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A guide for small law firms
A GUIDE FOR SMALL LAW FIRMS LEGAL MARKETING 101 ABOUT THIS BOOK Successfully marketing your services is one of the most challenging aspects of managing a law firm. Some firms are able to outsource the entire process while others maintain an internal marketing staff. For most firms, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. These attorneys work with experts to set up a foundational marketing plan, then count on themselves to maintain the tactics and strategies going forward. Such an approach has its merits, but a basic understanding of legal marketing is required for it to be successful and sustainable. This book was written to provide an introduction to five main concepts that every legal marketer must understand: • Integrated Marketing • Branding for Law Firms • Understanding Legal Consumers • Working with Leads and Lead Generation • Managing the Intake Process Over the next several chapters, we’ll discuss the value of these concepts and their role in marketing your law firm. Ready? Let’s begin. 2 LEGAL MARKETING 101: CHAPTER 1 INTEGRATED MARKETING IT’S A PHRASE THAT GETS TOSSED AROUND A LOT. But integrated marketing has merit, and it is an important tactic for small law firms to understand. At its core, integrated marketing is precisely what the name suggests: a unified approach to marketing. Complementary tactics are specifically chosen to ensure consistent messaging across multiple channels. That might sound daunting, and indeed until recently, inte- grated marketing was primarily used by large law firms with significant budgets and in-house marketing departments. In today’s world, given the wealth of available tools – websites, blogs, social media channels, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and more – integrated marketing has become much more affordable. And with consumers more digitally savvy, small law firms owe it to themselves to create more sophisticated marketing plans than they have before. This guide will discuss some of the basics of integrated marketing for small law firms and best practices to get you started quickly. LEGAL MARKETING 101 INTEGRATED MARKETING 4 INTEGRATED MARKETING LEGAL MARKETING 101 INTEGRATED MARKETING SET REALISTIC GOALS It might sound great to increase your number of cases by 150 percent in the next year. But is that realistic? Don’t set yourself up for failure. Instead, set aggressive but attainable goals. BUSINESS GOALS The first step in developing an integrated marketing plan is identifying specific business goals. This may sound easy, but many small firms either don’t take the time to do it, or they map out what sound like goals but are really just cookie cutter objectives like “increase revenue” or “build awareness.” Broad goals like these are important for the big picture. But in order to make measurable progress in the short term, realistic concrete goals must be defined, prioritized and tracked. The following are some specific goals a small law firm might set: • Increase your total number of leads (email, phone call, chat inquiries) by 15 percent over the next six months • Increase your number of cases in a new geographic market by 10 percent over the next calendar year • Increase the number of cases you receive via positive customer referrals by five percent over the next two years • Increase the number of cases you receive in a specific practice area by eight percent over the next quarter Reflect upon what has made your firm successful, where you need to improve and what market opportunities exist for your business. The answers to these questions may reveal some of the most obvious and logical goals for your practice. 5 BRAND These core business principles relate directly to your firm’s brand. While part of a larger discussion, three essentials to your firm’s brand include: DISTINCTION: It stands for something unique RELEVANCE: It connects with current and potential clients CONSISTENCY: It delivers one message across all tactics LEGAL MARKETING 101 INTEGRATED MARKETING DEFINING THE CORE OF YOUR BUSINESS WHY WHAT After you’ve set your business goals, the next step is to establish what your firm does, what it stands for and what sets it apart from your competitors. This core of your business will extend into all of your integrated marketing efforts and messaging, so having a firm grasp of this concept is important. The key here is the why. Deep down, people care about why you do what you do more than what you do. For example, you may provide clients with strong and fair representation during a divorce settlement. But you’re driven by a desire to help your clients achieve peace of mind during a difficult time in their lives. It can be tough to dedicate time to tasks like this. But if you spend some time thinking about why you do what you do and how that could be expressed in marketing materials, your effort and thoughtfulness will ring true to your customers. 6 LEGAL MARKETING 101 INTEGRATED MARKETING There’s just one more bit of preparation that needs to happen before moving on to tactical planning: You need to identify your audience. Your practice area will define your audience to a certain extent. If you specialize in divorce law, obviously your audience will be people who are getting divorced. To effectively plan your marketing strategy, try to refine your audience even further. For example: • Location. Where are your future clients? Are you getting most of your cases from a specific city? Is there an opportunity in a new market? • Demographics. Are your clients typically a certain age? What is their average level of education or income? What is their primary language? • Psychology. Do your clients have common personality traits or emotional needs? Are they competitive people? Do they tend to be outgoing or introverted? Spend some time comparing and contrasting your past clients with who you want your future clients to be. Their characteristics could greatly affect what marketing tactics you choose. IDENTIFYING YOUR AUDIENCE 7 WHAT DO YOUR BEST CLIENTS LOOK LIKE? Their common traits represent the type of prospect you should be targeting. LEGAL MARKETING 101 INTEGRATED MARKETING POTENTIAL TACTICS Email marketing Online directories Billboards Print ads Transit ads TV/radio ads Public relations Websites Landing pages Blogs Banner ads Social networks Paid search SEO 8 TACTICS THAT WORK TOGETHER Now that your pre-work is completed, it’s time to talk about tactics. There are many ways to promote legal services and plenty of competitors vying for the same clients. To be certain your firm gets noticed, you’ll want to implement several different tactics that work together. This combination will be different for every firm and defined by a variety of factors including budget, audience, practice area, goals and even geography. To see it all fit together, consider the example at right: GOAL: Increase your total number of divorce settlement cases in a new geographic market by 10 percent over the next year. TARGET AUDIENCE: Business men and women in their 40s that commute downtown. TACTICS: • Landing page: First you might create a landing page highlighting this particular area that your other tactics point to. Make sure this page features a contact form and a print-friendly URL like, AcmeLaw.com/mydivorce. • Blog posts: If your firm has a blog on its website, write a few posts about key topics in divorce. Address custody and child support issues in one post, then outline the risks and benefits of divorce in another. In each