Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Marrying IT with the Legal Marketing Function

Businesses of all kinds have historically had a difficult time reconciling the respective roles of those in the marketing and in the accounting/financial departments. It has always been understood that marketing should "pay out." Yet those who performed that function had difficulty articulating how each element of their program contributed (for better or worse) to the company's bottom line. 
Now however, that “fuzziness” of respective roles has carried over into the IT department as well. Marketers of all kinds (and legal marketers in particular) might well ask where marketing begins and ends. More often than not, in today’s information driven society, it begins and ends at the desk of the firm’s technical guru. 
For proof, one need look no further than the importance CRM software plays in the business development process. If attorneys (particularly at larger firms) had to procure, understand, implement, train and then utilize such applications on their own, it is doubtful this technological advance would be as widespread as it is today. Same holds true for the marketing guys who may well understand how to develop a message, place an ad, disseminate a press release or even create a pay-per-click campaign, but who at the same time, would have difficulty recognizing the compatibility of one legal application with another.
So much of legal marketing today revolves around online activities. Yet it is the IT folks who understand the benefits (and limitations) of the various social media outlets, the changing algorithms involved in search engine optimization, the capabilities of online dissemination services, and the potential of the firm’s web site to convey everything the firm wishes to convey.
The law firm that places too great a distinction between marketing and information technologies runs the very real risk of inefficiency, but even more important, is almost certain to miss out on opportunity. A much wiser approach is to promote the full integration of the IT folks into the marketing decision making process.
By doing so, law firms are almost certain to discover ways in which to efficiently stand out from competitors through both substance and style. And even in the information age, “standing out” is still what marketing is all about. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Word-of-Mouth Revenue and the Value of a Client

Toothpaste marketers have it easy.
It’s not hard for them to figure out the value of a client… or in their case, of a customer. They know the margin they make on the product, how many tubes that customer will buy and how often that customer will come back to buy it. Moreover, the word-of-mouth phenomenon is not prevalent. After all, how often do you give or receive referrals on which toothpaste to buy?
But what about the marketer of legal services?
For most practice areas, there is no “typical” client. And there is absolutely no way of knowing or even estimating how many times that client will come back for more services. But most important, the value of a client is determined not just by the revenue that client brings in, but also by the revenue that client generates through word-of-mouth and referrals. Unfortunately, most law firms fail to track that information and thus fail to get a full understanding of what each client represents to the firm.
This lack of information can have a direct impact on the firm’s fortunes. For example, a client that brings in greater revenue may be “appreciated” more than the smaller client whose contribution to overall firm revenue is significantly less. Yet, that smaller client may be of greater value to the firm simply through its connections to other potential sources (i.e. prospects) of new revenue.
When data regardingfrom where referrals are coming is not collected, law firms miss the opportunity to not only understand the value of each client, but also the opportunity to nurture those sources of “down the road” revenue. They may not see that that client who used to send lots of business their way is no longer doing so, and thus they may not recognize that his or her perception as to the quality of their services is no longer what it was. They may not see that Mrs. Smith merits a lunch invitation, Mr. Jones has earned a larger gift basket come the holidays, or that the XYZ Company is in danger of becoming an ex-client.
To be able to act on this information, law firms must first be able to capture it. Yet this need not be a daunting task, By simply asking the question (as one would regarding through what medium a client heard about the firm), and tracking the revenue generated through these sources, a great deal of actionable data is obtained.
You can find more information regarding the tracking of word-of-mouth revenue and the value of a client at etiometrix.com.

In the meantime, I look forward to the day your firm’s success in business development can be quantifiably tracked to perceptions of its work quality. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Why You Should Not Focus on Search Engine Rankings



Let me start by saying something sacrilegious. Search engine rankings do not matter. Well actually, they do matter somewhat, but not as much as many think. That is because many legal marketers tend to look at where their site is listed in a Google search as the end result of a search engine optimization (SEO) or even a pay-per-click (PPC) effort rather than as just another interim metric.

