Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Best of My Legal Marketing Blog As Awarded By…. Me

At this time of year, it is not uncommon to pay tribute to what was "best about the current year. The news media does it. Entertainment companies do it. ESPN does it. And about a hundred different blogs to it as well.

Not wanting to buck the trend, I took the time to review the assorted blog articles we posted in 2016 and came up with what I perceive to be the “best “ legal marketing tips of the year. Needless to say, I am very proud that our posts are the acknowledged “winner” of all of these prestigious designations – even if we are the only participants or players in the game. 
Hence, with that in mind, here goes… We launched 2016 still in the goodwill frame of mind that comes (or should come) with the holidays. We reminded everyone that affiliating their firm with a worthy cause or special event can:
  • Generate a high level of visibility
  • Facilitate interface between firm attorneys and prospective clients
  • Provide a means for building a contact database
  • Underscore the branding of the firm
  • Elevate the firm’s overall credibility in the eyes of the community and amongst its prospect groups.
Then we got back on the online marketing bandwagon, reiterating that sources for web, blog and social media content are plentiful and can be found within the firm, happenings in the business and legal communities, the specific areas of expertise of the firm’s attorneys, their published articles as well as special firm announcements and offerings.
By the time the summer came along, we were really rolling and pleading with our readers not to focus on search engine rankings. Specifically, we said:
"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."
Of course, all of our readers were following our words of wisdom and generating a vast array of new clients. So we told them it was important to appreciate these new sources of income and posted, “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.” 
We said:
“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."
As the leaves started turning brown, we turned to one of the most measurable of all marketing tools by highlighting how to measure the results of your Pay-Per-Click campaigns:
We said: “Ultimately, your best indication of results, will come not from reports on the metrics of your PPC campaign alone, but from aggregating your quality leads. All of the other metrics come into play only in the service of enhancing your efforts.”
And because so much of PPC success stems from the quality of the web site to which the ads are directed, in November, we asked “When is it Time to Re-design Your Web Site?” and determined that there were five valid reasons:
  1. There’s a Major Change at the Firm
  2. The Site No Longer Does What You Need it to Do
  3. Your Site Looks Outdated
  4. Technical Problems
  5. You’re Not Getting the Results You Want
And finally, just last week we asked another question: “What Was the Return On Investment for the Couch in Your Office?” That’s right. We were trying to make an important point, namely that, “While it is certainly okay, in fact, highly recommended, to measure marketing allocations by their potential to yield a positive ROI, it is definitely not okay to consider those allocations as expenses rather as investments simply because the yield did not come as quickly as one might like.” Because if you did, you’d never even consider purchasing that new couch for your office.
So there you have it – the very best of 2016, at least according to me. 
On a larger scale, I think everyone would agree that, if nothing else, it’s been an “interesting” year.
Here’s hoping no matter how 2016 turned out for you, that 2017 is even better. Much better!!!

Monday, December 12, 2016

What Was the Return on Investment for the Couch in Your Office?

You just opened a new law firm office. Or remodeled an existing one. You spent $500 on a couch to go in the waiting area and another $500 for a second one in your private office. The sign that boldly shouts the firm name cost you around $750and the two new paintings you purchased set you back another $1,200. Add in the guest chairs, the plants and the reception desk, and you probably put in close to $4,000 on the furniture for this move alone.

Now, tell me…  What was the ROI?
What? You don’t know? You can’t measure it?
I don’t understand. Shouldn’t everything you do be accounted for by the return it produces? Note that I’m not talking about desks or conference tables here. These are items you will need to actually do your job. But couches, plants and paintings are hardly requisite items. Their purpose is merely to generate a “feel,” or mood and yes, an “image.” Yet, somehow you feel that they are critical. You may have pondered their expense, but you probably did not try to measure what revenue that expense will bring in.

