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.