“Wow. We’re listed in the top three!” we’ve heard many a client attest, undoubtedly feeling as though they’ve discovered the holy grail. Similarly, we’ve known some clients where anything short of such placement is cause for excessive hand-wringing.

The truth is that the only reason why it’s good to have a top listing is to generate greater number of impressions (exposures to the web site listing) so that more people both visit the site and then contact the firm in some manner.

The variable that many miss is the expense involved. For example, consider a situation in which one firm is paying $10 per click to achieve a number one ranking and generates 100 total clicks with a total expense of $1,000. Then consider a second firm that is ranked further down the page. This firm spends $400 and generates 60 clicks. Compared to the first firm, the efficiency this firm has achieved at $6.67 per click will allow it to either invest more dollars into the campaign (additional keywords, etc.), invest in other marketing vehicles or recoup the savings.

The same can be said for an SEO program in which a staff member or outside vendor is paid to ensure that the firm is listed high on the organic section of the search engine directories. The cost of obtaining that top listing must be weighed against the potential revenue lost by being listed lower. What was the cost of that effort versus the additional revenue earned by being listed first?

The point is not that search engine placement is irrelevant, or that being first is not often the preferred position. Rather, such a position is a means to an end, as is the monthly budget applied and the dollar amount of the click bid itself. If the goal of your firm’s PPC or SEO initiative is to generate more revenue for the firm, then the leads (or actual clients) generated per dollar is a much more significant metric. As important, it is also a better metric for directing you as to how your on-line dollars should be allocated.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

How Law Firms Can Generate Awareness, Goodwill and New Clients by Affiliating with Worthwhile Endeavors

In this day and age of search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, blogs and social media, one of the most underused and unappreciated marketing tools available to law firms is cause marketing – those efforts in which the law firm affiliates itself with a worthwhile cause, event or other type of endeavor.
 
There are several reasons for doing so. First, affiliating with a cause or special event can generate enormous levels of visibility. It allows law practices to effectively target a designated group of prospects and facilitates interface between firm attorneys and prospective clients. It can so serve as a terrific means for building a database. And it certainly need not be necessarily costly.
 
But the most important reason for developing and implementing a cause marketing initiative is to underscore the branding of the firm. By affiliating with worthwhile causes, the firm promotes goodwill and does so in manner which work towards firm’s marketing objectives, but which does not smack of hard salesmanship. As such, cause marketing can serve to elevate the firm’s overall credibility in the eyes of the community and amongst its prospect groups.
 
Just One Example
To illustrate the above, it is useful to explore how law firms have used efforts to further their own goals. Our agency was approached once by a relatively well-known Philadelphia law firm concerned about the lack of consistent growth in its South Jersey satellite office. Firm partners felt that the major reason for this was that the community was not aware of the satellite office’s existence.
 
As with most marketing challenges, budget allocations to address these concerns were limited, ruling out traditional advertising and PR efforts. Instead, the agency recommended creating an ongoing campaign around an event which would a) generate awareness b) underscore the firm’s tagline of “Practicing the Art of Law,” and c) create goodwill between the firm and the community.
 
The approach ultimately selected and implemented was a student art show in which third through eighth graders throughout the area were invited to submit original artwork that addressed the question, “What’s great about South Jersey?” The winning entry for each grade received a savings bond for themselves as well as a cash prize for his or her school.
 
Over 300 entries were submitted, the competition which culminated in an art show at the satellite offices, received substantial pre and post event publicity. The firm actually garnered four new clients on the day the winners were announced and the long-term effect was to begin the process of integrating the satellite office into the community.
 
The success of the program prompted the firm to continue the contest in subsequent years using themes like, “If I Were President?” and “Goin’ Green: South Jersey and the Environment”.
 
Why did it work?
 