Why not?
Don’t worry. You are not alone.
Creating the proper professional image is deemed as a prerequisite for any law firm. And the expenses involved to achieve that image are viewed as merely a cost-of-entry. You “need” certain elements in your office to make your clients feel good about you and your firm.
So why then do so many lawyers and law practices balk when it comes to investing in marketing programs that will make prospects feel good about them as well? Why is an office couch seen as an investment; but a web site, a magazine campaign, or a PR initiative seen as an expense?
There is no one who has preached the importance of generating a return on one’s marketing investment more than we have. In fact, our tagline actually states, “Marketing is an Investment. Reap a Return.” And I do believe that ultimately, everything you do must be geared towards achieving a positive, tangible result. 
Yet, there is a point where law firms can take this point to the extreme – in fact, so much so, that they miss out on the vast array of opportunities right in front of them. They are so busy chasing the next, great lead that they are neglecting the larger and more important task of actually building their practice.
We recently had a situation in which a client developed a new web site and implemented a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. Now, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, while PPC efforts can generate quick response, they nonetheless are most effective when they are monitored and constantly tweaked. It is important to ascertain which ads are working, which keywords are generating interest, how the landing pages are being rated, and whether other marketing activities (e.g., fresh web site content) are in the works as well. It takes time to discover the exact ingredients for what will be the “secret sauce.” Our client was impatient however and grew anxious before even the first month of activity had transpired. He was adamant in highlighting how the firm had not as yet, recovered all of its marketing expenses. We explained to him that while it was way too early to “panic” over the PPC initiative, the results of the effort would only be hastened if the firm was more diligent about adding content to its site, getting its social media posts out, working on PR, etc. – activities of which none would require any significant financial outlays. 
Unfortunately, the client could not see the forest for the trees, or in this case, the fact that marketing works in an integrated fashion– activity in one area invariably enhances the results in another. The social media posts, the web site content, and the PR were seen as “expenses,” rather than as investments of time that might make all the other elements of the marketing program (including the PPC campaign) work that much harder. Unfortunately, because this client viewed marketing as an expense (versus an investment), they never realized the ROI for which they were hoping. 
By the way, did I mention that this client had had no problem paying for an incredibly, large gold-plated sign that hung across the waiting room wall? 
Now consider another client of ours, but with a very different story, This one involved a multi-practice firm with an office in the center of Philadelphia that was looking to increase the visibility of its satellite office in the New Jersey suburbs. After exploring various options, the marketing approach ultimately selected was hardly traditional. Rather, the firm chose to generate awareness through implementation of 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 and the competition, which culminated in an art show at the satellite offices attended by the students, their families and prominent members of the community, received substantial pre and post event publicity. 
Why do I tell you this?
Because as I mentioned, the firm’s goal was to increase its visibility in the area. It did not ask what the expected short term ROI of the effort would be. It understood that this initiative was an investment in the relationship between the firm and the community. It wasn’t necessarily chasing the next client or the one after that. It was investing in a program that would pay dividends over time. 
And with all that being said, you know what happened? Although it had not been their objective, the firm actually garnered four new clients from contacts made at the show. Needless to say, the success of the program prompted the firm to continue the contest in subsequent years.
There are two morals to take from these two case histories. First, while it is certainly okay, in fact, highly recommended, to measure marketing allocations by their potential to yield a positive ROI, it is definitely not okay to consider those allocations as expenses rather as investments simply because the yield did not come as quickly as one might like. 

The second morale? Value your marketing efforts as much as you do your new couch.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

When Is It Time to Re-Design Your Web Site?

