August 4th, 2016
If you aren’t asking “What are you trying to achieve?” very early in your initial consultation with a prospective client, you’re hurting your chances of converting that opportunity into revenue. A quick story.
Years ago, I did quite a bit of work for one of the top DUI attorneys in a major market. The results she had achieved on behalf of clients was nothing short of extraordinary, and her reputation was excellent in the legal community. She did, however, have an incredibly difficult time converting prospects into clients. One reason for this was her inability to identify what was most important to a prospective client early in the initial consultation. Because she did not have that valuable information, she was unable to effectively close the loop on how she could help before she was forced to discuss fees.
(Like many experienced attorneys, she felt that after 35 years of practice she knew what clients wanted when they came to her office. After all, what does anyone want after being arrested for DUI? To “get out of it” of course! Well… maybe.)
Every person who gets arrested for DUI has different things that worry them the most. One person may be very concerned about the financial implications. Another may need to avoid a conviction to keep their current job. A spouse or parent may be afraid that their loved ones will find out. Someone who believes they have been falsely accused may want to clear their name. Another person may be claustrophobic and fears more time in jail than anything else. If you doubt the spectrum of concerns a client may have, consider that in 2015, a well-known entertainer chose 90 days in jail over 3 years of probation. Priorities vary!
While this example involves a criminal defense attorney, the same concepts apply in any sales process. Knowing your prospective client’s goals gives you an incredibly powerful advantage in their decision-making process. It’s one thing to say, “I will be happy to take your case. My fee is $9,000.” It’s another to say “Tom, I know how important it is for you to be able to drive your students to their mission projects during the summer months. I’ve handled cases in the past for clients with similarly important goals, and to give you the best opportunity for success, the fee would be $9,000.”
September 30th, 2014
The most successful lawyers who do the most sophisticated work usually dismiss the web as a way to generate business. They believe that anything worthwhile must come from a referral, and that anything else is junk. Some of the best campaigns I’ve ever had are the result of my client’s competitors having this mindset.
Here is why referrals aren’t the only way for law firms doing complex work:
• A referral source only provides the name of the attorney they know, not necessarily the best. If I need brain surgery (likely), I can ask my primary care physician in Canton, GA who he would recommend. Maybe he knows the top brain surgeon in the country, which is who I want. But that’s unlikely. Smart potential clients recognize that they can find the very best lawyer online by running a Google search and reviewing credentials. They also understand that the great lawyer or accountant they use for one thing doesn’t necessarily know the best _________ they may need for something semi-related.
• Doing unique work is an advantage. It’s extremely difficult to generate business for a DUI lawyer on the web. There are often hundreds of attorneys doing that type of work in the same geographic region, in addition to enormous price competition. But there are far fewer patent trade dress litigators… even nationwide. That makes the Internet a great place to gain visibility and new clients.
• Other top firms believe that the web cannot generate quality business. Their close-mindedness is something that should be exploited, not copied.
Google Adwords campaigns (aka Pay Per Click marketing) are great for firms involved in very sophisticated matters. They provide unlimited flexibility in budget, targeting, and duration. And when done correctly, they naturally weed-out unwanted leads because ads simply don’t show for simple search phrases. Best of all, pay per click marketers only pay when someone clicks on their ad.
September 24th, 2014
Over the years, I’ve heard many lawyers make the statement, “Our best clients are ones that are referred by other lawyers.” I think this is probably true for most law firms. I often follow-up with question, “What do you do to increase the number of referrals to the practice.” Common answers are “go to lunch with referral sources,” or “network at bar functions.”
What clients don’t tell me is that they have a great system in place for referring potential clients they cannot help to those who they wish to receive business from in return. This is surprising, since sending business to other lawyers is certainly the best way to have them reciprocate.
A quick look at two firms will highlight the point.
Firm A is a large bankruptcy filer. They receive about 2 calls a day from persons needing an attorney in areas in which they don’t practice. If the prospect’s matter involves DUI or patents, that person is referred to one of two firms that the managing partner has close friendships with. All other types of cases are referred to the state bar, or simply told “Sorry, we don’t handle your type of case.”
Firm B also receives about 2 calls a day from unwanted potential clients. However, their intake personnel is trained to take that person’s name and matter type, then refer them to a lawyer (on a prepared list) who handles those types of cases. Every call is referred out if the firm can’t help them. But it doesn’t end there. In addition, the intake person immediately emails the information to the managing partner, who notifies the attorney to which the referral was made to “be on the lookout.”
Which firm do you think gets more referral business?
February 15th, 2014
On most days, I will receive at least one email from a client that asks, “Is this worth it?” Following their question is an offer they’ve received from a law firm marketing vendor. The answer is always yes… and no. All marketing has value. Even that billboard in the desert you’ve heard so many SEO salesreps talk about is valuable, because someone will eventually drive down that road. And when you have an unlimited marketing budget, you do it all. Unfortunately, all but a very small group of firms are in that position.
The real question that needs to be asked when evaluating any client development investment is: “Is this the best place to spend the next available marketing dollar?” In other words, the most effective law firm marketing strategies are those that are prioritized. The key is to identify the products and services that will provide the best ROI for your law firm at that moment in time. For one law firm this may be a Google paid ad campaign. For another, it may mean top spots in one or more of the big 3 law firm directories. And for a third, an ad in the local high school football program may be the best option for getting more clients in the door. Each of these investments, and an infinite number of others, could be the opportunity that makes the most sense from a marketing perspective.
