Maximizing Law Firm Inbound Referrals

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?

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The Best Law Firm Marketing is… Prioritized.

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.

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The Most Important Employee in a 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.  

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6 Critical Questions to Ask Before Buying SEO

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.

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Marketing Your Firm’s Charitable Work

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 »

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Why Your Law Firm Needs Social Media

February 4th, 2013

One of the most common questions I get asked these days is, “Why does my law firm need Facebook and all the other social media stuff?”  Attorneys say they don’t care if someone just spent two hours trimming their shrubs, and they certainly aren’t interested in sharing with the world that the line is long at Target.  They want to know how social media will generate clients and revenue.

Four reasons stand out among many as to why law firms need a strong social media presence.  (I’ll refer to Facebook generally in this post, but the same concepts apply to Linkedin, Google+, Twitter, and other social media properties.)

First, we don’t know how important something like Facebook will be 5 or 10 years from now.  No one could predict 15 years ago how dominant and important Google was going to end up being today.  But some law firms built websites and created a presence early, and many of those same firms enjoy great rankings today as a result.  Will Facebook be a place where the masses go to find legal representation in the future?  I don’t know.  But it is absolutely worth it to spend the nominal investment to be an early adopter, and make sure that you’re in a good position if it does.

Second, Facebook provides a great place to build your firm’s personality in a way that a traditional website does not.  For example, your firm’s website may not be the best place to post pictures from your softball team’s championship run in the bar association league.  Likewise, images from your holiday party or a charitable event that your staff participated in are great items for social media.  And those types of things matter to clients.  They may not hire you just because they like you, but it never hurts to combine quality legal services with a likable personality, or better yet, similar interests to theirs. Read More »

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The Most Powerful Question in Business

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 »

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You Got a Negative Online Review. Now What? (Part II)

January 21st, 2013

(This is the second part of a two-part post regarding how to deal with negative online reviews about your law firm.  For Part I, click here.)

Ask the review site to remove the negative review.  Almost all review sites have community guidelines that prohibit hateful, threatening, or even unsubstantiated reviews.  If someone has posted a review that falls into one of these categories, it’s often possible to have that review taken down.

Well-written reviews that don’t use objectionable language are hard to get removed, but it never hurts to ask.  I’ve seen one of the most popular review sites remove a well-written negative review about an attorney along with all the positive reviews.  While it’s hard to understand why they would do that, it accomplished our goal… which was to eliminate the negative impact of the bad review on the practice.

Contact the client via phone if you can identify him or her, and try to work through the issue.  Also, even if you have to agree to disagree on the material issue, ask them to remove the review.   At that point, they have three options. They can leave it up as is, remove it, or perhaps add a supplemental post.  I’ve seen unhappy clients actually post a positive review about the lawyer contacting them later to work-out a problem.  This can go a long way with future potential clients, because it shows you care and are willing to go the extra mile to make a client happy.

(Note that I recommended contacting the person by phone, and not via written correspondence.  The reason?  Anything you write at this point may end up online, too.  Not only is it safer to have a verbal conversation about the issue, your tone may go a long way with the unhappy client, which is something that is often lost in emails and letters.) Read More »

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You Got a Negative Online Review. Now What? (Part I)

January 14th, 2013

There is no shortage of advice on the internet about what to do when your business has received a bad online review.  Notwithstanding all the debate, there is one absolute truth when it comes to negative reviews.

If you are in business long enough, you will get one.

It could be a very legitimate complaint, a crazy client, or a competitor looking to damage your reputation. I’ve even seen a review from an understandably disgruntled client, but one that posted it for the wrong attorney!

Below is the first of a two-part post that will cover four options for dealing with negative online reviews:

Don’t respond.
Ask the review website to remove the negative info.
Contact the client via phone if you know who it is.
Bury the negative review in positive ones.

In most cases, don’t respond. This advice may come as a surprise to many. But the reality is that if a client is angry enough to go online, jump through a number of hoops, and write about their perceived poor experience, you are unlikely to change their mind. And responding can help fuel the fire, in more ways than one. Read More »

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The Death of Good Marketing

January 7th, 2013

Marketing is one of the few areas of business where there are truly an infinite number of approaches. Whether your firm generates new clients via the Internet, TV, yellow pages, billboards, or radio, you have tons of choices regarding messaging, imagery, slogans, and all the other things that get potential clients interested in working with you.

One of the most common statements I’ve heard over the years (and I’ve termed it “The Death of Good Marketing”) is:

“If I were a client, that wouldn’t appeal to me.”

Some of you already see this coming, but you’re not the client! In fact, in many cases, you couldn’t be more different than the people or businesses you represent. Let’s prove it…

If you’re a DUI defense attorney, do you routinely drink way too much alcohol and get behind the wheel?

If you’re a business litigator, how many times have you entered into a commercial venture with someone you know very little about?

And…

If you’re an employment lawyer, when is the last time you email-blasted a joke to everyone in the office with a naked picture in it? (Okay, maybe that’s a bad example.)

The reality is that you should never put something on your website or other marketing that you’re uncomfortable with, or that doesn’t advance the image you wish to promote for your firm. However, there may be times when there are options that are all acceptable by those standards, but they may just not resonate with you. Don’t discount those options because they don’t work for you personally. Your clients are much different than you, and a variety of approaches may give your firm more opportunities to generate business from those that see the world differently, but whose dollars spend exactly the same.

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