changing how consumers and businesses search for information. Gartner predicts that by the end of this year, 50 percent of global searches will be voice searches and the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.
Studies show that seven out of ten consumers prefer to conduct an internet query using voice search over typing. It’s easy to understand why: voice search replaces keyboard strokes with voice commands and speaking is three times faster than typing. Moreover, users with visual impairments and other disabilities benefit from voice search because it does not require them to perform keyboard strokes or text-based tasks.
Voice search is transforming how attorneys market their practice online and how clients search for attorneys and legal information. Many consumer-facing law practices, such as personal injury, family law, estate planning and criminal defense practices, rely on internet search queries to drive traffic – and potential clients – to their site. Therefore, it’s important that law firm websites adapt to voice search queries.
The majority of voice assistant users use voice search to ask basic questions and search for information. Law firms can leverage this trend by adding FAQs to their website copy and providing answers using conversational text that is targeted to common voice searches. Since voice searches contain more words than text-based searches, incorporating long-tail keywords using conversational language in your web copy can help optimize a website for voice search.
The popularity of voice search is likely to grow in 2020 and beyond. Voice recognition technology is evolving and contains some flaws. However, advancements in technology will improve the user experience and voice search may one day become more prevalent than text searches.
Geofencing is a location-based technology that uses global positioning system (GPS) or Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to construct a virtual boundary or fence around a location.
Lawyers are using geofencing to market to potential clients who may require legal services based on the places they visit. For example, a DUI lawyer might set up geofences around bars and businesses that serve alcohol; a medical malpractice lawyer might target hospitals while a personal injury lawyer might target collision repair centers. Lawyers then create campaigns targeted to individuals who visit those sites. For example, they might deliver website ads or sponsored offers for 15 days after the individual visits that location.
Geofencing is a powerful legal marketing tool because it enables lawyers to provide immediate, context-based offers to anyone with a computer or smartphone. Through geofencing, lawyers can track an individual’s activity and leverage that information to deliver hyper-targeted products, services and messages tailored to that person.
Location and proximity marketing will continue to grow in 2020 but “artificial intelligence and predictive analysis will take offer personalization to another level,” according to Fortune. “Predictive analytics algorithms can be used to forecast a user’s location, sending an offer before a user leaves the house, or during the week based on their routine.”
These same algorithms can also be used to send offers based on overall trends of a user. For example, an estate planning law firm can leverage AI to analyze an individual’s location history to suggest an offer for will drafting or estate planning services to prospects who visit a funeral home. In the future, data on behavioral patterns will allow marketers to forecast a client’s location and send targeted ads and messages based on person’s routine.
Embrace the Future
A tide of innovation in artificial intelligence, automation and machine learning is changing the way attorneys attract and engage with clients. Imagine video chatbots that answer questions in real-time, facial coding that helps measure ad performance or virtual reality technology that provides tours of a law firm’s office. While we can’t be certain what the legal marketing landscape will look like years from now, it will be exciting to see what the future holds.
Sally Kane is lawyer, writer and legal content director for PaperStreet, a legal marketing agency that helps lawyers grow their businesses. For the past 15 years, she has been writing at the nexus of law and marketing. She is the former managing editor of Litigation Support Today and served as a legal careers expert with The Balance (formerly About.com).