Because from the very get-go, awareness was generated not just from the press releases and on-line announcements, but through the very act of disseminating flyers promoting the event to the schools. Thousands of schoolchildren came home with a registration form in hand, each with the firm name and logo prominently highlighted. Further, hundreds of adults (i.e., potential prospects) were further exposed to the firm when they came to review the work of the finalists and attend the ceremony announcing the winners. Finally, the financial awards themselves were presented to each winner in separate ceremonies at their respective schools. And, of course, releases on all such presentations were sent to the media, extending the life of the campaign that much further.
 
Getting Creative
The point of the above is not to suggest that every firm go out and implement an art show/contest, but rather to recommend that law practices get creative in developing programs that dovetail with what they’re all about. For example, our agency worked with one PI firm (that was unable to compete on TV with more financially well-heeled competitors), to create a campaign directed toward high school juniors and seniors, encouraging them not to text while driving. Again, the promotional elements were multi-faceted, and costs were considerably lower than what a full-blown advertising campaign might have entailed. The high cost of marketing can frequently be offset through creativity and by looking for alternative means to communicate what the firm is all about. The result of such creativity often results in a win-win situation for everyone involved – the community and the firm itself.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What Goes Into a Law Firm Marketing Plan?

We are often asked by clients and prospects to develop a legal marketing plan on their behalf. This is always an intriguing proposition because what some view as perhaps a two-page outline of the promotional activities to be pursued, a true marketing plan offers something far greater. Such plans provide a more detailed picture of where the firm stands, its goals, and how it plans to achieve them.

A full-fledged marketing document should address the following areas:

Background
  • Firm History 
  • The Services it Provides 
  • The Geography it Serves 
  • The Types of Clients it Serves
    • Businesses vs. General Public vs. Government Entities
    • Age, Income and Gender Demographics
    • Psychographic Profiles
    • Attorney Billing Rates 
  • Firm Reputation
  • Firm Strengths
  • Firm Weaknesses
  • Results of Marketing Efforts to Date

Industry Overview
  • General Trends
  • Seasonality
  • Client Development Cycle (from awareness through initial consult and retainment)
  • Attorney Billing Rates
  • Competitive Framework 
    • Competitor Descriptions (e.g., size, number of attorneys, strengths, weaknesses, etc.)
    • Competitor Reputations and Positionings
    • Analysis of Competitive Communications (e.g., ads, web site, brochures, etc.) 

Objectives & Strategies
  • Vision/Mission Statement
  • Long-Term Goals & Rationale (e.g., increase revenue to $XXX to support partner payouts of $XXX)
  • Long-Term Strategies (e.g., generate greater awareness of the firm among a particular business or consumer segment)
  • Short-Term Goals (e.g., Obtain $XXX in revenue in the upcoming fiscal year)
  • Short-Term Strategies (e.g., Implement social media campaign, broaden geographical target, add new practice area, etc. 

2016 Strategic Plan
  • Improvements to Firm Services
  • Billing Rates
  • Promotional Program
    • Objectives
    • Budget & Rationale
    • Target Market
    • Target Audience(s)
    • Marketing Mix/Budget Allocation 
      • Activity A (e.g., development of new web site)
      • Activity B (e.g., PR campaign) 
      • Activity C (e.g., social media effort)
  • Creative Development 
    • Positioning of the Firm 
    • Benefits the firm provides (particularly vs. competitors) 
    • Substantiation for Benefits
    • Communications Hurdles 

Opportunities & Red Flags
  • Indicators of Success (i.e., milestone to be achieved/interim metrics)
  • Plan Assumptions 
  • Firm Strengths as Related to the Marketing Plan
  • Firm Weaknesses and Red Flags as Related to the Marketing Plan (i.e., firm may or may not be able to effectively implement activity A for such and such a reason)

Implementation
  • Plan Flowchart & Timetable 

While a full-fledged marketing document such as this may not be realistic or feasible to implement on an annual basis, we have seen it be an extremely worthwhile exercise for law firms undergoing a transition, requiring a new direction or seeking to tap into new growth areas.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How to Select a Marketing Firm: Some Tips From the “Other Side”

The decision to work with a marketing firm or consultant is not an easy one. Lawyers are not necessarily marketers by nature and they don’t teach practice building in most law schools. Hiring a marketing vendor requires an investment and that doesn’t even include the expenses involved in the actual purchasing of ad space, pay-per-click services, broadcast time, printing services, etc. It does not include the significant investment of time that will be required as well.

