By Harlan Schillinger
Some things you’re better off being in the dark about. Effective legal marketing strategy is not one of them. Ignorance is never bliss if your law practice cares about business relationships, reputation and rewards.
Unfortunately lawyers—yes, you—are notorious for thinking:
You may think you’re doing great, but guess what? You probably don’t even know what you’re missing. Here are 9 things lawyers overlook. By doing these alone you will thrive.
That’s code for anyone or anything that answers the phone or handles intake at your legal office. This is your very crucial “Ambassadors of First Impressions”—the place where your paid advertising dollars come first, too. Never sell your front desk short.
The only way to know how you measure up on intake is to secret shop your firm or record your calls. Yes, picking up the phone and dialing your intake people to get a first-hand sense of tone, process and follow-up procedures is the best way to assess the effectiveness of your intake.
Intake is a non-negotiable. However few law firms have the kind of formalized intake systems and software to adequately track, monitor and follow up on the leads they are generating. That’s a shame, given the cost you are most likely spending to obtain leads through tactics such as PPC campaigns or broadcast advertising.
You must have a seamless intake system so that when a new-client call comes in it’s handled in the most productive manner. You must understand what every new call is about. You must take intake seriously, because this process ultimately determines the experience your prospective clients have—and whether or not they do business with you.
Just like bookkeeping or managing your bank account, metrics are a must if you want a return on investment. Most importantly, measuring helps you determine what is working and what is not. You cannot just guess. Law firms have to employ proper software to track each and every movement, from the first call to the close of the case.
You should know the cost of everything associated with your advertising:
Don’t get caught assuming you know what your competitors are doing because you think you saw their advertising spot. You have to dig deep, find out what they’re doing (and not doing) and study it.
Think of competitive advertising analysis like preparing for a trial. Don’t do business with a marketing agency or consultant that doesn’t dissect your competitors. This knowledge will help you exploit others’ weak points, market differently, and try an advertising avenue where your competitors are absent or outplay them in the existing market.
If you can increase your bottom line by 2% without spending more advertising dollars, you have put a substantial amount of money (net) in your pocket. So what specifically is the 2% difference between you and your competitor?
How can you leverage your brand’s advantages or attributes to gain the edge? You must drill down to find out what makes you different, express it in your advertising and, most importantly, capitalize on it.
Sure, you may know from friends, referrals and big case wins that you’re pretty good at what you do. But at times we’re all blinded by money, greed, egos and other external vices. Reputation is not what you think of you, but what the public really thinks of you.
Stop and ask yourself: Do you truly understand how people perceive your law firm? Do you know how the community at large identifies with the messages you are sending? Maybe it’s time to start thinking about whether you really have the right reputation—and how you can to shift marketing to get the one you want.
Just like people turn to the internet (often on mobile devices) to check whether the food at a certain restaurant is good, they also look online to learn what other people have to say about your attorneys or what it’s like to work with your firm.
That’s why strong digital reviews are critical. Google and all other search engines now rank entities based on what people say about them. Having a process in place to obtain honest, authentic reviews is a requirement to obtain any kind of organic results on the web.
You can also proactively market around reviews, using the positive things people are saying about your law firm right now—through referrals from past clients, online reviews, social media chatter—to fuel and shape public perception.
Mrs. Jones didn’t come to the appointment you scheduled with her. If this is happening a lot, you have a problem. But do you have accountability and tracking in place to really understand your no-show rate? Do you know why that person never came by the office?
A lot of lawyers use the excuse that if a lead was booked but the person never showed up for an appointment, it wasn’t a case the firm wanted anyway. But is that really true? You paid for that lead. That’s lost income and a lost case. If your intake staff made the appointment and the client did not show, guess what? He or she went somewhere else—to your competitor.
When business is good, lawyers don’t seem to care much about marketing strategy. You’re getting leads; you’re booking clients; you’re winning cases. But inevitably something will stop working. There will come a dry spell; you’ll start getting the wrong kinds of clients; and cases won’t convert the way they used to.
Remember, your practice is a business. And there isn’t a successful business in the world that doesn’t have a strategic plan. Think of it like a recipe in a kitchen. You can spice up your recipe with lots of extra ingredients, but if you don’t follow the basics your dinner will taste bad, and you will have wasted time and money.
The same goes for your law firm’s strategic plan. A specific road map will not only contain the details you need to follow to find success, but it will also keep your firm disciplined and on track.
Lawyers have to be proactive in their approach to modern marketing. Having strategic vision requires studying the competition (due diligence); looking at key performance indicators and the competition; drilling down on digital analytics; vetting your plan in writing; having the resources at hand to try something different when whatever was working isn’t working anymore; and always, always, executing under the auspice of intelligence.
You, and only you, are responsible for the messages you put out there—and the cases you take in.
Harlan Schillinger is a legal marketing strategist based in Phoenix, AZ. For more information please visit LinkedIn or Facebook.