case, include links to your landing page. • Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns: Ads specifically targeting divorce keywords in downtown zip codes are hugely valuable. Remember to direct PPC traffic to a dedicated landing page in order to track the effectiveness of the campaign. • Print ads: Promote your services on transit, skyways and in regional publications to reach commuters offline. It’s best to pick a few marketing tactics that work together towards a common goal. In the case above, the landing page served as a single hub for you to track campaign effectiveness. Transit ads targeted commuters before and after work. Blog posts established your firm’s expertise, and PPC ads placed your firm in a highly visible location for those ready to take action. IF YOU MUST differentiate a particular marketing campaign, consider subtle changes to color or design rather than a completely new look. Once you’ve identified the tactics of your integrated marketing campaign, make sure these measures speak to the same goal. This is a matter of building and maintaining a dependable, consistent identity throughout your campaign. On an even broader scale, your entire firm’s marketing presence should be cohesive. Your website’s design elements should coordinate with your letterhead and business cards. Twitter and Facebook feeds should speak with the same voice and tone as your website. And your overall look and identity should carry over into any offline TV or radio ads. Consumers see countless ads every day in a variety of contexts. Your marketing strategy should ensure that a person who is exposed to your brand via a newspaper ad on Sunday recognizes you when he or she reads your blog post on Tuesday and explores your LinkedIn page on Wednesday. LEGAL MARKETING 101 INTEGRATED MARKETING 9 SPEAKING ALIKE LEGAL MARKETING 101 INTEGRATED MARKETING TRACK SOMETHING EVALUATE YOUR RESULTS Measurement is a key component of any integrated effort. It allows you to track your results and refine future programs. Establish the metrics you want to measure before your campaign begins, then commit to tracking them at regular intervals. Bear in mind that modern data tools like Google Analytics can be a tremendous help, but they can also provide more information than most people know what to do with. To make sense of the noise, choose a few meaningful data points to watch. Some examples might be: • Total clicks and views on your landing page from your PPC campaign – This will tell you if your PPC budget was well spent. • Time spent on a blog page – This will tell you if your blog’s content is valuable and relevant. • Referral source – This can show you if visitors are coming from another site or what search terms led them to you. • Unique phone numbers – Tracking calls to these numbers is the key to knowing which aspects of your campaign were effective. Consider a different number for print ads versus your online “contact us” page. With modern technology, there’s simply no excuse for not tracking some aspect of your marketing campaign. You don’t need to check your numbers every day, but don’t adopt a “set it and forget it” marketing strategy either. 10 LEGAL MARKETING 101 INTEGRATED MARKETING 5 11 THINK FORESTS NOT TREES MANAGING AN INTEGRATED MARKETING CAMPAIGN IS COMPLEX, BUT THAT DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN IT’S DIFFICULT. In fact, many law firms already execute concurrent marketing campaigns that get results – even if they don’t reflect a coherent strategy. They might think integrated marketing is too much for them to handle, or they’re reluctant to change a tactic that has always worked. With a measure of thoughtfulness up front, however, any firm can set up and manage a multi-faceted campaign that aligns with their goals and abilities. What sets a savvy firm apart is an understanding of how these tactics work together and a willingness to put it all into place. LEGAL MARKETING 101: CHAPTER 2 BUILDING YOUR BRAND YOUR LAW FIRM IS A BRAND You’re a lawyer. You’re also a businessperson. Your work is split between time in court, research, planning, meetings and paperwork. Outside of the office, you’re networking, seeking new clients and building your expertise. It’s not a nine-to-five job. Any working professional knows that it’s tough to strike a balance between caseload and business management. But don’t overlook another crucial aspect of your firm: It’s a brand. Yes, a brand. It may seem strange to think of your practice that way. Brands are often associated with consumer goods, like smartphones or soft drinks. But branding is critical for professional services, too. Every business wants to leverage past success for future growth and defend its market position against competitors. Branding makes this easier. As you develop a marketing strategy for your law firm, an understanding of branding will provide you with a direction and set of core values on which your decisions can be based. 13 LEGAL MARKETING 101 BUILDING YOUR BRAND 14 WHAT IS A BRAND? A brand is simply an identity – an image your clients and prospects have of you. A logo design is part but not all of it. It’s also everything people think about, feel and experience with your firm. It’s a promise you make. It says who you are, what you do, what you stand for and what clients can always expect from working with you. This promise helps you stand out in the competitive market- place. This is a critical point to consider because humans are not the most rational creatures. We make hair-trigger decisions based on what we see and feel. Thus, strong firm brands – ones that provide clear and compelling reasons why clients should work with them – attract more and better clients, and they typically generate more profits. THREE BRANDING ESSENTIALS While all brands are unique, every strong brand has at least these three elements in common: DISTINCTION It stands for something unique RELEVANCE It connects with current and potential clients CONSISTENCY It delivers one core message across all marketing tactics THE IMPORTANCE OF EMOTION LEGAL MARKETING 101 BUILDING YOUR BRAND 15 YOUR CLIENTS, both current and future, have to feel good about working with you. Branding is emotional. Marketers try to make their customers feel a very specific way about their products every day. They want their cars to conjure a sense of freedom or safety. They want their running shoes to evoke the promise of physical transformation. They want people to think they’ll feel better and be better with their product. Yes, this is a consumer marketing strategy, but it is one legal marketers must leverage as well. Your clients, both current and future, have to feel good about working with you. And “feel good” can mean any number of things for clients: that you will help them reach their desired outcome, that you can do it within budget or that you have expertise in your practice area. You’ll notice that these emotions are primarily rooted in trust, reputation and authority – all of which can be built into your brand and expressed in your marketing executions. LEGAL MARKETING 101 BUILDING YOUR BRAND GETTING STARTED 16 It’s easy to approach branding with irreverence or a casual attitude, but don’t be fooled into complacency. Building a brand requires thoughtfulness and hard work from people who are committed to the process. It all begins with a promise. MCDONALD’S Fast food with consistent taste and service whether you’re in Chicago or Madrid APPLE Making it easy to love technology and experience the future H&R BLOCK Affordable tax returns that save