Whenever we are contacted by a new law firm prospect, we are inevitably asked, “So, what do you think about our web site?
We try to answer this question as best we can, being honest as to our opinion – regardless of what that might mean in terms of our pursuing this client further. If it’s a great site, we say so and look to discuss ways in which we might leverage this fact. Other times, we may suggest that the firm make some changes to the site, be it of a design, textual and/or of a technical nature. And of course, if the site has some major issues, we are forthright about the need to start over – regardless of whether that site was originally developed by the prospect’s wife, kid or mother-in-law. 
It’s the latter of these situations that I would like to address today – How do you know when its time to scrap your current site and begin again from scratch? 
I think, there are, for the most part, five situations when building a new site makes sense. I’ll try to identify these and categorize them as best I can. But please, feel free to let me know if I’ve missed the boat on some or missed some obvious reasons altogether.
Situation #1: There’s a Major Change at the Firm
This one’s a no-brainer. If the Smith Law Firm, which provides elder law services to folks in Worcester, Massachusetts decides to merge with Reynolds, Reynolds & Reynolds, a multi-practice firm serving all of New England --- well, that’s a great reason to get rid of the old and bring in the new (or at least to get integrated into the larger firm’s site). Similarly, if the law firm that offers family law services now decides to expand into PI, immigration law and estate planning – that is likewise an obvious reason to create a new site that reflects the firm’s new direction. Taking on a new partner may or may not suggest a new site as may expanding into new locations. Similarly, your major competitor’s launch of a splashy new site (one that’s getting a lot of attention) may also provide a reason to pause.
Situation #2: The Site No Longer Does What You Need it to Do
There was a time, not so long ago, when the typical law firm site consisted of not much more than a “Home” page, an “About Us” page, a “Practice Areas” page, an “Our Attorneys” page and a “Contact Us” page. Today however, two things have changed. First, content development has taken on a much bigger role in determining firm ranking on the online search engines. And with that, comes an inherent need to put that content somewhere. Second, technical advances have made interacting with potential clients so much easier and certainly much more compelling. Whether its connecting with them on their mobile devices, downloading white papers, registering for a firm webinar or seminar, filling out an inquiry form, or being directed to a firm blog, today’s web sites are multi-faceted. If yours is not mobile friendly and providing opportunities for your prospects to interact with the firm, you are a) immediately seen as out of step and b) missing a multitude of opportunities to generate leads and improve your conversion rate. If this is, in fact, your situation –it’s time to create a new site.
Situation #3: Your Site Looks Outdated
This reason is a little less obvious. After all, when your site was first developed, it looked great! So how do you know when its time to say good-bye to the old and say hello to that brand new you? Two tell-tale signs. First, if you are already asking yourself this question, then chances are it’s time to move on. Second, if you show your current site to your teenage kids and they tell you it’s “old,” listen to them. It’s kind of like the forsaken spouse – the one who had created the site in the first place is often the last to know. 
Situation #4: Technical Problems
Less common, but important nonetheless, are those situations in which the site’s technical glitches have become more trouble than they’re worth. For example, we once inherited a law firm’s web site that had all kinds of issues, the worst of which was that it been hacked and infected with cryptic coding that linked it to, shall we say, “adult” web sites? Unless, your firm specifically wants to be connected with pornographic URL’s, it might be best to have such mistakes corrected. And if they can’t be easily addressed, well, in the words of that famous football coach (don’t know who), “It may be time to punt.” There are, of course, a whole host of technical issues that can arise. Some can be “fixed,” but at a certain point, it usually becomes clear that a major change is in order. 
Situation #5: You’re Not Getting the Results You Want
This is probably the biggest reason of all. When the law practice starts seeing some of its site metrics decline, it may be time to take a closer look at the site. Are you getting less traffic? Are visitors staying on your site for shorter and shorter lengths of time? Is your site’s load time putting a drag on how high Google lists you on its directory? Are the quality scores of your landing pages not what they once were? These are all potential indicators of a problem that may or may not have to do with the site itself. You will need to dig a little deeper, test a lot, and do some inductive reasoning. But if you determine that the site itself may be the cause of your problems, well…
In most cases that we come across, the decision to make the change to a new web site is due to a combination of factors. For example, a site that is technically obsolete may also be outdated from a design perspective as well. 
Regardless of the reason however, while there will obviously be some expense in making such a change, the purist in me suggests that one look at this as an opportunity to reinvent the firm on more favorable terms – one that may actually promote both revenue as well as profit growth

Thursday, September 29, 2016

To "Seminar" or "Webinar?" That is the Question.

