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Unique firm website targets showbiz clients

Diana Smith, Staff Writer//July 11, 2010

Unique firm website targets showbiz clients

Diana Smith, Staff Writer//July 11, 2010

By DIANA SMITH, Staff Writer

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When it comes to marketing, perception is 99 percent of the sale.

That’s the philosophy that Indievision CEO Bert Hesse adopted when his Charlotte-based company was hired to design a website dedicated solely to entertainment law for Poyner Spruill.

The North Carolina law firm has picked up on a growing trend in legal marketing by creating a “niche” website that highlights just one of its practice groups.

The purpose: to direct potential clients in a specialized field like entertainment law to exactly what they need, said Jim O’Brien, who leads Poyner Spruill’s entertainment group.

With its coastal and mountain allure, North Carolina has long been a place that filmmakers consider when searching for a location to shoot.

But many industry members are unaware that there is home-grown legal expertise available to help them navigate the tax credit structures and incentives available in the state, O’Brien said.

“We would meet with prospective clients who would say, ‘Geez, we never really knew there was anyone outside of L.A. or New York who could do this stuff at the level you’re doing it,” he said. “From our perspective, people need to know we’re here before they can use our services.”

With its own URL,, Poyner Spruill’s specialty website is completely separate from the firm’s general site.

It also looks different.

Except for using the firm’s corporate colors and a relatively downplayed logo, the home page features images of audio speakers, movie vectors and gaming remotes – not the standard fare that prospects typically find on a generalized law firm website.

That’s because an effective niche site must be designed specifically to its target audience, Hesse said.

In Poyner Spruill’s case, that group includes musicians, film and television producers, gamers and other multimedia artists. Even Indievision is one of its clients.

“If you’re going to be in the entertainment field, you can’t have a traditional law firm website,” Hesse said. “You don’t want any scales of justice or columns on it.”

Beyond appearance, the meat of the niche site must also relate to consumers, Hesse added.

That’s why Poyner Spruill’s site links to a “screening room” and “sound booth” where potential clients can go to view trailers or hear samples of existing clients’ art.

“We wanted to start the practice of putting together a clearinghouse for our entertainment clients to gain notoriety for their work,” O’Brien said. “We represent a lot of independent film producers and we’d love to see them use the music that our musician-clients create.”

The big business benefit of niche sites is that they create increased visibility on the web, said Vidas Cikotas, senior legal marketing consultant for Findlaw in Charlotte.

That point might not necessarily be intuitive. People tend to think a tailored site would generate fewer hits than a splashy, firm-wide one – and thus garner less business.

While it’s true that there will be less traffic, “the people who find this kind of site will be the ones who you can expect will have more follow-through or actually hire you,” Cikotas said.

“Think about the user experience,” he said. “If I’m going through a divorce, am I more likely to hire a firm whose website looks like family law is all that they do, or if family law is one of 15 things that they do?”

Plus, niche sites play well with search engines like Google.

“The search engines reward specialty sites because the content is geared around one area of law,” he added. “I know Poyner Spruill does enormous amounts of other types of law, so the entertainment law piece of their firm could get lost in the mega-site of what they do.”

Since its launch three weeks ago, O’Brien told Lawyers Weekly that the entertainment law website has already generated dozens of online inquiries.

“It definitely works,” he said.

And it’s necessary, added Hesse, of Indievision.

“We do numerous film projects all over the U.S.,” he said. “When a co-production partner starts to tell us about their entertainment lawyer, we say we’ve already got one. Then they ask, ‘Where is he?’ When we say he’s in Raleigh, the eyes roll.”

Ten years ago, Hesse said he probably would have been skeptical as well, setting his sights on hiring big-city counsel in a highly saturated entertainment market.

Now, he knows better – and thinks Poyner Spruill’s niche site will help other artists learn the same thing.

“We’re trying to have them look at it and say, ‘The guys are competent and know what they’re doing and have actual clients, so maybe I don’t need to spend $500 an hour for an L.A. entertainment attorney who only knows my billing address,” he said.

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