headaches with professional results LAW PARTNER Helping our clients feel safe and secure during difficult times in their lives CRAFTING YOUR BRAND PROMISE Your brand promise helps you create a distinct identity. It provides the foundation for all of your legal marketing efforts and should differentiate your firm from others. Your brand promise should be a concise, one- or two-sentence statement that articulates what your firm does, how you do it and how it’s beneficial to your clients. Here are some examples of what popular consumer brand promises might look like: Your brand promise shouldn’t focus on “features” but more on why you do what you do. If you are having trouble creating a brand promise, try finishing this sentence: My clients call us because we are the only firm that… WHO ARE YOU TARGETING? After you’ve established a brand promise, it’s crucial to determine your target audience. Target audiences were already discussed in chapter one but on a tactical level. This is a broader definition – what types of clients does your brand fit? Don’t simply restate your practice area. Drill down further. Create a template of your typical clients. What are their needs? What is their timeline? What is their role within your business? Are you seeking a thin selection of high-value clients, or does your business rely on a high volume of middle-class cases? Be aspirational, but don’t over-inflate your brand. You might miss potential cases in your own backyard. More often than not, local firms are often exactly what people are looking for. In fact, 71 percent of respondents to FindLaw’s 2014 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey felt that it was important to work with a local attorney. LEGAL MARKETING 101 BUILDING YOUR BRAND 17 Your brand promise and target audience are the foundation for your brand. Now it is time to create an overarching strategy. This will include materials and practices that announce and reinforce your brand’s message in a clear, consistent manner. MESSAGING • Write down exactly what your firm does and why your firm does it. People tend to care more about the “why” than the “what.” • Conduct some research surrounding your competition; determine what your firm does that is different from other firms. • Examine your firm’s reputation. How do competitors, past clients and potential clients perceive you? TONE OF VOICE • Develop a consistent tone of voice; write out examples of how to use that tone from a professional sense and marketing perspective. • When developing your tone, think about who you are and be true to your firm’s personality. Don’t try to be too ‘hip’ if that isn’t who you are, but don’t hide your personality behind stiff language or visuals. • Make sure everyone at your firm understands how to use your tone. • Be consistent with your tone. Consistency will help you occupy a distinct place in your audience’s minds, ensuring that consumers think about your firm in the way you want them to. DESIGN • Develop a professional logo, typeface, color palette and visual style. • Consistently use this style on all forms of communication (i.e. website, printed materials, stationery, business cards, email, TV ads, online ads, etc.). • Hire an expert to create professional-looking materials that will help clients and prospects take you seriously. Strive for balance when defining your tone. We’ve all seen “cringe-worthy” lawyer commercials on TV — those with no personality and those with too much. Both had good intentions, but their credibility probably suffered from pursuing either extreme. DEVELOPING A BRAND STRATEGY AND MATERIALS YOUR BRAND IN ACTION LEGAL MARKETING 101 BUILDING YOUR BRAND 18 Branding isn’t a theoretical science, but finding concrete ways to get in front of your audience can be challenging. Aside from traditional advertising, consider how the following activities can reinforce your brand: • Regular blog posts position your brand as a valuable resource rather than just another law firm website • Simple social media posts like photos from your latest volunteer outing make your brand more approachable • Hosting informational events on common legal issues allows you to meet interested consumers while your firm benefits the community • Client testimonials add credibility to your brand that cannot be bought • Monthly newsletters keep your brand in the minds of your past contacts and clients Remember also that customers will associate your brand with your customer service. So while it might be difficult, have occasional check-ins with your staff regarding your brand promise, tone and messaging. These can easily be diluted over time, leaving your brand less potent and less useful. LEGAL MARKETING 101 BUILDING YOUR BRAND 5 19 LIVING YOUR BRAND It’s one thing to say your law firm is “personable, responsive and conducts business with integrity.” But it’s another to actually follow through on what you claim. What you communicate across all of your marketing must mirror your actions and how you run your practice. It helps you build rapport with current clients and develop long-term relationships. It also helps stimulate word-of-mouth marketing buzz that can attract potential clients. Remember, your marketing makes a promise and sets expectations. If you fall short, you’ll have a dissatisfied client on your hands. And in today’s digital world, never underestimate the power of a single unhappy customer. When you deliver on your brand promise and the image you have developed, you become an integral piece of your firm’s brand — and an instrument of future success. There’s no better way to differentiate your firm from the competition than by actually producing what you promise. LEGAL MARKETING 101: CHAPTER 3 UNDERSTANDING LEGAL CONSUMERS UNDERSTANDING LEGAL CONSUMERS In order to run a successful law firm, it is critical to understand legal consumers. What drives them? How urgent are their needs? What types of action do they usually take? What are they looking for in an attorney? Armed with answers to these questions, you will be able to more effectively market your services to the right audience at the right time. Think of it this way: Without a foundational understanding of your potential clients, how can you be certain your marketing tactics are in line with your audience? Knowing who your customers are, what they are looking for and how they choose an attorney provides meaningful context for the tactics and ideas referenced throughout this book. Ignore these facts at your own risk. OUR SOURCES Much of the customer data in this book comes from FindLaw’s 2014 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey and a study of law firm website traffic sampling 3.7 million search visits and 2.66 million search phrases. You can download the white paper surrounding this study – The Futility of Chasing Silver Bullets: An Analysis of Aggregate Search Performance for Law Firm Websites. 21 LEGAL MARKETING 101 UNDERSTANDING LEGAL CONSUMERS CONSUMERS ACT FAST Perhaps most noteworthy for legal marketing is the speed at which legal consumers take action and how quickly they make decisions. In the FindLaw survey, 51 percent of respondents with a legal need took action within a week of their incident, and 25 percent made a move before a month had passed. Among those who contacted an attorney, a staggering 72 percent researched or considered only one attorney before making their choice. Put another way: Once you convince a consumer to contact your firm, they’re yours to lose. Two concepts elsewhere in this book speak directly to these fast-moving consumers: Branding and Lead Intake. Both become extremely valuable when consumers start looking for and contacting attorneys. From a branding point of view, you should use multiple tactics to stay top of mind with your audience. That way, when a legal incident does occur, your firm is among the names consumers know. When it comes to intake, do everything you can to make your customers feel like contacting your firm was easy, pleasant and the right decision. 