When law firms of any size discuss their marketing and business development tactics, the question invariably comes up: Do we want to run a seminar?
Most often, it is followed immediately by another: “Or how about a webinar?”
The two have become intrinsically linked and for good reason. Both allow law firms and attorneys to highlight their expertise on a particular topic and both offer the potential to interact with event attendees.
But they are not exactly the same in the potential benefits and drawbacks they bring to the challenge of business generation. 
As long as there has been something to “teach,” people have given seminars and workshops. With the exception of an individual face-to-face interaction, seminars are probably the best means for allowing potentials client to get to know you. It gives them an opportunity to see how you look, think, speak and how you feel about particular issues. For better or for worse, attendees will leave a seminar with a sense as to the kind of person and the kind of attorney you are. This is important because it minimizes the perceived risk the prospect may have in retaining you. 
There are other benefits as well. Seminar promotion provides further exposure for the firm and its knowledge of a particular topic – even amongst those individuals who elect not to attend. They also give firms an opportunity to disseminate tangible material in the form of print handouts. Such material can be invaluable in making sure the attendee keeps the firm top-of-mind well as a “pass along” piece for generating referrals. Finally, seminars invariably lift the status of the speaker. For that one hour, he or she is “the” expert in the room. 
But seminars are not without their drawbacks. First, when one adds up the cost of facility rental, catering and promotion, the expense can be significantly larger than one might initially think. Second, they are not readily scalable. It is difficult to replicate even the best of seminars to a broad geographic area. And finally, logistics may dictate that prospects who might have an interest in your topic are nonetheless unable to attend your event.
Enter the webinar-- the information age’s contribution to making presentations to large groups of people. Webinars offer many of the benefits that seminars do not. First, they are not confined to a particular geography. You can use a webinar to speak with prospects in as small or as large an area as you deem important. Individuals can attend these online events from the comfort of their own desk… or bed. And they can be wearing a fancy suit or be lying in their pajamas. It doesn’t matter. No one can see them. Further, webinars are easily recorded and archived, meaning that even those who could not attend the event have an opportunity to make up for their egregious loss another time. Today, webinars also offer a variety of options for interaction between presenters and attendees in the forms of Q & A, polls, etc. Finally, unlike with seminars, if attendance for your webinar is poor, no one but you will know. You will never have a large room filled with empty chairs. In fact, I’ve witnessed webinars that were presented to an audience of … one!
But, (and there is always a “but” isn’t there?) …. Webinars can be boring. It can get tedious for attendees to stare at their monitor over an extended period of time. More important, webinars lack the personal touch that allows the prospect to get to know the presenter. And for the presenter himself, making presentations to an audience you cannot see presents an interesting challenge. Without visual feedback, it is difficult to know whether you are getting through to your audience. You won’t even know if your best one-liner is being met with a smile or a rolling of the eyes.
So how does a law practice determine which approach is best to pursue?
As one might guess, that answer lies on the kind of practice you are promoting, the inherent nature of the topic to be discussed, the makeup of your target prospects, and of course, one’s budget. 
Allow me to take each of these up in kind.
Certain practice areas lend themselves to one form of presentation over another. For example, a law firm that focuses exclusively on family law probably draws its clients from a rather small geographical area. In contrast, a firm that is dedicated to business law probably targets an area that is much larger. Reaching this audience via a single seminar may be difficult. In general, the more locally your practice is focused, the more likely it will be that seminars represent a better option. 
But not always… 
What happens if our family law firm wishes to present a workshop on domestic violence or a bankruptcy firm wants to outline the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 11. This is because individuals may have serious reservations about exposing their vulnerabilities in front of others (e.g., “Oh, so you have been hit by your spouse too?”). Webinars offer anonymity and thus might make more sense for sensitive matters.
The make-up of your target market is the third variable to consider. If your firm is business-to-business focused and wishes to reach as many CEO’s as possible, webinars provide a means for doing so. If your goal is to get a smaller group of CEOs to get to know you personally, then seminars probably present a better option. 
Finally, there’s the matter of cost. As mentioned, webinars offer a lower-costing alternative to seminars. Yet, while at first blush, this may appear to make your decision a no-brainer, this cost savings must be weighed against the acquisition costs of gaining new clients. It is quite possible that that expensive seminar may actually do better on a cost per new client basis. 
In conclusion, as with all elements of marketing, there is “no one size fits all.” The key to success in utilizing either method lies in having a real appreciation of the merits and drawbacks of each and an appreciation for how prospects “consume” such media.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How to Evaluate The Results of Your Legal Marketing Pay-Per-Click Campaign

