When it comes to your digital marketing strategies, all that matters in the end, is knowing where your customers are, so you can reach them in those spaces.

So it makes perfect sense for you to know how and where 21st-century prospects find and choose their lawyers.

Through our experience providing digital marketing services for law firms, as well as our own personal research, we’ve outlined below the top places your prospects turn to when looking to hire a lawyer.

Friends remain on top – but a shift is taking place

friends-referralsOn average, around 14% of people who’ve hired a lawyer within the past 12 months rely on the recommendations of friends.

For established law firms, this continues to be good news. So long as you please your existing client base, chances are they’ll recommend your firm when people within their social circles need an attorney.

But newer lawyers and law firms will be happy to hear that we’ve seen more and more people turn to the web as their primary resource.

In fact, while on average more people turn to friends for a legal referral, younger generations prefer to turn to the web.

Nearly 18% of people ages of 18-24 who’ve hired a lawyer in the past 12 months used a web search to find and hire their lawyer (compared to 12% who turned to a friend).

And that trend is evident even in older generations. Nearly 11% of people ages 35-44 used the web, while 13% turned to a friend.

This isn’t to say that everyone is beginning to turn to web. Our research suggests that prospects who are 55 and older overwhelmingly rely on friends or a referral when looking for a lawyer.

But as you develop your strategies for future growth, it’s clear that digital is where you should focus.

With finite budgets, how do you embrace this shift?

We know that law firms don’t have infinite marketing budgets or resources. That’s why it’s important to focus your money toward the channels and strategies that actually work.

To do that, let’s look at the channels that don’t work.

Remarkably, more than 2% of people who’ve hired a lawyer this past year have used the (print-form) Yellow Pages. Factoring in the relatively low cost of Yellow Pages advertising, we think this may still be a viable option for your firm.

Newspapers as well, are still a viable source for your prospects.

But the only way to tell for sure which non-digital avenues your leads have used is to survey them. Ask them where they found you, and track that data to help sculpt future strategies.

One area that you might want to reconsider spending dollars toward is television. Across the board – through all age groups, TV remained one of the least used channels for a conversion. The age group that turned to TV the most was the 45-54 age group. However, it’s worth noting that very few – if any – younger prospects hired a lawyer whose ad they saw on TV.

By shifting dollars away from some of your more traditional marketing channels, you can free up your budget to focus on the areas where your future prospects are turning to.

So, how should you develop your digital strategy?

digital-strategyRealizing that digital marketing will help your firm reach younger audiences is the first step. Knowing how and where to spend within the digital landscape is an entirely different obstacle to tackle.

Through our research, however, we’ve discovered that an overwhelming number of people use Google during their search (rather than turning directly to a referral site, for example).

This is encouraging, because it levels the playing field for law firms and lawyers of all backgrounds and experiences.

By employing a healthy mix of both organic SEO and paid advertising practices, your law firm can rank high for the types of search phrases your prospects are using.

Of course, this requires knowing which phrases your target audience uses. That’s why before you develop any type of strategy, you should invest a considerable amount of time researching keywords.

We can’t stress it enough – these keywords will build the foundation for both your paid and organic marketing efforts. They’ll help ensure that the dollars you spend will turn into valuable leads and invaluable clients.

Through our own experiences and research, we’ve concluded that the reliance by younger generations on the internet will only expand as these generations age.

In fact, Google just recently announced that for the first time in history, more Google searches are performed on mobile devices than they are on a desktop.

This type of easy and instant access to information will surely impact how and where you target your prospects. While traditional marketing means are still viable, it’s become abundantly clear that digital is here to stay.