22 HALF OF CONSUMERS TAKE ACTION WITHIN ONE WEEK OF THEIR LEGAL INCIDENT LEGAL MARKETING 101 UNDERSTANDING LEGAL CONSUMERS 5 23 Unfortunately, gaining mindshare among consumers is easier said than done. Aside from a few high-profile firms in each market, the vast majority of the population probably cannot name more than one or two law firms. So what’s a small firm to do? First, don’t dismiss branding. A defined brand is still a valuable marketing tool, especially when you consider that social media use among legal consumers continues to rise year after year. Top of mind doesn’t mean top of Google; referrals or recommendations were key factors among consumers in 2014. So make sure that your brand works for you by encouraging reviews and referrals among your past clients. Second, embrace the long-tail search. Contrary to what you might think, branded searches – those that include a specific firm’s name – are quite rare. You may search for your firm occasionally, but it’s far more common for consumers to search for something much more specific to their legal issue. For example, “auto accident lawyer Detroit” and “who is at fault rear end car accident Michigan” are typical search styles. The latter query is an example of a long-tail search. Identified by their high number of case-specific words, long-tail searches indicate a strong intent to contact a law firm. With 71 percent of law firm contacts coming from long-tail searches, these queries provide a bountiful opportunity for small firms. By targeting unique practice areas in their local markets, small firms can increase their search visibility regardless of how many names are on their mastheads. TOP OF MIND = TOP OF GOOGLE EMBRACE THE LONG-TAIL SEARCH 71 % of law firm contacts stem from long-tail searches MATCH YOUR CONTENT TO THE CONSUMER OPTIMIZE Optimize your site based on the needs of your clients, not the needs of your partners. 24LEGAL MARKETING 101 UNDERSTANDING LEGAL CONSUMERS Rather than searching for a specific firm, many consumers take to the Internet in search of legal services (55 percent) or advice (45 percent). So make sure your online content speaks to the legal needs of the consumer. There will always be room to list your accolades and achievements, but those aren’t what consumers are looking for at this stage. Foremost on your website should be clear language addressing the specific practice areas you serve. Be succinct and emphatic when describing what your firm can do for your clients. Skip the legalese and instead use plain language that resonates with your audience. Spend more time perfecting the rest of your site than your biography. And when in doubt, ask yourself, “Does this serve the needs of our clients or of ourselves?” Reaching consumers looking for legal advice might seem less straightforward. But remember that long-tail searchers are often looking for very specific information – the kind you should address through blog posts or other online content. Sharing useful and topical legal content through your website can improve your visibility for those long-tail searches. Once you’ve established your value for legal consumers, they’ll draw the obvious connection between your content and your services. 5 25LEGAL MARKETING 101 UNDERSTANDING LEGAL CONSUMERS Valuable online content serves another purpose: It speaks directly to expertise – the number one deciding factor among legal consumers. Don’t forget that for most people, legal issues are irregularities. They can be a hassle or an unexpected expense. And in some cases, they can be a frightening experience where it feels like everyone involved is against you and playing from a rulebook you’ve never read. An attorney’s expertise is far more than a plaque or diploma in this case. It’s a life preserver for your clients. Use it wisely. The trouble is, most attorneys leverage their expertise in a way that speaks more to their egos and peers than to their clients. Don’t make this mistake. To convince potential clients to choose you, speak to their needs. Your expertise is important, but as a benefit to your clients, not a testament to yourself. When writing, don’t simply list achievements or knowledge – explain how these things make a difference in your clients’ cases. Expertise is also an important tool in finding clients in the do-it- yourself ranks. Certainly a measure of research is prudent, but don’t be afraid to (tastefully) illustrate just what is at risk for individuals who forgo legal representation in an attempt to save money. Never offend the DIY crowd – 20 percent of legal consumers choose this route – but don’t shy away from the fact that an individual’s assets and legacy could be at stake. A client shouldn’t leave things to chance or pin their financial future to an online form wizard. Help them understand that it’s your experience and your ability to adapt to surprises that make you valuable. You’ll be doing your clients, and your business, a favor. EXPERTISE MATTERS TOP DECIDING FACTORS for consumers when choosing an attorney: 1. EXPERTISE 2. RECOMMENDATIONS 3. COST 4. SENSE OF TRUST 5 26 DON’T FORGET THE MOBILE USER POSSIBLY ONE OF THE MOST DISRUPTIVE TRENDS AMONG LEGAL CONSUMERS IN RECENT YEARS IS THE RISE OF THE MOBILE WEB USER. According to a FindLaw study of more than 10,000 law firm websites, nearly one-third of traffic to attorneys’ websites comes from mobile searches. That number is only going to continue to grow. Tablet sales now outpace sales of desktop computers, while mobile smartphone pricing and the mobile experience have caused many users to essentially skip the desktop computer altogether. This is particularly true among Hispanic Americans. In fact, the 2011 National Survey of Latinos found that 76 percent of Hispanic Internet users access the online world on a cellphone, tablet or other mobile hand-held device at least occasionally. Let that sink in a bit: Three-quarters of the nation’s fastest growing demographic were using their phone or tablet to access the Internet – in 2011. Now, what does your mobile website strategy look like today? It is absolutely essential that your law firm have a mobile-optimized website in order to reach future clients. Remember: Legal consumers move fast and often choose the first attorney they contact. Law firms that do not optimize their websites for mobile devices are ignoring the trends at their own peril. LEGAL MARKETING 101 UNDERSTANDING LEGAL CONSUMERS 3/4 OF AMERICA’S fastest-growing demographic are mobile web consumers 27LEGAL MARKETING 101 UNDERSTANDING LEGAL CONSUMERS 71% OF LEGAL CONSUMERS felt that a local presence was important when considering an attorney KEEP YOUR FIRM LOCAL Not only are mobile web users growing, their browsing experience is much more closely tied to their location. When searching on a mobile device, consumers will often see map results and an online business listing prior to visiting your actual web page. The maps and listings are served up by the search engine and include links to call your firm, visit your webpage or even get directions to your offices. This might sound like a barrier to your website, but in fact these results add two more opportunities to contact your firm, effectively urging mobile users to call without ever even visiting your website. To make the most of these local features and how they can work with your mobile website, focus on strengthening the relationship between your online and offline presences. If your firm participates in a local event or is featured in a local news report, make certain this information is linked to your website and online profiles. In addition, make it a habit of regularly checking and maintaining your local business listings on external sites like Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business and the like. After all, 71 percent of legal consumers feel that a local presence is important when considering an attorney. Making use of these listings, along with solid web development practices, will highlight your local presence among the competition. 