In evaluating the effectiveness of your firm’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign, there is really only one metric that matters: What is the quantity of the qualified calls and inquiries your firm is receiving?
That’s it. No other metrics matter and for law firms, the data that you do get is really only diagnostic in nature. Fortunately, proper assessment of what I would call interim metrics offers some clues as to a) why your campaign is performing at the level that it is and b) what you can do to improve your results.
In order to mine this data for the “nuggets of truth” that they hold, let’s look at some of these metrics more closely.
Obviously, the most important of these is clicks. If one believes in the funnel approach to marketing and sales, then the more clicks one has, the more likely one is to generate leads and ultimately more conversions. Hence, when we see the level of clicks decreasing, we try to assess whether this trend is a function of the campaign itself or of other considerations. For example, we recently implemented an effort on behalf of a family law firm that focused primarily on post-divorce and enforcement matters. While the level of clicks was considerable, the client did not initially obtain the results (i.e., leads) they were seeking. When the strategy changed to focus on broader terms (e.g., alimony, domestic violence, etc.), the level of clicks declined – but the level of inquiries actually increased. More important, the level of “qualified” inquiries jumped dramatically. The reasons behind this had less to do with the logistics of the campaign itself, than the manner in which individuals seek out family law services. Hence, in this case, the low level of inquiries indicated a problem with the keywords that had been utilized.
But other factors may be playing a role in an upward or downward trend as well. Has a new competitor entered the fray and upped the cost-per-click, thus in effect, “shrinking” your budget? Is that competitor paying a premium price to be ranked top three no matter what the cost? Such trends may also be a function of seasonality (in which case you should compare results vs. the same period of the previous year) or a decline in importance or volume of a particular topic (e.g., favorable economic conditions may lessen the level of “bankruptcy” searches.) The latter can be explored in further detail by researching whether the overall volume of impressions (the number of times the search engines serve up each of your ads) or the number of searches for those keywords themselves have also gone up or down. If changes in your click volume and site traffic are reflective of trends in these metrics, then you are running with the herd. If they’re better, then “congratulations” – you’re doing something right. And if they are worse… well then, it may be time to make some changes.
The click-through rate offers yet another glimpse into what is going right or wrong with your PPC program. If your click-through rate is relatively high or trending upward, this suggests that your ads are doing their job in terms of attracting visitors to your site. If not? You guessed it…. Change them. Add a call to action.
Click volume is also a function of the quality of your web site’s landing pages (i.e., the pages to which visitors are directed from these ads.) Are they of sufficient relevance? Look at how Google is assessing your landing pages as based upon the quality score (from 1 – 10) they give for each of your keywords. That score is part of Google’s algorithm and is one factor in determining how high your sponsored listing is ranked as well as the cost of the clicks. If you are receiving low scores, consider either utilizing different keywords, or more likely, enhancing the relevance of your landing pages.
As I have discussed in a previous postaverage position may or may not be another indication as to why click volume is trending one way or the other. Depending on the situation, higher rankings may be a goal unto itself, but in some cases, you may actually get more clicks on the dollar by accepting a lower position.
Finally, if you want to get really fancy, you can analyze the cost per client acquisition by dividing your PPC expenditures over the number of clients obtained (and then measuring that versus the revenue obtained). But even in doing this, be careful. You’re not selling Ty-D-Bol. Unlike for high volume retailers or manufacturers, one especially large or especially small client can skew results dramatically.
Ultimately, your best indication of results, will come not from reports on the metrics of your PPC campaign alone, but from aggregating your quality leads. All of the other metrics come into play only in the service of enhancing your efforts.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

You Really Want Your Law Firm's Web Site Optimized for... What???

A couple of years ago we encountered a situation that was a textbook example of how strict adherence to SEO guidelines can potentially do more harm than good. 

