Tuesday, January 29, 2013

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 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 link) 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 winds up generating 100 total clicks with a total expense of $1,000. Then compare that to a second firm that is paying $5 per click to be ranked lower. This effort generates 30 clicks costing the second firm $150. Compared to the first firm, the efficiency this firm has achieved will allow it to either invest more dollars into the campaign 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 (i.e., left side) of the search engine directories. The cost of obtaining that service must be weighed against the potential revenue lost by not having that service. Perhaps that individual or SEO provider achieved the goal of a top listing…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.

Monday, January 21, 2013

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:

  • 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. 
2013 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)
  • 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.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Budgeting for Legal Marketing in the New Year

Most of us begin 2013 with hopes and plans for a big year in terms of generating new business, more revenue and greater profit. With that however, comes the unavoidable task of determining how much should be allocated for the law firm’s marketing function.

There are several ways to answer this, the most common being the standard 2-5% of the firm’s anticipated revenue. However, much more effective is to take a task approach in which the firm’s marketing budget becomes a function of its objectives.

In taking such an approach, it is important that several difficult questions be addressed:
  1. Are the marketing activities designed to generate new clients over the short term only or should some of the funds be more long-term focused? This will dictate the types of activities utilized and the relative costs involved.  For example, a new firm brochure or web site may not get the phones to ring immediately, but can set the stage for significant success down the road.
  2. How are resources being defined? If it only includes dollar outlays, then certan marketing vehicles such as search engine optimization and social media may make good sense. If the term “resources” is broadened to include “time,” then the drain on manpower may make such activities prohibitive. (Of course, an outside service can be handled to manage these efforts, thus again skewing the allocation of resources to being more dollar-focused).
  3. Is the concept of frequency being taken into account? Generating awareness and new business requires that prospects be continuously exposed to the firm, and often through a multiplicity of channels. To do anything less is money wasted.
  4. Will a better year only be a function of obtaining new clients or will it also be a function of higher rates and/or the cross-promotion of firm services? Both initiatives may require investments of time and/or money.
Ultimately, once the determination is made as to a) the firm’s objectives and b) the strategies it will employ to reach these goals, only then can the specific dollar amount (and or internal costs) required to achieving them be determined. The budget allocation of 2-5% of firm revenue is really only a guideline. Actual budgets must look at a wide range of variables, including the current image of the firm and the level of its awareness it enjoys among its target group.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Welcome to 2013!

It’s at this time of year that we all make our new year’s resolutions. Last year, mine was to eat better, exercise more and stress less. I failed miserably at all three.

This year, my resolution is to do something I’m always advising our clients to do – consistently generate new content for their legal blogs and e-newsletters. Have I been good about doing it myself? Absolutely not. But I know that adding quality content to my blog and disseminating it through e-newsletters is the best way to attract new visitors and hopefully ongoing followers as well.  So, net, net,…Do as I say and not necessarily as I have done.

But what I have promised myself is to generate one posting each week for 52 weeks on topics pertaining to legal marketing. There’ll be articles on marketing in general, branding, pay-per-click and SEO, business development, measuring return on investment, implementing seminars, niche marketing., client satisfaction, social media and much more.

With the new year upon us, we’ll start off next week with a discussion on how lawyers and law firms should go about the task of budgeting for marketing.

I certainly look forward to your comments and questions during what I hope (and think) will be a great year.