But once the decision to move forward has been made, how do and how should law firms go about the actual selection process?

Part of the answer lies in determining what the practice hopes the marketing vendor will help the firm accomplish. Generic goals such as greater exposure, more clients, more revenue, etc., are not nearly as helpful as tight, specific objectives, such as seeking a 10% increase in new client revenue over a one-year period, raising the profile of the family law department among the rest of the legal community, or raising the image of the firm so as to justify higher rates. These are more action-oriented directives. One might even call them strategies vs. objectives. And if a firm cannot, on its own, reach a consensus as to these types of guiding directives, then it is probably best served by seeking an experienced marketing vendor or professional who can look at the practice from a holistic perspective. 

An objectives-driven approach is infinitely better than one that simply suggests that the firm needs a new ad campaign, or a revitalized web site, or better signage for a trade show booth. This is because it is often a blending of several marketing tools that gets a firm to where it needs to be. A new ad campaign suggests perhaps a new image altogether, which in turn may affect not just the campaign itself, but the web site as well. A revitalized site is enhanced with a more concerted search engine optimization (SEO) program. And that new signage may be deemed necessary to attract more visitors to a trade booth, though an ad in the show guide, or a press release promoting a giveaway may do likewise.

The point is things work together in different ways and it is incumbent upon the law firm to select a vendor well-versed in the art of developing the best marketing mix…and doing so within dollar and time constraints. For example, too often we have seen a law practice suddenly cut its advertising efforts or its PR campaign in favor of some service offering quick results via SEO or pay-per-click. The truth of the matter is that each of these types of marketing tools serve different purposes and have different strengths and weaknesses. The SEO vendor, the newspaper, the direct mail house, etc., are all there to provide specific services – regardless of the unique challenges of the firm. They may well be part of the solution to a specific challenge, but each is offering that service to the firm regardless of the firm’s unique needs.

Net net, in choosing marketing vendors, it is better to select those that either a) offer a truly holistic approach or b) clearly address how their services can be a vital part of the firm’s overall marketing initiative. 

Once the firm has decided upon the type of vendor it is seeking to hire, the next step is determining the criteria on which it will base its decision. Marketing vendors come in many shapes and sizes. As stated, some offer very specific services. Others are more broad-based. But the same holds true in other areas as well. Some may focus exclusively on the legal industry, others, any industry. Some will be situated close by the firm, while others may be in remote locations. Some may be large, others small. Knowing what it is that the firm considers important will make the entire process go more smoothly.

Next, it’s critical that the firm outline very clearly to its potential vendors those pre-determined objectives and qualities which it is seeking. This is vital as it serves to move the process along more efficiently.

In evaluating each proposal, the firm’s decision makers must ask themselves whether the firm needs all of the bells and whistles the vendor is offering. How do the vendor’s services align with the stated requirements? How well did the vendor “listen” to the firm’s statement as to its needs. Does the solution offered and/or the marketing tools being suggested make sense in terms of achieving stated objectives? Is the firm’s budget for the marketing endeavor being taken into consideration? Answers to these should go a long way towards ascertaining whether the vendor represents a good fit.