The case involved a small multi-practice firm seeking to drive up web traffic for its personal injury business. The firm’s web provider had done a good job in optimizing the site for PI, splashing all of the keywords and images across any and all of the site’s pages. The firm’s experience in handling PI was highlighted throughout and attorney bios emphasized personal backgrounds in this area of the law. Not surprisingly, traffic to the site increased several-fold. All of this would, under normal circumstances be considered a good thing.
Except that in this case, it was not.
The bulk of the firm’s revenue stemmed from practice areas geared more towards business and government than towards the general public. Its target audience, which often included business decision makers and governmental officials, was far less prone to visiting web sites based on online directory searches than it was to visiting web sites as a means for learning more about the firm as based upon professional referrals. Visitors to the site wanted to ascertain the depth of understanding the firm had in regards to business and governmental matters, the experience its attorneys had in these areas and the range of services the firm might provide.
Yet, when such visitors came to the site, they were besieged by headlines, photos and verbiage that screamed “Personal Injury” – in some cases, even on pages that had nothing to do with that topic. Instead of coming away with the perception that this was a firm with many practice areas, one of which was PI, the net takeaway was that this was, in fact, a personal injury law practice that, yes, “dabbled” in a few other areas as well. In short, the firm lost its opportunity to convey its legal acumen in areas where it was critical that they do. When one considers that personal injury did not represent even the largest of the firm’s revenue segments, it’s not hard to see how detrimental the SEO initiative was to the overall health of the firm.
This is why it is so very, very important to take a holistic approach to the task of business generation. Things are not always as they seem. In this case, there was a discussion to be had that probably never took place. That discussion would have elicited 3 possible approaches to address this dilemma. First, the firm might have taken a balanced approach and done the best that it could in highlighting all practice areas including PI. Second, it might have determined that personal injury represented the greatest potential revenue stream, all other practice groups be damned. Or third, it might have understood that optimizing for PI might cannibalize its other revenue sources and decided to have two sites, one focusing on the firm at large and the other, dedicated to personal injury and optimized to the hilt.
In deciding on a marketing approach – whatever type of business development tools are being used, it is important to understand how such tools fit into the big picture. Failing to do so only risks having that big picture become not so big.

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:

  • 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)

  • 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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Generating Goodwill AND New Clients by Affiliating with Worthwhile Causes

In this day of digital marketing, 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.

Reasons for implementing such a program are several-fold. Affiliating with a cause or special event can:
  • Generate a great level of visibility
  • Facilitate interface between firm attorneys and prospective clients
  • Provide a means for building a contact database
  • Underscore the branding of the firm
  • Elevate the firm’s overall credibility in the eyes of the community and amongst its prospect groups.
Law practices must get creative in developing marketing programs that dovetail with what they are 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. Another marketing initiative for a full service firm involved promoting the arts among young people. In most cases, cause marketing programs are multi-faceted, with overall costs that are considerably lower than what a full-blown advertising campaign might entail.

In most such marketing initiatives, awareness is generated through a multiplicity of online, traditional and grassroots vehicles. This means looking for ways in which the same promotional material can be used in a multiplicity of ways (e.g., posted on the firm web site, on social media, via press release, as fodder for a feature article, on flyers distributed to the appropriate target audience) before, during and after a particular event. The key lies in looking for those opportunities that can extend the life of the effort.

In short, when it comes to cause marketing, a little creativity can often pay huge dividends for everyone – prospective clients, the community and the firm itself.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016 is Here! How to Budget For Legal Marketing in the New Year

Now that the holidays have passed, it’s time to tackle the inevitable task of determining how much should be allocated to this effort. Unfortunately, all too often, law firms make the decision to make no decision at all. While this can be a reasonable approach to a degree, it also runs the risk of missing some potential opportunities, or conversely, of overspending on initiatives that do not bear much fruit

The traditional approach has been to look at the industry benchmarks in which 2-5% of the firm’s revenue is allocated towards marketing and business development. However, much more effective is to take a task approach. Here, the firm’s marketing budget becomes a function of its objectives (i.e., the more ambitious its goals, the greater its budget).

In taking such an approach, it is important that several difficult questions be addressed, among these:

  1. Will marketing activities be designed to generate new clients over the short term only or should some of the funds be allocated towards the long haul. 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. 
  1. How are “resources” being defined? If it only includes dollar outlays, then certain marketing vehicles that are labor intensive, 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 of some activities may make them cost-prohibitive. (Of course, such services can be contracted out, but this then turns the cost of time into hard, out of-pocket expenses). 
  1. 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. In fact, it has been estimated that the average prospects must be exposed to a  message between 7 to 10 times before being spurred to action. 
  1. Will you consider a “better” year to be one that only involves obtaining new clients or must 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 – and one that may or may not make sense for you (particularly as you navigate through the brave new worlds of SEO and social media). Actual budgets must look at a wide range of variables, including the current image of the firm and the level of awareness it enjoys among its target group.

Les Altenberg is President of A.L.T. Legal Professionals Marketing Group , a full-service marketing firm dedicated to the business development efforts of law firms and those who serve the legal industry. He can be reached at 856-810-0400 or via email at laltenberg@legalprofessionalsmarketing.com