5 28 It’s obvious: To run an effective legal marketing campaign and grow your business, you have to understand your audience. In the case of legal consumers, a few essential truths bear remembering: Legal consumers act quickly and decisively. Take advantage of this by being in front of the right customer at the right time. Legal consumers aren’t looking for you. Branded web searches are rare and hard to control. Focus on more common long-tail searches. Legal consumers are looking for your expertise. Show what you can do for your consumers by speaking to their needs. Legal consumers are going mobile. Take steps to ensure that mobile users can find and contact your firm wherever they are. Keep these in mind and reference them often while you develop your marketing plan. When you’re working with a limited budget and resources, the right insight can make a real impact on your business. LEGAL MARKETING 101 UNDERSTANDING LEGAL CONSUMERS KNOW THY CUSTOMER LEGAL MARKETING 101: CHAPTER 4 LEADS AND LEAD GENERATION WHY LEADS MATTER Every business needs new customers to stay viable. Law firms, in particular, need to keep a full pipeline of potential clients. As you know, circumstances can often change dramatically from initial contact to final resolution. Sometimes, a case that appears lucrative turns out to be a dead end. That’s why a continuous stream of leads is so important to your firm. That said, generating new leads can be difficult and time-consuming. Your current marketing strategy should always work towards the goal of driving leads to your firm. You do this through offline advertising, websites, SEO, PPC, social media and myriad other methods. For most firms, this broad marketing strategy is a long-term investment aimed at delivering consistent lead volume and quality. Because leads are so hard to cultivate, there are short-term opportunities for businesses looking to purchase leads outright. For law firms, this can be an effective strategy to grow in a particular practice area or supplement core marketing efforts. Regardless of their origin, it’s important to understand certain basic facts about leads and to have a realistic set of expectations when trying to convert them into clients. WHAT IS A LEAD? In this discussion, the term lead will be defined as an individual who has expressed both a legal need and a desire to be contacted by an attorney. Specifically, we will be discussing leads acquired through online contact forms. These leads typically include basic contact information like name, email address and/or phone number, along with a brief description of their legal incident. Not yet a customer, leads present an opportunity to connect with someone who could become your next client. 30 LEGAL MARKETING 101 LEADS AND LEAD GENERATION WHERE LEADS COME FROM To understand where a lead comes from, start with a person. For example, last Friday, Rose had a legal incident in her life: She slipped, she fell and she got a large bill from the emergency room. On Sunday evening, Rose went online to research her legal options. She read a few articles about personal injury and started looking for a lawyer. Eventually, Rose filled out an online form for victims of personal injury. By Monday morning, she had become a lead. A law firm or other lead generation provider set up the contact form Rose submitted. It was placed on a web page specifically designed to capture people looking for personal injury legal representation. When Rose went online searching for help, the form was waiting for her. This scenario is fairly typical. Consumer information is frequently collected through online forms, and your own website probably has a similar contact option already in place. The difference between the average attorney website and a paid lead generation form usually comes down to specificity. Lead generation forms are typically hosted on highly-optimized landing pages that appear only to users searching for a specific legal topic. In contrast, many law firms serve multiple practice areas and may have a more general contact form that collects a broader range of leads. Beyond a simple form, some websites and quality lead generation campaigns will include basic data validation early in the process. 31 32 IF YOU HAVE THE TECHNICAL ABILITY, ADD SOME QUALIFYING LOGIC TO YOUR CONTACT FORM: • Email addresses and telephone numbers can be checked for valid formats • Zip codes can be compared against USPS listings • Qualifying questions can be required and used to filter invalid claims • Dates of legal incidents can be checked against statutes of limitations SIMPLE CHECKS GO A LONG WAY Email addresses, telephone numbers and required case criteria can be checked to ensure that the leads collected are real, relevant and reachable. Once leads have entered their information and passed the basic quality checks, their information is sent to the firm via email and on a lead-by-lead basis. It might sound simple enough, but all of this takes some time. Before Rose became a lead: 1. A personal injury campaign was outlined 2. Target audiences were identified 3. Qualification rules may have been defined 4. Intake forms were posted online 5. Then the waiting began Once a law firm launches a new lead collection campaign, it’s not uncommon for two to three weeks to pass before leads start arriving. This can vary based on practice area, geography and expertise of the person or business running the program. More than anything, however, it depends on the volume of legal consumers deciding to take action and reach out to an attorney. While it’s tough to be patient, leads take time to cultivate, and not all of them become clients. When setting up your own campaign or purchasing a lead delivery solution, remember that you are engaging in a process. There will almost certainly be some down time while your campaign launches, and you should expect a certain amount of spoilage, in which leads do not yield results. LEGAL MARKETING 101 LEADS AND LEAD GENERATION LEGAL MARKETING 101 LEADS AND LEAD GENERATION 33 In general, leads should be accurate, relevant and timely. These three traits are easily verified in several different ways. • Accurate leads include names and contact information. Check your inbound leads for obviously fake contact information or incomplete information. However, don’t disregard an email address just because it looks odd or doesn’t have an accompanying phone number. If you’re manually vetting your leads, a measure of personal judgment will be required. In contrast, paid lead providers should be able to set up some basic filters to ensure accuracy of their leads. • Relevant leads have both a need and desire for legal