Obviously, cost is also always a consideration. Suppliers that are either much higher or much lower than their competitors should always be viewed with suspicion. But even more important is the existence or lack of chemistry between the firm’s decision makers and the vendor. It is an intangible that is difficult to quantify. Firms must ask themselves whether the vendor matches them in terms of its personal style. A law practice that is by its nature more formal may do well to hire vendors that are similar minded. The same holds true for the practice that has a more casual atmosphere. Flexibility is another key variable. Will the vendor work within the parameters the firm has set and is it able to adjust on the fly when situations change? And last, the least costly, flashiest, most experienced suppliers are worth nothing if they are not serious about simply working hard on the firm’s behalf.

Ultimately, in order to get the most out of a marketing firm or consultant, there has to be a true partnership. From a business perspective, the relationship between a law firm and its marketing provider is an intimate one. Hence, it’s important that that relationship be one of honesty and true benefit. And, if everyone actually likes each other and can also have a little fun along the way…so much the better!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Not Coming Up With Ideas for Content? Five Places in Which to Look



By now, everyone knows the importance of consistently generating new content for your law firm’s website, blog and social media postings. At first, that task can be relatively easy… Just generate a list of everything you want to “talk about” and start writing!

However, if you are being disciplined and actually developing content on a regular basis, eventually this becomes more difficult. The reason is simple. We start coming up with fewer and fewer things to say.

So, how does one “find” ideas for new or “fresh” content?

Fortunately, the law practice may find fodder for such material in several areas:

Firm News
This can include anything and everything that is happening at the firm: new hires, new clients, new attorney accreditations, cases won or any other type of achievement. It might also highlight anything from the restructuring of a particular department to the opening of a new office to the fact that one of the firm’s attorneys has been asked to sit on the board of a non-profit organization.

Happenings in the Business and Legal Communities
The legislature passes or is considering a new law that will affect your clients and/or prospects… A decision has been handed down on a matter in which your firm is not directly involved, but on which you can provide expert insight and analysis… A business transaction occurs that promises to have major ramifications for the firm’s B2B clients… All of these events are potential gold mines of opportunity for the firm to develop new content, establish credibility, provide a service to its site visitors and most importantly, keep the search engine directories happy.

Specific Areas of Expertise
… And by specific, I do mean very specific. The law practice that focuses on personal injury can make some serious hay by developing content dedicated exclusively to motorcycle accidents, knee implant recalls, accidents involving pedestrians or anything else in which they’ve amassed a great deal of knowledge. Similarly, a family law firm can develop extensive content on divorces involving same sex partners or on pre-nuptial agreements. This is as true for the B2B firm as it is for those that target the public. The practice that offers services related to business transactions can generate lots of content on those transactions by focusing on specific segments of their target markets (e.g., franchisors and franchisees). And by content generation, I am not referring to the prototypical web site practice area page that gives a brief summary of what that area is all about and why the firm is so talented in this field. Rather, I am suggesting that the firm develop detailed (though inherently user-friendly) content which actually shows its understanding of that field. It is amazing when one thinks about everything one actually knows about his or her chosen profession. It’s also amazing how foreign it all is to the lay person and how much it’s appreciated when information of value is provided. Smart law firms leverage that fact.

Published Articles
Once they’re written, post them on your site. This ties in to that mentioned above, but it’s even better when the material’s been published. It is important to note that so many times the same content can be used in a multiplicity of ways. An article can be posted on the firm website, used as a blog piece, or even used as content for an email blast or e-newsletter and promoted through social media.

Announcements & Offerings
By these, I mean the kinds of announcements that prompt inquiries, telephone calls, leads, etc. These can be the promotion of a seminar, the offer of a free informational booklet or anything else that might sway interest in the firm. In most cases, I wouldn’t suggest inundating the firm site with such content, but at times they do make sense…and once again they can only help your firm’s SEO efforts.

In summary, the excuse that there is nothing to add to the firm website or that no good ideas can be generated just doesn’t hold water. In a world where economic conditions make some promotional activities cost-prohibitive, energies directed towards the content development are a good way to market efficiently.