The key to knowing if an offer is “worth it” is information. A law firm has to always know how its current investments are producing, as well as all the available options that exist for the next dollar. Of course, that’s not an easy thing to achieve when you’re busy handling client matters and running the business. But it is the only way to make consistently smart marketing investments for your law firm.
January 8th, 2014
Every member of a law firm team plays a significant role in the business’ success… at least they should. But there is one position that is most important, and that is the one that handles new client phone calls and emails. I say this for 2 reasons. First, every piece of revenue comes through this person. If they aren’t doing a good job, it’s costing your firm revenue. Second, the way this person interacts with a potential client is the first impression that prospect gets of how they can expect to be treated by your firm. And regardless of how impressive an attorney’s track record of success may be, it’s very difficult to convert a client who doesn’t feel welcome.
Below are some recommendations for hiring and keeping the best client intake personnel, as well as continually improving this key component of success:
- Pay them well. I once worked with a firm that generated roughly $1M in new client revenue each year. They had one intake person and paid her less than $20,000 annually. That’s a bad recipe.
- Regularly emphasize to your intake person how important his or her job is to firm’s success. Everyone does a better job when they feel important and valued.
- Secret shop your intake personnel, and analyze the call recordings to ensure the highest levels of quality and service are being attained.
- Expect consistent improvement. Regardless of how experienced and proficient your intake person is, there is always room for improvement. Make regular training to enhance skills a priority, and convey the message that everyone at the firm, including partners, are expected to improve their job performance.
- Don’t overload them. When your phone rings with a new client, your intake personnel needs to be on their game. It’s very hard for even the best employee to switch gears from a huge stack of work to effectively communicating with a prospect.
- Provide an incentive. Law firm staff is very perceptive when it comes to what certain cases are worth to the firm. If an intake person does a nice job on a case that pays well, give that person a bonus. It doesn’t have to be much. Sometimes a couple hundred dollars that’s unexpected can make a huge impact.
There are many law firms spending tens of thousands of dollars each year on client development, but paying no attention to the most important link in the client conversion chain. Avoid that mistake by paying close attention to who is doing client intake, and how well they are doing it.
March 9th, 2013
There are an endless number of companies offering search engine optimization (SEO) services to law firms today. All make big promises of first page Google rankings, along with “risk free” money-back guarantees, exclusivity, superior ROI, and many other offers, all designed to entice you to spend your marketing dollars with them.
So how do you choose which SEO company to work with?
The answer is “very carefully.” Below are 6 questions that should be asked of any company offering to provide your law firm with SEO services. Of course, these aren’t the only questions that should be asked… but they are the critical ones.
1. In 10 seconds or less, please tell me the 3 most important things that must be done to achieve strong organic search engine rankings.
2. What does your company specifically do for those 3 things?
3. Are all of the people that will be working on my campaign employees of your company?
4. What are the exact search phrases that you will be targeting, and that I can expect to rank for?
5. How long will it take for my website to rank on the first page of Google for at least 50% of the search phrases in #4?
6. Please show me successful results for other law firms that you’ve been working with for at least 6 months… in the same practice area as ours, and in similar-sized markets.
The answers to these questions are very important. However, how well the questions are answered is equally as important. In other words, if the company pitching you isn’t able or prepared to answer these questions, proceed with caution.
February 24th, 2013
There are so many positives that come from doing charitable work. Because of this, I’m a strong advocate of having my law firm clients participate in at least one community service project each year.
Below are 4 ways charitable work can positively impact a law firm. But please keep one overriding thought as you read them:
The reason to participate in charitable work is because it’s the right thing to do. None of the below would be worthwhile if you weren’t helping others.
First, your charitable work matters to clients. Large companies know this, which is why we often see charitable donations made during halftimes of highly watched sporting events. Law firms also need differentiators to win the best clients. It’s likely there are local firms with equally as impressive experience, education and fee structures as yours. Charitable work gives you the opportunity to show that there are things that matter to your attorneys and staff outside of making money. Furthermore, if a decision maker for a potential client is involved with a certain charity (e.g. American Cancer Society), and sees that you are too, your firm naturally has a much better chance of earning their business.
Second, it strengthens the relationships between a law firm’s lawyers and staff. I’ve even seen two employees of a firm that didn’t get along repair a relationship after being teamed at a community service project. Well-chosen events also bring employees’ spouses and children together for a really great cause. It sends everyone home feeling good not only about the contribution they made, but also about the place they (or their spouse or parent) work. This is an often underestimated benefit of charitable work, and goes a long way toward building a really great workplace… and earning the support of family members who tolerate the long hours and stress that are part of a successful law practice. Read More »
January 28th, 2013
I’ve been fortunate to participate in hundreds of meetings with attorneys over a good number of years. I’ve heard and seen some interesting things… and even a few shocking ones. But there is one meeting that sticks out among almost all others. It’s the day a lawyer asked me what I’ve since considered the most powerful question in business, which is–
“What haven’t I asked that I should?”
Like most great questions, the answer isn’t that important. It’s the impact the question has on the recipient that matters most.
First, it pays a compliment to the person receiving it. It basically says, “You know this stuff better than I do, and I believe you have more information that would help me make the right decision.” Everybody likes to feel that their opinion matters. And in a negotiation or business relationship, you bet making people feel important is important.
Second, it tells the recipient that the person asking the question is a “real deal” business person, and immediately builds respect for the questioner. I was about 8 years into a very fast-paced and challenging sales job, and thought I had a quality answer for just about any question. But this one stopped me cold. The first thing I said was, “That’s a really great question that I’ve never gotten.” And I meant it. Plus the level of respect I had for that attorney as a businessman rose significantly. Read More »