representation. This is established through qualifying questions on forms and the opt-in nature of the program. After all, they’re reaching out to you. Inbound leads are far from cold calling. • Timely leads are delivered fresh to your firm. This trait has two aspects: 1. The leads you collect should be within your state’s statute of limitations. Even if a lead’s legal incident isn’t brand new, their case should still be actionable. This can easily be verified through required fields on an online form. 2. The other aspect of timely leads is that they should be sent directly to your firm upon validation, not held in storage waiting to be sold. If you choose to purchase leads, you want to ensure that they are truly organic and unique to your firm. To revise our earlier example, Rose’s injury could be several months old, but she’s only now looking for an attorney. After the bills have come due and the long-term effects of her fall are showing themselves, her legal need is finally becoming clear. In this scenario, Rose’s incident is not brand new, but it is still timely. DEFINING QUALITY LEADS LEGAL MARKETING 101 LEADS AND LEAD GENERATION 34 • WHERE DO YOUR LEADS COME FROM? • WHAT VALIDATION DO YOUR LEADS GO THROUGH? QUESTIONS TO ASK A LEAD PROVIDER A note about purchasing leads: Know that not all leads are timely or necessarily voluntary. Some leads are “made” from vast consumer databases. A list of potential leads is culled from large swaths of information based on criteria that might allude to a legal need. These people are then contacted by call centers to “convert” them into leads before being passed along to law firms. In some cases, leads are initially offered to one customer. If the first firm does not act upon them, the leads may be sold again at a lower cost. And if you’re the third firm in this chain, you’re being offered leads that are far from timely and which have been twice rejected by a higher-paying customer. In contrast, a traffic-sourced lead is far more valuable. When leads volunteers their information, you can have a much higher level of confidence in their quality and likelihood of converting into a case. In this way, traffic-sourcing methods are not unlike your own firm’s web-based marketing efforts. It’s about being in front of the right people at the right time. It’s the difference between someone calling your firm saying, “I think I need a lawyer,” versus asking everyone in line at the pharmacy counter, “Have you been injured in a car accident?” As an attorney whose business relies on new clients, you should consider the source and methodology of your inbound leads. Purchasing leads presents an outstanding opportunity for law firms, but remember that all businesses will tell you that theirs is a quality product. It’s how they define quality that matters. Go ahead and ask lead providers where their leads come from and what validation they go through. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to have a realistic set of expectations for the results. LEGAL MARKETING 101 LEADS AND LEAD GENERATION 5 35 There are a few universal truths that anyone purchasing leads should keep in mind. The first of these is that not all leads are going to turn into clients. Much like the phone calls that your firm receives every day, not every lead will be a perfect match for your business. Some people misunderstand their legal rights and may not have a case. Others may simply be unresponsive or unwilling to work with your firm, even though at one point they requested to be contacted. Don’t be discouraged if ten leads in a row don’t convert for you. Like any business development process, every “no” puts you one step closer to a “yes.” The second truth is that not all leads look like leads. In the case of an online form, a completely valid lead might just be the most unattractive email you receive all day. It could be plain text and, if you’re working with an outside agency, it may come from a sender you don’t recognize. To avoid any confusion, take steps early on to guarantee that your leads won’t be lost in the junk mail. Check your spam folder regularly, adjust your filters and make sure your support staff knows what a lead looks like. Third, know that leads can go cold very quickly. Once a lead is received, take immediate action. Treat an inbound lead like you would a ringing telephone. Answer it: There might be client on the other end. Be tenacious as well. Do not simply call a lead one time and move on if no one answers. THE TRUTH ABOUT LEADS • ADD THE LEAD SOLUTIONS PROVIDER TO YOUR EMAIL WHITELIST • EDUCATE YOUR STAFF ON IDENTIFYING INBOUND LEADS • EXPLAIN TO YOUR STAFF THE IMPORTANCE OF PROMPT, TENACIOUS ACTION • SET UP A TRACKING DOCUMENT TO EVALUATE THE SUCCESS OF YOUR PROGRAM BEFORE YOUR LEADS ARRIVE: LEGAL MARKETING 101 LEADS AND LEAD GENERATION 5 36 Historically, firms can expect some leads to require as many as 5-10 calls before successfully connecting. When you leave a voice mail, follow up with an email that reiterates your message and how to contact you. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to honestly evaluate your firm’s ability to respond to an influx of leads. Plenty of businesses will say they want a huge increase in traffic, but effectively managing leads takes time and resources. You or your staff must have the bandwidth to receive new leads and take action on them immediately. If you choose to purchase leads from a vendor, make a thoughtful decision about the amount and frequency of leads that are right for your business. Once the phone calls and emails start coming in, whether or not these leads become clients will largely depend on what you do next. BE PATIENT, BE READY LEGAL MARKETING 101: CHAPTER 5 INTAKE MATTERS LEGAL MARKETING 101 WHEN YOUR LEADS FIND YOU 38 WHAT IS INTAKE? INTAKE CAN MEAN A LOT OF THINGS TO A LOT OF BUSINESSES. In the legal field, intake is the manner in which firms receive and follow up with inbound contacts, locating potential leads and sourcing new clients. Put another way, intake is what you do with the phone calls, emails and people that come into your firm every day. While good intake practices might seem obvious, the unfortunate reality is that many firms fail to effectively control this process, resulting in potential clients going elsewhere. Excellent intake behavior is important because legal consumers move quickly. FindLaw’s 2014 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey showed that more than half of legal consumers choose to contact a legal professional and that they do it within a week of their legal incident. The survey also showed that most consumers contact only one attorney before making a hiring decision. That’s a very narrow window for any firm to make an impact. If that initial touch point isn’t handled properly, that potential client could be gone before you know it. 5 39 THE RISKS ARE REAL A recent FindLaw audit of 100 law firms’ websites and intake processes revealed a shocking amount of missed opportunities for connecting with potential clients. Take a look at these numbers and consider whether your own law firm is at risk. If any of these problems sound familiar, it’s time to take action and get a handle on your intake processes. THE PROBLEM THE NUMBERS THE SOLUTION HIDDEN PHONE NUMBERS 18 percent of firms did not have a phone number visible on their website without scrolling down the page. Seven percent of firms did not have a phone number on their homepage at all. Make sure your phone number is highly visible on your website. Mobile sites should have a clickable phone number, not just an image or contact form. LIMITED PHONE ACCESS 73 percent of firms had no means of answering phone calls outside of business hours (voice mail not included). Know your clients. If your practice addresses legal issues that often crop up overnight or on week- ends, plan accordingly. SLOW VOICE MAIL RESPONSE 19 percent of law firms responded to voice mail within 24 hours. 50 percent of law firms took more than 24 hours to respond to voice mails or never responded at all. Make returning voice mails a top priority; or better yet, ensure that all staff answers calls and avoid voice mail altogether. IGNORING MOBILE USERS 62 percent of websites were not mobile- optimized. With a third of legal website traffic coming from mobile users, the obvious solution is to mobile-optimize your site. IGNORING CHAT USERS Only one percent of websites had a chat option. Zero percent responded to chat requests within 30 seconds. Consider chat as a means of reaching site visitors who aren’t yet ready to call. But beware: An unresponsive chat is worse than nothing at all. LEGAL MARKETING 101 WHEN YOUR LEADS FIND YOU 40 THE BUSINESS BASICS LEGAL MARKETING 101 WHEN YOUR LEADS FIND YOU The leads coming into your firm all represent potential new business. While that might seem obvious to you, it’s easy to lose sight of this fact when faced with myriad other tasks each day. This is as true for practicing attorneys as it is for administrative staff, so make sure everyone involved in new customer intake understands these business basics. BE CONSISTENT, BE EVALUATIVE From a certain perspective, your intake process is a data collection task. However, for data to be meaningful, it must be consistent. Your staff may ask what a caller’s timeline or availability is, but can you say the same about your online contact form? Likewise, make sure your required fields online are equally prioritized during phone conversations. By taking the time to figure out what your firm truly needs to know and making sure every intake opportunity reflects those priorities, you’ll do right by your business and your clients. RESPECT THEIR TIME You can’t expect every person to deliver a complete description of his or her legal situation and personal schedule. You’re not looking for a biography. You’re looking for the basic information you need to locate the actual leads among your inbound emails and phone calls. Not everyone has a case, and not every case is right for your firm. Think of your initial contact like an ER triage nurse, gathering the basic information and assigning priority to each patient. 41 THE BUSINESS BASICS (CONTINUED) LEGAL MARKETING 101 WHEN YOUR LEADS FIND YOU KNOW YOUR SOURCES You need to understand what drives people to contact your firm. UNDERSTAND YOUR SOURCES It pays to be aware of the different ways potential clients could be contacting your firm. Phone calls are a live conversation, so it’s easy to gather the information you need from these leads. But what about the information coming from online forms? Email submissions? Social media posts? Make certain that you know what pieces of data these intake opportunities provide and what they do not. Many email and online forms deliver plain, unformatted text to your inbox. If your law firm is receiving incomplete forms or seemingly useless data, don’t simply dismiss it offhand. It might not look like what you’re used to, but it’s a lead all the same. TRACK YOUR SOURCES Finally, gathering referral data is required to track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, so don’t forget to document how people are finding your firm. Different marketing tactics often yield different results. With proper information, you can see which efforts are merely bringing you contacts versus which ones are bringing you qualified leads and clients. If you’ve never worked in sales or it’s been a long time since you stood behind a counter, it’s time to brush up on the basic truths of customer service. Believe it or not, they apply to your law firm as much as any other business. VOLUME = OPPORTUNITY You have to take a lot of calls to get a new client. If only a certain percentage of calls turn out to be viable clients for your firm, that should tell you something about the importance of that ringing phone. All your marketing efforts are meant to drive leads to your firm, but even then, it’s only a portion of those that will generate business for you. You cannot afford to deliver a lackluster customer experience to anyone who has reached out to you. Everyone matters. Make sure your firm offers a clear, positive and eager voice when answering calls, no matter the time of day, workload or what the previous call contained. Each touch point is a potential new client and should be valued accordingly. TENACITY If you had a key witness on a case that you needed to reach, you wouldn’t send one email and move on to other things. So why do the same with your potential business? Email is a great tool, but it’s also easy to miss or ignore. To convert leads into clients, you have to start a dialogue. Once a contact has had a real live conversation with a lawyer, he or she is far less likely to continue shopping around. Sticking to email or just leaving one message might be easier for you, but it doesn’t engage the contact in an effective manner. 42 CUSTOMER SERVICE BASICS LEGAL MARKETING 101 WHEN YOUR LEADS FIND YOU LEGAL MARKETING 101 WHEN YOUR LEADS FIND YOU CUSTOMER SERVICE BASICS (CONTINUED) BE NIMBLE Respond to new leads quickly or risk losing them forever. RESPONSIVENESS Customers are moving fast and decisively when selecting an attorney. Remember this statistic from chapter three? Seventy-two percent of legal consumers only considered one attorney during their search process, and more than half of consumers took action within a week of their legal incident. This means that the initial contact is probably your only opportunity to retain a potential client. If you aren’t responding to your leads quickly and effectively, they’ll move on without you. That means that you don’t stick them on hold, don’t blind-transfer callers and don’t ever ask the customer to call you back. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Taken literally, it’s true that most legal consumers choose firms within 25 miles of their homes. But more than your physical office, location is about being available to leads when they need you. That means making sure your phone is staffed at least during traditional business hours. Returning phone calls and replying to email/web inquiries needs to be a top priority for your administrative staff each day. And if your practice area includes DUI, criminal cases and the like, you need a strategy for addressing the calls that come in at 3 a.m. on a Sunday. 43 CLARITY MATTERS Always identify yourself and your reason for contacting the potential client. On the phone, this is simply good manners, but in email, it’s smart business. Use a specific, concise subject line and explain why you’re contacting them. If the lead filled out an online form, they may not recognize your firm as a valid sender, and your email could end up in the junk folder. Use your subject line to stand out from the crowd as a legitimate message. Reference their case, your firm name or anything specific they’ve shared with you. And be sure to include your firm’s contact information at the end of every correspondence. Review the sample emails below. Which subject lines stand out and which are confusing or easily ignored? CUSTOMER SERVICE BASICS (CONTINUED) 5 44 FROM: SUBJECT: Simon, Eric Re: Our conversation Simon, Lesnik & Boehnke Follow-up to our family law discussion Sawnekke Your phone call Keith Sawnek, Esq. About your legal case justinheinz Your case Georgia DUI Expert Your recent DUI arrest Carrie Jansen, Esq Legal Services Jansen Legal Services Mary Anne’s recent car accident email@example.com Thank you Desjardins law firm Thank you for contacting us LEGAL MARKETING 101 WHEN YOUR LEADS FIND YOU 5 STARTING THE CONVERSATION When contacting new leads, you’ll want to take steps to ensure that the maximum number convert into clients. To do that, make sure your initial contact is positive and meaningful. Plan your script in advance. You should clearly introduce yourself and explain why you’re calling. “ Ms. Smith? Hello, My name is Jack Hartman. I’m calling from the law offices of Nyhus and Hartman. You submitted an online form today regarding your recent injury. Do you have a moment to talk about what happened?” Then, ask questions that engage your lead and gather information about the case. This is where you’ll start to validate whether or not your firm and this client are a good match. “ I understand that you were injured in May of this year. Can you tell me more about what happened?” Where appropriate, explain your ability and willingness to help this potential client. Finally, make sure you set a goal and time for your next conversation. Getting your leads to commit to a next step helps them move towards a resolution and greatly improves the likelihood that this lead will choose to work with you over another law firm. “ You know, your story sounds pretty familiar. I’ve been representing cases like yours for decades, and I think we can really make a difference for you and your family. What’s your availability to meet this week?” This format also works for situations where you have to leave a voice mail. Be brief but hit the same major points, and remember: The key is to provide context for the call so that your leads don’t ignore you or take their cases elsewhere. Be quick to action and ensure that you’re doing everything you can to connect with these leads. Because while their source might be different from what you’re used to, their needs and goals are the same as any other legal consumer. SO REACH OUT TO YOUR LEADS. START A CONVERSATION. YOU’RE TAKING THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS GAINING ANOTHER CLIENT. LEGAL MARKETING 101 WHEN YOUR LEADS FIND YOU 45 MAKE THIS CONVERSATION HAPPEN, and make it count. It is often the most crucial step in converting leads into clients. PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER Think forests, not trees Integrated marketing is a big-picture process. Avoid the temptation to overreact to small challenges and keep your eyes on the overall plan. Live your brand You can spend plenty of time and money defining a brand identity, but it’s all for naught if you and your staff don’t live up to the promise. Be the brand you say you are. Know thy customer Make the effort to truly understand who your customers are, not just their legal needs. You’ll be able to tailor your marketing to their behaviors and desires. Be patient, be ready Remember that leads take time to nurture and that many will not convert into clients. Keep trying and stay sharp: You never know which phone call will be your next client. Start the conversation No one makes a sale by being a wallflower. Start a conversation with your audience. In person, by phone or online – to earn their business you have to make that connection. WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE? Build on the concepts explored in this book and stay up to speed on current marketing issues by visiting LawyerMarketing.com. From blogs to white papers, webcasts and beyond, you’ll find the resources and services that top firms use to grow their businesses. 46 Join our social network! LawyerMarketing.com/Socialize For more information, contact your FindLaw Consultant 855-281-8859 below. Which subject lines stand out and which are confusing or easily ignored? CUSTOMER SERVICE BASICS (CONTINUED) 5 44 FROM: SUBJECT: Simon, Eric Re: Our conversation Simon, Lesnik & Boehnke Follow-up to our family law discussion Sawnekke Your phone call Keith Sawnek, Esq. About your legal case justinheinz Your case Georgia DUI Expert Your recent DUI arrest Carrie Jansen, Esq Legal Services Jansen Legal Services Mary Anne’s recent car accident firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you Desjardins law firm Thank you for contacting us LEGAL MARKETING 101 WHEN YOUR LEADS FIND YOU 5 STARTING THE CONVERSATION When contacting new leads, you’ll want to take steps to ensure that the maximum number convert into clients. To do that, make sure your initial contact is positive and meaningful. Plan your script in advance. You should clearly introduce yourself and explain why you’re calling. “ Ms. Smith? Hello, My name is Jack Hartman. I’m calling from the law offices of Nyhus and Hartman. You submitted an online form today regarding your recent injury. Do you have a moment to talk about what happened?” Then, ask questions that engage your lead and gather information about the case. This is where you’ll start to validate whether or not your firm and this client are a good match. “ I understand that you were injured in May of this year. Can you tell me more about what happened?” Where appropriate, explain your ability and willingness to help this potential client. Finally, make sure you set a goal and time for your next conversation. Getting your leads to commit to a next step helps them move towards a resolution and greatly improves the likelihood that this lead will choose to work with you over another law firm. “ You know, your story sounds pretty familiar. I’ve been representing cases like yours for decades, and I think we can really make a difference for you and your family. What’s your availability to meet this week?” This format also works for situations where you have to leave a voice mail. Be brief but hit the same major points, and remember: The key is to provide context for the call so that your leads don’t ignore you or take their cases elsewhere. Be quick to action and ensure that you’re doing everything you can to connect with these leads. Because while their source might be different from what you’re used to, their needs and goals are the same as any other legal consumer. SO REACH OUT TO YOUR LEADS. START A CONVERSATION. YOU’RE TAKING THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS GAINING ANOTHER CLIENT. LEGAL MARKETING 101 WHEN YOUR LEADS FIND YOU 45 MAKE THIS CONVERSATION HAPPEN, and make it count. It is often the most crucial step in converting leads into clients. PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER Think forests, not trees Integrated marketing is a big-picture process. Avoid the temptation to overreact to small challenges and keep your eyes on the overall plan. Live your brand You can spend plenty of time and money defining a brand identity, but it’s all for naught if you and your staff don’t live up to the promise. Be the brand you say you are. Know thy customer Make the effort to truly understand who your customers are, not just their legal needs. You’ll be able to tailor your marketing to their behaviors and desires. Be patient, be ready Remember that leads take time to nurture and that many will not convert into clients. Keep trying and stay sharp: You never know which phone call will be your next client. Start the conversation No one makes a sale by being a wallflower. Start a conversation with your audience